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.

Prince Ea Social Media Video is On Point

Prince Ea Social Media Video is On Point
Prince Ea

Prince Ea

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Okay, I’m a little late to the party, but overnight I’ve become a big fan of Prince Ea, the spoken word artist/filmmaker/musician/motivational speaker, who has legions of fans on Facebook and YouTube.

His video, Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?, was shown at a conference I attended for college-age young women. The video spoke to many concerns that adults have about social media: It keeps young people from developing real relationships, affects self-esteem, destroys the ability to use words to express feelings, and focuses on materialism and superficial things, such as hair, clothes and body.

Prince Ea, 27, raps about the dangers of social media in a way that ought to make young people take notice. In rapid-fire rhymes, he tells them that technology has made us more selfish and separate as ever and how they measure self-worth by the number of followers and likes while ignoring those who actually love them.

He urges young people to not let social media dictate their lives. Take some cues from him: He prefers to enjoy a special moment instead of recording it with a phone and eating his meals rather than taking a picture of them.

As the video played, I looked around around the room. I wasn’t surprised to find many young ladies glued to their phones. I wanted to snatch the phone from the student seated next to me and yell at her, “This is exactly what he’s talking about. Listen and learn,” but I refrained.

Prince Ea, whose pseudonym means Prince of the Earth in Sumerian mythology, says the purpose of video is to show young people that they should be balanced. Check out the Can We Auto-Correct Humanity? video on YouTube, and let the young people in your life watch it. Then, ask them what they’ll do differently now that they know social media can take over their lives and keep them from truly enjoying what they’re so busy Face-Tweet-Snap-Insta-Pinning about.

Feminism: No Longer a Dirty Word?

Feminism: No Longer a Dirty Word?
President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

A big thank-you to President Barack Obama for his support of feminism in the August issue of Glamour magazine.

In an article, the president describes himself as a feminist and defines feminism in the 21st Century as “the idea that when everybody is equal we are all more free.” Obama says he’s aware of the challenges women face, and his views on feminism have been shaped by watching his mother, wife and two daughters.

Obama embracing what had become a dirty word should be transformational for this generation of women and men. Back in the 1970s, feminism was given a bad rap. Those who joined the women’s liberation movement were quickly branded lesbians and man-haters.

The negative image caused many women to reject the feminist label, though they strongly believed in issues on the movement’s agenda: reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, sexual harassment, sexual violence, women’s suffrage and equal pay for equal work.

I’ve been a feminist since I took a women’s literature class in college from a female professor whose husband was a stay-at-home dad, which was unheard of at the time. The ideas we discussed in class validated what I had felt all along about a woman’s role in society.

However, I was naive to think that these ideas would be welcomed in the workplace. It wasn’t easy in the late 1970s and 1980s speaking your mind when white men weren’t used to a woman – especially a black woman – standing up for herself.

If it wasn’t right, I was going to same something about it. If you treated me unfairly, you would get an earful. That was the only way I knew how to be. All the women in my life – mother, grandmother and great-grandmother – were outspoken.

I also took cues from my colleagues in the newsroom, most of whom were men. I knew their salaries and asked that mine be raised when i found out there was a difference.

My boldness earned respect, but sometimes I lost opportunities. When I worked my first job as a TV reporter, the news director offered me a job doing the morning news cut-ins without a salary bump.

He was aware that I wanted to stop working weekends, and I knew that I should have gotten extra money for being on the air. I turned down the job and continued working weekends to prove that I wouldn’t be taken advantage of. I soon got another job in a larger market.

I’ve passed on the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career to my daughter and nieces. In their personal and professional lives, I’ve told them that they deserve to be treated equally and with respect. Demand it!

The Olympics, Life Expectancy and Injuries

The Olympics, Life Expectancy and Injuries

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

The Olympics

Watching the female athletes perform at the Olympics demonstrates once again how sports can play an important role in a girl or young woman’s life. When you read the back stories of the athletes, you’ll learn that many of them overcame tremendous odds on the road to Rio de Janiero.

It was through their sport that they learned how to channel their feelings into something positive for themselves and their country. Sports teaches a girl discipline, goal-setting, team building skills and how to accept defeat. It gives her self-confidence and pushes her beyond what she thinks she’s capable of doing.

Studies show that high school girls who play sports are less likely to get pregnant; get better grades in school; and graduate at higher rates than girls who don’t play sports. They also have higher self-esteem and a more positive body image.

Even if she doesn’t become an Olympian, a girl can benefit from the lessons learned by participating in sports. Encourage your daughters, granddaughters, nieces, cousins and goddaughters to find a sport they like and excel in it. They’ll thank you later.

