Undercover Activist Spreads the Word

Undercover Activist Spreads the Word

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

During a retail therapy session, a woman with shoulder-length auburn hair and blue-green eyes approached me and asked whether I thought her straw hat was suitable for an indoor event.

As you know, I don’t tell a stranger how clothes look on her but pose a series of questions so that the shopper can make her own decision.

So, I asked what type of indoor event. An “activist” event, she replied with a smile. I would soon learn that the woman was speaking in code, feeling me out to see if I would be receptive to her spiel on women’s organizing efforts in South Florida.

I started to tell her that I was an early convert but decided to let her talk because she was so enthusiastic. I was also surprised that she (a white woman) stepped out of her comfort zone and struck up a conversation with me (a black woman.) The relationship between black women and white women has been a strained one during past waves of the women’s movement.

For the next 30 minutes, the woman, whose name was Karen, told me about newly formed women’s groups and what websites to look up for meeting times and dates. She even told me how to get information about black Democratic clubs.

She shared contact information about our U.S. representatives and senators. Karen was upset that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had been dodging constituents, but she was determined to get a meeting with him.

Karen, who is in her late 30s, described herself as a budding activist motivated by the shocking results of the 2016 presidential election. Because of her job and Donald J. Trump supporters who work there, she has to be careful about who she approaches with information about women’s activities.

As we parted, Karen encouraged me to attend some of the meetings because we can’t afford to let our country retreat on women’s rights. I told her to keep spreading the word. Then, she disappeared in the accessories department, and I went to look for new shoes.

A Mom Strike Gets Results

A Mom Strike Gets Results

on-strikeBy Cheryl Mattox Berry

The Day Without a Woman protest reminded me of what I did when feeling unappreciated and ignored by my family. I staged a Mom Strike.

I printed large “On Strike” signs in bold letters and posted them on every surface in the kitchen and laundry room, and on my bedroom door.

Infractions that led to a strike:

  1. Dirty dishes in the sink
  2. Failure to do chores
  3. Messy bedrooms and bathrooms

The kids thought it was funny the first time I went on strike. My daughter was 9 and my son, 13. When they asked why, I explained that I had enough to do and didn’t want to pick up after their lazy butts.

Although we had outside help, I wanted to teach them a sense of responsibility and how to keep a room neat and clean. Also, I didn’t want their college roommates to complain about them.

The strike lasted one day, usually a Saturday. I didn’t have to do it often – maybe twice a year. I knew that it was time for a strike when I found myself constantly reminding everyone to do something.

My husband (dirty dishes in sink) took my work stoppage seriously because I didn’t cook, wash clothes or chauffeur the children to their activities, and that meant he had to take up the slack.

For me, being on strike was like a vacation day. I lounged in my bedroom, read magazines, went to a foreign movie and hit the malls – by myself. The fact that I didn’t want their company made everyone feel really bad about their behavior.

Things ran smoothly after my strike. The kids would remind each other and their dad when they were violating the rules.

Mothers work hard – inside and outside the home. They should be cherished for the little things and big things they do to make every day run smoothly. If you’re not getting the respect you deserve from your family, take a day off. Trust me, they’ll appreciate you more after the strike is over.

Celebrate Women in Congress This Month

Celebrate Women in Congress This Month

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Sen. Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris

While the 2016 presidential election will go down in history for who was elected president, it will also be known as the year women roared – from the first woman to run for the highest office in the nation to many firsts in the U.S. Senate.

All should be celebrated as we observe Women’s History Month in March.

Let’s start with the 115th Congress, where a record 21 women (21%) serve in the Senate and 83 women (19.1%) in the House of Representatives. In addition, five women delegates represent U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

Both senators are women in three states – Washington, California and New Hampshire.

This session of Congress is being described as the most diverse in history. There are 38 minority women in the House and Senate. Of that number, 35 are Democrats.

The Senate’s freshman class includes many firsts for women. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) is the first Hispanic senator. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is the first Indian-African-American senator. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is the first Thai-American senator. They join Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii,) a Japanese-American senator.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

We can expect more female lawmakers in the future. Fueled by the shock of Donald J. Trump’s victory last November, women are laying the groundwork to run for local, state and federal offices.

There’s too much at stake (healthcare, reproductive rights, equal pay, etc.) to be left in the hands of men, many of whom are making decisions under the influence of a delusional president. As former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

I’ve been inspired by the grassroots movement that has sprung up since the election. Moving forward, I hope that there is a larger participation of women of color (from millennials to baby boomers) in the planning and execution of events. The issues on the women’s agenda affect all of us.

