Ballet Noir

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Written By Victoria B. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Idols. Ingrid Silva. Michaela DePrince. Precious Adams. Carlos Acosta. Andrea Long. Harper Watters. One of my earliest memories in ballet was in 2003 when I was patiently waiting in the hallway for class to start. My eyes danced around searching for something to catch my attention. Finally, they fixated on a stunning portrait of what I thought was a princess. It was of a black woman en pointe in a light pink and fuschia tutu. At the time, I didn’t know who she was. All I knew is that I wanted to be just like her. From that moment on, I saw her everywhere I turned. From being in magazines as the Firebird to on a portrait hanging at the dancewear shop as Cleopatra (the role specifically created for Ms. Anderson by former Artistic Director, Ben Stevenson)  I then found out that she was Principal Dancer, Lauren Anderson. Her bright smile, shining eyes, and impeccable technique will forever be sketched in my memory. Besides, Ms. Anderson, I never had many ballet idols that looked like me. Now, because of the diversity revolution and social media, we are exposed to many black dancers. This is not to say everything is perfect. Change is slow but inevitable. 

Apparel. “Why aren’t your tights pink?” Was a question I used to get from my fellow classmates. Confused, I used to ask my mom if she bought the wrong color tights because my legs never looked like everyone else. She tenderly explained that they were, in fact, the same color but darkened because of my skin tone. When I was growing up the default universal “nude” shade was a light pink color. This can prove to create an internal conflict when your skin tone doesn’t match the norm. While it might not seem like all that big of a deal, to a child it makes one feel isolated and like they don’t belong. The hues of pink also severs the extension that should be accentuated by the tights and pointe shoes.  “It changes the aesthetic, you want there to be a continuation between your upper and lower body and there’s a big disconnect if I put pink tights on.” (Precious Adams, 2018). This could be quite discouraging for a dancer chasing their dreams to feel.

Opportunities. “We don’t want to break the corps line.” An excuse young black dancers are often met with when they aren’t chosen for a role. Ballet is about synchronicity and uniformity. Everything, especially the corps de ballet (the body of the stage)  should be precise and balanced. Some companies use the notion of disturbing the line to justify their decision to leave out the dancer with a darker skin tone. Maya James, a close friend of mine, recounted the feeling of being the only black dancer at her studio, “When I stood at the barre and looked around the room before class, I did not see a single person that looked like me. Being the only brown face in the room made me feel a real sense of alienation – despite these other girls being my friends, I felt alone in the sense of being the only girl who had to apply foundation to my shoes and sometimes even to the flesh-colored parts of my performance costumes.” To maintain the aforementioned continuity, Maya found herself, like most other black dancers, being placed in the back during performances. “It’s almost like you’re the ugly duckling because the decision is purely to maintain aesthetics so that each dancer in the front looks the same. But what about talent? What about drive? If a black dancer exhibits these qualities, then why can’t they be in the front?” One might ask the simple question, “What’s the big deal if everyone looks different?” Former dancer with the New York City Ballet and Principal Dancer of the Dance Theater of Harlem, Andrea Long,  says, “A lot of the ballets are so programmed into people’s heads that they can’t see it any other way.” Often times people fear change. It shouldn’t be seen as an attack but as progress towards a more diverse and cohesive society.  

Hope. “When I see someone that looks like me that’s when I get inspired.” (School of American Ballet student, Kennedy Sheriff). The power of representation is unparalleled and vital for our people to feel accepted and included. There has been a shift in ballet seen in recent years. The taboo topic of race has been discussed more openly on huge platforms thanks to Misty Copeland, Michaela DePrince, etc. Harper Watters, Soloist for the Houston Ballet, has a popular Youtube Channel that gives insight to the life of a dancer. Carlos Acosta, a former dancer for the English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, has been appointed as the next Artistic Director for the Birmingham Royal Ballet starting in 2020. And Michaela DePrince, Soloist for the Het National Ballet in Amsterdam has been featured in many documentaries and magazines.

 In the past, black dancers would have to “pancake” their pointe shoes with their stage makeup to match their skin tones. Now, with companies such as Gaynor Minden and Mariia Dancewear, dancers of color are starting to feel welcomed in the dance world. Even though we have made leaps and bounds, we have a long way to go. Despite headway being made in creating a space for black dancers, the disparity between opportunities extended to white dancers and black dancers is glaringly apparent. We mustn’t be discouraged but inspired to create a world we are not only able but encouraged to thrive in.

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I AM My Hair

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Written By Aspen S. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series 

Having recently moved to a literal swamp environment I have noticed that my curls just don’t have the same bounce that they used to. My hair and been pretty dry and even though it’s very humid here, Maryland’s summer humidity is much different than the year-long humidity that envelopes the entire state of Florida. But with that being said my hair products just don’t hit the same these days. So, I’ve been doing quite a bit of experimenting in these past few weeks. 

