When Harry Met Meghan…

When Harry Met Meghan…

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

I’ve never been enamored of the British royal family, so I wasn’t one of the wedding watchers. Still, I couldn’t escape the hoopla over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s union. There was news about the royal nuptials everywhere I went or looked Saturday from the moment I woke up.

From the celebrity guests to what they wore to the fairytale carriage ride, I feel like I was at the wedding. To me, the story wasn’t about all the pomp and circumstance but how these two people – both in their mid-thirties – met, fell in love and tied the knot.

Who would’ve thought that a biracial, American actress working in Canada and a prince who lives in London would even cross paths? Have anything in common? Or even like each other?

Fate, serendipity, kismet or whatever you want to call it brought them together. Think about it. Prince Harry didn’t ask any of the fair maidens he dated to be his wife, and Meghan had been divorced for three years before they locked eyes. It’s like they were waiting to find each other.

I’m one of those hopeless romantics who believes there is someone for everyone. I tell single women about my two, never-married girlfriends who had given up on love. One got married at age 45 and the other as she approached 50.

To borrow a phrase from actress Jane Seymour, who also designs jewelry, “If your heart is open, love will always find its way in.” Just don’t expect it to find you if all you do is sit on the sofa and watch Netflix. Put yourself out there. Let your friends know that you’re looking and what you’re looking for. Try online dating if that’s your thing.

Whatever you do, please don’t lower your standards. Women often get desperate and settle on a man who they wouldn’t have given the time of day when they were younger. After the wedding, reality sets in and divorce often follows. A man will show you exactly who he is when you’re dating him, so believe what you see.

If he’s not everything you’re looking for, walk away. The goal is to get married, not be in a miserable relationship. Keep in mind what happened when Harry met Meghan. She became the Duchess of Sussex.

Daughter Encourages Me to Live My Best Life

Daughter Encourages Me to Live My Best Life

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

This Mother’s Day my daughter, Jasmine, flipped the script and surprised me by saying how proud she was of me for fulfilling my dream – writing “Memphis Blues,” my first novel.

For the last 27 years, I’ve been her biggest cheerleader for everything she’s done – from her championship tennis days in high school to enrolling in Tulane University last year for a master’s in public health. I made her listen to Lee Ann Womack’s song, “I Hope You Dance,” telling her that the beautiful words in that inspirational song are what I wish for her throughout her life.

So imagine my surprise when she gave me a book entitled, “Blossom Black Girl,” an affirmation journal by Ericka J. Duke. It’s a book I would buy for her, but she said I would appreciate the message at this point in my life. She’s right. I smile and my eyes well up every time I glance at the colorful wildflowers on the cover.

I’ve never been into journaling, but I’m going to start because the words on each page stir my soul and urge me to speak my truth. In the dedication, Duke says “the major point in the meaning of blossom is to grow, develop, and flourish uniquely – just as you are right now in all your glory.” That pretty much describes how I feel as a new author – full of hope and determination as I embark on this journey.

I’m also getting used to Jasmine and Andre, my son, offering words of encouragement as I go to book signings and literary events. I laugh to myself when I hear them repeating things I told them before tennis matches, piano recitals and school plays. It’s a strange but wonderful feeling.

If your mother, godmother or surrogate mother has done something that makes you proud, be sure to tell her today, tomorrow or whenever it pops into your head. As moms, we are busy taking care of others and oftentimes don’t know what impact we make on their lives.

We’d love to hear how you feel. It will make us smile and brighten our day.

“Memphis Blues” can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Memphis-Blues-Cheryl-Mattox-Berry/dp/0692882456

Make it Easier for Girls to Report Sexual Abuse

Make it Easier for Girls to Report Sexual Abuse

Robert Kelly

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

It looks like the #MuteRKelly movement is about to roll right over him. It’s about time. For the last five years, I’ve been asking fans to boycott his music and concerts, and pressure radio stations to stop playing his music.

All it took was for some high profile celebs – John Legend, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, DJ Tom Joyner and others – to speak out. Soon, I predict Kelly’s record label will drop him, fans who have given him a pass because he makes “great music” will turn their back on him, and he’ll  get another day in court, hopefully with a long prison sentence.

Enough about the pedophile Kelly. We’ve spent the last few months outing sexual predators, now we need to turn our attention to girls who are suffering in silence. The ones who are being molested by family friends, relatives and others, and are too afraid to tell or don’t know how or who to tell.

