Monday, April 4, 2016

I want more than a piece, I want answers

I love '80s and '90s R&B. I especially love the New Jack Swing era that Teddy Riley ushered in. In fact one of my favorite groups from that era was Guy and one of my favorite songs is "A Piece of my Love." It's a great R&B song but the lyrics are trifling as hell.

The song starts with the chorus "You can have a piece of my love, it's waiting for you, girl it's true." Now at first blush this sounds nice then you think about it for a second and say wait a minute what you mean a piece Aaron (Aaron Hall is the lead singer in case you didn't know) all I can get is a piece.

Then he starts off the first verse with "You can't have all of me 'cause I'm not totally free, I can't tell ya everything that's going on." Um what!? you're not totally free so are you married? have a girlfriend? What the hell is going on and what do you mean you can't tell me?

Oh but he's not done. "There's a few things in my past that should not be explained, I'm asking you baby stay with me for a lil while." Ok now you're just being all out ridiculous. I can't know why you're not totally free and you won't explain some things about your past. What did you do that is so bad it shouldn't be explained? Then you have the nerve to ask me to stay with you, Negro....

"Please hush no questions asked, lay back and relax." I know good and doggone well that you didn't just tell me to shut up and don't ask you no questions because I have plenty of questions. Plenty and no I won't lay back and relax when you haven't explained a gahtdamb thing.

Then there's the chorus of "you can have a piece of my love" yaddy yaddy yada. Now on to the second verse. "I know that this is wrong but the feelings so strong." Feelings, schmeelings fool if it's wrong it's wrong and I still don't really know why it's wrong since you won't tell me anything or let me ask any questions.

"I wish this could last forever, but it wouldn't be the same, tell me who would be to blame if we were to hurt all over again." You would be the one to blame Aaron, You because your trifling ass is trying to get away with giving me a piece of your love while you're not totally free whatever the hell that means.

"Please hush no questions asked lay back and relax, take off your shoes, let your pretty sexy hair down. I'm here now baby I'm giving a piece of me." Sooooo you're telling me to shut up, relax and get undressed because you're here now to give me a piece of you. I don't know how long I'm going to have you but I should just shut up and be happy with the piece you're giving right?

How about no. Guy y'all tried the hell out of it with these lyrics and I'm sure some women let you get away with it but not I. I was too young at the time this song came out to really understand how trifling it was but I see now. This song has to be in the hall of fame of trifling song lyrics.

That being said I will still sing along when it comes on the radio. What are some of your favorite trifling song lyrics?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It's a Shame....

I watched the dash cam footage of Sandra Bland's arrest today and the thing that struck me is how none of this would have happened if the cop hadn't overreacted to Sandra's attitude. In case you've been living under a rock and don't know about Sandra Bland I'll give you a quick rundown.

-Sandra Bland was a 28 year old black woman from Illinois
-She got a job at Prairie View A&M in Texas (her alma mater) and drove from Illinois to Texas to start the job
-She was driving on Friday July 10th and was pulled over for failure to signal a lane change
-She was arrested for assaulting a public servant because the cop said she kicked him while she was handcuffed
-She was taken to jail, charged and held on $5,000 bail
-On the morning of Monday July 13th she was found dead in her cell, hung by a trash bag
-The county declared it a suicide
-It is now being investigated by the Texas Rangers and the FBI as a homicide

Now that we're all caught up I'll explain my thoughts. In the dash cam video after the cop went back to Sandra's car with the ticket he asked if she was ok because she looked irritated. She said she was irritated at being pulled over. The officer asked her to put out her cigarette and she refused saying she shouldn't have to put out a cigarette in her own car. The officer told her to get out of the car, she refused and it all went to hell after that.

He threatened to drag her out of the car, he pulled a taser on her and said he would "light her up". She got out of the car and was pissed and continually questioned his tactics. She was handcuffed and pushed to the ground. At some point during that she allegedly kicked him. From the dash cam video you couldn't see everything that happened after she was out of the car and the video of the passerby starts when she's already on the ground so I don't know if she actually kicked him but that's actually beside the point.

