I Don’t Believe I’m Black And Beautiful by Zeba Blay

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/i-dont-believe-im-black-and-beautiful_us_56b37726e4b04f9b57d899d9?cps=gravity_5055_4373124118784502221

I do not think that I am beautiful.

Whether or not I actually am is irrelevant, but whether I think that I am has become a constant source of preoccupation for me in recent months. Not feeling beautiful worries me for one specific reason: it feels like a defeat.

All women are forced to deal with unrealistic and harmful beauty standards. All women are expected by society to base their self-worth on the way they look — or, rather, the way in which the way they look garners them attention and approval from men.

It’s a messed-up system, but what I’ve always struggled with is the thing we never really want to talk about: the hierarchy of the system. For black women, the harsh realities of beauty standards are twofold: we’re socialized to feel less than beautiful specifically because we are black. Why else did a black model’s naturally large lips receive so much hate in comments on Instagram last week, when big lips on white women like Kylie Jenner and Angelina Jolie are praised? The things that make us black women, our big lips or big butts or kinky hair, are singled out as the main factors that we must change about ourselves in order to be more attractive, in order to be more acceptable.

Skin-lightening creams and relaxers are marketed to us, and while of course there have been important movement towards accepting who we are naturally, thanks to events like BET’s Black Girls Rock! and hashtags like #flexinmycomplexion, the mainstream still doesn’t seem to fully get it.

Recently, a Latina friend of mine was lamenting being the darkest amongst her three sisters. I had to stretch myself to sympathize and empathize with her, understanding the cultural differences and nuances that could allow her to say “I hate being so dark” to me, despite the fact that she is five shades lighter than I am. Despite the fact that with her loose curls and much lighter skin, hers is a beauty that’s far more palatable than mine.

The journey to better self-esteem, to self-love and acceptance for the black woman, seems always to hinge on the journey of accepting those things that make us black. I struggle with this too. I’ve written before about the fact that in spite of having dark skin and kinky hair, I’ve never had a complex about those things. I’ve never looked at my dark skin in the mirror and wished that it was lighter. I’ve never prayed for straight blonde hair and blue eyes.

But black self-esteem, of course, does not hinge only on colorism. That’s the dominating narrative, but it isn’t the only one. It’s far more complex than just the “color of your skin.” Being black and a woman, society would have us all believe, means being at the very bottom of the totem pole, and we have that to grapple with as well. While dating and desirability shouldn’t be the main marker we use to define beauty, it’s still incredibly telling that, according to OKCupid data, black women are the least desired in the dating world compared to white women and other women of color.

The messaging is out there. It permeates pop culture, from movies to magazines, and trickles down into the real world. As a young girl, I had examples of black beauty all around me, in my mother and my aunts, my sister, my friends. That helped. But I was always hyper-aware of the kinds of black women who were praised universally for their beauty — women like Halle Berry and Beyonce, women with light features and button noses. And when dark women were praised in the mainstream, they were regarded largely as novelties, exotic anomalies — the fetishization of Lupita Nyong’o and Alex Wek’s dark skin is a perfect example of this.

I want to be uninterested in beauty; I want to be uninterested in the idea that self-esteem only has to do with the way one looks. But in a society where black beauty is so invisible, so little celebrated, it’s impossible not to be preoccupied with it. That’s the crux. Beauty isn’t and shouldn’t be the scale by which we measure our self-worth and validation. But for black women, the constant bombardment of negative messaging sometimes makes it so hard to separate those things from one another.

For me, the struggle of black beauty is not accepting that it exists in this world. I see black beauty everywhere — I see it in my family and friends; I see the complexity and the range of black beauty in women I don’t know but admire, women like First Lady Michelle Obama, or the French-Senegalese actress Aissa Maiga, or the singer SZA, or the model and activist Bethann Hardison. The struggle is very personal. I can see our collective beauty, I can celebrate it in others, but I can’t celebrate it in myself.

It feels contradictory and hypocritical, to celebrate the beauty of black women but be perpetually unable to recognize my own. To be black and to be beautiful and to recognize, appreciate, and accept your own beauty is in itself a kind of revolutionary act. I believe that. That’s why I feel defeated — thinking I’m not beautiful, that I’m in fact ugly, feels like I’m giving in to all the lies that have been subliminally broadcast to me and every young black woman out there. I haven’t quite figured out how to change the narrative, but maybe at least being aware of it, at least wanting to change, is a kind of tiny victory.

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Self-Preservation as Self-Care: How to Set Healthy Boundaries ~ Nneka M. Okona

Zora Neale Hurston, the foremother of Black women’s literature, so eloquently penned that Black women were “de mule uh de world” and even many, many years later, we can see how this statement still rings true. Black women are seen as the pillars of strength in nearly every circle we comprise. We are the backbones of our families, the shoulder always called upon to cry on. We are supposed to readily perform strength, on demand, no matter what our emotional or mental state.

We do not belong to ourselves: our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our hearts, our spiritual state. Our emotional labor is prescribed and expected.