I’ve done some research on different hair types and have determined that I definitely have low porosity hair. In less scientific terms, it basically takes hours on end for my hair to dry. If I do a wash-and-go in the morning, I have to bring a sweat towel with me because my hair will be dripping for the first three hours in my office (even after 15-20 minutes of towel trying because I truly try to avoid blow drying it). So no matter how cute my wash-and-go, my hair always ends up in a bun to keep the moisture contained. 

Like most people with low-porosity hair, my hair cuticles tend to block moisture during initial contact. The best example of this is when I get into the shower and the water will come in contact with my hair and literally bead up like oil and water. And while yes, I’m definitely putting oil in my hair it is not so lathered in oil that it would repel water like that. However, the low porosity means that after a few minutes of being in the shower, my hair cuticles will start to hold onto the water and at that point the hair actually won’t let it go anymore.  It is almost as if my hair is dehydrated and has found the last cup of water on earth. It will do anything to make it last. 

My low porosity hair is also easily affected by products. Since my hair cuticles are saturated by water after a wash, any products that I put in are not able to get into the hair cuticles. Instead they tend to build up over the cuticles and the ingredients are not absorbed well in my hair. This also means that my hair is not getting well-moisturized even when I put in product to do just that. This can lead to breakage to my hair when it finally dries. 

Before I go any further, I wanted to add a tidbit on high porosity hair. If you high porosity hair, your hair is very likely to dry very quickly but will frizz easily with the slightest exposure to moisture. This is because your hair cuticles are very receptive to moisture. Unlike my hair, high porosity hair will grab on to moisture very quickly but it will also lose it very quickly as well once absorbed, thus avoiding that over saturation. 

I’ve been looking for products, techniques, and styles that are good practice for low porosity hair. Products can be expensive so my experimentation is going little by little. I am starting off with being better able to moisturize my hair. Deep conditioning is something that I have always been super lazy about, but that is one of the best opportunities to moisturize my hair. Using a shower cap or other system that creates steam in a concentrated environment helps lift up the cuticle so that product can be absorbed. I’m also on the hunt for sticky but light products that can really attached to the cuticle, but not build up very thickly if it isn’t absorbed. 

In all of this, I’ve become very grateful for my many natural hair friends who have shared their hair experiences, products, and routines. I’ve realized that hair has a special way of bringing people together. I’ve also grown appreciative of the diversity of Black hair and how different my hair can look on any given day because it truly has a mind of its own. I’m looking forward to my experiments and maybe even exploring new hair opportunities that are completely new to me such a clip in hair, wigs, etc. that serve as both protective styles and the chance to serve new looks and styles. 

Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

**FOR AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT***

Let us know your favorite hair products or routines in the comments!

Inhale.

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Inhale.

Breathe. We do this all day everyday subconsciously. Think about it: we never focus on breathing until something makes us stop breathing. Holding your breath, having an anxiety attack, crying so hard you can’t breathe, so on and so forth. 

Before last Monday, I wasn’t breathing. I signed up to take a Koru Mindfulness course taught by one of my lovely sorors/friends, Tiara Cash (I wrote about her a while ago in the Special Spotlight Section). This four week course is supposed to help us be mindful and be in the present using meditation skills. I’ll be honest, I signed up for the class for two reasons: the first being, I wanted to support my soror. If anyone else would have posted something about them teaching a meditation class, I would have encouraged others to sign up and probably wouldn’t have participated myself. This is as honest as I can be. The second reason I signed up is because I never take the time to be in the moment with myself. I am constantly on the go at work and after. The pressure of not really knowing what I’m doing in writing my dissertation has me overwhelmed with a constant dormant headache. So, I believe God placed this class in my lap with someone I trust for a reason. 

The course is an online virtual course on Zoom. Last Monday, the first class, started off awkward for me. I was nervous to be doing breathing exercises over the computer with about 4 or 5 other strange women I’ve never met before. The comforting part was that of course, my soror was the instructor. After she explained the plan for the 4-week course, she led us through our guided first meditation. She had us center ourselves and practice inhaling and exhaling.

Notice your breath…inhale…and release…

As I was breathing, I felt differently than I did just 10 minutes prior to the exercise. I felt as if I was having an out of body experience. The pressure I was holding on to instantly rose to the surface of my body and on the 5th to last exhale, I felt that pressure release. I was crying and didn’t realize it until I heard the sound of the chimes indicating to us that the exercise was complete. Cash asked us some guiding questions about the experience and I was almost speechless.