Another Reason to Get Active

According to a study published in Health Affairs, blacks are more likely to face disabilities in their later years than whites. Sixty-five-year-old whites could expect 15 of their remaining 20 years to be active, compared with black seniors  who could expect only 12 of their remaining 18 years to be active.

The reasons: Blacks are more likely to be in worse health earlier in life, uninsured and have higher rates of obesity and cardiovascular risk factors.

Misdiagnosis

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my sprained ankle. As it turns out, the doctor at the urgent care clinic failed to properly diagnose my injury. He took x-rays and found “no broken bones,” and gave me a prescription for Naproxen. He didn’t advise me to follow up with my doctor.

About four weeks later, my foot was still swollen and painful. I went to a podiatrist, who also took x-rays. He found three fractures and said I probably had more. He gave me two anti-inflammatory shots in the foot and ordered an MRI, which found a total of six fractures and contusions in my mid-foot.

The podiatrist said urgent care doctors miss 25 to 30 percent of fractures because they’re not specialists.

He said it’s too late to put my foot in a cast. It will have to heal on its on, and that may take several months. He gave me two more anti-inflammatory shots and a script for more anti-inflammatory meds.

Until the foot heals, no excessive walking, running, dancing or exercise using the foot. That doesn’t leave me with very many options.  Once again – as I did with the ruptured Achilles tendon – I’m calling on the patience gods to keep me sane through this process.

The takeaway: Avoid urgent care clinics if you can. Go to the emergency room or your primary care physician.

Image of Female Athletes Needs Improvement

Image of Female Athletes Needs Improvement
Serena Williams

Serena Williams

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

A day after I’m nearly blinded by Dove’s “My Beauty My Say” message on a billboard in Microsoft Square near the Staples Center in Los Angeles, tennis star Serena Williams’ twerking video pops up on TV.

Talking about mixed messages.

Williams’ so-called instructional twerking video for Self magazine and a Snapchat of her twerking prior to Team USA hitting the field for opening ceremonies at the Olympics in Rio de Janiero make a mockery of Dove’s latest beauty campaign.

In a letter on the gigantic LED billboard, Dove implores the media to refrain from using sexist language to portray female athletes because it undermines their achievements and chips away at their self-confidence.

Did someone forget to tell Williams, the No. 1 ranked women’s singles player, and the other female athletes to act the way they want to be treated? How do you expect the media to respect your athletic prowess when you’re performing like a stripper? I don’t recall seeing any male athletes bouncing and rolling their butts before the camera.

Isn’t twerking passé anyway?

As a journalist who worked hard to eliminate racist language about blacks and Hispanics on TV and in newspapers, I understand the importance of treating female athletes like their male counterparts. The focus should be on their athletic ability, not their looks.

However, female athletes need to make sure they don’t invite comments about their bodies by acting in a sexualized manner, such as twerking. (In Williams’ case, of course, the comments were about the size of her butt.)

To make sure Dove’s message is heard by the right people, I made a point of telling my husband, Jim Berry, the CBS sports anchor in Miami, to be careful with words he uses to describe female athletes.

A female writer at The Miami Herald had already given him an earful after remarks about Venus Williams’ new hairstyle at the Miami Open last March. Jim claims he would have mentioned a new do by a male tennis player but conceded that her point was well taken.

If you read or hear comments about a female athlete’s hair, face, body parts or overall looks, write a letter to the news organization. You don’t want people judging you like that and neither do female gymnasts, runners, swimmers, basketball players, volleyball players, boxers, etc. Female athletes deserve respect.

Don’t Blindly Follow Celebrity Endorsements

Don’t Blindly Follow Celebrity Endorsements

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

I like shopping at boutiques, but sometimes the sales associates hover too much and get on my nerves. When I walked into one boutique looking for a dress, a store employee pounced on me at the door, saying she had the perfect pair of pants – the Lisette brand Oprah Winfrey raved about on her talk show.

She didn’t ask whether I was looking for anything special as they usually do. She just assumed because the pants were a fave of Winfrey’s that I would fall in love with them. I explained nicely that I don’t buy a product simply because Celebrity X endorses it.

Winfrey has her favorite things, and so do I. Rarely does our list contain the same items. Besides, nothing comes between me and my NYDJ shorts, capris, ankle, boyfriend and straight pants.

When I didn’t find a dress, I sauntered over to the pants rack, and the woman continued to pitch the $125 Lisette pants, even shoving them toward me so that I could feel the fabric. They looked and felt a lot like a style of Alfani pants sold at Macy’s for about $40.

Out of curiosity, I tried them on. They were stretchy, comfortable and made me look slimmer, just like the lower-priced Alfani pants.

