Where Do Broken Hearts Go?

“If I should die this very day, don’t cry, ’cause on Earth we wasn’t meant to stay…” -Whitney Houston (Your Love is My Love)

Forgive me for being blunt, but my grandmother died exactly the same way Whitney Houston did, alone in a hotel bathtub. Only, Grandma left a note. She was tired of feeling bad.

Though I was not yet born when Grandma Rita died, I can tell you that the trauma of such an event is like a tidal wave, leaving those directly in it’s path drowning in pain (and seeking an escape from that pain), and those of us further down the line wading through the ripples of the pain-induced choices made by the ones who only metaphorically drowned.

The toxicology results in Whitney’s death are not expected for weeks, but those closest to her are already discussing a combination of Xanex and alcohol as the probable cause.

In my grandmother’s day it was “tranquilizers” the doctors suggested to cure “melancholy” and “nerves”. Today, the pharmaceutical companies are pushing pushing pushing “mood stabilizers” and pain killers on the public like they are TicTacs.

I’d wager that while Bobbi Kristina was in the hospital for “extreme hysteria” (mourning) she was being “calmed down” with a drug similar to the one that likely killed her mom.

I realize medication is often a life-saver, but what has happened to our society that makes “popping a xanax or two” before or during a stressful situation “the cure?”

When will our alcohol-guzzling, pill-popping culture find healthier, non-chemical relief for the broken-hearted? Isn’t that really what depression and anxiety are? A desire to feel happy and fulfilled, with no idea what the steps are to get there, or even where the journey to bliss begins?

When my fiance died, a few people lovingly offered me anti-depressants, telling me I shouldn’t be ashamed of needing it. I wasn’t ashamed. I just figured the pain would still be there when the drug wore off and I would be looking for more drug instead of diving into the pain and dealing with it. The pain was so intense, there were days I wished I were dead, and though I’d never experienced pain like it, my intuition told me that if I could hang in there, with time my heart would heal (which, thank God, it did).

Perhaps there’s a place in me that knows the havoc wreaked by my grandmother’s substance addiction–and it kept me from ever stepping on that path to disaster.

I get that people are frightened for her, but it seems to me the last thing Bobbi Kristina needs is for someone to take her hand and lead her down the same path her mother struggled a lifetime to escape from.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental. And I’ll say it again–I realize medication is often a life-saver. I’m just angry and hurt at all these people dropping dead from LEGAL drugs and alcohol (while the war on illegal drugs rages on.) Prescription drugs kill 300% more people each year than ALL of the ILLEGAL ones (heroin, cocaine, meth, etc.) combined.

Really. Enough already.

“The cure for the pain is in the pain.” -Rumi


Study Finds Kids with Low I.Q. More Likely to Become Racist, Politically Conservative Adults

Researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, have published a study in Psychological Science that shows people who score low on I.Q. tests in childhood are more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and conservative political views in adulthood.

I.Q., or intelligence quotient, is a score used to describe an individual’s level of intelligence as determined by their performance on a standardized test. The validity of the tests has been hotly debated by psychologists, educators and others who are not convinced of their accuracy.

Dr. Gordon Hodson, a professor of psychology at the university and the study’s lead author, said the finding represented evidence of a vicious cycle: People of low intelligence gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, which stress resistance to change and, in turn, prejudice, he told LiveScience.

Why might less intelligent people be drawn to conservative ideologies? Because such ideologies feature “structure and order” that make it easier to comprehend a complicated world, Dodson said. “Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice,” he added.

Although most of us would concur that racists are dumb, we should also be careful not to paint any group of people (including the mentally challenged) with one broad negative stroke. It does make perfect sense that an inability to use rational thought to sort truth from error may lead an intellectually challenged person to embrace misinformation, stereotyping and exclusionary beliefs, but having a low I.Q. does not automatically make one a hater.

In the words of the famous (and, yes, fictional) Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

by kathleen cross for rollingout.com

Tyler Perry to ‘Red Tails’ Producer George Lucas: ‘Thank You for Having the Courage’

Tyler Perry knows well the risks and rewards associated with making films that feature an all-black cast.

Though Perry has made a successful career of producing all-black movies, he knows firsthand Hollywood’s resistance when it comes to funding and distributing projects they fear will not be financially viable.

Perry recently published an open letter on his website in reference to George Lucas’ public statements that films featuring an all black cast are on the verge of extinction.

“Ask any executive at a Hollywood Studio why, and most of them will tell you one of two things. The first thing they’ll say is that DVD sales have become very soft, so it’s hard for a movie with an all-black cast to break even,” Perry wrote. “Secondly they’ll say, most movies are now dependent on foreign sales to be successful and most ‘black’ movies don’t -well in foreign markets. So what that means is you will begin to see less and less films that star an all-black cast. Isn’t that sad in a 2012 America? Somewhere along the way we still haven’t realized that we are more alike then not.”

Perry credits Lucas for his willingness to fund and produce a film based on the Tuskegee Airmen, and he encourages everyone who hopes to see more of these movies to support the film during its opening weekend.