Self-care is a phrase often uttered as of late, especially on social media. My thought is that we, Black women, now know the importance of tending to the trauma we have been dealt for hundreds of years and dedicating ourselves wholeheartedly to healing, moment by moment, day by day. And we know that self-preservation, an uncompromising notion of clinging to ourselves and maintaining the sanctity of ourselves, is a defiant, revolutionary act of self-care. Setting boundaries — along with enforcing consequences if said boundaries are willfully ignored — is a crucial part of this, too.

Quick story: for most of my childhood and well into my adulthood, I was a doormat. I was kind and had a giving heart but lacked strong discernment and sound judgment. People sensed this and took advantage, taking and taking and taking until they couldn’t anymore. Until there was no further use for my presence in their lives. Until I was depleted and drained and filled with resentment. And then they’d be gone. Learning to choose myself after this defunct pattern yielded to learning what boundaries are, evaluating where I needed to set them in my current relationships and how I could set them as the need arose in new interpersonal bonds.

Boundaries are the space between you and another person, a space where you end and the other person begins. Setting boundaries is a method of informing those around you how to treat you, how to care for you, how to interact with you in a way that is nurturing, fulfilling and makes you feel safe. It isn’t about forming a tight fence around your inner being. It is about ensuring you feel free enough to be yourself, in totality, with those you bond with, and interactions are healthy, reciprocal and beneficial. And also that your values are acknowledged, honored and respected.

Learning to set boundaries can be tricky when it’s new, especially if those around you are used to a certain dynamic. If it’s a new concept, there’s a chance guilt may set in because it’s uncomfortable but don’t let yourself succumb to guilt. Push through the discomfort. Growth is on the other side.

Truly ready to ensure all of your bonds are healthy, safe spaces? Use these guiding principles as a compass while learning how to set healthy boundaries.

Always choose yourself. Always take care of you. 

Saying no is a complete sentence and requires no further explanation. If you really don’t want to do something, say no. If you were invited to go somewhere with friends but really need to take the night to get some much needed rest, don’t be afraid to say no for fear of disappointing them. It is better to be a disappointment to friends who most likely will be forgiving and understanding than be a disappointment to yourself because you are overexerting yourself. Be selfish, not selfless. No one but you will or is truly capable of putting yourself first and having your best interests at heart.
Firmly and directly assert yourself to those in your life.

Make a list of your values. Honestly determine what is important to you in your bonds with other people and keep these close to your heart. These are things that matter to you, these are things which make you feel valued and loved in your relationships. When behavior veers outside of what you deem acceptable according to your values, communicate that, immediately.

For example, if your partner has a tendency of speaking recklessly or raising their voice when they are upset with you, inform them you would appreciate if they would not raise their voice at you when angry. Make sure to use either “I feel…” or “When you…” statements to articulate your feelings. This is so you are explaining (and owning) how you feel and not casting blame on the other person to put them on the defense. By stating this, you are telling your partner there is a proper way to productively address issues and yelling is not one of them.

Be prepared to enact consequences if your boundary is not acknowledged, honored or respected.

Consequences aren’t a punishment or an angry thing as many of us have come to know. They are also not empty threats to manipulate the other person. Instead, consequences entail taking heed of a pattern of behavior, using that to inform future interactions and stating what will happen going forward. It might mean you no longer correspond with a person as frequently or not at all, and the relationship changes because their actions communicate a lack of respect.

For instance, perhaps a friend insists on calling or texting you late at night. This bothers you and you tell them, directly, to please not call or text you late and night (setting a boundary) and if they continue to do so, you will not answer when they reach out to you so late (consequence). Remember, this is about you. This is about engaging with others on your terms, what makes you feel comfortable and safe.

Ensure the boundaries you set are firm and stand behind them fiercely.

Boundary setting is often a learning curve and is not one size fits all for every person or situation. If a person is a repeated offender of poor behavior, your boundaries may be more rigid than say, for instance, a boss who has all of a sudden become overbearing and situationally difficult to deal with.

It is important to note your boundaries are only as strong as your commitment to following through on them. Stand behind what you say. Don’t let the (temporary) discomfort and guilt that arises prevent you from doing what you need to do to protect yourself. An example of this would be telling a friend you don’t like when they consistently cut you off in conversations because it makes you feel unheard (setting a boundary). Tell them if they can’t take the time to listen, you’ll will limit the conversations you have with them (consequence) but then a couple of days later go back to letting them cut you off mid conversation. You’ve communicated the opposite of what you intended: that what you said wasn’t that big of a deal and they can continue to conduct themselves in this way without any repercussion. It’s rewarding bad behavior and putting yourself back where you started. Prevent that; stick to your guns. Follow through.

Be patient (and gentle) with yourself. This is a process.

This is a journey, a multi-step, methodical, measured, slow journey. It won’t happen overnight and it will be difficult initially. You’ll be pushing back against an old way of interacting and shifting into more positive and healthy methods of engaging. The result, however, is well worth the effort, discomfort and plethora of other emotions that may arise — reciprocal relationships with people you respect who treat you lovingly, kind and nurture you in precisely the way you need.

Self-preservation as self-care is a fine art and boundaries are one component of that masterpiece. Invest in yourself through creating space and a lovingly flow between those you care about is yet another way to ensure you are taking care of you in the best way possible.

