A Non-consensual Toad & Consensual Realizations

Sometimes one prepares for Evidence class and one of his brethren is on one's wall.
Sometimes one prepares for Evidence class and one of these is on one’s wall. Yes. As in inside one’s home.

I will finish reading in the library, I thought. Rolling my backpack outside, a to-do reel displayed cerebrally. Blissfully unaware, I was.

Came back for my lunch, laptop bag and purse. He appeared. Young Leap of the Prince Charming Clique. A toad almost the size of my iPhone decided to be a Monday morning blessing—and then had the nerve to try covert tactics.

He was still at first, as if his greenness wasn’t blatant against the cream wall. Then he did a little stagger step toward the ceiling. Playing conquer-the-phobia-and-capture-the-reptile would likely make me late for a four credit hour class, so Imani was thrust into decision mode.

‘Twas a Robert Frost moment. When the two roads diverged … I closed the bedroom and bathroom door, hopped in Jazzy, my Jetta, and pushed the reptile to the recesses of my mind. Of course, when I came home from school he was nowhere to be found. OMG! WTH! I live alone for reasons. A non-consensual roomie with wart connotations and overarching grossness. Lord, help me.

Solutions. I needed solutions.

Because I’m a student with a recently uncovered fear of frogs, I thought textbook-y. Google-y. What do educated people do? Notice? Notice! Yes. I will put the maintenance men on notice. So, I made a work order and request for someone to retrieve Young Leap.

A friendly staffer offered assurances that if Young Leap appears during business hours, and I called the office, they’d evict him for me. He laughed good-naturedly, as if relieved that it wasn’t a break-in, beat-up or mold complaint.

An aside: Sometimes I’m a hyper-rage-against-gender-normativity-and-expectations chick. Other times, my voice ratchets up a few octaves and I want a man to do the manly thing. Namely. Get. The. Frog. Now.

About a month before this, I stood outside for 45 minutes because a toad boy band assembled on and around my front door. Calling my mother proved to be of little use, as her usually limitless well of support dried up a bit when her voice cracked. She was laughing. Or worse, doing that whisper-vibrato one does to suppress a laugh. My baby brother literally Face timed some sense and courage into me.

Otherwise, I might still be paying rent, sleeping in Jazzy and trying to couch outfit repeats in terms of sustainability and going green—instead of admitting that a G gets scared sometimes. Thanks, Kalif.

Well, fast forward. Young Leap hasn’t appeared in about two weeks. Despite scouring every potentially frog friendly crevice of my digs, neither he, nor his icky legs nor beady eyes are visible.

Then, it hit me. He might be gone. Or he might be so hidden that it’s like he doesn’t exist anyway. And tiptoeing around a place that I sign the lease for isn’t fancy, Millennial or cool. So, I simultaneously created an NWA playlist (not really), drank a protein shake (not really) and walked around like the queen of my domain (yes, really).

Young Leap brought other notions to mind. The frog-to-prince trope. Transformations. Growing up. Loyalty to fear. Loyalty and fear.

Sometimes inconveniences scare people out of otherwise healthy opportunities. Sometimes people psych themselves out. Sometimes letting people know what’s bothering you is best, not because they will always do right by you, but because candor is right for you. Sometimes things really aren’t that scary.

My classmates and loved ones have inquired. I’m ok, y’all. Really. Besides, whenever something seems stressful, unwarranted or ill-timed, odds are good that something better is already jumping.

Body bashing or banter– when culture and curves collide

To the chagrin of many black women in the cybersphere, the Huffington Post recently reported that black women tend to be heavier and have higher self-esteem than our white counterparts. This “finding” is hardly new, frequently reported, and remotely interesting when relayed to the public ad nauseam.

Black American communities are not the only groups that have celebrated fleshier physiques. In countries with severe developmental concerns, the ability to afford food and the subsequent accumulation of weight are perceived to be signs of wealth. India is noted among these.

Although America is a decidedly anti-fat nation in many ways, with much of its citizenry currently deemed overweight by BMI standards, it is not just a black thing.

