Homelessness Hits Home

Homelessness Hits Home

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

My heart was heavy this Thanksgiving after learning that an older cousin had passed away – homeless in Chicago.

I lost contact with Mary after she moved from Memphis to New York and then Chicago. She and my grandmother exchanged letters, and Granny would pass along news about her. Granny died in 1991, and I’d occasionally hear something about Mary from other family members.

When I asked my cousin if she ever heard from Mary during a trip home last week, she told me that Mary had died several years ago. This was also news to Mom, who was Mary’s first cousin.

Apparently, Mary and her husband split. She called her younger brothers and told them she was homeless, and asked them for money so that she could come home. They sent it and waited, but she never arrived. They later learned that she had died.

No one knows why Mary didn’t get on that Greyhound bus.

I’ve often wondered whether the homeless women I see on the streets have relatives who don’t know about their predicament. I’ve seen one young woman panhandling through two pregnancies. She even had her baby with her one day as she begged from car to car.

Another woman used to approach motorists at a busy intersection near a big mall. I saw her recently in a wheelchair with an amputated foot. Did she get run over by a car? Lose the foot to disease? Did she tell her folks?

I know some homeless women have mental health issues, and others don’t want to be told what to do. Still, I can’t help but think that many of these women get lost and don’t know how to ask for help or think that their relatives don’t want to be bothered with them.

Had I known about Mary’s situation, I would’ve tracked her down and brought her to my mother’s house. Knowing that there were relatives who loved her and would’ve put a roof over her head, and cooked her a big Southern meal but didn’t get a chance breaks my heart.

Women Organize to Thwart Trump’s Campaign Promises

Women Organize to Thwart Trump’s Campaign Promises

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s unexpected victory at the polls on Nov. 8 has galvanized women across the USA.

On Friday night, about 15 women gathered at a Miami Shores, Fla., beauty salon after-hours to discuss what they can do to offset expected challenges to women’s reproductive rights and human rights; how to change the Electoral College system; and what can be done on a day-to-day basis to minimize the havoc Trump has threatened to unleash on the American people.

“It’s small steps,” said Robin, an attorney. “We can’t change the world tomorrow.”

This was the first meeting of the group, which included women of different races, religions and ages, including a high school senior who attended with her mother. In addition to the attorney, the group included educators, an architect, bank executive, graduate student and the salon owner.

Angry that women’s issues are under attack, the women concluded that they must change their strategy to be heard during Trump’s administration. Suggestions ranged from boycotting Trump businesses and companies that supported him to lobbying Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Toni, the salon owner, urged the women to attend the Women’s March on Washington, which will be held Jan. 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration. She’s attending the event with a group friends.

I was surprised that a group of South Florida women, who jokingly claim their blood is too thin for cold weather, would go to D.C. in the dead of winter. They will hold a rally at the Lincoln Memorial and march to the White House.

“I’m pissed,” Toni said earlier in the day in reference to the outcome of the presidential election.

She said Trump and Republicans need to know that women won’t stand by and let them overturn the things that are so important to us. “We’re telling them, ‘Hey, we’re not going anywhere,’ ” Toni said.

Trump Elected President: Only in America

Trump Elected President: Only in America
Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

I went to bed last night with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton trailing in electoral votes and woke up this morning to news that Republican nominee Donald Trump was president-elect of the United States.

Only in America.

Voters elected a sexist, misogynist, racist, anti-Semitic, ill-tempered and poorly qualified man to the highest office in the nation. With Trump in the Oval Office, blacks and women will have to fight to keep the rights we won more than half a century ago.

The fact that Clinton didn’t win the women’s vote with the high percentage expected is mind boggling. Did they buy into the Trump narrative that she was a criminal or think that women can’t run a country? Either reason shows faulty thinking and manipulation by the Trump campaign.

Blacks voting for Trump is a travesty. He doesn’t know or care about you. Trump won’t be your savior.

As for the millennials who supported Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and stayed home or voted for a third-party candidate, you just handed the country over to a megalomaniac. You didn’t get your way in the Democratic primary and thought you were making a point. Unfortunately, you made a terrible mistake, and there are no do-overs.

Only in America.