“George decided to take a huge risk by entirely funding the movie and releasing it himself,” Perry wrote. “What a guy! For him to believe so strongly in this story is amazing. I think we should pull together and get behind this movie. I really do! Not just African Americans, but all of us. I have seen the movie and screened it here in Atlanta. I loved it and I think you will too.”

This is not Perry’s first gesture of support for the Red Tails film. In December, he hosted a private screening of the film for more than 300 guests at his home.

Perry affirms in his open letter, “Red Tails is an important story about, not just black history, but American history… Please take your kids, you will enjoy it and so will they. There is a lot of action and adventure and also a great history lesson to be learned.”

Perry’s letter ends with a sentiment he is hoping we will all cosign with a trip to the movies this weekend:

“George, I just want to say, thank you for having the courage to do this.”

kathleen cross for rollingout.com

Update 1/17/12: Schooling Carmen E-Book (FREE for 48 hours)

More on Schooling Carmen at Amazon.com, young people | 0 comments

From the moment Oprah Winfrey announced her intention to build a leadership academy for impoverished girls on the African continent, critics were vehement and vocal about why it was the wrong thing to do.

When scandal rocked the school, not once, but repeatedly, the critics’ voices were amplified in the media, and their negative opinions about Winfrey’s methods and motives seemed even more valid in the eyes of dubious observers.

Winfrey said that to her, these girls are like her daughters, daughters whose lives included devastating experiences that never deterred them from wanting to reach their full potential:  “Divorce. Violence. Molestation. The loss of one parent. The loss of another parent. Sorrow. Sadness. Grief,” Oprah recounted.

Despite the many harsh realities the girls faced, 72 of the original class of 75 persevered and graduated. All 72 are headed to universities in South Africa and the United States to study in a diversity of fields including law, engineering, medicine and accounting.

“I’m one proud mama today,” said Winfrey, calling the students “phenomenal, phenomenal, phenomenal women.”

Winfrey noted that these students were born in 1994, the same year apartheid died in South Africa. She told the graduates they were brought to life  “in a nation that said: You are free. You are free to rise. You are free to soar.”

Oprah asked staff and family members to stand for applause during the commencement ceremony. She praised the teachers, administrators, social workers, psychologists and family members who devoted themselves to educating the young women, saying the school’s success was owed to teachers who came early and stayed late, social workers committed to their roles, and parents who helped to  instill discipline despite difficult home lives.

Winfrey said she has learned over the years that it takes a dedicated team to support students, especially those who have experienced poverty and personal trauma.

When the first group of students arrived five years ago, most of the 11- and 12-year-old girls had never used a computer. Many had attended schools with dirt floors and no desks. Some were left orphaned by AIDS, cancer and crime. All of them were selected for their desire to be educated, and their passion to serve their people.

There were times Winfrey felt discouraged by serious problems that occurred at the academy, including molestation charges against a dormitory matron, and a newborn baby found dead in a student’s room. Throughout the crises, Winfrey said she “always held the vision that this day was possible.”

Now that these women are headed out into the world to realize their potential and make their impact, it is impossible to side with the naysayers who said, among other criticisms, that Oprah should have done something like this closer to home.

Regardless of where on earth these women stand, they stand as beautiful, brown, brilliant symbols of what caring motivation and quality education can and should produce.

–by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com


Joshua Bennett’s ’10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman’ — To Click or Not to Click?

Spoken word artist Joshua Bennett has ten things he wants to say to a black woman, and I’m not sure I want to hear it.

I’ve happened upon Bennett’s YouTube video and I see that hundreds of thousands of viewers have already clicked “play.”

I’m curious.

And dubious.

Haven’t I seen more than enough of these user-submitted monologues and their hurtful diatribe masquerading as “advice” on how black women can become less flawed?

Yes, I’m defensive, despite the fact that whatever Bennett’s message is, it is probably not directed at me.

As a “mixed” woman who did not inherit my black father’s genetic code for brown skin, I exist in a narrow category of African Americans for whom the “racial” identifier “black” is hesitantly (at times begrudgingly) applied. Despite my stubborn insistence on claiming my “blackness,” the truth is, I have walked through life experiencing the privileges white skin affords one in America. Privileges I am acutely aware of due to my proximity to brown-skinned family and friends whose social interactions differ so greatly from mine.

I’m sure there are some privileges I’m clueless about because they are conferred when I’m not paying attention to how brown I am not.

But sometimes I am paying attention.

Like recently when I sat with two four-year-old brown girls to watch Disney’s latest princess movie, Tangled. And, no, this won’t be a rant about popular culture’s preoccupation with the pretty white girl and her extra-long glistening blonde hair. I can discuss that image with my girls, no problem. I can confirm to my little ones that Rapunzel is bright, brave and beautiful under her blonde tresses, and in the next breath I will rave about how smart, sweet and stunning my girls are beneath their brunette twists and braids.

As a mother of four brown-skinned daughters, I have become quite adept at explaining how the Creator made us all with varied skin tones and physical features that are a perfect reflection of the Universe’s awesome diversity. In our discussions, brunette does not trump blonde. Long and straight isn’t more perfect than tightly kinked. Vanilla is delicious. Chocolate is delectable. It’s all good. It’s all beautiful. 