The point is the arrest and her death could have been avoided if the cop just let it go when she refused to put out the cigarette. The public is under no obligation to be nice and respectful to the police. We can be rude or have a nasty attitude and that's not illegal. Should we be polite to police when pulled over? Sure but we have no obligation to do so. We can't legally threaten the police but Sandra didn't threaten the police. From the video you could tell from her tone of voice that she was clearly annoyed and had an attitude with the cop but she didn't threaten the cop in any way and that was no reason to make her get out of the car.

My Lawyerly Sidenote: the police can legally ask you to get out of the car during a traffic stop

Sandra Bland didn't pose any credible threat to the cop at that point. She was irritated at being pulled over and seemed to feel like she was pulled over wrongfully and she expressed that. Period. He was legally able to ask her to get out of the car but he didn't have a practical reason to do that. At that point he should have just given her the ticket and went about his day. Instead he didn't even hesitate before he ordered her out of the car.

That set off a chain of events that ultimately led to Sandra Bland's death which is beyond sad. I don't know if she killed herself or if someone else killed her but I do know the circumstances are suspicious as hell surrounding her death. This was a young woman who seemed to be starting a new chapter in her life and now she's dead because she wouldn't put out a cigarette.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

This Can't Be Life

Social media can really make you question your life sometimes. I log on to Facebook in the morning to check my news feed and suddenly am inundated with "I'm engaged", "Look at my cute new baby", "I's married now y'all". And my single, childless ass is sitting there thinking damn am I the only one not married and with no kids? So I log on to LinkedIn trying to be all professional and stuff and see "XYZ has a new job as President of DEF co", "GHI is now a partner at Law Firm, Law Firm & Law Firm" and I think great I'm behind everyone professionally too oh joy.

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence"

"Keeping up with the Joneses (or Kardashians even though it pains me to write that)"

Those old phrases speak to people comparing their lives to the lives of others and thinking they don't measure up. So this isn't something new but social media definitely makes it worse. Through social media I hear about the lives of people every day that I would normally only hear about every few years at a class reunion. Since people generally post about positive things happening in their lives (except for those people that are always complaining but that's a subject for another blog) then I am constantly seeing these great milestones in their lives and I end up comparing them to what's happening or not happening in my life. It can definitely make you feel like everyone but you is doing great at this thing called life.

Sidenote: people who went to University of Michigan Law School between 2004 and 2007 are all of you married/getting married/having babies? I mean seriously all of you really? Anyway back to my main rant.

However I have to remind myself that a Facebook post or LinkedIn update doesn't even begin to tell the story of what is really going on in someone's life. I don't know what's going on in your relationships, or what it's like day-to-day having a baby (thank God because I'm not ready for that). No one's life is completely happy and fulfilled all the time. Everyone has struggles and they likely aren't showing all of their struggles on Facebook or Twitter (again unless you are the constant complainer).

Ultimately my private struggles will never measure up to someone else's milestones and accomplishments and to compare them is an exercise in futility, frustration and self doubt. Bottom line is I'm not the only one that doesn't have my shit together but through social media I don't see everyone else's shit.

I guess the moral of this blog is show more of your shit people but not all of it all the time because no one likes a constant complainer.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

To Wrap or Not To Wrap? The answer is wrap, always wrap.

I want to talk about something that has been on my heart for awhile. The issue that has been weighing on me is when I'm watching a movie or TV show and a black woman is sleeping and/or getting out of bed and there's nothing on her head. No head scarf, no satin bonnet, nothing just sleeping all willy nilly. It drives me crazy. I don't know a black woman who doesn't sleep with something on her head. No matter the texture of her hair if a black woman goes to sleep without anything on her head she will wake up the next morning with a head full of dry hair sticking up all over the place. It's just not realistic to show a black woman in bed with her hair running free and every time I see it, it drives me crazy.

