Are We There Yet?

Don't Be Silent in the Face of InjusticeIn these remaining few more days of Black History Month and beyond, let us not forget the message of unity, love, and justice of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King. Dr. King was a servant leader, fully aware of the injustices, and yet was able to work towards justice in a spirit of love. He was truly a voice of conscience that rings beyond the grave. By his example I learned that while I must be aware of the goings on in the world, at the same time not let it steal the joy in the moment. Ignorance is not bliss and neither is anger or hate. We must be aware; be sensitive; speak out against injustice; be loving even to our enemies, be encouraging to those who are grieving or being persecuted, and most importantly, we must DO what WE can to change the world.

This week a Facebook post really got to me.  It was of a young African-American being harassed, beaten, restrained, and kicked.  He kept screaming, “Why are yall doing this to me?” He was being treated like an animal. Evidently he’d stepped off a bus and was immediately accosted by two police.  I was so visibly moved that I wrote the following FB post.

This made me cry for two reasons!!!! 1) Because this is still happening. 2) Because it’s a reminder of when one on my son’s on his Spring break from college had something similarly humiliating done to him! Handcuffed, made to get on the ground, cops being verbally abusive, and yes he was scared to death. Yes! And he was innocent, and NO he didn’t have his pants hanging, and NO he didn’t have on a hoodie, and NO, he doesn’t drink or smoke AND IT DIDNT MATTER! It’s hard for wounds to heal when the scab keeps getting ripped off! The only difference is he kept quiet. BUT, some caged birds have to scream though!!! If you scream though, it makes things worse, as you see in the video links below.

Why was this man being harassed for just stepping off of  a bus? Thankfully someone recorded it. Two other police come to the scene and one ends up putting his foot on the guys face while he’s on the ground and is kicking him in the face. And it appears like one is almost sitting on the guy’s head. The poor young man is screaming, “Why are you doing this to me?,” but to no avail. Bystanders are watching and walking by, but feel helpless to help.  This is the police; what can they do? Are we there yet? Watch the Video and You decide!!!!!! The language is foul, but so is the indignity put upon this young man.  Then I learn that this is routine for NYC if you are Black or Latino. They missed one young man who videoed it, but not this one, eight cops just arrest him for videoing the atrocityy.  Are we in a police state? Where are our freedoms?  What about due process, human rights, and human respect?

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.”

“We will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

It looked like something out of Dr. King’s era. I can only wonder if we are breeding an endless cycle of hatred. What came first the chicken or egg? I’m thinking about those kids being harassed day after day and wondering if they are going to grow up loving or hating whites. In some places those chickens will one day come home to roost if they ever get in a position to return the hate that has built up in them from so many years of being powerless. In other cases led by the example of numerous people of every color disgusted by the old guard and preaching and demonstrating love and peace, (like many Bahai’s and others I know), the system will slowly but surely be changed for the better. We are one human race and there is just one planet and one people. I have to keep in mind always that while there are many horrific examples of humans at their worst, but I’m happy to say, I do see so many examples of humans at their best too!  Thank you Dr. King for showing us how to love our enemies, to stand up for justice, and to not remain silent, yet we be guilty too.

Another message that matters from Barbara Talley

America’s Diversity Votes and Wins!

Even beyond the excessive attempts to disenfranchise voters, in spite of an effigy of the President with a noose around his neck, and even with so many other disparaging and racial sentiments arising out of the 2012 campaign, I am more hopeful and proud of my country than ever. American’s voted that they care about each other.  Even when they may not agree with each others ideologies or lifestyles, they still voted that everyone should be included and deserves to be counted and have civil rights.  The landscape is changing and I am optimistic about the future for the following reasons!

  1. America’s first African-American president wins not only the majority of electoral votes but also the popular vote, the most successful Democratic candidate since FDR by margins.
  2. The 113th Congress will have at least 19 female senators – more than ever in U.S. history.
  3.  Hawaii elects America’s first Asian senator.
  4. Wisconsin elects America’s first openly gay senator.
  5. Nevada elects Steven Horsford, its first African American Congressman.
  6. Voting was up for African Americans, young people, and Latinos despite the unprecedented number (25) of voter suppression laws passed last year.

I’m Barbara Talley, The Poet who speaks and inspires.   To find more about me, check out my promo sheet or visit  my website.