We’ve come a long way, but we aren’t even close to the finish line. Trump serves as a bitter reminder that hard fought gains can be easily overturned by whoever sits in the Oval Office and Congress. We’ve got the power to put our supporters in office. Let’s use it!

Sights Sounds and Thoughts

Sights Sounds and Thoughts

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

You never know what kind of day it will be, who you’ll run into or what you might stumble upon. Everyone has a story or opinion to share if given an opportunity. Here are my latest encounters.

Training Ground

Six long-legged brown girls, who looked to be in middle school, were running in the sand on Hollywood Beach. At first, I thought they were playing a game until they zipped past me the third time. I stood, looked down the beach and saw a man – their coach – giving them hand signals. They lined up again, pushed off, digging deep, knees high. Future Olympians?


The Internet’s Far-Reaching Effect 

Conversations at cookouts are free-wheeling and interesting. At a weekend BBQ, the host mentioned that she had developed an Internet friendship/mentoring relationship with a 20-year-old Syrian refugee. She spoke proudly of how he has grown over the last three years after fleeing his homeland and settling in another country. She encourages him to be kind and look for like-minded people.


History Repeating Itself?

While pumping gas, I struck up a conversation with another customer about the power outage in our neighborhood. The conversation soon turned to Donald J. Trump. The man, who was Jewish, complained about anti-Semitic remarks from the new administration. When people in power turn on Jews, it spells doom for everyone, he warned.


Jam-Packed Month

I have a love/hate relationship with February, aka Black History Month. I look forward to learning about pioneering  people and important places in my community. However, too much is stuffed into 28 days. Some weeks, there were two and three events that I wanted to attend held on the same night. Why not spread these activities throughout the year? Around here, it’s dead in April, June, July and August, and everyone is looking for something to do. I welcome the day when organizations realize black history can be celebrated any time of the year.

Time to Update the Role Model List

Time to Update the Role Model List

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Once upon a time, professional athletes were considered role models. Then, we found out that some of them battered their girlfriends and wives, consumed drugs and did all sorts of illegal stuff. Thud! They were kicked off the pedestal.

Now, we need to do the same for this president of the United States. In the past, we’ve told our children to respect and strive to be like POTUS. However, we don’t want them to idolize Donald J. Trump. That point was driven home recently by a group of women who met to figure out how to combat Trump’s policies.

“We have to empower our kids at home,” said Janice, mother of a 14-year-old. “We have to tell them what he’s doing is not right.”

Added Toni, a mother of three children: “I’ll say, ‘Yes, he’s your president, but he’s not your role model.'”

Pick any one of Trump’s character flaws (racist, misogynist, liar, ignorant, narcissistic) to start a conversation about why you don’t want your child to emulate him.

You can also look at Trump’s track record to show how his policies are adversely affecting people. For example, discuss the immigration executive order, why federal judges have temporarily halted it and the ban’s impact on individuals and families.

If any family members came from another country, now is the time to share that information. Explain why they came, how they got here and ways they’ve contributed to society. You can also research the role immigrants played in the history of the USA.

Allow your child to share his/her views on the issue before discussing your own. The idea is to get your child used to researching a topic before forming an opinion or accepting someone else’s viewpoint.

It’s difficult to know what children are being told at school about Trump, so parents must have these conversations to set the record straight if necessary.

Turn on Some Music and Find Strength

Turn on Some Music and Find Strength
Yolanda Adams

Yolanda Adams

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

To borrow a phrase from one of Marvin Gaye’s songs, music has been my therapy. It quiets my mind, energizes my body and inspires me. It also helps me express feelings when words don’t come easy.

Lately, I’ve been turning to contemporary gospel and R&B dusties with social and political messages to give me hope for better things to come. Who would’ve thought that songs popular 40 and 50 years ago would be relevant in 2017.

At a Valentine’s Day concert over the weekend, jazz soloist Nicole Henry shared that she’s also been struggling to find her place during these unsettling times. She finds comfort in a Yolanda Adams’ song, Still I Rise, which she poured her heart into. Her rendition had concertgoers nodding in agreement as she belted out the uplifting lyrics.

I listened to the song again the next day and made it No. 1 on my playlist. Read the soul-stirring lyrics below, and then listen to Adams’ sing.