Every city and county should have a program targeting sexual abuse, and there should be safe spaces where girls in crisis can seek help. By law, states require a teacher or school personnel to tell a counselor or administrator about any student who reports sexual abuse, but that’s not enough. There should be more than one place where girls, and even boys, can get help.

#MakeThemHearYou

First, we have to teach girls that it’s not okay for someone to touch them in a sexual way. We’d like to think that mothers instill that message, but it doesn’t always happen. Many mothers are young, single women who lack parenting skills. They’re trying to balance work, a social life and motherhood, and their daughters don’t always get the attention, guidance and protection they need.

Second, we must get girls to understand that neither they nor their mother will be harmed by the person violating them. Explain that the offender is committing a crime and will be sent to prison if charges are filed, and she testifies against him in court. Instilling fear in victims allows the perpetrator to continue the abuse. Victims need to know that they have power, too, by reporting the crime to police.

#MakeThemHearYou

These messages must be repeated to girls at home, school, church, mentoring groups, camps and social clubs. If they hear it enough, they’ll feel comfortable reporting abuse to a person of authority at any of these places.

It might help, too, if boys and girls are separated during a discussion about sexual abuse to avoid embarrassment when asking questions or sharing experiences.

The people chosen to give these talks must be a good listener, compassionate and non-judgmental. They should know how to encourage a girl to talk about what is happening to her. Training on how to spot and handle complaints about inappropriate sexual behavior should be mandatory for all men and women who work with children, not just teachers.

After the offender has been reported to police, the next step is therapy. Yes, a child who has been sexually abused needs to talk to a professional. Some mothers also might need counseling to learn how sexual abuse has long-term psychological and emotional effects on a child. She must be told the importance of keeping the person responsible for the abuse away from her daughter. Forever!

The #MakeThemHearYou is my own creation designed to fit issues that require women to speak up. 

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

SMH at the stupid conversations people allow themselves be sucked into every day. I spend quite a bit of time on the internet, researching ideas and topics. It amazes me that so many people believe everything they read.

Their comments are hilarious, sad, unbelievable and downright ignorant. Some people have lost their ability to determine the difference between real and fake. When did this happen? Did common sense go out of style? Don’t some of these stories sound a little whacky? Too contrived?

Internet users are being played by spin doctors and social media pros. They know how to grab your attention and make you a believer. Society has become one giant pawn in the social media game. For example:

Fake News for Real

PR people stay up late at night thinking of ways to keep their clients in the spotlight. They create fake beef between celebs, start rumors and do just about anything that will get more hits on a website.

Photoshopped Pictures

Celebs want to look good, but they’re like the rest of us. They eat and drink too much, don’t work out and gain weight. Awww, but when you see them looking lean and wearing skippy outfits in a photo, their shape is perfect. Beyonce, the Kardashian clan and a whole slew of celebs are guilty of doctoring pictures to hide problem areas, like thick thighs, fat knees and cellulite.

And don’t forget that flawless complexion. How can so many women have beautiful skin? And why do so many black women look lighter in photos and darker in person? It’s trickery, ladies.

Unreal Reality TV

Why do you comment on the made-up drama happening on reality TV? Would you post your thoughts about a soap opera episode? You know the soaps are for entertainment purposes only. So are all these housewives franchises. Get your life.

And Finally…

I’m also tickled by people who are fuming over the security breach at Facebook, where users’ data was stolen by Cambridge Analytica. What’s even more troubling about Facebook is the company’s unwillingness to seek permission from users to collect and sell their data. Hmm, why do you think that is? There’s no telling what Mark Zuckerberg and crew do with our info. Facebook and other companies like it need to be regulated by federal laws because self-regulation isn’t working.

Black Girl Delivers Powerful Message

Black Girl Delivers Powerful Message

Naomi Wadler

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Throughout March, which is Women’s History Month, I’ve been struggling with how to tell black women that they need to join the #MeToo movement to protest violence against black girls and women. I was tired of preaching and couldn’t think of a fresh way to deliver the message.

My answer came Saturday in the voice of 11-year-old Naomi Wadler of Alexandria, Va., who addressed the subject at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. This beautiful, brown child stood bravely before 800,000 people and told them that she was there to represent African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of newspapers or the evening news.