Nneka M. Okona is a writer based in Washington, DC. Visit her blog, http://www.afrosypaella.com, her website, about.me/nnekaokona or follow her tweets, @NisforNneka.

http://www.forharriet.com/2015/09/self-preservation-as-self-care-how-to.html#axzz3wR9j109I

I Found My Womanist Aesthetic by Embracing Being Large, Black and Female ~ Anitra Winder

“What shall I tell my children who are black? Of what it means to be a captive in this dark skin? What shall I tell my dear ones, fruit of my womb, of how beautiful they are? Where everywhere they are faced with abhorrence of everything that is black…?” — Dr. Margaret Burroughs, 1968.

Growing up it seemed as though race and gender had always been a part of my consciousness. However, at that juncture in life I understood identity in the most simplistic terms. I was poor, black, a girl, a bit rounder than most, but that’s where the observation ended. There was no evaluation of how those identities influenced who I was or who I was going to be. Hence, the multiple social identities of being black, large, and female were always present, but not contextualized. 

Through a simple game of make believe, I would come to understand my expected place in the world. I never cared for the idea of being a princess. In every book I’d read they were either locked away in towers, being abducted, persecuted by evil step-mothers, or simply lying comatose while life raged on. I never wanted any part of that but one day out of boredom I thought it would be interesting to play with a different group of girls during recess. These girls played princess regularly and approached it with an uncanny degree of formality. As a circle of girls clucked on about the hierarchy of princesses, I interjected, “Can I play? I could be a princess, or maybe more like the queen!” The blonde ringleader said, “Okay, you can play, but you can’t be a princess. Princesses are blonde and pretty and you’re black and fat, so you can be a wicked witch.” I decided not to play. 

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, commented in her book Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, “The issues of emerging sexuality and the societal messages about who is sexually desirable leave young black women in a very devalued position.” The initiation into this devaluation was truly an American creation, a methodology that conceptualized a social structure of race and gender based on a sexist, white supremacist model. 

From that playground experience, I began to learn that as a female I should desire to be pretty, and that being black and overweight nullified any possibility of achieving that desire. I became acutely aware that society would attribute every failure or character flaw to my race and size, which would be used as a measure of my inferiority. My experience as a human being would be limited to the restrictive stereotypes paraded within various forms of media. In addition to navigating the difficulty of racial discrimination, I was expected to conform to beauty ideals that shared no cultural resemblance to who I was. Black women who looked like me were at best asexual mammies, muted and stable best friends, or sassy, glorified ghetto cooks who lusted over ham hocks and the men who’d never part their sheets. These grotesque images of black womanhood are starkly juxtaposed with images of blonde bombshells, pale, rail thin supermodels, or simply your typical lily-white, girl next door.
Most media images serve as indicators of social status because one learns what a society values and what it does not through media representation. The black female body has historically been debased by the intersecting atrocities of racism and patriarchal oppression. My black, large, female body was being offered up as a sacrifice to the contemporary “cult of thinness,” which socially sanctioned my body as unfit to truly be feminine. In a grossly sexist and racialized society, a black, fat woman is not valued, and therefore eclipsed. I questioned, as Sojourner had, “Ain’t I a Woman?”  

During my young adulthood, I caved into social pressure. I obsessively straightened my hair and began binging and purging food. I dare say I alternated between states of anorexia and bulimia, which is of course absurd because black women do not have eating disorders, and fat people cannot be anorexic. 

Depressed by years of relentless stigmatization, it was only when I chose a form of self-integration that would take place outside of the confines of white culture, that I began to realize my worth. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Fannie Lou Hamer cast stones against the patriarchal, white supremacist power structure. They strived to enhance the plight of their people, and their black femininity was soundly intact. These remarkable women were the catalyst for the formation of my womanist aesthetic. This womanist aesthetic would guide me to stop demonizing my unique characteristics, and engage in healthy behaviors. 

I no longer chemically processed my hair nor consumed nutrient poor foods that were introduced into the African American palate by oppressive forces. These changes resulted in a healthier physical and mental state. I reclaimed the power to redefine beauty and femininity on my own cultural terms. Just as the warrior women before me did not submit to the prescribed societal notions of their value or existence, I too have chosen a cerebral and substantive beauty to define the majesty that is my black female body.

Anitra Winder is a queer, crafty, Afrofuturistic, writer, and social justice advocate. She has a degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Health Care Administration/Public Health. When she’s not focused on social justice issues, she’s battling her comic book addiction…she’s not winning. Find her on Twitter @donitocarmenito.

http://www.forharriet.com/2015/06/i-found-my-womanist-aesthetic-by.html#axzz3vZCa64hg

5 Hard Truths for Every Black Woman Creative ~ Dee Rene

Being a creative is equal parts struggle and triumph. With a dash of doubt mixed between layers of relentless pursuit of your dreams. But although this is an incredible journey, it’s not one that you should enter into without understanding the realities to come.
It’s not all struggle and it’s for sure not all glamour. Go into this life prepared by embracing a few hard to swallow truths. 

