The Second Line Blog

And They Wonder Why Feminism Exists

Throughout my years of watching sports, I’ve witnessed men fight on the field, harass referees/umpires, slur officials, and even throw balls across the court when they disagree with a call, but when a woman, who is just as passionate about her athletic craft as a man, merely says to an umpire “You stole a point from me, and you are a thief,” she is penalized and as a result, loses a game.

On this past Saturday, Serena Williams competed against Naomi Osaka in New York’s Arthur Ashe Stadium for the Grand Slam title.  Umpire Carlos Ramos accused Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, of giving her hand signals during the match which is deemed illegal coaching.  Williams was offended by the accusation and immediately checked Ramos by saying, “I don’t cheat. I’d rather lose!” Serena was livid, and rightfully so.  But even during her rage, she never once used profanity (in earshot at least), she didn’t throw her racket across the court at anyone, nor did she call the umpire names or attempt to fight him.  But because she is a WOMAN who had the audacity to voice her opinion in an assertive manner, she was robbed of a point which caused her to lose the match, costing her the Grand Slam title, and she was fined $17,000 by the US Open.  

While witnessing the blatant biases that Ramos displayed against Serena, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking, “I bet this would not have happened if she had a different set of genitals.”   And from doing a little social media digging, apparently, my thoughts were being shared and validated. Since this incident, two male tennis pros have confirmed the sexism which resulted in Serena losing the match.

James Blake

@JRBlake

I will admit I have said worse and not gotten penalized. And I’ve also been given a “soft warning” by the ump where they tell you knock it off or I will have to give you a violation. He should have at least given her that courtesy. Sad to mar a well played final that way.

 

andyroddick

@andyroddick

I’ve regrettably said worse and I’ve never gotten a game penalty

And some people wonder why feminism exists.  Before I go off on a brief tangent about that, let’s examine another case in the same realm of bigotry.  Just last week, tennis player Alize Cornet was handed a code violation for taking off her shirt to switch it around because she had it on backwards.  Underneath her shirt, she wore a sports bra. In case you’re in the dark about sports bras, it’s one of the least provocative bras a woman can wear. The purpose for it is not to expose anything, but to keep everything intact while one takes on vigorous activities.  But because she was a woman who, according to society’s rules, should have been taught at youth to cover up and keep quiet, she was fined.

If time permitted and space was unlimited, I could name countless of other incidents that show why feminism exists.  However, these two recent events clearly depict the prejudices that we women face in this world. It’s inhumane to treat anyone less than or to put someone in a box because of how they were born.  If a woman can hit a ball, fix a car, drive a bus, preach a sermon, or run a political office as good as or better than her male counterparts, then she should be treated with the same respect as they are treated.  Women are not asking for favors, or to rule, or to be singled out, we are asking for a fair chance. We are asking to be seen as humans first and women second. We are asking to be able to dictate our own existence, govern our own bodies, not be treated as objects, and to be heard and not considered a b$%^& when we speak up for ourselves with confidence.  We are asking to be recognized as the powerful human beings we are, and not be stripped of a point or title when we have the courage to defend our honor. Equality is what we seek, but partiality is what we get…and that’s why feminism exists.

P.S. – In the midst of the Serena debacle, shout out to LeBron James and Essence Magazine for teaming up and publicly recognizing and celebrating women of color from a place of positivity.  The Strongest, the name of the powerful social media campaign birthed by James and Essence, highlights 16 black women who exemplify strength to the NBA star.  This campaign follows LeBron’s reveal of his exclusive Nike signature shoe collaboration designed by three African American women. See a few pictures of LeBron’s honorees below which includes our girl Serena.  Thank you LeBron and keep shining ladies!

CELEBRATING THE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN

By Felicia Simpson

This article was first posted on www.feliciatsimpson.com

Since the beginning of time, black women have helped to contribute to the growth and evolution of the world. Often minimized, our influence can’t be denied. From Dahomey warrior women who fought to defend their villages to abolitionists like Sojourner Truth who fought to defend their freedom; black women have demonstrated their ability to rise in the face of adversity.