The first lady will be a former model who posed nude and violated immigration laws when she came to this country. Let’s not forget how she plagiarized first lady Michelle Obama’s speech and lied about getting a college degree. I can’t wait for Melania to unveil her platform.

Donald and Melania will be great role models for our children. Other nations will look at the United States as a country where anything goes, morals, values, respect, tolerance, inclusion, etc., be damned.

I took Clinton’s loss personally because I know how it feels to prepare, work hard for something and then be subjected to the whim of others who don’t want you in a position for reasons that have nothing to do with your qualifications. It has happened to many of us in our careers, but we trudge on, and sometimes find something bigger and better.

Clinton should be proud of making history as the first woman to be nominated by a U.S. political party to run for president. Her accomplishments as first lady of Arkansas and this country, a U.S. senator and secretary of state can never be erased from the history books. Her legacy is still being written.

Trump, on the other hand, will probably remain vile and repulsive, but soon he’ll become the 45th president of the United States.

Only in America.

My Name is…

My Name is…

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

The use of abbreviations (LOL, OMG, SMH) on social media has apparently spilled over into the workplace where a person’s name is being replaced by a letter or two.

For example, instead of Cheryl, a supervisor or co-worker would refer to me as “C.” It sounds a little futuristic and impersonal, not to mention presumptuous.

Some millennials think their bosses are trying to relate on their level by reducing their names to a single letter, but it doesn’t sit well with them. When two workers in an office shared the same first name, a supervisor wanted to call one of them “JR.” She objected to this bastardization of her name and asked to be called by her first and middle name or her whole name.

Good for her. Don’t let other people define who you are. Make them respect your name. Of course, there’s a way to speak up without coming across as arrogant or belligerent.

Don’t do it in an email because it might be perceived the wrong way. When you and the other person are in the same room and she refers to you by an initial, calmly say, “I prefer to be called by (your given name.)” Smile and keep the conversation going about the topic you were discussing before your directive.

If she does it when others are present, wait until after they leave and tell her, “I noticed that you keep calling me (initial,) but I prefer to be called (given name.) Top it off with a big smile.

Note to supervisors: Don’t make generalizations about millennials or assume you know what they want. Ask them. What you read or see on TV might not be their reality. They’re as different as the people in your age group.

No Need for Third Presidential Debate

No Need for Third Presidential Debate

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

We’ve seen enough. If you haven’t made up your mind by now, I can’t imagine what else you need to hear from Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

What I don’t want to see and hear is Trump snorting into the microphone, snarling and glaring at Clinton. I can’t take any more demeaning remarks made under his breath as she’s talking. She takes the debates seriously. He rants like a wild man.

Trump’s bombastic behavior is typical of a schoolyard bully. He belittles Clinton by bringing up former President Bill Clinton’s infidelity, which has nothing to do with her bid for office. He’s using sex to put Hillary in her place and turn voters against her.

When it comes to women, Trump seems to relate to them only in sexual terms. We’ve heard his crude remarks about grabbing women and kissing them, and several women have confirmed that he’s made unwanted sexual advances. He even made ugly remarks about Ciinton’s appearance after the last debate, another attempt to objectify her.

Trump isn’t fit to be the president of anything. He discriminates based on a person’s race, religion, gender, color, creed, you name it. Trump is the antithesis of the U.S. Constitution and hasn’t shown an interest in anyone or anything but himself throughout his life.

Clinton is the best choice based on her track record of helping those less fortunate from her days as a young lawyer, first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, U.S. senator and secretary of state. She’s human and has made some mistakes, but they’re not of a magnitude that disqualify her from being president.

You know what Clinton represents and what to expect from her: compassion, empathy, even temperament, clear-cut policies, ability to build a concensus, knowledge of world affairs and respect from world leaders. That’s who deserves to be in the White House.

Beauty Pageants: Trump’s Harems

Beauty Pageants: Trump’s Harems
 Miss Universe 2016 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach Miss Philippines

Miss Universe 2016
Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach
Miss Philippines

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Reports that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump barged into the dressing room of Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA contestants and leered at them while they were half-dressed is yet another example of his sense of entitlement and lack of respect for women.

Who does that?

A millionaire businessman who is so secure in his celebrity and power that he knows no one would dare reveal his perverted behavior. Until now.