There’s no such thing as an overnight success

Viola Davis and Regina King accepted their awards and it seemed to most of America that maybe they appeared out of no where. What most don’t realize is that “out of nowhere” was years and years of taking roles that no one else wanted, roles that no one else noticed, and working relentlessly to improve. Those “big breaks” are culminations of smaller breaks that opened up through persistence and many big loses too. As a creative, it will seem that you “should” be to the epitome of your success by now. Don’t get lost in the “shoulds” of life and beat yourself down for not reaching the bar yet. The secret to overnight success is tot keep going every day, every night. Get feedback. Improve. Adjust. But never stop. Just keep going. 

You don’t need to get a “real job” but struggle doesn’t have to be part of your story 

Broke is not a good color on you. There’s nothing noble about being a creative who can’t feed themselves. Most people avoid a “real job” not in their creative field because it might drain their soul or take hours away from their creative project. However, you don’t need to be a martyr to your art in order to prove how dedicated you really are to the project. Instead you need to turn off the tunnel vision and broaden the scope of your talent. A true creative can make a Monet out of a mud hill. Use your resources to make money, still using some of your talent, so that you can fuel and fund your main project. If you’re an artist who wants to sell paintings that’s great, but if that’s not paying the bills right now what else can you do? Can you design tattoos? Logos? Don’t take your eyes off your final goal but take a moment to look around and decide where there’s money you may be missing.

Plot twist: Your friends are often not your biggest supporters 

When I first started writing, I expected my friends to share my writing world-wide and to stand at the gates of my blog with pom-poms. Much to my surprise that wasn’t the case with some of my closest friends. As a creative, your work becomes part of your heart and it can hurt when friends don’t go hard for you. Friends support you as a person but some of your closest friends may not give two clicks about your work in the way that you THINK they should. Some of your friends may support the work quietly with congratulations and a thoughtful text. Other’s may not. Don’t hang your head and wonder if you work is all that great if your friends don’t turn into fans. Understand that close friends may not be your biggest fan and that is not indicative of your worth as a creative or even of your friendship. Friends play different roles and supporting you as a whole person may not always mean pouring 100% support in every area of your life. The same way that you have friends who are great supporting relationship issues but horrible at providing career advice. Be grateful for whatever way they do support and don’t get so focused on who isn’t supporting that you forget to be grateful for those that do. 

It starts and ends with you 

There’s no Superman to come rescue you Louise Lane. Along this path there will be mentors, peers, fans and supporters to help connect you to the right people to get to your big break. However, the thing that will get you to success – the work – starts and ends with you. People who succeed weren’t just born talented. Talent doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t willing to do the work. If you aren’t willing to write, work with an editor and accept feedback, how will you sell a book? If you aren’t willing to research other artist and learn technique, how will you create the best art possible? Masters are students first. 

The success of your creative venture rests in your willingness to work, edit, start again, and try. No one can do it for you. It starts and ends with you. 

Living your truth will change your life 

There are a million ways to be a singer other than being Beyonce. Find an outlet for your creative roles. You were born a creative for a reason and no matter what anyone says, if it makes your heart smile, then you keep creating. Too many artists are locked up in cubicle prisons doodling masterpieces on meeting notes. They gave up long ago because they never made it to a gallery. Don’t be that person. Even if you’re an artist for 3 hours a day in your living room or selling small paintings on Instagram, do not let the creative part of you die. Do not choke the life out of your creative spirit because someone or something told you that it was a silly dream. Living your truth – that you are a creative – will change your life. Set your soul free and feed it the art, music, writing and whatever else it needs to thrive. 

A creative is a life calling. Your moment will come if you keep going, keep improving, and don’t let the doubts take you over. Remember there’s no overnight success, you don’t have to go broke and it all starts and ends with the work you put into this life. This is your calling. Your moment will come. Rejoice with the people that support you and forget the rest. It’s time to let this change your life and live completely in your truth. 

Welcome to life as a creative.

http://www.forharriet.com/2015/11/5-hard-truths-for-every-black-woman.html#axzz3s9FbJLy6

Woman Says She Endured 8 Days In Psych Ward Because Cops Didn’t Believe BMW Was Hers ~ Christopher Mathias

 

PIX11

NEW YORK — Kamilah Brock says the New York City police sent her to a mental hospital for a hellish eight days, where she was forcefully injected with powerful drugs, essentially because they couldn’t believe a black woman owned a BMW. 

In her first on-camera interview about her ordeal, which aired Thursday, the 32-year-old told PIX11 that it was all a “nightmare.”

It’s a nightmare, Brock’s lawyer told The Huffington Post, that never would have happened if she weren’t African-American.  

Brock sued the city earlier this year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She contends that her constitutional rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendments were violated and that she suffered “unwanted and unwarranted intrusion of her personal integrity, loss of liberty [and] mental anguish.” 

The suit details how Brock pulled up to a traffic light in Harlem on Sept. 12, 2014, the music on her car stereo playing loudly. An NYPD officer approached her and asked why she was driving without her hands on the steering wheel, according to the suit. 

“I said I was dancing, I am at a light,” Brock told PIX11. “He asked me to get out of the car.”

For unclear reason, Brock contends, she was taken into custody and transported to the NYPD’s 30th Precinct, where she was held for a few hours before being released without being charged with any crime. She said she was told to come back the next day to pick up her car, a 2003 BMW 325Ci.

