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.

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.