“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.

Time to Declutter

Time to Declutter

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

woman-holding-pile-of-clothes-2

At a recent gathering of friends, the conversation turned to clutter. You know the kind – clothes, junk mail, magazines, beauty products, you name it.

Go ahead and admit it. Stuff has piled up in your home, work space, car and everywhere. What better time to declutter than the start of a new year. Let’s do it!

Clothes

How many times have you gone into your closet looking for something but couldn’t find it? That’s because there are too many pants, dresses, skirts and blouses jammed inside.

Go through your clothes and weed out the pieces that you haven’t worn in a year and those that don’t fit. (Yes, those clothes did shrink.) Donate the items. Don’t think about how much you paid for those designer outfits. They need to go. Someone will love them just as much as you did.

Get your children in the habit of cleaning out their drawers, closet and toy box. That was a ritual in my house twice a year. It teaches children the importance of being charitable and helps them keep their rooms neat.

As your children get older, you might consider gifts other than clothes. Griselda, one of my friends, gave her children – young adults – jewelry this Christmas. She wanted them to have something that wouldn’t go out of style and would be cherished for years to come.

Michele, another friend, gave her two daughters the gift of travel. However, one of them asked if she could get three pairs of red-bottoms instead. Oh well, Michele tried.

Paper

Enough with saving magazines. Do you ever go back and read the articles again? I pass them along or toss them after a couple of months. When we downsized, I was shocked to learn that my daughter had been hiding a truckload of magazines under the bed and in the back of her closet so that I wouldn’t get rid of them. She has her own apartment now and can keep those old magazines until the next millennium.

Beauty Products

Look under your sink and in the bathroom cabinet. It probably looks like a beauty supply store. If you haven’t used the cream, gel or lotion in six months, put it in the trash. Some products might be well beyond their expiration date and should be dumped.

Stores have promotions all the time, and it’s tempting to try something new. Instead of loading up on another product, use the one you have until it’s gone. Then, buy the new one. You’ll save money and space in your cabinet.

Stuff

Look around your workplace. Is there something piling up on top of your desk or under it? Take a few minutes and deal with it. While we’re on the subject of purging, what about that storage unit? Shut it down and sell that stuff. Hopefully, you’ll recoup at least one year’s cost of renting the storage unit.

Empower Young Women to Stave Off Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

Empower Young Women to Stave Off Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

As the number of sexual assault cases rises on college campuses, it’s incumbent upon us to make sure young women don’t put themselves in a position to be victimized.

There are public awareness campaigns about the perils of drinking and doing drugs, but sometimes the target audience overlooks the unwanted sex angle. Have you ever talked to a girl headed to college in frank terms about sex, booze and drugs on campus?

I have. With my daughter (a grad student) and two nieces (a sophomore and a senior in college.) My daughter heard my sex talks at an early age as often and detailed as I felt necessary based on her age. For college, she got a separate talk about personal responsibility from her dad and me. I threw in every worse case scenario that she might encounter that could lead to sexual assault.

Before my nieces left home, I wrote them a long letter that covered everything about college life (from birth control to starchy food to roofies) that I learned as a student and from my experience as an advisor to a sorority at the University of Miami.

I explained what often happens when you drink or do drugs and end up alone with a young man. Sex. Plain and simple. I follow up the letter with a phone call to answer questions and elaborate on topics I’ve written about.

As mothers, grandmothers, aunts, godmothers, friends and cousins, we must get the message across to young women that they have the power to stop most sexual assaults by being in control of their behavior. We’ve got to preach this message until we’re out of breath, indoctrinate them and make them recite it like a mantra.

It’s really important these days because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoked Obama-era guidelines on how schools should handle sexual assaults. She thought the rules denied proper due process to those accused of sexual misconduct and failed to ensure fairness. DeVos’ decision came after she met with several mothers of male college students who had been punished for sexual assault.

Under the Obama administration, schools were told to apply a “preponderance of evidence” standard, which requires that 50 percent of evidence must point to the crime. Now, schools can opt to use a more rigorous “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which requires a higher burden of proof.

Advocates for rape victims fear that rolling back the Obama-era guidelines will tip the scale in favor of rapists and deter students from reporting sexual assault. We can’t change DeVos’ mind, but we can teach young women how to protect themselves so they won’t become another statistic.

Expose Sexual Predators in the Workplace

Expose Sexual Predators in the Workplace
Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Sexual predators, like disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, aren’t just in Hollywood. They have lived among us for years – in all professions. Problem is, few women have called them out because they fear retaliation, career suicide, isolation or being shamed by co-workers.

My 82-year-old mother was one of the silent victims of sexual harassment.