Our talents are  vast and can be seen in the literary works of Maya Angelou and her predecessors Phillis Wheatley and Lucy Terry, two women who were sold into slavery, acquired freedom and became notable writers. Our artistic abilities are apparent as evidenced by the masterpieces of our foremothers, Edmonia Lewis and Elizabeth Catlett, who were both accomplished sculptors.

In the fields of social and political activism, we proudly claim Angela Davis and Shirley Chisholm. Even though we are a force to be reckoned with, we stand not only as fighters but as healers. Marie Laveau and Queen Nanny, African Spiritual leaders, sought to enlighten their people as did Henriette Delille, a Catholic who opened her heart to anyone who needed a helping hand. We can’t minimize the strides we’ve made in the world of science with Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, or Katherine Johnson, physicist, and mathematician. Nor can we ignore the pioneering performing artists such as Dorothy Dandridge, first black woman nominated for an academy award for best actress, and Nina Simone, an illustrious singer, composer, and trailblazer.

In addition to the strides we’ve made in the areas mentioned above, we are nurturers, protectors, wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends. Black women continue to make an impact not only within the black community but in the world at large.

-Kenetha Lanee

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Welcome to the month of September!!!!  This year is moving by so fast.  As we enter into the final month of the third quarter, I really want to focus on women so I reached out to my friend and this posts, Guest Contributor, Kenetha Lanee to provide us with that well written prelude above about African American women in particular, to kick off this month’s blog post.

I love being an inspiration to women of color and I am always inspired by the success stories of other women.  Please take the time to read the histories of the women mentioned in the prelude, if you don’t already know HERstory.  I am on a journey to becoming a better woman and creating safe spaces, for sisterhood in our society on my all of my platforms.

African American women have struggled and triumphed since forever, and there is no one better on this planet, than a strong African American woman!  The African American woman is tenacious, fearless, beautiful, compassionate, purposed-driven, stable, confident, nurturer and this list could go on.  From the pioneering women who created our history for us to the modern day trailblazers that we see today, African American women, are to be celebrated year-round.  So many of us are creating our own paths, demanding equality from social and political injustices and stepping out from the shadows of other cultures and becoming the queens that we were born to be.

As a middle aged African American woman who is still growing and developing, I encourage each of you to carry on the legacies of the women in the prelude and the ones who you interact with every day in your life.  Let’s continue to lift each other up and share more success stories about how we have overcome whatever obstacles, and survived whatever struggles to become the positive images that we see all around us today.

A Picturesque Exaltation

Climbing what used to be the confederate monument at the entrance of City Park in New Orleans, LA was more than just for a photo opportunity.  It was a silent monologue that portrayed a snippet of the black woman’s struggle, the adversity we often face, and then….the exaltation we most definitely deserve.  This picture goes beyond a black girl wearing all white while perched on a monument in the middle of a busy intersection. To me, it is a portraiture that depicts the plight of sistas.   

When I was asked by Deorin Payne (the mastermind and photographer behind this shoot and the Enthroned project) to take this picture, I immediately accepted the challenge.  I didn’t know which monument we would be shooting at, but I was open to whatever his creative brain had in store.  When we got to the location, I got nervous.  The stone is as tall as it looks in the pictures. Metaphorically, it represented the struggle we black women often face.  Just like the tall stone, life can sometimes seem insurmountable to us. Not only do we have to deal with being a woman in America, we have to deal with being a black woman in America and all the push backs that come with that beautiful reality.  However, despite the odds that black women often face, we always find ways to persevere. And with that in mind, I set out to climb that tall stone. In an ankle length skirt, I proceeded to mount a ladder and ascend all the way to the top. On my way up, I thought about Harriet Tubman’s fierce journey, Sojourner Truth’s fight, Assata Shakur’s braveness, Angela Davis’ audaciousness, Fannie Lou Hamer’s assuredness, and all my other dynamic foremothers who paved the way for women like me; I instantly got an extra boost of confidence.      

