Hear from Monica Lewinsky about the Price of Shame by Naeemah

The Price of Shame. The Price of Social Media. Words can impact one’s mental state, and can potentially have deadly consequences. With the prevalence of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram (the list goes on), you see constant instances of people being attacked anonymously by their peers and even by strangers. What gives us the right to hate on people. To show no compassion and instead, work to bring them down, as far down as possible. Are we so unhappy with our own lives? Are we so filled with malicious instincts that we care not who we hurt? Seventeen years after the media storm surrounding Monica Lewinsky, we see cases, time and time again, of children, of teenagers, taking their own lives due to bullying across social media, across media in general. Why do we have this cruelty in our hearts, in our minds, that we vomit onto others? I don’t know. Maybe everyone feels shame, and because they feel it, they want to make sure everyone else does as well.

“‘Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop,’ says Monica Lewinsky. In 1998, she says, ‘I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.’ Today, the kind of online public shaming she went through has become constant — and can turn deadly. In a brave talk, she takes a hard look at our online culture of humiliation, and asks for a different way.”

– Monica Lewinsky

Black Lives Do Matter by Naeemah

A powerful article from Mary T. Bassett, M.D., M.P.H. about the challenges in the medical health community. (I did not write the below).

 

Two weeks after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the police officer involved in the death of a black man, Eric Garner, I delivered a lecture on the potential for partnership between academia and health departments to advance health equity. Afterward, a group of medical students approached me to ask what they could do in response to what they saw as an unjust decision and in support of the larger social movement spreading across the United States under the banner #BlackLivesMatter. They had staged “white coat die-ins” (see photoUniversity of Vermont Medical Students during a “Die-In” Protest.) but felt that they should do more. I wondered whether others in the medical community would agree that we have a particular responsibility to engage with this agenda.

Should health professionals be accountable not only for caring for individual black patients but also for fighting the racism — both institutional and interpersonal — that contributes to poor health in the first place? Should we work harder to ensure that black lives matter?

As New York City’s health commissioner, I feel a strong moral and professional obligation to encourage critical dialogue and action on issues of racism and health. Ongoing exclusion of and discrimination against people of African descent throughout their life course, along with the legacy of bad past policies, continue to shape patterns of disease distribution and mortality.1 There is great injustice in the daily violence experienced by young black men. But the tragedy of lives cut short is not accounted for entirely, or even mostly, by violence. In New York City, the rate of premature death is 50% higher among black men than among white men, according to my department’s vital statistics data, and this gap reflects dramatic disparities in many health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV. These common medical conditions take lives slowly and quietly — but just as unfairly. True, the black–white gap in life expectancy has been decreasing,2 and the gap is smaller among women than among men. But black women in New York City are still more than 10 times as likely as white women to die in childbirth, according to our 2012 data.

Physicians, nurses, and public health professionals witness such inequities daily: certain groups consistently have much higher rates of premature, preventable death and poorer health throughout their lives. Yet even as research on health disparities has helped to document persistent gaps in morbidity and mortality between racial and ethnic groups, there is often a reluctance to address the role of racism in driving these gaps. A search for articles published in the Journal over the past decade, for example, reveals that although more than 300 focused on health disparities, only 14 contained the word “racism” (and half of those were book reviews). I believe that the dearth of critical thinking and writing on racism and health in mainstream medical journals represents a disservice to the medical students who approached me — and to all of us.

The World Health Organization proclaimed in 1948 that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”3 Today, both individual and social well-being in communities of color are threatened. If our role is to promote health in this broader sense, what should we do, both individually and collectively? Many health professionals who consider that challenge stumble toward inaction — tackling racism is daunting and often viewed as divisive and requiring action outside our purview. I would like to believe that there are at least three types of action through which we can make a difference: critical research, internal reform, and public advocacy. In reflecting on these possibilities, I add to nearly two centuries of calls for critical thinking and action advanced by black U.S. physicians and their allies.