When she showed up at a police substation to get the car the next day, Brock said, “I just felt like from the moment I said I owned a BMW, I was looked at as a liar. They put me in handcuffs and said they just need to put me in handcuffs to take me to my car. And I said OK, whatever it’s gonna take to get to my car.”

“Then EMS approached me,” she continued. “And they said we’re gonna take you to your car. And I’m like, in an ambulance? I’m going to my car in an ambulance? I’m going to my car in an ambulance? I was just so confused.”

Brock was taken instead to Harlem Hospital, where medical records obtained by her attorney, Michael Lamonsoff, show she was injected with powerful sedatives and forced to take doses of lithium.

“He held onto me and then the doctor stuck me in the arm and I was on a stretcher and I woke up to them taking my clothes off, specifically my underwear,” Brock tearfully recalled for PIX11’s Nicole Johnson. “Then I went back out again. When I woke up the next day, I felt like I was in a nightmare. I didn’t understand why that was happening to me.” 

Medical records also show that over the course of her eight-day stay, personnel at the hospital repeatedly tried to get Brock to deny three things before she could be released: that she owned the BMW, that she was a professional banker, and that President Barack Obama followed her on Twitter. 

The lawsuit says it was these three assertions that were the basis for the city determining that Brock was delusional and to diagnose her with bipolar disorder. 

But according to Lamonsoff, Brock had no history of mental illness. She did own the BMW. At the time, she was employed as a banker and had worked at Citibank, Chase and Astoria Bank. And Obama does follow Brock on Twitter, just as he follows 640,000 other people. 

When Brock was finally released from the hospital, the lawsuit states, she was slapped with a $13,000 medical bill.

A white woman would not have been treated like that, Lamonsoff argues.

COURTESY OF MICHAEL LAMONSOFF

“If a white woman was trying to reclaim her BMW impounded by police, would she have been made a victim?” he said to HuffPost. “Would she have been questioned? Would she have been subject to sarcastic comments? Would she be made to justify who she was in order to ask for help? I don’t think so. I do think race played a part in this.”

Institutional bias against African-Americans is well-documented and contributes to the racial disparities in how laws are enforced. Just this week, James Blake, formerly the fourth-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, was tackled and handcuffed at a midtown Manhattan hotel by police officers who confused him for a suspect in a crime. Blake, who is black, suffered cuts and bruises and was detained for about 15 minutes, until officers realized who he was. 

“In my mind, there’s probably a race factor involved, but no matter what, there’s no reason for anybody to do that to anybody,” Blake said after the incident.

Responding to Brock’s lawsuit earlier this summer, the city claimed in court filings that she had been “acting irrational, she spoke incoherently and inconsistently, and she ran into the middle of traffic on Eighth Ave” during her encounter with police.

Lamonsoff told HuffPost that “those allegations are without merit” and that “the true facts of what happened that day will be brought out” through the litigation. The lawsuit, which names the city of New York, unidentified police officers and Harlem Hospital as defendants, seeks unspecified damages.

Neither the NYPD nor the City Law Department, which handles lawsuits filed against the city, responded to a request for comment on Friday. Previously the police department has only confirmed that Brock was taken into custody.  

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kamilah-brock-nypd-bmw_55f2c9aae4b063ecbfa3e60d

This Type Of Breast Cancer Is More Deadly For Black Women by Lindsey Tanner

For young women and black women, the death rates were twice as high.

CHICAGO (AP) — New research shows that chances of dying from very early breast cancer are small but the disease is riskier for young women and blacks, the same disparities seen for more advanced cancer.

Death rates in the 20 years after diagnosis totaled about 3 percent for women whose breast cancer was confined to a milk duct. The death rates were twice as high for those younger than 35 at diagnosis and in blacks – but still lower than those with more common invasive breast cancer.

The findings will likely add to the debate over how to treat these early kinds of tumors that some have said should not even be considered a true cancer because they rarely spread.

The study authors analyzed U.S. government data on more than 100,000 women diagnosed from 1988 to 2011 with DCIS – ductal carcinoma in situ. Women were aged 54 on average at diagnosis.

Though low, the risk of dying from breast cancer was almost twice as high as the breast cancer rate in the general population of U.S. women, said Dr. Steven Narod, the lead author and a senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto.

More than 900 women died of breast cancer during the study years. Some had developed invasive disease in either breast, but more than 500 deaths were in women never diagnosed with a second tumor or recurrence, meaning their DCIS had likely spread before they received treatment, Narod said.

The study was published Thursday in JAMA Oncology.

DCIS will be found in about 60,000 U.S. women this year, versus more than 230,000 women expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, the cancer society estimates. More women have been diagnosed with DCIS in recent years because of increased screening and better imaging techniques.

Standard DCIS treatment is lumpectomy followed by radiation, although some women choose to have the entire breast or even both breasts removed. The study found that radiation reduced chances for disease recurrence but didn’t lower 20-year survival chances. That may lead some women to skip radiation, Narod said.

By contrast, the results may lead some young women and blacks to seek more aggressive treatment including chemotherapy, although that isn’t usually recommended when the death rate is less than 10 percent, he said.

“These are tough choices,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the American Cancer Society’s deputy chief medical officer.