Now I realize a woman with a scarf or satin bonnet on her head may not be the most attractive image to show on screen but it provides a realistic portrayal of a black woman. Whenever I see a black woman with a naked head in bed I think whoever wrote that scene must not know any black women in real life. Oh yeah the same goes for showing a black woman in the shower without a shower cap. Unless she's washing her hair in the shower a black woman is not going to risk getting her hair wet by taking a shower without a cap. I saw a recent episode of Being Mary Jane and Gabrielle Union was in the shower with a shower cap on and I wanted to stand up and applaud.

While we're on the subject of black women's hair on TV how did Olivia on Scandal go from curly and wild to straight and laid in that warehouse the other week? Did her captors have a pressing comb and flatiron on deck, were there Dominican women on hand to give her a blowout, did they have a tub of relaxer on standby? I need answers Shonda Rhimes, I need answers.

The moral of the story for TV and movie writers, directors and producers get a real black friend or two and educate yourself before you write that bedroom or shower scene. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

If Loving Ratchet is Wrong I Don't Wanna Be Right

I am a professional black woman and I love ratchet reality shows. From Real Housewives of Atlanta to virtually all of the Love and Hip Hops I love them all. They are fun and ridiculous. These shows provide an escape from my reality and I enjoy them. Recently VH1 (the undisputed champ of ratchet reality TV) had a show called Sorority Sisters which was about black women who are members of various black sororities and like in all of these shows they argued and fought and looked petty and ignorant at times. The sororities got so mad about this show that there were petitions and outrage and discussions and advertisers pulling out of the show and finally this week it was announced that VH1 was cancelling the show and burying the remaining episodes on the TV wasteland that is Friday night. The sororities applauded and other respectable black people called for similar action for the other reality shows that show black women in a bad light.

This isn't the first time there has been outrage about these reality shows but this is one of the few times the efforts worked. Here's my problem with the outrage about the negative portrayals of black women in reality shows: it wouldn't be a problem if there were a variety of portrayals of black women on TV and in movies and if the negative stereotypes of black women weren't so persistent. On TV the portrayals of black women are limited to reality shows, Kerry Washington on Scandal, Viola Davis on How to Get Away With Murder and random black sidekick. The stereotype of black women as loud, angry, eye rolling and neck rolling has been around for awhile and admittedly these reality shows illustrate that stereotype.

White women look bad on these reality shows also, on Real Housewives of New Jersey Teresa flipped over a table, on Mob Wives those women threaten to kill each other every week yet there are a plethora of positive portrayals of white women on TV and in movies. The public at large doesn't think all white women are violent because there are positive and varied images of white women to contradict the negative (also white women don't have the same negative stereotypes as black women, they have their own stereotypes which is a subject for another blog). While the positive and varied images of black women are few and far between.

When it comes to these reality shows often what I hear from black people who dislike the shows is that they reinforce the negative stereotypes and make us all look bad or as I've heard and said often "they set black people back." When those shows make up the majority of black women's representation on TV then that's a problem because it does make it seem like all black women are loud and fight all the time. However if there were more of a variety of roles for black women on TV then the negative aspect wouldn't matter as much because there would be other perspectives. If black people were truly equal (as some of y'all who say we live in a post racial society believe) we should be able to be catty and fight on TV alongside our white sisters as well as be funny as leads on sitcoms and have a variety of dramatic roles that showcase our complexity as people.

Growing up black in America I've been taught to put my best foot forward when in mixed company (meaning when white people are around). The thought process behind this is that we have it hard enough as it is and we shouldn't play into the negative stereotypes of black people. So when I'm around white people I may speak a little differently and carry myself in a different way to make sure I portray the nice acceptable negro. When I watch the news and hear about a criminal committing a particularly stupid crime I hope he/she isn't black because if one of us does something bad/stupid it makes us all look bad or so I've been taught to believe.