Thankfully, he has sold both pageants so the contestants don’t have to worry about him any more.

The larger question is why are these pageants still being held in the 21st Century? They’re  demeaning to girls and young women, and a holdover from the days of a patriarchal society.

Young women say they enter pageants to get scholarships and launch their careers. However, they don’t get all of the cash and prizes promised to them, and often end up spending more for clothes and other expenses than they make. In 2016, there are other avenues to achieve both goals that don’t require women to parade on stage wearing stillettos, skimpy swimsuits and fake smiles.

Growing up, I was a fan of beauty pageants, especially Miss America. We sat around the TV and rooted for our homegirl, Miss Tennessee. Later, I learned that many of these young women suffered from anorexia and bulimia – serious health issues. There’s nothing pretty about them.

Supporters claim that pageants improve a young woman’s self-confidence and public speaking skills, and teach her how to compete in society. While that may be true, pageants also force a woman to strive for an impossible standard of beauty that haunts her beyond the days of competing.

It’s time to put beauty pageants on a shelf. They do nothing but objectify women and give misogynistic men, like Trump, an opportunity to live out their fantasies.

                                                       “Beauty fades. Dumb is forever.” – Judge Judy

 

Urge Friends to Get A Mammogram

Urge Friends to Get A Mammogram

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I usually get a mammogram in August, a month after my annual gynecological visit. This year, I didn’t get around to it until September and worried for a whole month that something might be wrong.

After my mammogram, I attended a meeting and mentioned that I had been poked, mashed, pulled and manipulated from top to bottom because I had a mammogram and physical therapy on my fractured foot that day.

A friend, who is in her late 60s, casually said she needed to schedule a mammogram because she hadn’t gotten one in two or three years. She didn’t seem worried, but it bothered me because I know firsthand the importance of early detection.

Several years ago, our mutual friend said she had been putting off having a mammogram because they were so painful. I hounded her until she got one. It turned out that she did have breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy, and is now cancer free.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women get annual screenings for breast cancer starting at age 45, and get them every other year when they reach 55. Needless to say, I’m making it my personal mission to get my friend to a diagnostic center.

Sadly, many Hispanic women are like my friends and don’t get mammograms. In fact, they have the lowest mammography rate. According to a 2013 study by the American Cancer Society, the rate was 62 percent for Hispanic women; 67 percent for Asian women; 66 percent for non-Hispanic blacks and whites; and 63 percent for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The reasons for the low rate among Hispanic women are numerous: lack of financial resources, limited access to medical care, poverty, illiteracy, discrimination and machismo. Many Hispanic women experience abandonment and loss of self-esteem with a cancer diagnosis.

More education – targeted for men, too – needs to be done in the Hispanic community, and all women must make health their No 1 priority. Studies show that most women survive early detection of breast cancer. That’s reason enough to get screened each year.

BTW: I got a letter from the Women’s Diagnostic Center yesterday, and my mammogram results were normal. Yay!

Women Need to Tackle the Gun Problem

Women Need to Tackle the Gun Problem

140730113813-01-guns-file-large-169By Cheryl Mattox Berry

“In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher

Ladies, enough with the talk, tears and hand-wringing. it’s time we took the lead in getting guns out of our cars, houses and communities. I’m sick and tired of watching videos of senseless killings at schools, in front yards and during police confrontations.

As women, we know how to get things done when the odds are stacked against us. We gather our  sistah-friends, start a dialogue and then take it to our church, sorority and other organizations. After the movement gains steam, we turn to lawmakers and law enforcement to rectify the problem.

First, we must disavow ourselves and loved ones of the notion that guns are needed for protection. That could be a tough sell in drug-riddled and gang-infested neighborhoods, but keep in mind that the drug dealers and gangs usually shoot at each other.

When their bullets go awry and hit an innocent bystander, the gun locked away in your closet is useless. Getting guns off the streets, however, would increase your chances of survival in that same neighborhood during a fight between gangs.

I know, the National Rifle Association is a powerful lobby and beats back any attempts at gun control. We have to put a face on those fatal bullets to make our narrative more compelling, and unfortunately, there are plenty of names to choose from.