However, the Lisette pants were about five inches too short. The saleslady offered the shop’s alteration services, saying the seamstress could add length. I was sure the pants still wouldn’t be long enough to keep them from looking like high waters, and altering them would hike the price by $30.

I blocked out the saleslady’s infomercial about the Lisette pants and Winfrey, and took them off. If I wanted that style of pants I would definitely go with the Alfani brand because they looked the same and fit better (longer) than the Lisette brand, and cost less.

As I left the store sans pants, I remembered the TV and radio commercials featuring Sy Syms, founder of the now-defunct Syms stores. He coined the slogan, “An Educated Consumer is Our Best Customer.” I’ll add the following advice, “Don’t be a slave to celebrity endorsements.”

The Truth Will Set You Free

The Truth Will Set You Free
Melania Trump

Melania Trump

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

For a minute, I thought lexicographers had removed the word “sorry” from the dictionary, and I missed the memo.

The Melania Trump speech debacle is the latest example of how some people refuse to take responsbility for their actions and let others take the blame because they don’t want to look bad.

Lying isn’t a good look either.

For a day, the Trump campaign had us thinking that we were deaf and blind for believing that Melania’s speech was lifted from first lady Michelle Obama’s address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Typical Trump campaign strategy: deny and attack.

Then, staffers did a turnabout and admitted passages were taken from Obama’s speech. Apparently, the Trumps didn’t care that they were setting a poor example for their kids and grandkids by denying Melania’s plagiarism.

As a child, I was taught to apologize when you stepped on someone’s toes, interrupted their conversation or committed some other mishap. However, apologies are hard to come by these days from children and adults.

People blame everything and everybody but themselves. They mistakenly think that admitting you’re wrong is a sign of weakness. However, it’s just the opposite. Saying “I’m sorry” shows that you’re human and big enough to know that you don’t always get it right.

Coming clean also clears the air so that you can move forward. It’s difficult working with someone when you question their integrity. You’re constantly doing things to cover yourself knowing that one day it might come back on you.

The proverb, “Honesty is the best policy,” needs to make a viral comeback and not just for Baby Boomers. Millennials, in particular, need to be taught that it’s okay to admit that you’ve made a mistake. Trying to cover it up just makes matters worse.

I’m woman enough to say “I’m sorry,” are you?

Women to Celebrate

Women to Celebrate
Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton

By Cheryl Mattox Berry

Although it’s not Women’s History Month, which is celebrated in March, I think there are some women who deserve recognition for their courage, tenacity and foresight.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Throughout all the investigations into her use of a private server for classified emails, Clinton stayed focus on her bid to become the first female president of the United States. She has maintained her poise and dignity in the face of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rants.

Given her background as a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, she’s much more qualified to run this country than any Republican opponent. She is a politician and knows the ins and outs of Washington, and how to bring all parties to the bargaining table. That’s who I want in the Oval Office.

 

Qandeel Baloch

Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch (real name Fauzia Azzem) wasn’t a household name in the United States, but she was a popular and controversial figure in her country.

Baloch’s posts and pictures of herself engaging in activities (a sexy dance and playing with a Muslim cleric) considered scandalous in conservative Pakistani society apparently led to her death. Her brother is accused of strangling her as she slept in a so-called honor killing last week.

A self-described feminist, Baloch urged women to stand up for themselves, each other, justice and demand equal rights.

Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors

Activist Alicia Garza of Oakland and her friend, Patrisse Cullors of Los Angeles, started the Black Lives Matter movement on July 13, 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of fatally shooting unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in Florida.

The Black Lives Matter organization has grown to 40 chapters and is part of a nationwide network of groups that organize protests against police slayings of unarmed black citizens, police brutality and other issues.

Weeping Ivy Eight 

In 2009, eight women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., sued the sorority, then-International President Barbara McKinzie and its leaders for financial malfeasance. They accused McKinzie of stealing more than $2 million and diverting funds for personal use.

The women: Joy Elaine Daley, Newburgh, N.Y.; Kezirah Means Vaughters, Wyncote, Penn.; Carol P. Ray, Philadelphia; Elizabeth Berry Holmes, Wyncote, Penn.; Catherine Alicia Georges, Bronx, N.Y.; Marie L. Cameron, Atlanta; Brenda Georges, Fairburn, Ga.; and Frances Tyus, Warrensville Heights, Ohio.

In retaliation, McKinzie suspended the women, and they endured a backlash from some members who were angry that they had exposed the sorority’s dirty laundry. The plaintiffs were eventually re-instated, and the ultimate vindication came last week at the AKA international convention where McKinzie was expelled from the sorority for stealing $1.3 million.

Full Disclosure: I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the nation’s oldest black sorority.