First, it’s essential to acknowledge the legacy of injustice in medical experimentation and the fact that progress has often been made at the expense of certain communities. Researchers exploited black Americans long before and after the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study.4 But there is room for optimism. Over the past two decades, for example, we’ve seen a welcome resurgence in social epidemiology and research documenting health disparities. Whereas stark racial differences in health outcomes have sometimes inappropriately been attributed to biologic or genetic differences in susceptibility to disease or bad individual choices, new methods and theories are allowing for more critical, nuanced analyses, including those examining effects of racism. By studying ways in which racial inequality, alone and in combination with other forms of social inequality (such as those based on class, gender, or sexual preference), harms health, researchers can spur discussions about responsibility and accountability. Who is responsible for poor health outcomes, and how can we change those outcomes? More critical research on racism can help us identify and act on long-standing barriers to health equity.

There is also much we can do by looking internally at our institutional structures. Though the U.S. physician workforce is more diverse than it was in the past, and some efforts have been made to draw attention to the value of diversity for improving health outcomes, only 4% of U.S. physicians are black, as compared with 13% of the population, and the number of black medical school graduates hasn’t increased noticeably in the past decade.5 Renewed efforts are needed to hire, promote, train, and retain staff of color to fully represent the diversity of the populations we serve. Equally important, we should explicitly discuss how we engage with communities of color to build trust and improve health outcomes. Our target “high-risk” communities, often communities of color, have assets and knowledge; by heeding their beliefs and perspectives and hiring staff from within those communities, we can be more confident that we are promoting the right policies. The converse is also true. If we fail to explicitly examine our policies and fail to engage our staff in discussions of racism and health, especially at this time of public dialogue about race relations, we may unintentionally bolster the status quo even as society is calling for reform.

In terms of broader advocacy, some physicians and trainees may choose to participate in peaceful demonstrations; some may write editorials or lead “teach-ins”; others may engage their representatives to demand change in law, policy, and practice. Rightfully or not, medical professionals often have a societal status that gives our voices greater credibility. After the grand-jury decision last November not to indict the police officer who shot a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, I wrote to my staff noting that in this time of public outcry, it is important to assert our unwavering commitment to reducing health disparities. We can all do at least that.

As a mother of black children, I feel a personal urgency for society to acknowledge racism’s impact on the everyday lives of millions of people in the United States and elsewhere and to act to end discrimination. As a doctor and New York City’s health commissioner, I believe that health professionals have much to contribute to that debate and process. Let’s not sit on the sidelines.

Finale Club Review by Natasia DaSilva

Last Saturday, I attended a Jason DeRulo and Ja Rule concert at the Finale club, which is near the corner of the Bowery and Spring Street. Thankfully, I got in for free due to a club promoter one of my best friends knew. Judging by the well-dressed crowd outside, it looked like it would have been quite expensive to get in if I had paid the full price. Although the bouncers were quite pushy and threatened to call the cops due to the congestion of people, we got in after a 25 minute wait.

Inside, it was a nice set up. There was a large lower dance floor and the upper dance floor had plenty of seating. The only problem was that it was very crowded so there was no where to sit when I was there. This was probably because of the very famous headliners they had that night. There was also a platform along the wall people could stand and dance on as well as one on the lower dance floor. Before the main event, they had a nice mix of house, EDM, 90’s hip hop and rap.

Jason DeRulo was a great dancer and sang hits such as “Wiggle Wiggle” and “Talk Dirty”. I thought he really engaged the crowd well. Ja Rule came after him. I wasn’t particularly familiar with his music but he had a similar sound to old-school rappers from the 90s, such as Nas.

Although not at the same level as One Oak, Finale definitely has its good points. I would suggest though trying to see if you can get in free to avoid paying for the expensive drinks.

club

Trip to Montana’s Yellowstone National Park by Natasia DaSilva

 Photo courtesy of Natasia DaSilva

In the summer of 2010, I traveled to Idaho to visit my grand parents at their lake cabin and took a side trip to Montana’s Yellowstone Park. That was definitely the most incredible part of the trip. Overall, Montana had a very rugged, natural beauty. It was like nothing I had seen before back in the Northeast and I treasured everything I saw there.

