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!

Beautiful messages in “Hidden Figures”

Beautiful messages in “Hidden Figures”
Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer

Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

The movie, Hidden Figures, is the best movie I saw last year for many reasons. It’s a new chapter in black history, inspirational, a love story and testament to the resiliency of black women.

Hidden Figures is based on the true story of three brilliant black women at NASA – Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson,) Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) who provided the mathematical data to launch astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit during the historic Space Race.

Who knew that black women had such jobs in the early 1960s when most had careers as teachers and social workers. Had we known, how many math whizzes – men and women – could have worked at NASA or blazed new trails?

The movie tells how these women conquered adversity at a time when blacks were still fighting for civil rights. They got what they wanted by determination, creative thinking, working together and self-confidence. Each time they were told they couldn’t do something, they figured out a way to get it done. They never gave up on themselves or each other.

What’s more, the movie shows black love. You see a black man courting a black woman; a black couple having a disagreement but working through it and staying together; a black man not being afraid of a strong black woman; and a black man showing love for his family.

That’s how it used to be and still is for many black couples, but we rarely see it on the big screen. Negative images of black women in videos, reality shows and movies overpower romantic story lines. As a result, many black women think they’re supposed to be treated badly by the men in their lives. Sad.

Hidden Figures is a movie that everyone needs to see regardless of their race or ethnicity. Children need to see what possibilities lie ahead. If they see it, they’ll believe they can be it. I know this for a fact because it wasn’t until I saw Carol Hall, the first black reporter on TV in Memphis, that I considered a career in journalism.

This movie also makes me wonder what other accomplishments by blacks have been buried and need to be told on the big screen. I’ll be waiting patiently for the next gem.

 

Note: I’m proud to say that these three women joined my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. 

Women Who Left an Impression

Women Who Left an Impression

clipart-people-119498454029858016people.svg.medBy Cheryl Mattox Berry

In my travels around South Florida and across the country this year, I’ve met some interesting women who left me inspired, awed, smiling or shaking my head. They’re not rich, famous or infamous. Just everyday women who touched me in some way. Here’s how:

  1.  The spry, elderly woman who cares for three great-grandchildren, ages 8 to 14. We struck up a conversation in the meat department at a supermarket. She said the children’s mother is wild, and she couldn’t let her grands be raised in the foster care system. She prays with them daily and doesn’t spare the rod. She also gave me a good meatloaf recipe.

2.  The 100-year-old lady who entertained my table at Red Lobster. She was jazzy and sassy with a freshly done hairdo and full makeup. Curious about the table of well-dressed black women, the petite, white lady asked us a lot of questions. Her parting advice: Enjoy life while we’re still young.

3.  A sorority sister in her 70s, who shared a Lyft ride with me while we were at a convention in Atlanta. During the 20-minute trip, I thought I was having a conversation with myself. We had so much in common – even a strong resemblance – that it was scary. I looked at her and saw myself at her age. After that encounter, I’m confident that I can grow old gracefully and remain relevant.

4.  The Guyana-born fashion designer who plans to write a book about people in her village. She regaled me with stories about some of her neighbors when I stumbled across her boutique one steamy summer day. I can’t wait to read about her characters.

5.  My newest hair stylist who advised me to guard my heart when I told her about problems with some of my family members. She’s the next best thing to a therapist and much cheaper.

6.   A registered nurse who looked after my mother-in-law (the patient) and me during a 12-hour stay in the emergency room at a Memphis hospital. She was funny, kind, compassionate and apologetic about our long-than-average wait. She is how I envisioned my mother caring for patients when she worked as a nurse for more than 30 years.

7.  The beauty salon owner who is organizing South Florida women worried that women’s reproductive rights and human rights will suffer under president-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration.

8.  Another South Florida woman who was honored for her work in the civil rights movement. She started clubs and sponsored activities for black youths who had nothing to do in their neighborhood and successfully led a fight to keep two black schools open back in the day.

9. The president of a cash-strapped black college who is trying to build an endowment, increase enrollment and raise the school’s visibility – a challenge during these tough economic times. She’s creative and has a good sense of humor that gets her through each day.

10. And my favorite, an erotic sex blogger I met in Los Angeles, who whips out sex toys on the spot and offers lessons on how to spice up your love life. Her tips are amusing and really make you want to try them in the bedroom. And that’s all I’m saying on that subject.

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.