I can do that conversation. No sweat.

But there are times when the Media are so blatant and brutal in their bias against black women that it knocks me back a few paces and I have to regroup.

Like when Psychology Today publishes “scientific” findings on why black women are the least attractive on earth.

Or when the Los Angeles Times Magazine honors the 50 Most Beautiful Women in Film, and omits stunning black women who apparently are too brown to be visible.

Or when filmmaker George Lucas spends his own money to make an amazing film about the black Tuskegee airmen of WWII, omits the black wives, and focuses instead on a love story featuring a Portuguese woman. (By the way, George, there were Tuskeegee Airwomen, too.)

With the exception of a rare few (most of whom are very light skinned), black women are not celebrated in mainstream American culture, or held up as role models for American children to cherish, respect and emulate.

Having said that…

We are twenty minutes into Tangled, these two little brown girls and I, and we are getting to know and love this feisty Rapunzel, and we are celebrating her escape from the tower, and she is led by prince-to-be Flynn Rider into a dark den of disgusting, mean , lawless outcasts, and…

Disney flings this dagger at my little loves:

Flynn Rider: You smell that? Take a deep breath through the nose. (He inhales.) Really let that seep in. What are you getting? Because to me, that’s part man-smell, and the other part is really bad man-smell. I don’t know why, but overall it just smells like the color brown.

Really, Disney?

There wasn’t one human being among the hundreds who worked on this picture who read/saw that scene and said something like,

“Um, won’t there be little brown children watching this? Won’t this movie be around, like, forever, and should we equate the skin color of millions of children who will watch this with ‘really bad man smell’?”



And, what might this moment have to do with white privilege?


It has everything to do with having the privilege (or not having it) of raising daughters in a society where their skin color will be publicly celebrated. Where it will be held up as something beautiful and worthy of admiration and protection. Where it will not be referred to, even indirectly, as something really bad smelling.

Before you watch Joshua Bennett’s poem, watch this excerpt from Kiri Davis’s brilliant film A Girl Like Me, and ask yourself what is going on in the heart and soul of this little girl at marker 1:27. What messages has she already received about being a black girl, and from where are they coming? Who will counter those messages with beautiful truth? 

I must admit, when I clicked on Bennett’s YouTube video, “10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman,” I steeled myself for what I suspected would be another disgruntled man giving “advice” to black women on how to be less “angry” and more “lovable.”

Not even close.

Cross-Post from Bionic Beauty: I Am Beautiful…Because I Am by Kathleen Cross

I have been incredibly excited to share this week’s Powerful Beauty guest contributor. Kathleen Cross is the author of two Harper Collins novels, Skin Deep and Schooling Carmen. She has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows, including Oprah, Montel and Dr. Phil. In addition to being an acclaimed author, Kathleen has her own website KathleenCross.com. –Jami at Bionic-Beauty.com


There is incredible power in being loved unconditionally.

Love allows us to see ourselves as the beautiful creatures we are, and if we are open to the lesson, it will teach us what we are truly made of.

I learned that from my former fiancé Todd Barr, who knew that at forty-something I had plenty of internal and external flaws, and chose to focus instead on what he found beautiful in me:

In His Eyes
I am sweet marrow
wrapped in angel’s flesh

strength’s elucidation of grace
I am

Stillness in motion
Heaven and earth alloyed
I am the only goddess
and he comes undone when I dance

I am alto now, soprano then
aria in rhythmic breaths

lyric in silence
soloist and symphony abreast

I am the matchless voice
and he lip syncs as I chant

I am sapphire

I speak watercolors

in my lover’s eyes

I shine


I penned those words after Todd informed me during an argument,

“Don’t tell me not to put you on a pedestal. It’s my pedestal. I put you up there, and there’s nothing you can do or say to remove yourself, so just shine.”

The trouble with that kind of admiration is what can happen to you and your self-esteem if the admiration is suddenly withdrawn.

Todd taught me that too when he drowned in the ocean trying to save a friend caught in a riptide.

I was beyond devastated by the loss of my best friend, and, lost in the dark fog of mourning I arrived at the irrational conclusion that the only way something so terrible could happen to me is that I deserved it.

I deserved it.

That one ugly thought burrowed itself deep, obliterating my self-esteem and leaving me unable to feel beautiful or worthy of love for many months to come. I retreated to a deep dark cave where I was sure my ugly self belonged, and I stayed there much too long.

A mohawked skater-dude in line with me at the bank has no idea he helped to nudge me out of my cave. Written on his t-shirt were the words, “Welcome to Earth, where ugly things happen to beautiful people.” I found a powerfully beautiful message in it for me.

We come to Earth beautiful. Beauty, like love, is our birthright. We don’t have to do anything to deserve it any more than we can do something to deserve those experiences we interpret as “ugly.” Earth is our pedestal and it is our birthright to shine here. Todd already knew what it took me a while to learn.

I am beautiful, because I am.

Kathleen’s words are absolutely incredible and emotionally moving. I received her contribution by email, read it, and it literally stunned me. I hope all the Bionic Beauties out there love it just as much as I do. ~Jami

Gordon Hirabayashi, 1918-2012

If you don’t know the name Gordon Hirabayashi, you should. He is an indisputable hero and icon of American history.