I haven’t taken the time to recognize my breathing. I’m always on the go and find myself taking quick, short breaths just to get through the day. I haven’t seen my therapist in almost two months and not seeing her has had a major effect on my mental health. I talk to my friends sometimes about all of the things I have going on but I try not to overwhelm them. I use my therapist to really be open. During the two short months I’ve been away from her, life slapped me in the face like Nipsey Hustle (rest in peace) did that guy outside the 2018 BET Awards. [if you need to see what I mean, here’s the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV35i7FdOvs

I had to get all new tires and a car battery on my car, I had knee surgery, my aunt passed away, behind on my dissertation proposal, trying to figure out how to keep my blog afloat, found out my apartment complex is raising my rent. I mean the list goes on. Whole time I’m just dealing and continuing to go day-to-day like nothing is wrong. I had good days in between the rough patches but my mind was steadied on the turmoil. Smiling through the chaos. I didn’t know how much I was holding my breath as I moved through the weeks. 

Each week, we have homework to do. The homework consists of doing one of the 10 minute guided meditations we learned in the class, keeping a log about the experience, writing about a mindful activity, and writing down two things we are grateful for. I found it easier for me to do the meditations before I went to bed at night. It has helped me fall asleep and allowed me to reflect on the day. The mindful activity I logged about last week was about staying off of my phone while I am having conversations with people. I practiced this at work and at home while on Facetime with my friends. We don’t realize the connection we lose with people when we aren’t tuned into what they are saying. I noticed that when I talk with people, I’m either texting or scrolling through social media. Although I think I’m fully engaged in the conversation, I’m very much distracted. When I began practicing being mindful in the conversations, I noticed when others would be on their phones while we were talking and I felt that they weren’t fully listening. It’s wild how you notice things when you aren’t doing them anymore.

I am excited to see what else I will learn with this class. Yesterday we focused on meditated walking, a concept that I didn’t know existed. I am ready to learn more guided practices to keep me centered and in the present.

Here’s the recommended exercises you can do at home too:

Belly breathing

Breath Awareness

Body Scan

Walking Meditation

Exhale.

❤ Queen T

What My Father Taught Me About Men

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Dad Loves You, Honey!!!

Today, June 16, 2019, we celebrate Father’s Day.

I have been privileged to have my father in my life. My daddy is one of my best friends. I can talk to him about anything without judgment or ridicule and I feel affirmed in who I am. He has made me feel this way all of my life.

Growing up, I watched my daddy closely. At one point, I wanted to be him. He was (is) smart, funny, and had (still has) all the charm with people. My friends would meet my dad and often say to me “Wow, your dad is so nice” “You’re lucky to have a dad” “OMG, Mr. Johnson is the best”. Even today, my current friends still tell me how nice my dad is and how they can feel the love he showers on others. My daddy has a true genuine spirit at his core.

Having the kind of father I have is one in a million. I often joke with my mom and tell her that she married the last good man on Earth…and she’ll say, “I know”. My father has an energy about him that is unmatched. Which is why the saying “marry a man like your father” doesn’t make sense to me. There is no man like my daddy but my daddy did teach me (be it knowingly or unknowingly) that my expectations for any man who comes into my life should be high.

Before I list the top five things my daddy taught me about men, I should be open about the past choices I’ve made regarding relationships. From the time I turned 18, I was eager to be someone’s girlfriend. I wasn’t allowed to date before then so sure enough, as soon as October 16, 2007 rolled around I was geeked! I introduced my dad to a boy who went to a different high school and I could feel the dislike my dad had for him. It wasn’t because my dad didn’t want to like him, my dad is good at reading people and he read that this boy wasn’t shit. And he was right, the guy and I broke up about 4 weeks later and he was actually at his high school talking mad trash about me and allowed others to do the same.

Now, my dad isn’t the type to comment on anyone’s relationship unless they initiate the conversation…but even then he may not comment. That’s just the type of person he is. From then I went on to date about three other guys as I matured into a woman. Each relationship showing me things I didn’t need in a partner. I questioned why I stayed in those relationships. When I finally had the courage to tell my dad the things that happened to me, he did nothing but shower me with a listening ear, love, and affection.

While there are a number of things my daddy has taught me about men, these five points are the ones that I believe are the most essential when selecting a life partner.