Love Your Natural + Resources for “Going Natural”

This post is primarily aimed at those who’ve gone natural or dreaded their hair.  What kinds of responses did (or do) to get from others?  Have you noticed a difference?  I’ve heard the comments.  My nephew was discouraged or at most “tolerated” for wanting to dread his hair.  Fortunately he had a mother who wore dreads and she supported his desire to wear his hear however he wanted it.  But, what’s up with those that discouraged him? Most said that it was because they wanted to protect him from the racism he would experience.  I don’t doubt that that is a valid premise, but how much do we need to give up to be accepted?  And if we are only accepted by changing ourselves, are we really being accepted?   Most cultures can get up, get in the shower, wash and shake their hair, and go.

Who Needs to Accept, Us or Them?

I know that twenty and thirty years ago I straightened my hair to fit in.  That’s what the women around me did and so did I.  A funny thing happened though a couple of years ago, I cut my hair for a photo shoot and decided to not relax it anymore.  After the relaxed hair grew out and was cut off, I found my own natural texture and I “loved it.”  Now I can blow dry it straight when I want a different look and wear natural when I want to. To think I was putting those toxic chemicals on my scalp for years and didn’t even need to.  And, as I got older, I was adding dye too when I could have used a natural henna.  I had done it so long that I didn’t realize the world had changed but I hadn’t, for people that were not of African American heritage actually liked my hair and commented more positively than “my own peeps.”

Resources for Going Natural

I also remember feeling very weird and out of place at an African American event at Howard University when most people were natural and at the time my hair was relaxed.  One of the presenters actually made a comment about us people with “fried hair.”  Fortunately, now we have more support if we wish to go natural, from sites like Naturally Curly, Carol’s Daughter, Curly Nikki , and Uncle Funky’s Daughter. I know in the past I relaxed my hair and my daughters’ hair because it was easier to maintain.  We probably were also subconsciously programmed to think that we “looked better too”.  Now we’ve got resources to help with the transition if we choose that route.  But, the goal is to love yourself and feel free enough to choose your way of expressing yourself without judgement.  Well that’s our food for thought for today.

I’m Barbara Talley, the poet who speaks and inspires.  To find out more about me check out: What Does Barbara Do? or visit  my website.

Race and Hair: Militancy, Image, and Politics

I remember during the presidential elections, when opponents were trying to disparage Michelle Obama, they put up a picture of her with an Afro.  They also negatively portrayed she and President Obama’s fist bump in the same picture while clothing him in Muslim garb.  (Don’t even get me started about diversity and religion, that’s a whole other series.)   So, I could empathize with my niece in being cautious about going natural in today’s business world for I too was subjected to the playful jeers of being called “Florida Evans and Angela Davis.”  I was even shown the traditional “black power fist ” (reminiscent of the Black Power movement) when I wore my hair natural.  Surprisingly most of the comments were from my own family.  If my family felt this way, what could I expect from a world still engulfed in issues of race, identity, and challenges accepting diversity and difference?  So even  though I’ve stopped chemically relaxing my hair, I’m still blow drying it straighter than it was before I relaxed it.  What’s up with that?  I’m still processing.

What subconscious fears, messages, and memories are associated with the these figures that I was jokingly and condescendingly associated with?

BTW.  I see it as an honor to be associated with either of these two trailblazers and sheroes. According to an online biography, Esther Rolle (Florida Evans on Good Times)  “Compelled to fight racial stereotypes, insisted before accepting the series that a strong father figure be central in the show (actor John Amos).   She even left the show for a season protesting the negative role model perpetuated by Jimmie Walker’s jive-talking J.J. character.   Angela Davis was indeed controversial, but must be admired for fighting for what she believed in.  Today she is still fighting for justice by fighting against the prison industrial complex that has become today’s sanctioned form of human enslavement providing a steady supply of cheap prison labor for big business at the expense of rehabilitation.

 So let’s talk  candidly about hair, militancy, and image.  Do you think that some of our reactions to wearing our hair natural are subconscious fears from being associated with those who have been political targets , ostracized, and labeled as militant?   And to those baby boomers who are not African American, what images do natural hair conjure?

Please don’t just read and nod, share your opinions.

I’m Barbara Talley, the poet who speaks and inspires.  To find out more about me check out: What Does Barbara Do? or visit  my website.