Best known for being one of the few people to openly defy the government’s unconstitutional internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Hirabayashi was arrested, convicted and imprisoned for his civil disobedience. He eventually appealed his case to the Supreme Court (Hirabayashi vs. United States) — the first challenge to Executive Order 9066. The Court ruled against him, 9-0. Forty years later, his wartime convictions were successfully overturned.

Gordon Hirabayashi died on January 2. He was 93.

Mr. Hirabayashi’s son, Jay Hirabayashi, announced his father’s passing via Facebook:

My Dad, Gordon K. Hirabayashi, who was ninety-three, passed away early this morning. He was an American hero besides being a great father who taught me about the values of honesty, integrity, and justice. My Mother, Esther Hirabayashi, who was eighty-seven, also passed away this morning about ten hours later. She was a beautiful, intelligent, generous soul. Although my parents were divorced, they somehow chose to leave us on the same day. I am missing them a lot right now.

Read more at AngryAsianMan.com gordon hirabayashi, 1918-2012 | angry asian man.

A Conversation with Common: ‘I Want to Become One of the Greats’

It has been nearly 20 years since the “conscious rapper” Common released his debut album, yet he continues to treat his fans to new and deeper insights into why he is, and will remain, a cultural icon.

–And it just keeps getting better.

This handsome and grounded multi-talent has had so much success of late, 2011 might as well just be called The Year of Common Sense.

Not only did his memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, recently debut on the prestigious New York Times Best Sellers List, but Common the actor followed up his 2010 success starring opposite Queen Latifah in Just Wright, by turning up the heat beneath his thespian aspirations. He appeared in BET’s sizzling new, “Single Ladies,” has a recurring role in AMC’s dramatic western, “Hell on Wheels,” is currently promoting his first voice-over role in the animated feature Happy Feet Two, and was pegged to star in Quentin Tarantino’s gritty (what else?) western Django.

All that, and Common made time for the studio. His 12th album, The Dreamer, the Believer drops on December 20th-just in time for one of my loved ones to make it an extra special Christmas gift (hint, hint).

Common recently sat down with me to speak on the things he’s been learning along the way:

What is your purpose?

My purpose is to encourage love. Is to enlighten and inspire people to love…to be free and loving themselves. My purpose is to bring as many people closer to God as possible.

If self esteem was measured on a scale of 0-100, where is yours today, and where was it at at the lowest it’s ever been?

Today 97. The lowest about a 30. I had a breakup with Erykah Badu and my esteem was low. I think around that time I released an album called Electric Circus and it didn’t do well. People were talking a lot of stuff about it but the talk didn’t really affect me as much. I don’t really let how people are talking affect me too much.

How did you climb back up from there?

I really had to get to a place where I wasn’t trying to dim my light to please the person next to me. You have to love yourself strongly. Love God, love yourself, then love others. You can’t defy yourself in your generosity to others.

Do you have another book in you?

I do have another book in me. I will write another one at some point because there are things to talk about that can inspire and give people hope. I recently had a woman at the airport stop me…She put her daughter on the phone to tell me how she got through a breakup by reading my book [I Like You, But I Love Me]. She said, “As soon as I read it it made me realize I’m okay. Other people go through this.” I know I have more experiences to share and give a perspective on. I realize that art can really provide motivation for people.

When something awesome happens in your life, who do you call?

If I’m in a relationship, I call that person. My assistant is someone I’m really close with, so I’ll call that person. There are a couple of best friends of mine from Chicago I call. I’ll call my mother. I’ll definitely call her. She may be the first.

Why aren’t you married?

I would like to be married. I’m really at that point in my life where I would like to settle down and have a family. I don’t know why I haven’t married yet. God hasn’t put that right there for me yet but I know it will happen. The power of intention will bring that about.

Speaking of the power of intention, was there ever something you initially thought was impossible, yet you used the power of intention to bring that something into being?

I do believe where I am as an actor, I really put my intention towards these things. There are a lot of ways to climb, and I have a long way to go. I want to become one of the greats. My intention is there, and I believe that’s a place where i’m seeing it happen. That’s why I named my album The Dreamer, the Believer, because of that. Because when you dream you gotta believe in it with all your being.

What song on The Dreamer, the Believer would change my life if I really listened to it?

Blue Sky would help motivate your life and The Believer would solidify changing your life.

–by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com

Brown and Beautiful: 10 Children’s Books That Nurture Healthy Self-Esteem in Black Toddlers

More than 70 years have passed since Dr. Kenneth B Clark and his wife Mamie designed and conducted the “doll test” to study the psychological effects of racism on young children.

They showed four dolls, identical except for color, to black children ages 3 to 7 and asked them questions to determine racial perception and preference. When asked which they preferred, the majority selected the white doll and attributed positive characteristics to it, leading the Clarks  to conclude that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred.