  • Genuine love: The way my daddy loves me and loves other people is unmatched. Of course, no man is going to love you the way your father does, however, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat you and others around them. Every day of my life (except three weeks when I was in high school and I was cutting up) my father has told me he loves me. Expressing love for someone makes them feel secure and safe. It makes them feel valued. My dad made sure to let me know that I was important. His actions showed that he walked his talk.
    • I took the love my dad showered on me for granted in a couple of my relationships. If one of them told me they loved me, it was because I said it first. It seemed very forced and their actions did match up to the “love” they had for me.
  • Provider: I grew up in a two-parent household. Both of my parents made a real decent amount of money. From what I could guess is that my father made the most money and he took care of some of the larger bills and my mom the others and groceries and necessity things. Rarely would my dad call off work unless we took a family vacation. He wanted to ensure that his family was provided for. Now, I don’t know all of the ins and outs of my parents’ finances but from what I saw from the outside looking in, my dad never treated my mom as inferior because she didn’t make as much money as he did. They worked together on making financial decisions that would best support themselves and me and my siblings. After an unfortunate turn of events when I went off to college, my father and his job parted ways after almost 30 years at the company and my mom’s income became the head of the household. That change didn’t stop my dad. He went to find other avenues of income so he could continue to provide the support the family needed the best he could. Today, he is still doing that and assisting in any way he can.
  • Support System: My daddy is someone who you can talk to and can count on to be there when times get hard. During some of the times in my life where I’ve felt my world crashing down, my dad has prayed for me, held me tight, and helped me process. He’s provided countless hours of unsolicited advice and comfort. He makes me feel heard. He’s my biggest cheerleader. Any life choice I make, he’s behind me 100%. My dad has the kind of faith that allows him to not worry.
    • I know that in my next relationship, this is something that is going to be key for me. I have the support system quality instilled me from my dad. I love trying to help others and listen to what they have going on. It’s important to have this reciprocated.
  • My dad is a Mack: Lol! Let me start by saying my dad is a faithful man to mother. My dad would often share with me that because I’m a “Johnson” that we Johnsons automatically have the juice. So, naturally, women have always been drawn to my dad’s presence. Most times unsolicited. He told me a story about how he was working in a lab when he attended Hampton University for graduate school and a girl came in there and was instantly attracted to him. My dad laid down some ground rules and the rest was history. After he moved to Peoria, Illinois in the early ‘80s, he met my mom on the phone at her job and next thing he knows, he’s at her apartment and she cooked for him. Growing up in the house with my parents, my dad would sometimes flirt with my mom or buy her expensive jewelry. That’s just the type of energy that my dad gives off. He’s smooth without even trying.
  • Flawed: Although, I think my daddy is perfect, he’s not afraid to let me know he has flaws. Transparency is key in any relationship. No one person is going to have everything you are looking for and no one person is perfect. The key is to work through those flaws. One flaw that my dad possesses is his inability to get rid of things. My dad has sooooo much stuff. Sometimes, it drives my mom crazy how much stuff he actually has. But he won’t throw them away. One day, he finally told me why he has attachment issues to his things. When my dad was a young adult, one of his sisters burned up items that belonged to him and other members of his family. These were things that he could never get back. The feeling of security started at that point. Sometimes, my dad will tell me that he’s going through his stuff to get rid of some things but then he’ll laugh and say “but I just moved it to another room”. He’s open about his imperfections.

And a 6th one that I thought a should mention, my daddy has always told me the truth. Honesty is the best love you can give someone.

To all the men out there in a relationship or looking to pursue a relationship with someone, ensure to work on yourselves to be the best person you can be for yourself and your partner.

To my daddy, Happy Father’s Day and Thank you for showing me the things I deserve.

❤ Queen T

 

 

 

When They See Us – More Than a Horror Series

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Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray

*I want to start this post by saying that if you are not mentally ready to watch this show, take your time. Oprah’s interview with the cast and the men is up on Netflix and is only an hour long and is easier to process*

I’m positive many of you have either watched the Netflix series When They See Us or you’ve read an article about it because you weren’t ready to watch an actual reality play out. Wherever you are on the spectrum, I’m with you.

Surprisingly, I watched all four episodes in one sitting. Reflecting back on the emotions I felt while watching it do not compare to the emotional trauma the actual men in this case faced as young boys. I remember being about 30 minutes into the first episode and pressing pause because I felt my skin turn hot, my palms start to sweat, and my tear ducts going into overdrive. I had to mentally prepare myself for the rollercoaster Ava Duvernay was about to take me on.

Prior to watching When They See Us, I was already pretty familiar with the story of the “Central Park 5”, now known as the “Exonerated 5”. I remember hearing about them when I was younger but in 2016 I watched Ava Duvernay’s documentary, 13th, on Netflix. 13th focused on the 13th Amendment and how it was created to supposedly abolish slavery. The catch to that amendment is, slavery can still be legal if a person is incarcerated. In 13th, Duvernay, highlights the story of the Exonerated 5 and how America’s current president, 45 (I refuse to say or type his name still), spent thousands of dollars on an ad calling for the death penalty of Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Kevin Richardson, the falsely accused boys/men of the rape of a 28-year-old white woman.