Make them Hear You

Poised and passionate, she said black girls and women are disproportionately affected by gun violence. And let me add that they are being sexually abused by relatives, family friends and neighbors, but few want to confront this dirty secret.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010-2012 State Report published last year found that 35.5 percent of non-Hispanic black women have experienced some form of contact sexual violence, which includes rape, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual contact, in their lifetime. For Hispanic women, it was 26.9 percent; and for Asian Pacific Islander women, 22.9 percent

Many black women have turned a blind eye and become deaf to stories about black sexual predators, especially entertainers. They buy into the street chatter that the allegations are an attempt to bring down successful black men.

Exhibit A: Singer R. Kelly, who struts around adoring black female fans like he’s a god. Although he hasn’t been convicted of a crime, his abuse of black teenage girls in Chicago and young black women in the Atlanta area is legendary.

Attempts to get his songs off the radio haven’t been as successful as getting rid of powerful white men who’ve abused white women. Sistahs, that’s what the #MeToo movement has accomplished. Why don’t you want that, too?

Black women have so much distrust of white women that we’ve been mostly silent, standing on the sidelines of #MeToo. I understand. I know the history of what white women did during the suffragette movement; how they were unsympathetic to our issues during the feminist movement of the 1960s; and how the face of the movement is white actress Rose McGowan instead of the black founder Tarana Burke.

The #MeToo movement is different because the times are different. There are enough black women in powerful positions and at the grassroots level to keep us from getting lost in the narrative. We are a part of story and need to spread our message.

If Naomi is courageous enough to tell the world to stop the violence against us, what can we do to make that happen?

Apathy is not an option. Join the #MeToo movement. Make them hear you!

Make Them Hear You!

Make Them Hear You!

Student Protest

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

I dedicate this post to grade school and college students across the USA – especially those threatened with disciplinary action by insensitive school officials – who participated in a walkout today to demand tougher gun laws.

It gives me goosebumps to hear them dismiss tweets by lawmakers who claim they empathize with the students but do nothing to get assault weapons off the streets.

The protests came one month after a 19-year-old gunman slaughtered 17 students at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

Sadly, something like this had to happen for this generation to take a break from social media and turn off reality TV. They are angry, determined and fearless. Ain’t no stopping them now.

Read the lyrics of the “Greatest Love of All,” and be proud of these young activists.

Greatest Love of All
I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

 

Hair Today; Gone In a Few Months

Hair Today; Gone In a Few Months
Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Sometimes, I wish I could just yank off my hair and go bald like the female warrior Okoye in “Black Panther,” who snatched off her wig and used it as a weapon.

I don’t want to attack anyone. I just want to be free of hair in my eyes or on my neck. It doesn’t matter if my hair is natural or relaxed, it aggravates me.

I’ve thought about a big chop, but my daddy-like jowls would be too exposed. Hair has been my security blanket my whole life. It hid a big forehead in elementary school; pimples on my forehead in high school; and a fat face during menopause.

Thank gawd, my daughter doesn’t have any hair inhibitions. She whacked off her natural crimps a few years ago and sports a closely cropped do that requires minimum maintenance. She’s free from rollers and hair products (unless she wants curls.)

My natural hair has a will of its own. I’ve got at least three textures trying to co-exist on top of my head. I can’t count on any of them to do what I want so I just go with the flow or the flop. My hair’s unpredictability is a blessing when it comes to exercise. I just let it do what it do.

Living in Miami doesn’t help, especially during the hot, humid days of summer or the muggy days we’ve experienced lately. Last week, my straight hair went puffy. Today, my coils are tight and frizzy.

Last Saturday, I had a special event and chose to ditch the straight hair for the coils. I figured I could live with a little frizz. When I saw the pictures, I realized that the heat had made my curls tighter. It looked like I was wearing a light brown cap.

I refuse to put up with this kinda/sorta hair this summer. I’m going to get a short, cute cut and fuggedaboutit. Besides, in the summer I like to wear straw hats so I won’t even have to worry about how my hair looks when I go outside in the sauna-like weather.

“Black Panther” Movie Uplifting

“Black Panther” Movie Uplifting
Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther

Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Whenever there’s too much publicity about a movie, I question whether it will live up to the hype. Nor am I a fan of Marvel superhero movies, but I went to see “Black Panther” because I like Chadwick Boseman, who plays the Black Panther and King T’Challa.

I must say that everything I heard about “Black Panther” was true. I smiled throughout the film. Like most superhero movies, it has fight scenes, car chase, etc. But this film does something most movies don’t do these days. It uplifts a race – black folks – who’ve been forgotten in Donald Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again.”

There’s so much symbolism in “Black Panther,” which was set in the fictional African country of Wakanda. There’s a message in it for people of all ages but especially for black kids who’ll see a superhero who looks like them. He’s a strategist, loving, and compassionate and strong at the same time.