Body image issues transcend nationality and race. They trump socioeconomic status, political identity, organizational affiliation, education level, and so on.

Recent research suggests a correlation between the development of eating disorders and one’s social environment. (Not difficult to predict, eh?) I have been celebrated in some majority settings for being on the slimmer end of healthy weight, while studying at a black university in Louisiana I was offered extra servings.

The issues are complex. There’s identity construction in spite of odds, which many communities of color have to do. There’s cultural perceptions of strength and how the trait is physically qualified. There’s media sensitivity and portrayals of communities of color—especially black people.

This post is not designed to demonize the media as solely created by, perpetuated by and suited for Middle American white audiences. Black people often participate in the stereotypical presentations of the black body.

If only I had a dollar for every “Ooh-ughn-ughn” heavyset sista (or man dressed as a sista) on television, I could buy an island unoccupied by body blues.

The media vacillates between telling profoundly honest stories about women who struggle with and/or overcome self-perception issues and sensationalizing cultural norms.

Admittedly, many women within black communities have unhealthy body weights. But, pounds are not always the biggest indicators of one’s quality of life.

All too often, weight-based stressors trump mental health, career fulfillment and familial relations. Sometimes it is easier to exploit weight because it shows. Other health issues, especially depression, are not so apparent.

I have befriended women across color and geographic lines who struggled with the three numbers (and in rare instances, two) beneath their feet on a scale.

I know women of different backgrounds who fall in different size categories, and bring different frames of reference to those categories. So we can’t paint entire groups as monoliths, but we can be sensitive to the effects of environmental influence on one’s ideas.

Plus, it’s getting hot in herrrre. As winter becomes a memory, Vitamin D levels increase, and all manners of sunnin’ and funnin’ become commonplace, spring often serves as a catalyst for less clothing and more scrutiny.

As award season piques the interest of various audiences, who and what people wear become as interesting as how they wear it. How are ensembles adorned? Which builds are (believed to be) most appropriate for certain outfits? What about spring breakers?

Although I have never been overweight, I understand the struggle and choice to work toward personifying who we want to be. I understand being at odds with myself (I have bangin’ collarbones and no cleavage.), but I now choose to dwell in a happier and more satisfied space.

As the United States and world continue to diversify it is my hope that our beauty perceptions are remixed, too. May the people accept difference, and attain what they seek. Here’s to the pursuit of body peace.


Ego Trips, epiphanies and intellectualism with Nikki Giovanni

When public figures present their humanity to crowds it is that much easier to understand why people love them. This could not have been more apparent than when Nikki Giovanni made an appearance in my hometown, Jacksonville, Fla., last night.

It was an honor not only to see her encourage and empower a mostly Black audience at Edward Waters College, but it was also humbling to see that a woman, whose brand withstands the test of time, share triumphs, pain and progress with audiences.

She delivered a constructively critical presentation and performed spoken word.

After signing every autograph requested of her, she graciously engaged the media and talked everything from peace to hairpieces in a  press conference at the college. She told the media that she had nothing else planned that night and would answer every question asked.

She re-emphasized the need for urban youth to have technology, namely computers or iPADS. She shamed anti-immigration legislation.

When asked about natural hair, Giovanni did not espouse self-hatred themes about women who embrace chemical alterations.

In fact, she said she thought it was quite clever when young women had green hairpieces.

“One plays with oneself,” she said. She shared that when overcoming cancer she colored her hair blonde to show her mother that she would be ok. Also, as a woman with tawny skin, her hair color gave what she described as an instant tan.

Giovanni kept it real. She kept it human.

The professorial poet reminded listeners of the need for emotionalism in light of technological advances. She said that she does not ask her students at Virginia Tech year specific questions that could be answered with their gadgets.

Instead, she said that she asks questions like “What role did personal ambition play in the Renaissance?”

Many told her that they had never encountered emotional responses to academic material.

I could go on and on about the myriad perspectives that she shared and causes she championed… However, I hope that you’ll check out my story for HBCU Digest on her visit.

** Sneakpeak**  She and I talked hip-hop and misogyny.