In 2005, 18-year-old filmmaker Kiri Davis recreated the Clarks’ experiment with 21 young black children, and included footage of the testing in her short film A Girl Like Me. The stunning and disheartening results mirrored those in the Clark experiment so many decades earlier:
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“These children, even though they’re 4 and 5 years old, they’re kind of like a mirror and they show exactly what they’ve been exposed to by society,” Davis says. She hopes her documentary will help people see how subtle messages—like those in the media and through product marketing—continue to affect children.

Knowing our children will be bombarded with negative images that  can undermine their ability to look in the mirror and admire what they see, we must remain ever diligent to ensure that they are receiving daily as many affirming messages about their beautiful selves as we can give them.

Removing terminology like “good hair” from our conversations is a great place to start in preventing the erosion of our children’s self esteem. Not using or allowing the words “black,” “African,” and “nappy” to be used as insults in our homes is also a must. And, while we’re at it, one truly powerful way to give our children positive feelings about themselves is to read, with love, uplifting stories that feature children whom they resemble. Here are 10 books parents, teachers and librarians highly recommend:

It should be noted that these are excellent books to read to all children, regardless of their ethnicity or skin tone. The messages in them are universal, and the positive exposure to brown skin as something to celebrate is a lesson every child can ultimately benefit from.

This is where the breaking down of old barriers and old stereotypes begins.

Inventor Develops Procedure to Permanently Turn Brown Eyes Blue

“It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights — if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.”  –Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

An  inventor in California says he has developed a new 20-second laser procedure that will safely turn brown eyes blue…for around $5,000.

Gregg Homer, founder of Stroma Medical in Laguna Beach, Calif., says the color switch is possible because all brown-eyed people have blue-looking orbs under the layer of dark pigment that covers the iris.

Homer  has conducted preliminary testing of the irreversible procedure on a dozen volunteers in Mexico, and plans to test the full procedure in both eyes of volunteers in about a year.

Stroma will first market the treatment outside the U.S. — probably Mexico, Canada and Europe. Homer said he has “no doubt” he’ll get FDA approval in the U.S. in about three years.

“People like the depth of a light eye,” says Homer. “Eyes are the windows to the soul, and a light eye is like an open window.”

Oh, really?

Not so fast, Homer.

This story reminds me of one I posted back in August about a “Pupil of the Eye” conference Bahá’is held in Los Angeles to celebrate the spiritual contributions of people of African descent:

“Bahá’is believe in the oneness of the human family, but discourage the kind of “color blindness” that leads to the glossing over of critical issues those committed to racial unity must be willing to address.

The Baha’i writings metaphorically compare black believers to the “pupil of the eye surrounded by the white,” explaining, “In this black pupil is seen the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the spirit shineth forth.”

Young people today are already bombarded with media messages that tell them they are not perfect and beautiful exactly the way they were created. Breast implants. Butt injections. Skin lightening. Permanent eye color switch?

Have mercy. It seems Pecola Breedlove’s misguided survival strategy may soon become all the rage.

Mexicans Recreate ‘Black Doll-White Doll’ Experiment to Measure Skin Color Preference South of the Border

In an attempt to measure the degree to which Mexican children are affected by the legacy of European colonialism and the present day images they are bombarded with via the media, researchers in Mexico conducted an experiment modeled after the famous 1940’s Clark study that was designed to measure skin color preference in black American children.

Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination, or CONAPRED, are circulating a video in which children who are mestizos, or half-Spanish, half-Indian, are asked to pick  the “good doll,” and the doll that most resembles them. The children, mostly brown-skinned, almost uniformly say the white doll was “better” or was most like them.

“Which doll is the good doll?” a woman’s voice asks one child.

“I am not afraid of whites,” he responds, pointing to the white doll. “I have more trust.”

Mexicans who viewed the video online said that they were disturbed but not surprised by the results.

Some comments on the video have noted that the options were “very limiting” in that the children were offered only black and white, or good and bad as choices.

“It is a poorly formulated question, it is pretentious,” one viewer said on the website VivirMexico.

Others say the study reveals a deep-seated prejudice that is taught to Mexican children from an early age.

Wilner Metelus, a sociology professor and leader of a committee advocating for Afro-Mexicans and black immigrants, said the doll video shows the prevalence of racism and the need to educate young people.

“The Mexican state still does not officially recognize Afro-Mexicans. There are few texts that talk about the presence of Africans in Mexico,” Metelus said. “We need a project in the schools to show that the dark children are just the same as them, as the lighter children. And not only in schools; it is also necessary in Mexican families.”

Luz Maria Martinez, a leading anthropologist on Afro-Mexican culture, said, “We do not know how to value the indigenous culture, which is very rich, or the African culture, which is as great as any in the world.”

by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com

Cee Lo Green Changes Two Words of John Lennon Song, Gets Slammed With ‘F— You’ Tweets

When Cee Lo Green performed at NBC’s televised New Year’s Eve party, he offered his own rendition of the classic John Lennon song, “Imagine.”

It would seem that the Lennon song would make a great choice for a diverse crowd celebrating together and looking forward to beginning a new year — since the lyrics are all about how peaceful the world would be if we didn’t find ridiculous ish like nationality, class and religion to kill each other over.