I couldn’t be prouder of the way black women were portrayed in the film. They were fierce; equal to men in all respects. They were fighters, confidantes, scientists, nurturers and loving partners. We don’t see enough of this in Hollywood.

Sadly, art doesn’t imitate real life. We haven’t reached parity with men yet. However, we’re demanding to be heard. When a woman gets fed up, change will happen.

The Women’s March united us, and hopefully the activism that came out of it will propel us into state legislatures and Congress, where decisions are made. Unless, we’re at the table, we won’t have a say.

“Too often the great decisions are originated and given form in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.”                                                                                                                                    – Eleanor Roosevelt

Women Stuff

Women Stuff

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Now That’s a Smart Mom

I’d like to commend the Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., mother who turned in her 14-year-old son after his photo was aired on TV as a suspect in the carjacking of an elderly woman.

It shows that mother had confidence that the police wouldn’t harm her son. I’m sure her gut told her that he might meet a worst fate if he stayed on the lam. That’s how moms used to handle kids who got into trouble with the law.

It’s called tough love.

It’s understandable that trust in law enforcement officials has eroded in recent years with the slayings of unarmed black men, but efforts are under way in many cities to retrain officers and regain public trust.

Truth is, we need law enforcement if we want our streets to remain safe. We can help by reporting criminal activity instead of turning a blind eye to it.

But For the Grace of God

Hope Hicks

Hope Hicks

Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, needs to thank Rob Porter’s ex-wives for giving her a heads-up. Porter, who is dating Hicks, resigned as Trump’s staff secretary after his two ex-wives accused him of physically abusing them.

Hicks, of course, doesn’t believe them, but she should know the stats. Men who are violent toward women continue to be that way unless they get professional help. If Porter hasn’t done that, you better believe HIcks will be his next punching bag.

Tell Your Daughters: Don’t Be Like Kylie

I’m glad Kylie Jenner hid her pregnancy. She’s no role model. She engages in unprotected sex and gets pregnant by a man she’s known a couple of months. That’s nothing to crow about on social media.

Girls, don’t try that at home. Jenner is rich and doesn’t have to worry about tracking down her baby daddy to get child support. She’ll be able to jump right back into her old life because she can afford to hire a 24-hour nanny.

In real life, young mothers end up living a life of drudgery, not the life of Kylie.

Boy Wearing “Monkey” Hoodie Not Cool

Boy Wearing “Monkey” Hoodie Not Cool

adBy Cheryl Mattox Berry

The controversy over clothing giant H&M using a black child wearing a hoodie with the words “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” reminded me of an encounter I had with an opthamologist in the 1990s. When I took my 7-year-old daughter to see the eye doctor, he walked into the exam room and said, “How’s this little monkey doing today?”

I almost fell out of my chair.

“What did you just call my daughter?” I said.

I didn’t wait for an answer because I heard him loud and clear. l told him that he had used a racial slur, and we were offended.

He turned bright red and apologized, saying the word monkey was used by whites as a term of endearment for their children. I told him it’s not acceptable for whites to call black children monkey in my culture. I reminded him of the backlash sportscaster Howard Cosell faced in 1983 when he exuberantly exclaimed, “Look at that little monkey run!” during a Monday night football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. The doctor said he remembered the incident, but he obviously didn’t check himself.

Since then, I’ve heard whites call their kids monkey many times in public, on TV shows and in commercials. Still, in this day and age, whites should be aware of words that blacks consider racially insensitive. Because many don’t get it, we must tell them and show them (with the power of our purse) it’s not acceptable.

Surprisingly, the mother of the child didn’t take offense to the wording. She claimed critics were making much ado about nothing. She said it’s no big deal in Stockholm, Sweden, where they live. But the hoodie sparked outrage in Johannesburg, South Africa, where shoppers ransacked six H&M stores on Saturday. Incidentally, the boy’s mother is originally from Nairobi, Kenya.

H&M has apologized and pulled the ad, and removed the sweatshirt from store shelves. Why don’t these companies hire some black folks on their advertising/PR team to flag potential problems?

I question whether H&M, Pepsi and other companies that launch controversial ads do so to call attention to themselves, thinking there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Let the sellers beware that their poor judgment – intentional or otherwise – will drive away shoppers.

Footnote: I used the incident at the doctor’s office to teach my daughter the importance of never letting anyone call you out of your name and to stand up for yourself.