So it's on black people to combat the negative stereotypes by acting positively, which is just unfair. We get the bad stereotypes put on us and we have to combat them by acting intelligently and calmly. If I want to get loud and roll my neck I better wait until only black people are around and that's just not fair. I should be able to act a fool without shaming my entire race. However this "you better act right in front of company" mentality is what causes black people to get in an uproar about these ratchet reality shows. The women on these shows aren't following the rules and are acting a fool in front of white people. Well I say it shouldn't be on each individual black person to constantly combat negative stereotypes with our behavior we should be able to be wonderfully flawed individuals without being a reflection of our race as a whole. Every time a white person publicly does something wrong that's not an indictment of all white people so why should it be so for black people?

While it's great that black women used our voice to get a negative show cancelled it would be even better if we could use our voice to force TV executives to hire more black writers and producers so we can have more shows featuring black people in a variety of lights. The same goes for Latinos and Asians, TV and movies in general need to be more diverse. I realize that I'm asking black people to create the change after I just complained about black people having to combat negative stereotypes themselves but it has to start somewhere and it should not start and end with black people, white people and latino people and asian people all need to be involved. There are some networks *cough* CBS *cough* where there can be a whole night of prime time programming with not a face of color in sight. That needs to change.

So stop fighting ratchet reality TV in part because I love it and have loved it for a long time (I'm looking at you Flavor Flav, remember Flavor of Love? that was the best) but also because it's only a symptom of a larger problem which is a lack of diversity in the media altogether. So start that petition, boycott that network, write a good script and change the system but do not take my ratchet reality TV.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rap music: was it really better 20 years ago or am I just old and cranky?

"I ain't got no type, bad bitches is the only thing that I like, you ain't got no life, cups with the ice and we do this every night" No Type by Rae Sremmurd

"I be feeling like the man when I walk through, I ain't understand what you saying when I walk through, I got all these hoes staring when I walk through, I done made a few bands on the walk through" Walk Through by Rich Homie Quan

"Broke n****s stand to the left, my rich n****s stand to the right, little momma she keep looking at me, I'ma knock the p***y out like fight night" Fight Night by Migos

"I done did a lot just to live this here lifestyle, came straight from the bottom to the top of my lifestyle, dooodadaddommmmm, this is only the beginning, on the top of the mountain puffing on clouds, these n****s still beginning" Lifestyle by Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan

The illustrious lyrics above are from the choruses of some of the most popular rap songs out right now based on what I hear on mainstream urban radio and trust me I've heard those songs enough to verify their popularity. Let's see what do those lyrics have in common? Hoes and bitches seem to make an appearance in some form or fashion in three out of the four songs. Money is another common topic. And that's pretty much it as far as topics go oh wait there's a mention of puffing on clouds in one song so I assume that's a smoking weed reference so drugs that's another topic. If you're wondering why in the Lifestyle song at one part I just write dooodadomm it's because I have no idea what the hell he's saying at that point. You listen to the song and tell me what he's saying right there. Seriously please help me out with that.

I was born in the '80s and was a pre-teen and teenager in the '90s and to me those were the golden years of rap music. Sometimes I wonder if they were objectively great years in rap music or if my opinion is skewed because that was the time period I grew up and you always think the music from your youth is the best. So to compare let me look at the chorus lyrics for rap songs that were popular 20 years ago which would be in November 1994.

"Here comes the brand new flava in ya ear, time for new flava in ya ear, I'm kicking new flava in ya ear, Mack's the brand new flava in ya ear" Flava in Your Ear by Craig Mack

"You know very well who you are, don't let 'em hold you down, reach for the stars, you had a (blank) but not that many, 'cause you're the only one, I give you good and plenty" Juicy by The Notorious BIG

"I never understood why I could never see a man cry until I seen a man die......man cry" Never Seen a Man Cry by Scarface

"The most beautifullest thing in this world is just like that, I get in ya (repeat 3 times)" The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World by Keith Murray

First thing I notice is that hoes, bitches and p***y are missing from those lyrics so that's a good thing for me as a woman. I also notice that each song is different. The first song is about a new musical sound. The second song is encouraging you to be yourself and reach for the stars. The third song is about seeing someone die and the last song is about some mysterious beautifullest thing in the world.