Lennon’s version of the song asks the listener to picture a world in which the things that divide us are not in the way:

“Imagine there’s no countries it isn’t hard to do
nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too…”

For reasons Cee Lo later clarified via his Twitter account, he sang:

“…nothing to kill or die for, and all religions true…”

Lennon’s fans apparently didn’t appreciate Green’s editing, and the profane backlash at Twitter was instantaneous:

Cee Lo argued back and forth with the irate tweeters into the early hours of New Year’s Day, beginning with this explanation for the lyric change:

“Yo I meant no disrespect by changing the lyric guys! I was trying to say a world were u could believe what u wanted that’s all,” Green wrote. “I meant all faith or belief is valid…that’s all.” 

Green’s apology didn’t stem the flow of vicious tweets, but seemed to bring out even more extreme hate, such as,

Cee Lo exchanged tweets with a few of the more rabid tweeters, shooting off a few expletive-laced messages of his own, including an (expenses paid) invitation to one angry tweeter to come to Los Angeles and deliver his message to Cee Lo in person, and another that read, “F— you! Happy New Year!”

As of this morning, Cee Lo removed all of the tweets on his Twitter timeline related to the controversy, leaving only a holiday greeting for his followers:

The level of rage, the racism and the threats of violence Green’s performance incited is beyond ironic, since the song’s composer was a man known for his devotion to the ideals of peace and brotherhood. Interestingly, John Lennon was not against religion, he just imagined a world in which it was not the cause of hatred and bloodshed.

“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.” -John Lennon

Sounds like Lennon and Cee Lo are saying the same thing. Give the brother a break already.

By Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com

Conservative Bloggers Call First Lady ‘Fat Cakes Michelle,’ Criticize Her Fashion Choices

Ever on the hunt for something disparaging to say about the first family, conservative bloggers have criticized President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for various aspects of their 17-day vacation in Hawaii–including the first lady’s fashion choices.

“While Obama sits back in DC making sure Congress passes the payroll tax holiday bill, Michelle Obama and her kids decided to begin their ultra-expensive, ultra-lavish, tax payer funded 17 day Hawaii vacation. Fat Cakes Michelle just couldn’t wait another day or two for business to wrap up in DC.,” according to the right-wing website “fireandreamitchell.”

In addition to criticism of the timing, destination and cost, Michelle Obama is also taking heat for a dress she wore to Christmas day church services at the Kaneohe Bay Marine Base.

According to ABC News, Mrs. Obama was photographed in a striped white sundress by French-born, U.S.-based designer Sophie Theallet, with an estimated price tag of $2,000.

“Some see the first lady’s penchant for expensive labels at odds with her reputation as a bargain shopper who frequents J. Crew and Target,” ABC News reported.

One comment about the First Lady on the Naked DC website read: “She claims to be a champion of the poor and a fellow bargain shopper, but yet, here she is, sporting a dress that no unemployed American can afford.”

Of course, it wasn’t reported that Mrs. Obama wore that same dress to an official ceremony in Accra, Ghana back in July 2009, and wore it again that same year during the family’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

The first lady appears to not only have a good eye for fashion, she’s also not averse to wearing and being  photographed several times in the same outfit.

I give her mad props for providing a great example of how to stretch a dollar–well, two thousand of them, that is.

by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com

Take This Job and Shove It? 5 Signs You May Have the Worst Boss in the World

If you are an employee who works in an environment where your higher-ups are supportive, creative, fair-minded and open to feedback, count yourself among the lucky ones. Unfortunately, not everyone is so blessed.

Many employees are struggling to cope in a negative work environment where they deal with the stress of  surviving emotionally and psychologically from day-to-day.

Are you suffering in an environment of workplace cruelty, abuse or neglect? If you can answer yes to the following questions, you may have the worst boss in the world:

1         DISRESPECTFUL? Does your boss call you demeaning names or imply through words or actions that you are unintelligent, untrustworthy or incompetent? Does this happen in the presence of other employees?

2         UNFAIR? Does your boss seem to have standards or rules that apply to you, but do not apply to others in positions similar or identical to yours?

3         CLOSED-MINDED? Are your attempts to communicate your ideas and concerns to your boss repeatedly ignored or discouraged?

4         NEGATIVE? Does your boss find every opportunity to criticize your performance, but makes no effort to praise your accomplishments?

5         INCONSISTENT? Does your boss change his or her mind about a decision, policy or procedure without clearly communicating the change, then punish or malign you when you’re unclear about how to proceed?

In this economy you can believe there is an unemployed person who is ready and willing to put up with your boss’s bad behavior, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any recourse in a situation where you are being subjected to abusive, demeaning, harassing or unfair treatment in the workplace.

Although there are federal laws protecting you against workplace discrimination and certain types of harassment, labor laws vary from state to state regarding verbal or psychological abuse in the workplace. The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and prepare for possible legal action is to keep a journal in which you document all instances of maltreatment and record your attempts to communicate your concerns to your boss and through other appropriate feedback channels in the company. Be sure to note details specific to the incidents of abuse, including the names of witnesses who could corroborate your version of events.

It is important to keep in mind that your work environment should not be causing you to feel despondent, enraged, or suicidal. If you are experiencing extreme emotions that could lead to violent or self-destructive actions, seek mental health counseling immediately. If your employer does not provide insurance for mental health services, call your county health department to find out about free or reduced-cost services near you.