It wasn’t until I watched When They See Us when I began to really understand what happened 30 years ago. I sat with this for a while. April 19, 1989 was about 6 months before I was born. It’s wild that 30 years later, shit like this still happens everyday. I think about all of the Black and brown men and women who are in prison now for crimes they didn’t commit. The prison system in our country is designed to eliminate us. I’m convinced. And the unjust justice system continues to be stagnant.

My heart cries and breaks every time I hear stories like these. I saw people posting articles about When They See Us being a horror film/series for Black and brown people but it’s more than that. The emotional, mental, and physical abuse that we as people of color face on a daily basis is a real life horror. Even in today’s time where we have camera phones and social media to expose the corrupt unjust justice system and police, we are still somehow villainized. “She shouldn’t have talked back.” “It looked like he was reaching for a gun.” “He was in the park.” It’s the same cycle of false accusations that we’ve seen for hundreds of years in this country.

The last point I want to make is the dynamics between white women and Black men.  The institution of slavery has labeled Black men as predators to white women. We’ve seen countless images of white women running from Black men in fear for their lives. We’ve heard a number of stories of white women lying on Black men that has gotten Black men put in jail and/or lynched (*coughEmmettTillcough*). The story of the Exonerated 5 is an example of this dynamic. We witnessed five innocent children be labeled as sexual predators because of the vicious attack on a white woman. No DNA matched either boy; their confessions were coerced in the forms of threats, violence, and police telling them what to say; and the actual rapist confessed. Yet, the city of New York has not apologized; Linda Fairstein, the lead detective in this case, still refuses to admit wrongdoing; and these men are emotionally scarred for life. White women have had a say in the demise of our Black men since the beginning of time and find a way to turn victim when they are called out on their bullshit. Linda Fairstein, for example, is losing all of her endorsements and positions since this documentary aired and deems it unfair. She got to spend her life making millions of dollars and living the American dream while these boys were criminalized in the media, abused, lied on, and in prison. And that ladies and gents is white privilege.

America. We have to do better. To Korey, Yusef, Kevin, Antron, and Raymond and all the other Black and brown people in this country, I see you.

❤ Queen T

 

Diary of a Multicultural Girl

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Written By Victoria B. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series 

What are you? You’re not from here, are you? You’re not really black, though.

All my life I have been faced with these kind of questions and statements from friends, teachers, and even random strangers. The combination of comments about my “unique” color, coupled with people feeling the need to touch my hair without invitation has made me feel different. They may not seem rude or invasive to those who ask them but to me, and other mixed people I have met, they are. When we explain where we come from, we are met with uninvited input on our heritage and identity. In fact, this happens so much that you start to question your own identity. Fortunately, I was raised by a mother who not only loves her melanin, but celebrates it as well.

You’re so exotic.” The person who said this tried to use it as a compliment but quite honestly, it felt isolating. To be treated as a deviation from the norm makes it hard to fit in with the people around you. It’s like you can’t quite fit in one box or the other. I also come across people who feel the need to touch my hair and comment in utter fascination on its texture and length while exclaiming that it can’t be all mine.  I am not a personal petting zoo. This display of different levels of ignorance is exhausting. But instead of getting upset I strive to turn my frustrations into teachable moments. I let them know that it isn’t okay to touch another person without invitation even if they mean no harm.

My history. I come from a cultural mosaic, if you will. I was born on a small beautiful island in the Caribbean that belongs to Colombia. The whole island is a blend of different races, cultures, and languages that melt to become one identity, Raizal. This multi-ethnic identity is due to the mixing of Spanish, Dutch, and English colonizers, enslaved Africans, and indigenous peoples.

With all that being said, I do claim my blackness. If I fill out an official document I check black for race and “of Hispanic origin”. I find it absolutely disheartening that some people succumb to institutionalized pressures to claim everything except their African ancestry. It is the sad reality that people of color have to deal with daily. It has become a sort of survival mechanism adopted by those to try to fit in with the “majority” in the environment.

On a personal note, I even had someone tell me that I am not black and tried to justify her claim by saying that I am purely Colombian. It is important to understand the difference between race and ethnicity. If we take a further look back in history, race was never a thing until the genesis of African slavery. It became a social construct created to justify the evil treatment of the people.  

Know who you are, before they tell you.I, along with my people, am living proof that dispels the common belief that being black is one dimensional.  In the words of Queen T, creator of this blog, the “Blackness is multifaceted.” Speaking a different language or being born in a different country does not mean that you are not black.

One take away I wish for anyone who reads this is to understand the power of truly knowing oneself so much that no one can come in and define who you are. You’ve already defined it for yourself.

Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Loving Myself

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Written By Aspen S. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series 

Very recently I found myself in an in-depth, witty mirror conversation with myself, Issa Rae style. In the span of two weeks I got emergency surgery, graduated from my Masters program, moved 1000 miles from Florida, and started a new job. A lot has happened in such a short time and the chance for me to really sit myself down and reflect on the past two years of my life was long overdue. So, it is no surprise that this conversation with myself led to much deeper self reflection and a chance to figure out how I want to live this new chapter of my life.