Yellowstone was akin to going to another planet. Everywhere I looked, there was steam rising from mysterious looking, bubbling pools and magnificent vistas of mountains.  Apparently, the pools were sulfur springs and animals gathered around them for warmth during the winter months.While driving around in Yellowstone, my family and I also saw tons of buffalo walking alongside the road. It was like they could care less about the presence of humans. We were in their territory. In the picture I took above, there is one lying down by one of the sulfur springs.

I stayed at the Old Faithful Inn during my trip. The rooms are pretty old-fashioned and spare but visitors at the inn get to see the famous Old Faithful geyser. Interestingly enough, it starts off slowly and then eventually builds up to a powerful jet of water. It is very much like a water version of a volcano. Besides the Old Faithful attraction, the food is also quite tasty — I highly recommend their buffalo steaks.

For anyone who likes nature, Yellowstone is a unique place to go to. It has everything from petrified trees to intriguing rock formations. There’s nothing quite like it.

Consuming the Pain: My Relationship with Food and Depression by Giovannah Philippeaux

Entering the New Year I discovered two disturbing things about myself. One, I do not love myself…I do not even like myself. Two, that my diet, lack of exercise, and overall neglect of my physical health will kill me. I thought I was over my depression and suicidal ideation, I thought I had won. But I am not, some part of me still wants to kill myself, some part of me still does not have the urge to live. I do not get it. I do not get how I could be so blind to the struggle that is still raging within me. Maybe I did not want to see it? Maybe it is just easier to ignore?

This was a gradual realization but it all hit home when reading an article about a severely obese man who had lost his life as a result of his struggle with weight. First featured in the San Antonio Express-News, the pictorial essay depicted the heartbreaking life of Hector Garcia Jr. who remarked that he could not remember a time when he was truly happy. Prior to reading this article, I was excited to be gaining weight. My short-term goal was to reach two hundred pounds. I was, and still am, excited about being fat; I am oddly comfortable with the idea of gaining weight. “Trying to make that 2-0-0” became my personal mantra.

Being big, having layers has always been my form of protection. It is how I ensure that I remain invisible and ignored. It is how I ensure that I am not a challenge; everyone’s comfortable with the ugly fat chick. Being big feels good to me, it feels comfortable, and it feels safe. But after reading that article, I realize that it is also what will kill me.

I have already begun to experience some of the side effects of being overweight. I hate climbing stairs because by the time I get to the top I am out of breath. Carrying a load of laundry while climbing is even worse, it automatically leads to huffing and puffing. I have started to have leg and joint pains. Not a day goes by without me experiencing some pain in my legs, hips, or thighs. Worst of all, I have started to have chest pains right around my heart. A flutter or sharp stab, quick and noticeable pains that are clearly telling me that something is not right. Part of me does not care and another is too scared to confront it. I excuse my behavior by saying “well we all have to go somehow” or “we are all going to die anyway.”

My family has a long and extensive history of heart disease…heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. These should all be warning signs, but I just do not care enough about myself to make a change, to do something different. So I sit and eat, consuming my pain, my anger, my hurt. Packing on layers of fat disguised as comfort; being too detached from my own self, from my own body to accept that I am killing it. Because deep down, I still do not care. I still do not like nor love myself. I still do not feel worthy of existence, of health, of beauty, or of confidence.

It is a struggle, a struggle that I still have not committed to fighting.

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Fat Shaming by Giovannah Philippeaux

Today I was fat shamed.

I had been craving cheese fries and Nathan’s hot dog nuggets all day long….ALL DAY LONG. It was a strong craving, so I decided to treat myself to 15 pieces of hot dog nuggets and cheese fries with extra cheese.