Still I Rise

Shattered, but I’m not broken
Wounded, but time will heal
Heavy the load, the cross I bear
Lonely the road I trod, I dare
Shaken, but here I stand
Weary, Still I press on
Long are the nights, the tears I cry
Dark are the days, no sun in the sky, yes

Yet still I rise
Never to give up
Never to give in against all odds
Yet still I rise
High above the clouds
At times I feel low
Yet still I rise

Sometimes I’m troubled, but not in despair
Struggling, I make my way through
Trials, they come to make me strong
I must endure, I must hold on

Yet still I rise
Never to give up
Never to give in against all odds
Yet still I rise
High above the clouds
At times I feel low
Yet still I rise
Above all my problems
Above all my eyes can see
Knowing God is able to strengthen me
To strengthen me

Yet still I rise
Never to give up
Oh, Never to give in against all odds
Yet still I rise
High above the clouds
At times I feel low
Yet still I
I need to know which way to go
Yet still I
At times I feel low
Yet still I
Oh Oh Oh I rise
Yet still I rise
Oh yes I do, yeah yeah

Trump News Wears Me Out

Trump News Wears Me Out

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

After more than a week of the man-child’s antics in the Oval Office, I couldn’t take any more Donald J. Trump news, so I decided to unplug from the media. No newspapers, Facebook, NPR, news feeds on my cellphone, CNN and local TV news. I needed a Trumpless day.

Did I miss not being informed of the latest news? Nope. At lunchtime, I was in a good mood. No stress or anger over something stupid Trump had said or done.

Everything was going great until about 8 p.m. when I talked to my daughter, who lives in Washington, D.C. She brought up the immigration ban and how people were reacting around the world. We talked about it a couple of minutes, and I quickly changed the subject.

I wanted to remain in an unaffected political state of mind until midnight, but that was not to be. A girlfriend, who also lives in D.C., and works for the federal goverment, called me. She had a litany of complaints about the new administration, and I listened patiently, adding a comment here and there.

By the time we finished talking, I was worked up again. I realized it’s impossible to go a day without Trump news. Either I hear it directly or someone is talking about him.

The solution: Try and manage exposure to it.

It’s no doubt Trump is trying to do big things during his first 100 days in office. We can expect more outrageous behavior and speeches, which will be reported and debated ad nauseum by the media.

To keep yourself from going crazy, try not to be obsessed with Trump’s day-to-day minutiae. I’ve decided to watch network news in the evening and tune in to NPR if I’m in the car. That way I can control my anxiety and blood pressure while the man-child flexes his new political muscle.

I just hope he settles down after the first 100 days.

Leave Me Out of Your Buying Decisions

Leave Me Out of Your Buying Decisions

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

I’m always at a loss for words when a stranger approaches me in a department store and asks my opinion about something she’s thinking about buying – usually clothes. It happened again the other day in the dress department of Macy’s.

A woman holding a navy cocktail dress wanted to know if it was appropriate for a church banquet. She said there was a sales associate nearby, but she wanted an unbiased opinion.

That still doesn’t explain why she picked me of all people. I didn’t look like a fashionista that day. I had on a pair of black sweats and sneakers. Of course, I was wearing my cute gold, braided hoop earrings, so maybe they screamed fashion diva.

My first reaction was to blow her off, but I decided to ask her a series of questions so that she could determine if it was the right dress. The line of inquiry went like this:

  1. What religion are you?
  2. Where is the banquet?
  3. Is this the type dress your first lady would wear?
  4. Are you comfortable wearing a sleeveless dress?

Because I didn’t know the woman, I had no idea if the dress was even her style. Nor did I know how it looked on her because she wasn’t wearing it. Not that I would’ve commented on the fit anyway. My standard response in the fitting room when someone asks my opinion is: “I’m not sure. Is that how you normally wear it?”

Buying a dress for a special occasion is too important a decision to be left to a stranger. Before you go shopping, do your homework. Flip through fashion magazines or browse the Internet to get some ideas.

Take a friend along when you’re ready to hit the mall. If you go alone, you can try on several dresses, snap pictures with your phone and send them to someone whose style you admire or opinion you trust.

A stranger will tell you anything and have you leaving the store with a dress that will make you feel self-conscious and look a hot mess at your affair.

As I was walking though the mall, I ran into the lady again and asked if she bought the navy dress. She said no because she found another one that she liked better. I hope she made that decision on her own.