Women diagnosed with DCIS shouldn’t panic, he said, because chances for being cured are good. Still, the study shows the disease can behave like invasive cancer and doctors should discuss rates for recurrence and death, and inform patients of all options, he said.

Dr. Richard Bleicher, a breast cancer expert at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, noted that the study lacked information that may have influenced women’s outcomes, including whether younger women who died had genetic mutations that may have put them at risk.

A JAMA Oncology editorial says more research is needed to better understand the riskiest DCIS cases and to test treatment approaches that may reduce deaths.

Online:

JAMA Oncology: http://jamaoncology.com

American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/this-type-of-breast-cancer-is-more-deadly-for-black-women_55d741bee4b04ae49702e4bc?kvcommref=mostpopular

13 Quotes by Black Women on Survival and Critical Self-Preservation ~ Altheria Gaston

In her essay titled “Sin, Nature, and Black Women’s Bodies,” Delores S. Williams writes about “spirit breakers” or “Negro breakers,” those who were hired by slave owners to break the spirit of slaves who seemed to be too confident, too uppity, and too independent. The sole purpose of these “spirit breakers” was to put slaves in their place and to convince them that their status as mere property would never change.

It would seem that the repeated offenses against Black women (and other women of color) serve what is perhaps a similar yet unintended purpose—to break the spirit of advocates and activists working towards equity and social justice. Those with broken spirits may be discouraged, hopeless, and just plain tired. The writers of The Combahee River Collective Black Feminist Statement articulate this point:

The psychological toll of being a Black woman and the difficulties this presents in reaching political consciousness and doing political work can never be underestimated. There is a very low value placed upon Black women’s psyches in this society, which is both racist and sexist.

Since we can’t depend on others to uplift and encourage us, we must do so ourselves. I offer you these quotes on self-preservation and survival to do exactly that—uplift and encourage.  

 

Audre Lorde in Oberlin College Commencement Address, 1989

“To face the realities of our lives is not a reason for despair—despair is a tool of your enemies. Facing the realities of our lives gives us motivation for action. For you are not powerless… You know why the hard questions must be asked. It is not altruism, it is self-preservation—survival.”

Sherley Anne Williams in “Surviving the Blight,” 1988

“And when we (to use Alice Walker’s lovely phrase) go in search of our mothers’ gardens, it’s not really to learn who trampled on them or how or even why—we usually know that already. Rather, it’s to learn what our mothers planted there, what they thought as they sowed, and how they survived the blighting of so many fruits.”

Elizabeth Alexander in “Praise Song for the Day,” 2009

“Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself / others by first do no harm or take no more than you need. / What if the mightiest word is love?  

Love beyond marital, filial, national, / love that casts a widening pool of light, / love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun. On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, / praise song for walking forward in that light.”

Melissa Harris-Perry in Sister Citizen, 2011

“Sisters are more than the sum of their relative disadvantages: they are active agents who craft meaning out of their circumstances and do so in complicated and diverse ways.”

Angela Y. Davis in an interview with Jennifer Byrne, 1999

“Well of course I get depressed sometimes, yes I do. But at the same time these changes never take place overnight. They always require protracted struggles and I can look back at my life and add all of the struggles I’ve been involved in, and I can see that we made a difference. We really did make a difference.”

Audre Lorde in A Burst of Light, 1988

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Patricia Hill Collins in Black Feminist Thought, 1990

“African-American women have been victimized by race, gender, and class oppression. But portraying Black women solely as passive, unfortunate recipients of racial and sexual abuse stifles notions that Black women can actively work to change our circumstances and bring about changes in our lives. Similarly, presenting African-American women solely as heroic figures who easily engage in resisting oppression on all fronts minimizes the very real costs of oppression and can foster the perception that Black women need to help because we can ‘take it.’”

Layli Maparyan in  The Womanist Idea, 2012

“Self-care is a way of maintaining both wellness and balance in the energetic economy of social and economic intercourse. Activists and caretakers who do not attend to self-care are vulnerable to burnout, and burnout in turn can breed alienation from both issues and communities… Self-care and care of others needs to be balanced.”

Barbara Omolade in The Rising Song of African American Women, 1994

“Women of color warriors are constant warriors who dig in bare earth to feed the hungry child, who pray for health the bedside of the sick when there is no medicine, who fashion a toy to make a poor child smile, who take to the streets demanding freedom, freedom, freedom against armed police. Every act of survival by a woman of color is an act of resistance to the holocaust and the war. No soldier fights harder than a woman warrior for she fights for total change, for a new order in a world in which can finally rest and love.”

June Jordan in “Where is the love?” 1978

“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black: it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect. It means that I must everlastingly seek to cleanse myself of the hatred and the contempt that surrounds and permeates my identity, as a woman, and as a Black human being, in this particular world of ours.”

bell hooks in Sisters of the Yam, 2005

“Black women have not focused sufficiently on our need for contemplative spaces. We are often ‘too busy’ to find time for solitude. And yet it is in the stillness that we also learn how to be with ourselves in a spirit of acceptance and peace. Then when we re-enter community, we are able to extend this acceptance to others. Without knowing how to be alone, we cannot know how to be with others and sustain the necessary autonomy.”