First of all I was the only woman on-line for fast food, which made me feel supper weird and uncomfortable. But I pushed through, even though I felt like I was standing out and that people were silently judging me I decided to not let their ignorance get in the way of my meal. So I ordered, in an albeit hushed voice…especially when I asked for the extra cheese.

So I was already feeling fat and uncomfortable after I had placed and picked up my order. When on-line I noticed women eyeing me, you know that up and down look of judgment that says “who does she think she is” or “what’s wrong with her.” These silent looks of judgment reveal that they secretly have deep held insecurities, so again I pushed through.

But the final hit came when I stepped up to the cashier. She asked what I had ordered and I told her “large cheesy fires with 15 pieces of hot dog nuggets.” Her response, a facial expression of shock and judgment followed by the question “15?!”, which was really a statement of judgment rather than a question. Of course being me, I made excuses for my order saying that “it was just one of those days.” What really sucks is that I felt the need to excuse myself, like I had made a mistake. I was craving for cheesy fries and hot dog nuggets, I don’t eat it everyday and I was so damn tired of salad. So what the hell is wrong with a little salty fried cheesy goodness every once in a while?

This is the reason I deal with so much self-hate. Not because I innately hate myself, but because everyone else makes me feel like crap, like something is wrong with me, and like I should hate myself.

Today brought to mind a video I recently watched on “feeling fat.” It speaks to the truth of body shamming, acceptance, and self-love. The struggle for self-love is so real, and Caroline Rothstein speaks to it with grace, confidence, and honesty.

Wishing you self-love and acceptance.

Losing Touch with Humanity by Naeemah

I saw this video pop up on my news feed. Perfect timing, as I was just about to get bogged down by other people’s lives.

“Did you know the average person spends 4 years of his life looking down at his cell phone?” That’s the opening line of this video that portrays our society under a harsh computer screen light, saying that we are too obsessed with cell phones, laptops, tablets, and not focused on building real relationships with people. We hide behind screens to protect ourselves from deep connections, and we count our “friends” by the numbers we see on our pages.

Don’t get me wrong. There are tools and types of technology that actually foster community, that can actually bring people together and create that community. I’m a huge fan of meetup.com and of course we’re all on this site for a reason. But, when I’m at a dinner table with a guy or a girl, and we can’t hold a conversation without looking at our phones, that’s a problem. Yes, things can get awkward when there are lulls in conversations, but that’s when great things can happen. If you’re on a screen, you may miss that.

Enjoy.

The Average Black Girl Who Speaks White by Naeemah

As an educated black woman, I often have this comment thrown in my face. “You speak so well.” At one point, I was even asked if I had gone to school to speak the way that I do. Yes, I did go to school, but that is not a question you would ask a white person.

Ernestine Johnson, a Spoken Word artist, showcased her piece on The Arsenio Hall Show, and it resonated deeply with me. Take a look below and see what she has to say.

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How Growing Carrots Almost Got Me Arrested

Originally posted on TIME:

In 2003, long before a warrant was issued for my arrest for the crime of planting vegetables, I remember going to a store in South Central L.A. and picking up some tomatoes. The stickers on them read: “Coated with shellac.” That’s when it really hit me.

There was a complete lack of healthy food in my community. Growing up in South Central L.A., we had restaurants where you could sit down. But some time in the late ’70s or early ’80s, those places shut down and were replaced by fast food joints. Later, when I was raising my kids, I used to drive damn near an hour round-trip to places like Culver City to find fruits and vegetables that hadn’t been grown with pesticides.

I wanted to change all of that. I wanted to rid the streets of trash. And I wanted healthy food options and organic fruits and vegetables…

View original 604 more words

Table Talk-By Carol A

Hello Again!

This past few months have been a whirlwind of change, adventure, and introspection for me. The following is inspired by Director Ava DuVernay during a talk at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, discussing the importance of female voices alongside Mindy Kaling, Greta Gerwig, and Kristin Wiig: http://youtu.be/ikeCA1O7ri0 .