When Mom was in her early twenties, she worked at a high-end dry cleaners. One day, her supervisor asked her to help him find a customer’s clothes. While she was looking, he walked behind her and rubbed his genitals against her butt. She knew immediately that it wasn’t an accident.

Mom said she was shocked and disgusted but couldn’t say anything because the “big, ugly man” was the owner’s son.

She tried to keep her distance, but he continued asking her to come to the back of the cleaners and help him. When she had no choice, she positioned her petite body so that he couldn’t make contact. Mom eventually found another job to get away from the pervert.

That was my mother’s only option in the 1950s but not in today’s workplace. Women have rights, but sexual harassment often goes unreported and unpunished because women fear losing their job, especially in this post-recession era where good-paying jobs are hard to come by.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll,* 64 percent of Americans said sexual harassment in the workplace was a serious problem, up from 47 percent in 2011. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said that men usually get away with making unwanted sexual advances toward female co-workers.

Nearly 60 percent of the women who experienced harassment didn’t report the incident to supervisors.

Unbelievable!

We tell our children that no one is supposed to touch their private parts, yet we allow men to take advantage of us. I’ve never seen a job description that lists sexual harassment and sexual assault as requirements.

If more women were in top management positions and owned companies, the corporate culture that has condoned and covered up sexual misconduct would change dramatically. Reporting bad behavior would be encouraged and handled with sensitivity. Until that day comes, we must speak up.

Sexual predators don’t target just one woman; every woman is prey. If you’re a victim, share your story and ask whether others have had a similar experience. Band together, document the behavior and take action.

Present your findings to the company’s human resources department, which should launch an investigation. You can also file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state Fair Employment Practice agency.

Just like Weinstein and all the other sexual predators who’ve been brought down, so can male co-workers who make your job intolerable with their demeaning behavior.

*The poll of 1,260 adults was conducted Oct, 12-16.

Enough!

Enough!

imagesBy Cheryl Mattox Berry

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When a woman wants something badly enough, she’ll figure out a way to get it. She’ll plot, negotiate and sacrifice until victory is hers.

Ladies, it’s time we took up the mantle of leadership for tougher gun laws. We can’t sit around and wait for politicians to grow a conscience. Nothing, even the shooting of their colleagues, seems to extricate them from the death-like grip of the National Rifle Association.

Enough!

Gun violence is killing our children, spouses, relatives and friends, and destroying our quality of life. The things that we take for granted – going to a concert, dancing at a nightclub, sending our kids to school and watching a movie – are no longer safe. It’s gotten to the point where some people avoid going to public places that might make them an easy target for a crazy gunman.

How many more innocent lives must be stolen before it’s time to say “Enough?” The violence is escalating to the point where each incident claims title to the “worst mass killing in modern history.”

Enough!

And the politicians – mostly Republicans – who get millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the NRA? All they do is offer condolences and prayers for the victims and their families. Their sympathy is disingenuous and should be dismissed as fake news.

Enough!

Women-led movements have changed the course of history in this country and given a voice to people who’ve been invisible and powerless. Here are a few of the most notable causes spearheaded by women:

  • Suffrage movement, which gave women the right to vote
  • Civil rights movement, sparked by black women who boycotted segregated buses
  • Roe vs. Wade, established a woman’s right to have an abortion under the 14th Amendment
  • Gay liberation and LGBTQ movement, which advocated for equal rights and an end to discrimination in housing, jobs, lending practices and other areas.
  • Black Lives Matter, a protest against police brutality in the black community
  • Say Her Name, a campaign that focuses on police brutality against black women

There’s precedent for women to lead the movement that will change our nation’s gun laws.

Rise up!

Make Them Hear You

Make Them Hear You

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

To people fighting injustice and oppression in the United States and around the world, I heard the perfect song to serve as your anthem when I visited Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.

The song is “Make Them Hear You.” It’s from the Broadway musical “Ragtime,” which tells the story of three groups in this country in the early 20th century – African-Americans, rich white suburbanites and Eastern European immigrants.

During the church service, three young men sang this beautiful song. Worshippers stood, clapped and pumped their fists. The lyrics echo how many Americans feel these days as hard-fought rights are being erased or challenged under the administration of Donald J. Trump.

My favorite version of “Make Them Hear You” is by one of the Three Mo’ Tenors. His performance can be seen on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lccC4PE5VZU

After you listen to song, read the lyrics, and get fired up and ready to go.

Make Them Hear You
Go out and tell our story.
Let it echo far and wide.
Make them hear you,
Make them hear you.
 
How justice was our battle
And how justice was denied.
Make them hear you,
Make them hear you.
 
And say to those who blame us
For the way we chose to fight
That sometimes there are battles
That are more than black or white…
And I could not put down my sword
When justice was my right.
Make them hear you.
Go out and tell our story
To your daughters and your sons.
Make them hear you,
Make them hear you.
 