In contrast with the songs from November 2014 the first one is about liking bad bitches and presumably drinking every night or chewing on ice every night it's not exactly clear. The second one is about making money and looking important when you walk through a club. The third one is about separating broke and rich people and having sex with a woman because she looks at you. The fourth one is about living some sort of grand lifestyle.

The songs from 1994 are all very different in theme and sound. If you go listen to those songs none of them sound the same musically and none of the rappers sound the same. The songs from 2014 are similar in theme because they are all essentially talking about making money, women and going to the club. Also while the rappers voices have different tones most of them rap in the same sing-songy style and musically they aren't that different.

Whether or not the songs from 1994 are objectively better than the songs of 2014 depends on your measure of goodness. If your measure is whether the songs sound similar and have similar themes than 2014 is better. If your measure is variety of music and themes than 1994 is better. My measure is the latter so songs from 1994 win.

Bottom line for all the Millennials out there my music is better than yours and if you don't want to be dumber as a result of your music you should listen to rap from the '80s and '90s. You're welcome for that free advice. I'm off to get lost in a classic rap Youtube vortex.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Adventures in Networking

NETWORKING just the word sends chills down my spine. In case you can't tell I hate networking. I always say this and really mean it. I have viewed networking as fake meaning people just network so they can meet people that can help them in some way, they aren't meeting people just to have fun and meet new people there's an agenda there which I've viewed as fake.

The problem with this view of networking is that I'm running a solo law practice and I need other people for resources and referrals so I kind of have to network. Yet a part of me still hates it. So there's my whole fake take on it and there's also the fact that I'm shy. Once I get to know people I'm nice and witty. However when I first meet people I'm quiet and withdrawn. This is not good for networking.

I've dipped my toe in the networking waters since I left my job to start my own practice in March. I did some networking at a law school alumni event in March and in April I did a little networking through a county bar association meeting. For this month I have a list of networking events and meetings to go to so I'd better get ok with networking and quickly.

I have to overcome my feeling that I'm just meeting people to see what they can do for me which I find undesirable to say the least and I have to overcome my shyness so that I don't end up being the weird girl in the corner not speaking to anyone.

So I just have to accept the fact that the purpose of networking is to meet people that can help you in your endeavors. I need other people to be successful and other people may need me as well. Perhaps if I try to view it as through networking I'm making myself available to help others while finding people who can help me then I'll feel better about it. That way I'm not just using people but also offering to help people as well so I'm not just taking without giving anything back. I think I can work with that.

Now the shyness thing is a different animal. That's been my personality for years and not easy to overcome. Granted I'm considerably less shy than I was when I was younger. When I was younger I probably wouldn't have even gone to any networking events and if I did I would have been that weird girl in the corner not speaking to anyone.

I can go to the events now and speak to people but it's still a struggle. There were definitely some times say for instance at my law school alumni event that I was more withdrawn and I had to force myself to introduce myself to new people.

By the way I find it incredibly rude to walk up to people in the middle of a conversation and introduce myself yet I've seen it done throughout various networking events. My sense of manners won't let me do this so instead I end up standing around and waiting for a break in the conversation like a kid waiting for the right moment to jump in while jumping rope. This can make for really awkward moments when someone notices you standing around waiting for your turn.

At any rate I realize that I need to network and if I view it as helping people and in return having them help me then it's an easier concept to swallow. I still have to work on the shyness thing though but practice makes perfect and I'm definitely going to be practicing my skills as I continue trying to build my practice. I'll let you know how it goes.