Shanesha Brooks-Tatum in “Subversive Self-Care: Centering Black Women’s Wellness,” 2012

“Black women’s self-care is also subversive because to take care of ourselves means that we disrupt societal and political paradigms that say that Black women are disposable, unvalued. Indeed, people and things that aren’t cared for are considered expendable. So when we don’t take care of ourselves, we are affirming the social order that says black women are disposable.”

Florynce Kennedy, Unknown Source and Year

“You can’t dump one cup of sugar into the ocean and expect to get syrup. If everybody sweetened her own cup of water, then things would begin to change.” 

We all need refreshing from time to time. It is my hope that these quotes—some lesser known than others—from our foremothers and sisters in the struggle will invigorate your spirits in the days, weeks, and months to come. 
http://www.forharriet.com/2015/05/13-quotes-by-black-women-on-survival.html#axzz3ZLT2L8Zj

Exclusive: How I Learned to Love My Body, by Orange Is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks

Danielle Brooks created the role of Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson on Orange Is the New Black to thunderous critical acclaim in 2013. But the 25-year-old Julliard graduate from Greenville, South Carolina, (who also was the first black actress to play a starring role on HBO’s Girls) noticed a disappointing reality once she made it in Hollywood. In this exclusive essay for Glamour, Brooks shares a very personal lifelong struggle to self-acceptance and love.

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Being a teenager can be one of the hardest phases of a person’s life. For me, I struggled every day tricking myself into appearing confident. After reading over old journal entries, I realized some days were less successful than others. I came across one that took me aback. In this entry, I had written about how insecure I was about my weight. I wasn’t able to wear the flared jeans and cute tops the other girls wore—they didn’t come in my size. On top of that, I was dark-skinned and had natural hair. By the standard definition of beauty I had absorbed from the world around me, I had three strikes against me: I was too dark, too curly, and too fat.

Because of this insecurity, I was desperately unhappy. I was even having suicidal thoughts. But you wouldn’t have known it. The world saw a young teenage girl who was happy in her skin, laughed a lot, and didn’t care what anyone thought about her. The truth of the matter was I wasn’t happy in my skin; I laughed to hide my pain, and cared deeply what my peers thought of my appearance—to the point that I even was having suicidal thoughts. But you wouldn’t have known it.

Even now, I still find ways to make light of the sadness I was in back then. When I was interviewed for a magazine recently, I joked that when my mother would ask me to go for a walk around the neighborhood, I would hide behind the house because I was lazy. But the real reason I hid was because I didn’t want the boys in the neighborhood to laugh at the fat girl walking around the cul-de-sac.

I didn’t always feel so self-conscious. As a young girl, I was always a healthy kid but never a skinny kid. I didn’t know that there was anything “wrong” with my body until I was in middle school and a woman from church felt the spirit move her to tell me. As I walked home from Bible study one Wednesday night, she stopped me and exclaimed, “Danielle you’ve got stretch marks on your arms!” and proceeded to take her pointer finger and identify the four or five tiny lines that were starting to form. She continued, “You’re too young to be getting stretch marks,” though she was covered in them herself. And that’s when the cycle of judging myself began.

From that moment on, it was a long road to learning to love myself again. I dreamed of being an actor, but when I looked for reflections of myself on the screen, I found few. Still, I found inspiration in the words of Sharon Flake and the music of India Arie. I took acting classes, where I felt free and accepted. Free to let out the biggest screams, to roll around the floor like a cat, and to cry sloppy tears without being judged. Accepted by this tribe of fellow performers, unique individuals who valued me for my talent and my boldness and not for what I looked like (or didn’t look like). In acting I found my confidence, my joy, my safe place.

Ironically, achieving a measure of success in this field that gave me confidence threatened to shake the very foundation of that hard-earned self-worth. Being in the public eye magnifies my “imperfection” to an insane degree. Attending the Golden Globes for the first time, I was aware that the majority of the other actresses in the audience didn’t look like me. But you see, the average woman is a size 12 to 14. Those actresses don’t look like most women. I’m not saying those actresses should gain 30 pounds, but I am posing the question, that if art is supposed to reflect life then why don’t the red carpets and magazines reflect reality?

Ideally, I want to see all beauties, all shapes, all sizes, all skin tones, all backgrounds represented in my profession. Now that I am blessed to be that reflection I was once looking for, I’m making a promise to speak out for that little girl that I used to be. I might not have the power to change what media puts out there, or to single-handedly convince young girls like me that they should love themselves. But what I can do is start with me: living each day, embracing who I am. Embracing who I am by refusing to hide my legs or cover my arms because they make someone else feel uncomfortable. By realizing that every stretch mark on my body is kissed by the sun, and no longer wishing them away. By no longer operating out of a place of fear. So if you see me on a carpet with my arms and legs out glistening, or my midriff exposed, it’s a reminder to myself and the world that I know I’m beautiful.

“As we shine our light, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence liberates others.” —Marianne Williamson

Photos: Caitlin Mitchell

http://www.glamour.com/inspired/blogs/the-conversation/2015/05/danielle-brooks-body

Poet Aja Monet Confronts Police Brutality Against Black Women With #SayHerName ~ Maddie Crum & Irina Dvalidze

“Melissa Williams,” Aja Monet reads, “Darnisha Harris.” Her voice is strong; it marches along, but it shakes a little, although not from nerves. She’s performing a poem that includes the forgotten names of girls and women who’ve been injured or killed by the police. She finishes forcefully, then pauses, exhales. “Can I do that again?” she asks. “It’s my first time reading it out loud, and … ” she trails off. 