And tell them, in our struggle,
We were not the only ones.
Make them hear you,
Make them hear you.
Your sword can be a sermon
Or the power of the pen.
Teach every child to raise his voice
And then, my brothers, then
Will justice be demanded
By ten million righteous men.
Make them hear you.
When they hear you,
I’ll be near you
Again.
– Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music composed by Stephen Flaherty

That’s What Friends Are For…

That’s What Friends Are For…

images-1By Cheryl Mattox Berry

I feel sorry for people who say they don’t need friends. I can’t imagine my life without them. Friends make life more fun, interesting and bearable.

The importance of friendship was driven home recently with two poignant stories in the media.

In one story, an elderly woman wrote a letter to a neighbor, whose name she didn’t know, asking the younger woman if she would be her friend because everyone she knew had died.

The neighbor, who was married with children, was so moved by the request that she immediately befriended the woman, who is now like a member of the family.

This story broke my heart, and then lifted my spirits. Can you imagine how many lonely seniors are out there?

The second story was about the eight* patients who died at a Hollywood, Fla., nursing home after Hurricane Irma due to a power outage and failure of portable air coolers. Three of the women, ages 78, 48 and 99, had no family and relied on friends to look after them when they became ill.

Without friends, who would have marked their passing with fond memories, tears and a toast?

Researchers have found that having friends improves your physical health, extends your life, keeps your mind sharp, helps you cope with rejection and gets you through the tough times.

My first best friend, Jackie, and I met in Mrs. Cloyd’s fourth grade class. That was more than 50 years ago. Although we live in different cities, we’re in constant contact, and I know what’s going on in her life and vice versa.

A minister, Jackie sends texts each week with beautifully written prayers for me and my family. She has filled the prayer warrior void left by grandmother, who passed away in 1991.

I’m still close to friends from junior high school, high school and college. We might not speak for three or four months but pick up right where left off when we do talk. We have honest discussions about children, parents, men, aging, weight, hair, makeup, etc. No subject is off limits, and we value each other’s opinion.

Although I cherish my time alone to read, write and meditate, I make a point of coming out of my cocoon to connect with friends. They energize me, challenge me and uplift me. They make me a better person.

*A ninth patient died Sept. 19 at a local hospital.

I Am a Hurricane Irma Refugee

I Am a Hurricane Irma Refugee

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

I was one of the lucky ones. I snared a one-way plane ticket out of Hurricane Irma’s path and headed to my mama’s house in Memphis. After 25 years in Miami, I couldn’t live through another hurricane.

Hurricane Andrew was bad enough in 1992. I remember huddling in bed with my 2-year-old daughter. “I’m kerd (scared,) Mommy,” she whispered, clinging to me as the windows next to the bed rattled.

My hyperactive son, 6, slept through the whole thing. Thank goodness.

The potential devastation from Hurricane Irma scared me. We live near the water, and the threat of a storm surge swallowing my townhouse was foremost in my mind. (On Thursday afternoon, an evacuation order was issued for my complex.)

I thought about going to a hotel, where we hunkered down in recent years during a hurricane. They were all booked. I was going to hit the road and drive far away from Miami. Everyone else had the same idea, and roads were clogged. A three-hour trip to Orlando took seven hours.

All Wednesday afternoon, I scoured the internet, looking for a ticket. Five minutes after I booked a flight on SmartFares, I got a call from a number with a California area code. I thought it was a telemarketer and ignored it.

The person kept calling so I finally answered. He informed me that I didn’t have a ticket because the American Airlines plane had been overbooked. However, he had the last seat on a flight that left Thursday afternoon. That was even better. I hate early morning flights.

There was a catch: It cost $150 more.

I hit the ceiling and demanded that he honor the $414 rate I paid for the original ticket. I told him it wasn’t my fault that I was allowed to buy a ticket for a seat that didn’t exist. He caved in and sold me the seat. Yes, I was an angry black woman and worked that stereotype.

The trip was smooth as could be expected these days. No traffic on the road. No long lines at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. There was a 15-minute delay before we took off, but I made my connection in Charlotte and arrived in Memphis on time.

I leave behind my husband, Jim, who will move from the sports anchor desk to cover the hurricane for CBS4. He’ll be stationed at an emergency operations center, which is supposed to be safe. I feel guilty about leaving him behind, but now he doesn’t have to worry about me while he’s working.

Last night, I dreamed that I was buried beneath hurricane debris. I screamed for help. In the distance, I heard someone calling, “Cheryl Annette, Cheryl Annette.” It was my mom in the next bedroom.

I woke up and realized that I was safe in my mama’s house.