“The work we do affects the way we see ourselves and the way that we are seen. It is vital work. Just by our very presence, we speak loudly.”

-Ava DuVernay, Director of Selma, 2014.

We Speak with Passion.

So Trust your voice

Strength that comes from within,

Critiquing the present

Whether surrounded by the most prolific thinkers [or the least].

We Speak Earnestly-

Raw/Fierce/Delicate.

Leave your reservations at the door;

There’s no scorn here!

We Speak Loudly.

Speak your mind,

With sincerity, imagination, Wit.

Our only contract is Respect.

Create, remain present

Look beyond pressures and confines of your Everyday.

Come away inspired, transfixed,

Saddened by the raw,

Poignant stories that manifest during each moment.

Speak.

 

It Was An Accident by Naeemah

It was an accident. I didn’t mean to do it. It wasn’t even my fault. The gun was in my hand.

Saturday, May 25, 1996

Boom. Boom. Boom. Feeling the rhythm in my soul, I dance around crazily, drunk out of my mind. My red silk dress sticks to my skin as someone grabs my hips and grinds against my back. I barely even notice, just adjust my thighs to get a better fit.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“What?” I say.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

I finally realize who’s talking to me, and I look up startled. Shit. I didn’t even realize he was here.

“You’re basically fucking this guy right in front of me,” he says, as he walks closer to me. Every angry step makes me more anxious.

He grabs my arm as the guy behind me yells, “Come on man! I was dancing.”

“You think I give a fuck what you’re doing with my girl!”

I love when he calls me that.

I trip several times as he drags me across the floor. Taking me to a wall, he shoves me against it and leans in towards me until I can feel his breath on my face as he speaks. Peppermint and cigarette smoke. Like always.

“You think I didn’t realize you left with your friends to come here. Don’t think you can leave. I will follow you wherever—“

“Hey! What are you doing? Get away from her!” my friend says.

He pushes her and tells her to back away, that this does not concern her.

“Yeah it does. You have no fucking right to treat her like this,” she says, as he drags me towards the door.

As we exit, I can hear my friend following us, though I can’t see her because he has my head in a tight grip. We reach his car. My friend catches up and grabs me, trying to pull me back.

I become the rope in this tug of war.

He opens the car door, and my friend attempts to pull me away, but not fast enough. He takes something out and turns around. This time he has a gun in his hand.

“Back the fuck off before I shoot her,” he says to my friend.

Eyes wide, scared completely, she still tries to help me. But I push her away, telling her that it’s okay, I’ll be fine, he won’t shoot. She doesn’t believe me and wants to stay, but I push her.

He grabs me. Sticks the gun under my chin and clicks the safety clip.

Frightened, I freeze. My friend begins to walk away, and he puts the gun down.

Loosened from his grip, I attempt to grab the gun. I catch the tip and it slides away.

My friend grabs for it and points it at him. I scream and tell her not to shoot.

She doesn’t listen.

Pop. I jump in front of him.

“No!” my friend yells.

Running to me, she crouches and tries to staunch the blood. I feel somewhat numb.

“This is all your fault!”

Pop. Without realizing it, he had gone for the gun.

Shock. The emotion on my friend’s face before she dies.

“You bitch. Look what you made me do,” he says, as he wipes his fingerprints off the gun, places it in my hand, and walks away.

The Sad Side Of Gentrification by Giovannah Philippeaux

Does anyone ever really see the faces of those negatively effected by gentrification? Do we consider those evicted and left without a home or community all in the name of gentrification? We get so comfortable in our daily lives that we often ignore those who do not share our privilege or those who pay the cost for our privilege. I am guilty of this practice as well.

This story shares the experiences of just one man who has been evicted multiple times and has lost his community all for gentrification, all for the privilege of the few who benefit from his loss. Yes our privilege does come at an expense, when we take someone else losses. The only real solution is to share equally and unbiasedly, but when will that begin to happen?