Monet had written the poem — a contribution to the #SayHerNamecampaign, a necessary continuation of the Black Lives Matter movement focusing on overlooked police violence against women — earlier that morning. That evening, she’d read it at a vigil. Now, she was practicing on camera, surprised by the power of her own words. 

As a poet, Monet is prolific. She’s been performing both music and readings for some time — at 19, she was the youngest ever winner of New York City’s Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam — and her work has brought her to France, Bermuda and Cuba, from where her grandmother fled, and where she recently learned she still has extended family. Next month, she’ll return to visit them. But first, she wants to contribute to a campaign she believes in.

Though she’s disheartened that a hashtag is necessary to capture people’s attention — “I think #SayHerName is the surface level of the issues but beneath that there is the real question of, ‘Why?’” she says — Monet wields her art to achieve social and political justice. While discussing political poetry with a fellow artist in Palestine, he observed, “Art is more political than politics.” “I feel him,” she says. “I think he’s right.”

Can you explain #SayHerName in your own words?
It is us calling out the lack of attention on women of color also affected by state violence. We recognize the power of our voices and so we raise the spirits of our sisters by daring to utter their names.

A recent Washington Post write-up said it’s difficult to even quantify police brutality against black women. How will #SayHerName honor those whose stories are lost? 
I can’t speak for what a hashtag will do in the actual hearts of people but I know that anything worth paying attention to these days in America has to be sold and marketed as if worth buying into. We recognize that the attention span of our generation is so short: How else do we make the issues we care about accessible and also relevant? This is what activism has come to. This is where we are at in the age of the Internet. We must be honest with ourselves about how human interaction is now only affirmed or confronted based on the projected world we live in through screens. 

I think #SayHerName is the surface level of the issues, but beneath that there is the real question of “Why?” Why do I need to make saying her name a hashtag for you to pay attention? The goal is to use this as an opportunity to redirect the attention of people, to hopefully get folks researching the names and stories of all the women we’ve lost. To educate themselves so we are all more informed on how policing works. Black women’s bodies are the most policed bodies in this country. 

Also, I didn’t read the Washington Post write-up, but it seems silly to me. Like, of course it’s difficult to quantify any brutality against human beings. It’s not more difficult when it comes to black women, I think it’s just easier for us to ignore them because if we acknowledge them then we must acknowledge all of the women affected by violence and brutality, not just by police but by an entire patriarchal, racist system. We keep scratching the surface of these issues and neglecting the root, which is this country never loved black people, and of course that meant black women. We who birth the men they also hate. We are an extension of each other. 

aja monet

What inspired this poem, and what inspires your poetry in general?
I was at an event where I read a poem in solidarity with my Palestinian brothers and sisters, and Eve Ensler was in the audience. We spoke briefly after and she admired the poem I read. I was honored and she gave me her email. I followed up immediately the next day and informed her that if she ever needed a poet at any point, I’d be there, no questions asked. 

She responded with this vigil for #SayHerName and asked if I’d be willing to read a poem. I have been meditating on this issue of women of color affected by police brutality, but the poem hadn’t quite come to me yet. I started writing a piece for Rekia Boyd but it just isn’t ready to be done yet. So I woke early the morning of the vigil and forced myself to write this poem. I sat with all the names of the women and I asked them that I may find the words to do justice. They came to me hours before I had to meet with you all to record. 

And maybe they’ll change, but the process of inspiration is a strange thing. For the most part I call on my ancestors. Not to be all, “I call on my ancestors,” but it’s true. I know I’m not the only one writing when I write. I also know that more times than not inspiration is subjective. You can find inspiration in anything if you pay attention. If you’re careful enough to notice how divine this world is and we are, to be here together, creating.

aja monet 2

Obviously you appreciate overtly political art — why do you think political art can be powerful?
I met an artist in Palestine who said “art is more political than politics.” I feel him. I think he’s right.

I think being an artist, you are in the business of telling it like it is. You create of the world you live in, unapologetically. What that means is you aren’t catering to an eye or group or specific niche so much as your own truth as you see fit. Politicians, on the other hand, are constantly determining their worth and issue relevance based on approval ratings and polls. They are always campaigning, which becomes less about the issues we need to be dealing with and more about who can be bought to speak about what you want them to speak about. It’s an ugly game I want no business in. 

Art that addresses the business of politics recognizes its power and influence. It unveils the mask of “politics” and gets to the people we are fighting for. It does the difficult work of reaching people’s hearts and minds. No great change takes place without art. It’s necessary. 

Who are some fellow poets you currently admire?
Since we are in the spirit of saying her name, here’s a few names: Jayne Cortez, Wanda Coleman, Carolyn Rodgers, June Jordan, Audre Lorde and, of course, my sister, Phillis Wheatley. 

aja monet

Monet’s two books of poetryInner City Chants and Cyborg Ciphers and The Black Unicorn Sings are available online.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/21/aja-monet-say-her-name_n_7345358.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067