Happy Feet Two Delivers a Message Every Kid (Even the Grown Ones) Should Hear

“If you want it, you must will it. If you will it, it will be yours.”

Though I loved the overall message of Happy Feet Two, I found a couple of serious glitches in this energetic and well-meaning sequel to an Academy Award-winning predecessor.

Let’s just go ahead and get the criticism out of the way so we can get to the good stuff.

What I didn’t like about this film is that, plot-wise, there was just way too much going on. The original movie was about a cute little fuzzball who didn’t fit in. Prest-O, change-O and by Happy Feet’s end, horrifically tone-deaf Mumble turns out to be an amazing dancer whose uniqueness has become an asset. Easy to follow. Great message for the kids.

This version of the penguin-out-of-water saga is not so simple. Mumble is grown now and his son Erik is on a quest to…do something important I’ve forgotten because the competing subplots about melting polar ice caps, an entire generation of emperor penguins facing extinction, two bickering krill (Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) on a mission…oh, and that one penguin guy who actually can fly…distracted me from whatever it was little Erik needed to accomplish.

I also am a little unsettled by listening to a white guy (a brilliantly funny guy, by the way) voice a character with uber-zesty Mexican flavor (R-r-ramon) that could have more authentically been voiced by, well, an actual Mexican actor.  Lovelace’s “soulful” Barry Whitish demeanor gives me the same heebee-geebees. But that’s just me.

Having said that, I can testify that this movie is a friggin’ visual feast. The 3D animation is absolutely spell-binding and something you really do have to see to believe. There is never a dull moment in this fun and funny flick, and between the eclectic soundtrack, the Savion Glover choreography and the witty one-liners delivered by an all-star cast, Happy Feet Two is wildly entertaining.

I’ll admit that as a Common fan, I was excited to witness his foray into voice-over acting, and he didn’t disappoint. His character brought authentic hip hop flavor to a screenplay that intentionally paid homage to several music genres along the way, including hip hop, rock, and the surprising use of a musical genre I won’t mention here because it would spoil a great little plot twist.

Though very young children may be frightened by some of the more ferocious scenes, this is a great “take and talk” film. That’s where you take a group of youngsters to see the film, then go out for pizza and talk about some of the important themes the characters came to terms with along the way.

The overarching message in this movie is a powerful one more kids really need to learn as early as they are able to comprehend it:

If you want it, you must will it…

Happy Feet Two delivers this message in a way that might metaphorically wrench the X-box controller out of our kids’ hands and encourage them to get busy actively pursuing their talents and their dreams. For the price of a movie ticket and a box of popcorn, that’s a pretty good deal.

by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com


Crips and Bloods Unite to Occupy Atlanta

Sherrod Britton and Shabaka Addae Guillory

Georgia Peace Education Program Director, Tim Franzen, shares the story of Shabaka Addae Guillory, a 20-year-old who joined the Crips at age 14, and Sherrod Britton, a 29-year-old Blood member. According to Franzen, the two became best friends during an impromptu freestyle rap session at Occupy Atlanta.

“I saw him in the park, saw his colors,” Guillory told Franzen. “There was no mean mug or rivalry because we realized that what’s happening here is so much bigger then gang rivalry.”

Sherrod said he felt a deep connection to the message and process of Occupy Atlanta.” I stayed for the common cause, speaking for the people. I feel strongly that we have the right to jobs, health care, and affordable higher education.”

Franzen, who called the new friendship “one of the beautiful byproducts of this new movement…”  says it is one of the “transformative experiences that has arisen as a result of so many different people from different walks of life occupying a space together for a common cause.”

The desire among gang members to fight for social justice may seem antithetical to outside observers, but the story of these two “thugs” perfectly reflects the spoken word message “The OG” voices to  “The CEO” in the poem Dignity, a piece that is performed from the point of view of a gang member in a scene in my novel Skin Deep:

DIGNITY (The OG Addresses The CEO)

If I had my dignity
I would not yell street obscenities
to assert my dominion
in my streets

or paint my name in block letters
to remind you
this is my block

If I had my dignity
I would not sell anything
I could not sell without lies
or steal anything I could not buy

If I had my dignity
I would not feel the need
to threaten you physically
or challenge your right to survive

If I had my dignity

But you conspired to remove it from me

at three

I knew even then
there was something
not quite white
about the color of my skin

And G.I. Joe and Ken?

they knew too
and they screamed it loud and clear
so all the little brothas in my neighborhood
could hear:

“Hey boy,
if you try hard
you could be somebody

you could pump gas
fix cars
or bag groceries
Hell, if you try REAL hard
you could even become president


And then…
you convinced me to measure my VALUE
by my material things.