South Florida Turns Out for Women’s Rally

South Florida Turns Out for Women’s Rally
Sofia, 11

Sofia, 11

Wendy, 63

Wendy, 63

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

MIAMI – More than 10,000 women, men and children crammed into the Bayfront Park Amphitheatre Saturday for a solidarity rally to support the massive Women’s March in Washington, D.C. Hundreds who couldn’t get in milled about the grounds, parading through the crowd with signs supporting women’s rights, human rights, LGBT rights and anti-Trump slogans.

Roxana Viera, 45, traveled from Jupiter, Fla., with her husband, Kevin, 45; daughters Sofia, 11, and Lucia, 9; and her 74-year-old mother. “We decided that (the protest rally) would be a good example for our kids,” said Viera.

The Miami rally was one of more than 600 “sister” demonstrations in cities across the world in support of women’s rights and to show President Donald J. Trump that women won’t tolerate some of the proposed policies that he outlined during the bitter presidential race.

“I feel like our country has gotten hijacked. It’s a way of showing other people in America and the world how we feel,” said Dalia, 31, of Miami.

It was a perfect day for the beach, but 43-year-old Michelle Gallagher of Miami and nine friends decided the rally was more important. “We came out to make a difference and fight for our rights,” said Gallagher.

Wendy, 63, of Boca Raton, brought along her husband, who waited patiently in line for entrance to the park. “I have very strong feelings of hate (for Trump,)” she said. “I hate him, despise him. We have to react. We can’t sit back.”

The huge turnout surprised Rachel, 33, of Miami Beach. Other relatives participated in the Washington march and one in her native Pittsburgh. “I think we need to come out and make our voices known that Trump doesn’t have the mandate he thinks he does,” said Rachel, who was at the rally with her husband, Brian.

Fifty-five students, faculty and employees of Florida International University (FIU) came wearing navy T-shirts with the words “We Can Do It” on the front above a graphic of women. “A lot of students at FIU are passionate about equality issues and gender issues,” said Bronwen Bares Pelaez, director of the Women’s Center at FIU.

Many women in the crowd wore T-shirts that read “Nasty Woman,” in reference to Trump’s remark about Hillary Clinton during the last debate. There were plenty photo-ops for protesters carrying signs. Among the messages:

  1. Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
  2. Girls Just Want To Have FUNdamental Rights
  3. Our Rights Aren’t Up For Grabs
  4. Our Voice Is Our Future
  5. Trump Putin US In Danger
  6. Sister Act!
  7. She Should Make As Much As He
  8. Elizabeth Warren In 2020
  9. Russian Puppet
  10. Fuhrer

    On Point

    On Point

Self-explanatory

Self-explanatory

Plan Local Activities to Support Women’s March

Plan Local Activities to Support Women’s March

1484153677272By Cheryl Mattox Berry

As women across the country prepare to descend on Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March Jan. 21, don’t feel bad if you can’t make the trip. Start planning a local march or other “sister” activities.

Thousands of women are expected to converge on the National Mall to protest Trump’s proposed policies. The idea for the march grew out of disappointment over Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump, who made derogatory remarks about on one group after another during the bitter presidential campaign.

Insults were hurled at women, immigrants, Muslims, people with disabilities, the LGBT community, and black and brown people. The march aims to show Trump that women won’t allow him to roll back gains in reproductive rights and human rights that have been made over the last 50 years. Organizers say women’s rights are human rights, protected by law.

In addition to Washington, marches will be held in Chicago, Boston, New York City and other USA cities along with 55 international cities.

You don’t have to be an event organizer to plan a march. The Women’s March started as a Facebook challenge by a Hawaiian grandmother and retired attorney who asked other women to meet in D.C. to protest Trump’s victory.

Check with local officials to determine what permits and requirements must be met to hold a march in your area. Then, gather your friends and reps from other women’s organizations and get busy planning. Time is short, but it can be done. You’d be surprised at the number of women and men anxious to show the new administration how they feel. Put them to work now.

If you’re not one to take to the streets, you can still show your support by donating to the Women’s March on Washington, Planned Parenthood, Legal Aid Society in your county or any other organization that has been the champion of causes that are being threatened by Trump’s presidency.

The Women’s March is just the beginning. We have to be vigilant about what bills are being introduced in Congress and who is supporting them. As a group, we must put pressure on lawmakers to do our bidding or get rid of them.

We’ve got the power!