I decided that this is a new beginning for me and I thought about how I would to bring more positive habits into my daily routine. Despite the many things that I don’t have control over in my own life, one thing that I do have control over is food. My love for food has always been a constant in my life, even in the times in my life where I shamed myself for that.

But my love for food lacks boundaries, which seems whimsical and exploratory at first, but I’ve since realized that this relationship has been far from healthy. I eat when I’m happy. I eat when I’m sad. I eat when I’m content. And more than anything, I eat when I’m bored. On top of this, I tend to eat far beyond my feelings of fullness because I tell myself that the food I’m eating is just that good even when it’s decent at best.]

Ever since I was young, I have used food as a coping mechanism and have always had a bad habit of overeating. The truth is that my using food as a crutch is my go to method to handle any form of stress in my life and my stress has spanned far beyond these past two weeks as I spent all of March and much of April traveling from state to state as I searched for a job. I was exhausted both physically and mentally and as is natural, I found comfort in food.

My food choices in the past few months have been anything and everything and it shows. When I started my graduate school experience, I was eating primarily plant-based. Plant-based food consumption is similar to veganism in that it is mostly comprised of foods that do not include meat or dairy. However, it is not as strict as veganism and is much less involved in lifestyle choices, primarily focusing on healthy and sustainable eating practices.

During my time as a grad student, stress got to me and pizza and chicken nuggets seemed more and more appealing. When I spent a summer in Arizona for an internship, I convinced myself that in order to experience true Phoenix cuisine, I had to have no limits.   This mindset led to Domino’s pizza and Chik-Fil-A every other day. I can’t back to my second year of grad school with this no-limit mentality. I ignored all of the signs that this had to stop, including but not limited to: acne, weight gain, and chronic sinus congestion. And this goes without saying the endless digestive problems that I was experiencing daily.

The impact of the poor diet spanned beyond the physical. I noticed that I was starting to lack energy in my daily life in a way that I never experienced when I ate plant-based in years prior. This lack of energy led to me spending far more time in bed than was healthy and spending far more money on fast food because I just didn’t have it in me to cook a meal and I somehow found success scavenging for food if I wasn’t able to purchase something, only going grocery shopping two times in over three months. I was addicted to fast food and my own self sabotage and I needed something to divert me from this spiral.

Fast forward to just a few days ago. I woke up on the first day of my new job and decided that there was no time like the present. That would be the day that I would completely eliminate meat and dairy from my life. This was beyond ambitious. I tried very hard on that first day but the thing that caused the most difficulty was the battle that I felt with myself about my actions. This time was much different than when I ate plant-based prior to grad school. It felt forced and like I was restricting my eating. As someone who hates being told to do, I recognized the problem at hand. And furthermore, I realized that this inner struggle was also largely due to the confidence in my body that had gained in my grad school journey.

During grad school I had the opportunity to examine my relationship with my body and I have come to love my body in all of its glory, scars, curves, and stretch marks included. I have been given the opportunity to present on body positivity and intuitive eating, and to navigate self-love with my friends, peers, and colleagues. So to suddenly enact such unhealthy and restrictive behaviors on myself seemed like I was betraying myself and the people around me that have served as my support in my journey. I just couldn’t do it.

I made the decision that I would still move forward in limiting meat and dairy from palette. But I will do it on my own terms, and my own way. It is not about making hard remarks about what I can and cannot eat, or how much I can eat. It is not about losing weight or trying to look a certain way. This is solely about listening to my body and giving it the nutrients that it is asking for and avoiding the food that add stress to my body, both physically and mentally. I will lend myself some grace in this journey and be comfortable with slip-ups as I focus solely on loving, respecting, and listening to my body because it’s the only one I have.  

Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Day I Learned to Slow Down

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Written By Mesha G. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series 

On Mother’s Day, I went hiking alone. I wanted to do this. I needed fresh air and openness to overcome all the emotions I had this Mother’s Day.

Throughout the maturation of my adulthood, I grew to be appreciative of nature and being alone. I love being outdoors and just being. It wasn’t very much before my 29th birthday that I realized didn’t truly understand the meaning of “stop and smell the roses.” So, I made it my goal to slow down.  I was very unsuccessful with that. In fact, I think I went at life even faster…I love to just keep going…no matter what. Taking a break from the voices of others is also a must-need for me; I need my alone time to recharge.