The stories of mothers whose children have been killed and women who must raise children alone because the fathers have been gunned down must be told to convince our leaders to do something. NOW.

There are some foundations and organizations that are addressing the problem, such as Moms Demand Action which has chapters in each state, but they need more women to join the cause.

We need to address this issue with the same tenacity that black Americans did to gain their civil rights and like women who fought for voting rights. We can’t afford to lose any more children and black men. It’s time to RISE UP!

Me Time is a Necessity

Me Time is a Necessity

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Hallelujah! Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail. You’d think she committed a federal crime by taking a few sick days. Her bout with pneumonia is a reminder that we need to take better care of ourselves, and not be afraid to say we’re sick and need to shut it down.

Note No. 1 to self: I’m not Superwoman.

I know, we’re wired to believe that no one else can do the job; we have to prove that we can handle work like our male counterparts; and fear illness might be perceived as a sign of weakness.

Where is that written? We need to delete those thoughts and replace them with a more sensible attitude toward work. We can’t help others unless we are well. I’m reminded of that each time I fly. During safety instructions, the flight attendant tells you to put on your oxygen mask first, then your child’s.

Fatigue

 

Too often we work ourselves to the point of exhaustion and end up missing a few days of work. Once we’re well, it’s back to the same old work habits until we’re felled by illness again. It might be more serious the second time, and forces us to listen to our bodies and make changes.

Note No. 2 to self: I’m not a robot; I’m human.

When it comes to work/life balance, we need to take a few lessons from the millennials. They’ll put in a good day’s work but make time to socialize with friends and family. They don’t see the value in excessively long hours with no off days.

This weekend, take a good look at your schedule. Have you factored in time for yourself? When was the last time you exercised, went to the movies or read a book? If you’re the family member who always volunteers to chauffeur elderly family members or kids, ask someone else to do it. Then, do something you enjoy.

Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. In the end, your family will benefit from having a wife/mother/daughter/sister who is mentally and physically able to meet all challenges.

Note No. 3 to self: Life is short; Take time to grow some roses.

Not Happy With Service, Write a Letter of Complaint

Not Happy With Service, Write a Letter of Complaint

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

What do you do when carefully arranged plans go awry due to no fault of your own or a service you paid for was less than perfect?

A.  Suffer in silence

B.  Cuss out an employee though that person has no authority at the company

C.  Complain to friends

D. Tell yourself you’ll deal with it later but never do.

My answer: Write a letter to the Customer Service Department or head of the company.

Friends joke that I should start a business that specializes in writing such letters because I’ve sent  so many in recent years. It’s not that I’m a whiner or nitpicker. I believe that when I pay money for something, I should get exactly what was promised. Here are a few examples of problems I’ve encountered that led to one of my letters:

On a trip to Paris, I booked a City of Lights Tour, which started at 8 p.m. Well, at that time of night in June it’s still daylight. I didn’t know that it doesn’t get dark until around 10 p.m., but the tour operators did so why would they offer a tour that began and ended before nightfall?

I tried to get a refund on-site, but the cashier gave me the run around. After I returned home, I wrote a long letter explaining the absurdity of the tour and got a full refund.

The airlines – pick one – get the most letters from me because they’re always messing up. Usually it takes only one email to resolve a problem, but I had to write three letters to get fair compensation for my mother-in-law’s lost luggage.

An agent checked her bag at the gate and assured my mother-in-law that it would be waiting for her when she arrived in Memphis. However, the bright blue carry-on, which she bought to avoid checking luggage, was nowhere in sight.

Initially, the airlines offered $100, which covered the cost of the bag but not the contents. After going back and forth for three months, she finally received $450.

In May, I paid the airlines twice for one bag. When the ticket agent informed me of my mistake, I asked that $25 be credited to my Visa card. She told me that the airlines didn’t give refunds. “Oh, yes it will,” I told her. I wrote the airlines and received the credit two months later.

It takes time and patience to deal with problems, but you do yourself a disservice by not following up if you weren’t satisfied. Plus, companies needs to know when they’re doing a lousy job.

My letters are very simple: I explain the problem, how it affected me and what I think needs to be done to make me happy. Sometimes, I let the company offer compensation first, and then we negotiate.

So far, I’ve had a 100 percent success rate. That’s something to write about.