And when I came up short,
my E N T R E P R E N U R I A L S P I R I T
kicked in

My first BMW was black


as black as I could get

to affirm that I had bought into
the huge social lie
that you ARE what you HAVE

And when I step back and ponder
(yeah, I said ponder, it means THINK LONG)

I find similarities in our occupations

Me behind my nine
You behind your nine to five

and I wonder if you yell street obscenities
to assert your dominion
on Wall Street

or if you paint your name in block letters on your high-rise
to remind me
this is your high-rise

and I wonder if in Central America
you have sold anything
you could not sell without lies

or if in Africa
you have stolen anything
you could not buy

and facing me here eye-to-eye
I wonder if you feel the need to threaten me physically
or challenge my right to survive

…and now I realize…

if you had your dignity
you would not have taken mine

©1999 Kathleen Cross

From the novel Skin Deep by Kathleen Cross

Desperate Ex-Skinhead Turns to Former Black Enemy to Escape Life of Hate

“I wasn’t on any great mission for the white race. I was just a thug.” -Bryon Widner

Bryon Widner gets frequent migraines and has to stay out of the sun. He calls it “a small price to pay for being human again.”

Before he fell in love and married his wife, Julie, Bryon Widner had once devoted his life, his heart and his body to the cause of white supremacy. A pillar in the neo-Nazi movement, Widner was one of the most violent and well-known skinheads in the nation, and he had the tattoos to prove it. A blood-soaked razor, swastikas, and the letters “HATE” stamped across his knuckles, were but a few of the outrageous messages his body was broadcasting to the world.

After marrying in 2006, Widner and his wife (who had also been an active white supremacist) changed their minds about the movement and began trying to build a life free of hatred. Widner left behind his old ties, and looked forward to a future in which his children could look at him and be proud.

Unfortunately, and, understandably, Widner could find few people willing to look past his hate-filled tattoos to determine if the man behind them really did want to change his life.

Unable to afford the expensive removal procedure, Bryon began experimenting with homemade concoctions to try to burn the tattoos from his face and body.

He reached the point, he said, where “I was totally prepared to douse my face in acid.”

In desperation, Julie reached out to a black man whom white supremacists consider their sworn enemy.

Daryle Lamont Jenkins runs an anti-hate group called One People’s Project based in Philadelphia. The 43-year-old activist posts the names and addresses of white supremacists on his website, and alerts people to their activities. Jenkins has been the target of death threats and vicious hate speech from various white hate organizations around the country.

The Widners had sought advice from the right man. Jenkins’ introduced them to T.J. Leyden, a former neo-Nazi who is now an activist for tolerance.

Leyden knows better than most the barriers faced by those seeking to turn their backs on their neo-Nazi roots to begin anew.

Leyden ultimately led the Widners to the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala.  Through the help of the SPLC an anonymous donor paid the estimated $35,000 it cost to free Bryon from his prison of ink. The donor’s conditions were that Widner get his GED, get counseling and pursue either a college education or a trade — he was happy to comply.

Read the entire AP article at the Salt Lake Tribune.

We’re a Culture Not a Costume (REPOST)

Fed up with the annual parade of white folks in blackface, “Indian squaws,” and other culturally insensitive Halloween costumes on their campus, a group of students at Ohio University decided to do something about it.

Members of the campus club STARS (Students Teaching Against Racism) created a poster series with the theme “We’re A Culture, Not A Costume,” featuring Halloween revelers dressed in costumes STARS members consider sterotypical and offensive.

The group says the intention of the posters is to:

“Educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.”

The campaign has definitely incited dialogue, though some of what is being posted on the Internet is not fit to be printed here. Melissa, who blogged about the poster campaign at her website Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, had to disable her comments due to the volume of racist  remarks she received.

Arizona University student, Kristine Bui, wrote this about the posters in her school’s paper:

“It’s hard to explain exactly what is so wrong about being a geisha or a sheik for Halloween. It’s unsettling. It’s a feeling I’ve always struggled to articulate — a discomfort that sort of just sits in the place between your heart and your stomach, quietly nagging. It’s a sense of being wronged without knowing exactly what was done to you.

“People who think racism is dead think so because they don’t see active discrimination. They think, ‘But minorities are allowed to do everything I’m allowed to do, so where’s the harm?’ STARS’ poster campaign calls attention to another problem: Minorities are often made into caricatures … As a minority, you’re a character, not a person. People dress up as you on Halloween. On TV, you’re the token black guy, easily replaced by some other black guy after one season.

“Racism is so much stealthier now. It doesn’t announce itself, and it’s complicated.”


STARS President ‘Sarah’ recently posted this update on her Tumbler page:

Any questions about the posters can be sent to [email protected]. We are so proud of all the support but it’s overwhelming; We have less than 10 members in our group. lol We ask that you do not personally email any of the exec’s or message their personal tumblrs. Thank you guys so much for the love! The purpose was to educate and create dialogue and it did 🙂 We have a meeting with a lawyer on Monday so we can protect our posters and the posters will be all over Ohio University’s campus this week! Again, thanks for the support and have a happy Halloween!
Best, Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) at Ohio University Executive board


Although I’ve never been one to wear ethnically stereotypical or disrespectful costumes, I am definitely thinking more deeply about this issue. These posters have inspired me  to take a mental inventory of my own Halloween costume choices over the years, and I don’t think a casual walk through the costume store will ever be the same.

Congratulations on all your hard work STARS. You’ve got people thinking, talking, and costume changing.