But this past Sunday, I had a day with absolutely nothing on my agenda.  If you know me, you know that it’s huge for me to not have anything to do. I wanted to do something that I WANTED to do rather than HAVING to do… and I decided I would spend Mother’s Day hiking. I’m an early riser, so I got up, got dressed and sat for a second.  I wasn’t talking myself out of the experience but I just wasn’t ready to go. A second turned into an hour or two and before I knew it, it was about 8:30am. I hurried and left as if I was missing something and made it to the park around 9:15.

I been on this trail before with others, so I knew what to expect and anticipate for the terrain. I did not expect for it to be me and probably 6 (at most) other crazies wandering around a national park early on a Sunday morning.  Literally no one was there and my excitement to do this alone turned into to extreme nervousness. As I sat in my car I thought to myself, “What is your black ass doing out here in the middle of Wisconsin with a cell phone with horrible reception?” I didn’t bring mace or a knife like I usually do when I hike, I was just out there.

I had a ridiculous amount of hesitation.  I thought about how I was alone, about being ill-prepared, about making the impulsive decision to go…all of it. And still with hesitation, I got out the car and started walking.  I wasn’t comfortable enough to put in my headphones so it was literally just me and my thoughts surrounded by nature…by the way I was aimlessly walking. I thought I knew where I was going but I didn’t know shit. After walking a little over a mile, the nerves really sat in and I was approaching a road.  I can see the bluff, but I couldn’t find my way to begin the terrain. I was walking and texting 2 of my friends and they both give me polar opposite advice…one is like keep going! And my other friend is telling me to get back to the car.

I eventually went back to the car and decided to go shopping (shout out to Nike AND Adidas for having bomb sales at the Outlet). On the way out of the park, I passed the path I walked to get to the bluff and no more than 50 ft away was the beginning of the bluff… all I had to do was to keep going. But I couldn’t help feeling defeated.  I set my mind to do this, I traveled and made it there and did not finish. So after shopping, I went BACK to the parks to accomplish this goal I set for myself. There are a few reasons why I felt more comfortable the second try around. The first is I had eaten some food when I went shopping. I was able to preview my path and there was more people in the area.

Hiking the bluff wasn’t a breeze but I thoroughly enjoyed it and was ecstatic that I finished it.  But the entire time, I felt like I was learning a lesson bigger than just being capable of climbing a big ass rock mound from the earth.

I’m not sure what would have happened if I kept going the first time, I’d like to think I would have been fine but who knows. A lesson I took  away from this experience was this: moving too hastily can ruin the moment. Sometimes we rush life and don’t have any reason to. It wasn’t fear that made me stop. I drove there and started my walk to begin my hike, it was the fact that I was unprepared. That day was one of those days I rushed for absolutely no reason and caused myself regret that I couldn’t blame on anything or anyone else.

It’s okay to slow down and smell the roses some days or even wake up later than 5am on a Sunday morning.

 

Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

My Body Hasn’t Been Mine

 

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Circa 2018

love yourself while you go through the process…you should be your first love…love yourself including those things you deem as flaws. – Brianna Harris

In past posts, I’ve written about my weight loss “journey” and my self-esteem issues when it comes to my body. My body has always been a canvas that someone else gets to critique without my consent. My perception of myself has never been my own. I don’t think there’s been one time in my life that I’ve viewed my body positively because of the years of verbal abuse and criticism from others growing up and into most of my early adult life.  Hell, even recently.

I’ve always been “bigger”. The people on my father’s side of the family have mostly been plus sized so it was inevitable that these genes were passed on to me. I matured faster than most girls. My mom bought me my first bra at age 6 or 7 and I started my period shortly after I turned 10. I found comfort in the Zebra Cakes my mom would pack in my lunches after she would hide them from me so I wouldn’t eat the whole box. The kids at school didn’t know anything about the genes I got from my father’s side. The only knew me and only saw me.

Most of the ridicule I faced as a child has caused permanent emotional trauma for me that even my therapist is having a difficult time trying to help me remedy 29 years of disdain for myself. When I first decided to try to lose weight in 2013, I joined weight watchers and worked out twice a day. I was obsessive. I would punish myself if I slipped up on my weight watchers routine or my workouts. When I noticed the numbers on the scale start to go down, I wasn’t necessarily happy about it. All I could think about was, “how can I lose weight quicker?”

It’s now 2019. I’ve watched my weight go up and down for the last 6 years and have only lost about 50 pounds. This is an accomplishment to some but for me, it’s not. I watched my friends go on keto diets and other diets and lost 50 pounds in a span of some months. And they’re still losing weight. Me on the other hand, restrictive diets like that don’t work for me. I like vegetables but eating those, meat, and nothing else would literally piss me off. I tried it. Being able to do diets like that takes a lot of mental discipline that I don’t have. My depression sometimes sends me into a binge eating rage. (Side note: I recently learned that binge eating is an actual eating disorder).

Last week, I went to Dominican Republic with a group of friends for one of my dear friend’s bachelorette party. I was with a group of women who were all variations of shapes and sizes. They would gas me up and tell me how great I looked but I didn’t feel like I looked great. All I could think about was how I haven’t been able to work out for almost two months because of my knee injury or how all the women I was with had round butts and I did not. It didn’t help that one of the guys on the trip pointed that out to me and that really made me feel some type of way. Even hearing compliments from the guy I’m crushing on didn’t boost my confidence on that trip. I went through my friend’s phone to try to delete any photo of me that didn’t look good. I was not having it.

There’s a perception of me that because I post pictures of myself in my swim suits that I am confident. That’s not the case. I do it because the positive affirmations from others on my pictures do sometimes help me feel better. This goes back to my post I wrote last week about how we all seek validation from others. It’s inevitable.

Yesterday, one of my friends who went to DR with us, Brianna, posted a picture of herself in her bikini and she wrote about how she used to hide her curves and used to not appreciate being a fuller woman. Her post was just what I needed to read. She was open and vulnerable and really spoke life into me. I decided yesterday, that after my surgery on my knee, I will take the time I need to recover but get back to working on myself in all areas. Not just my physical but my mental and emotional stability. No longer can I live for others’ approval. The work begins from within and with time. My emotional scars from my younger years won’t be erased in a day. I have to put in the work to accept my past for what is and use it as motivation to heal.

❤ Queen T

Stop Frontin’, Opinions Do Matter

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I’m not going to sit here and beat a dead horse about the Ayesha Curry comments about her insecurities as a married woman. We’ve heard and read enough about the topic over the last couple weeks. But just so we’re clear, I agree with Ayesha.

What I am going to do is talk about one of the themes I read about and heard that surrounded the Curry situation. In the gross comments on Twitter (specifically from Black men *insert eyeroll here*), I read that Ayesha was an “attention seeker”, “a ho”, someone commented on her weight calling her fat, people said she didn’t appreciate having a loving and supportive husband. It made me sick to my stomach. Then, while listening to my daily guilty pleasure, The Breakfast Club, a hip hop radio show based out of New York, Charlemagne Tha God (CThaGod) said that the opinions of other people don’t matter. He said that we shouldn’t let other people’s opinions about us make us feel validated and all that matters is how Ayesha (or anyone) feels about herself (themselves) and how her husband feels about her. In summary, the theme here is: validation.

While I agree with CThaGod, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this is not something that is easy to do. Ignoring the opinions of other people is literally impossible. Especially in the age of the drug we’re addicted to, social media.  People give us their opinions about us on daily basis. Your boss tells about their opinion about your work ethic, a stranger may compliment your outfit. All these small instances are ways in which you hear people’s opinions and internalize them.

No matter who you are, you have some form of insecurity. When I was growing up, I was constantly ridiculed for how I looked and my skin color. People talked about my weight and told me I was ugly. Adults would tell me not to listen to others and that they were talking about me because they were upset with themselves. While this may be true because hurt people, HURT people, that didn’t negate the fact that those words hurt me. I started hearing these things when I was very young…kindergarten I think. Those experiences have had an affect on how I view myself today at 29. I’m very insecure still about my hair, my looks, especially my body. If a guy is interested in me, I never believe he is actually interested in me. It’s a never ending cycle.

We follow social media pages like The Shaderoom on instagram that constantly posts pictures of women with smaller bodies, flat stomachs and big butts calling them “body goals” while we rarely see a woman who is considered plus sized being labeled the same. We see these images and although they are not directly talking to us, these images are things that aid in the way we view ourselves. These “body goals” women have the “ideal” look that most of us may never get. These are opinions in picture form. We may not recognize it, but we internalize these images. I know I have and still do. I can appreciate my body one day and then get online and see someone with a different body and suddenly I don’t feel sexy anymore.

Seeing the things people said about Ayesha Curry only confirmed what I already knew, having money and privilege doesn’t make you exempt from having internal insecurities and it doesn’t make your exempt from ridicule. The only difference is, the ridicule is more present because of her status as a public figure and the wife of an NBA champion. Outside of all the money and fame, Ayesha is you and me. Living proof that you can still feel insecure about yourself even if you are in a seemingly perfect relationship. Living proof that the things people say or do not say matter. I don’t know one woman who doesn’t like to feel validated by others. When we don’t hear from the opposite sex that were attractive, we begin to internalize that we are not.

I do believe that we have to love ourselves and love the skin we are in. I am one who is working on this everyday, but I don’t think it’s fair to tell people not to listen to others’ opinions when it very well is hard to ignore. The best way to deal with other’s opinions is to continue to encourage yourselves and give yourself positive affirmations. Recognize that you were created uniquely and who you are is who you are.

What does validation mean to you? We’d love to hear from you!

Queen T