When I finally got to the top, I figured the rest would be a breeze.  I was wrong. Adversity reared its ugly head as it always does. People began honking, some recorded me on their cell phones, and some people were frowning while possibly yelling expletive language.  But here I was, nestled on top of the tall stone, drowning out the noise and posing every time the camera flashed…..another example of how black women push through despite hardships.      

Photo by Deorin Payne

While up there sweating with my legs shaking, I thought to myself….”this can very well represent the experiences of being black women,” – uncomfortable, unsure at times, constant noise, discrimination, voyeurism, shady judgment, and pressure.  But despite the rubbish, we endure and rise.  And when we look back, we are glad we stayed the course and grateful that we left no stone unturned.

To all my sistas, gracefully tackle any challenge that comes your way because you are built for it.  Rise to the occasion, sit firmly in your position, handle your business, drown out the noise and wait for the beautiful picture to unfold – it will be all worth it. 

 

Do White Folks Hate Black Folks’ Hair?

Feelings, crown, soul, and pride are all words  synonymous with hair for black Folks. Many of Our emotions, experiences, and expressions are intertwined within the embodiment of our hair. This sentiment was eloquently sang by Solange in the song “Don’t Touch My Hair.”

India Arie boldly details in the song “I Am Not My Hair” that her hair is not totally indicative of who she is even though her hair is an intrinsic part of her and her being.

Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity

I am expressing my creativity

I am not my hair

I am not my skin

I am not your expectations (No)

I am the soul that lives within

As black people, we know these songs and situations  surrounding our hair all too well. The emotions that come with them, the feelings they evoke and experiences they bring in celebration of us, our hair and all of our uniqueness. Each of these Sisters tell a story about their hair in a contrasting but similar way. What is evident though is that black folk hair is a central part of their existence, especially our sisters. On the outside of that is the unwanted and unwarranted fanfare that our hair seems to garner from other races especially white folks.

Black folks hair has been the conversation of workplace professionalism and whether it’s appropriate. Many Black people have not received jobs, promotions or partnerships because their hair was deemed too ethnic. For years, the military had strict rules regarding appearance and some rules specifically targeted black women hairstyles and how they could wear their hair. However, recently we have seen these two branches come out to revise those rules and be more open to different styles.

In 2017, the U.S. Army changed its rules on grooming and appearance which opened the door for many black servicewomen to embrace their hair in its natural state and in July of this year the U.S. Navy went on Facebook Live to describe updates to its hair policy, a move that positively and significantly changed the lives and gave new freedom to black servicewomen.

So one would think that with major institutions changing long-standing policies on hair and appearance that would signify that we as a country have made leaps and bounds when it comes to acceptance of different cultures, their ways and their appearances but wait here comes a select group of white folks, Christians and private schools to put an end to open-minded thinking and acceptance across the board and doing it in an institution of education.

Though there are a multitude of incidents that involve students being oppressed because of their personal appearance and specifically hair, (too many to try to mention), in the past few weeks two incidents have taken center stage. In one incident a young named Clinton Stanley Jr. was told that he couldn’t start his first day of first grade at A Book’s Christian Academy because he had locs as his hairstyle. His father Clinton Stanley Sr. expressed his dissatisfaction about the incident on Facebook. Closer to my home in Terrytown, a subdivision of New Orleans a Catholic school Christ the King suspended a young girl named faith because she had extension in her hair. She had been attending the school for several years but over the summer they changed their policy on hair which banned any hair but natural hair. I truly wonder who that rule was intended for.

The capacity of these type of incidents on a yearly basis brings me to question actions and to start developing thoughts around the consistency. Are incidents like denying students an education because of their hair a way to oppress and suppress enrollment of a certain group or demographic in a school?

Can someone tell me what does a child’s hairstyle have to do with an education? Clinton, Faith and any other child’s hairstyles have no bearing on their ability to learn.

Are white folks afraid, confused and so intrigued by black folks’ hair that they see the need to ban it but want to touch it at the same time?

As a people who are diverse, multifaceted and amazing we understand white folks being enamored with our hair but when it comes to our hair we are simply asking for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T and please Don’t Touch Our Hair!

 

Alumni Matter

“We just don’t want to be shut out…”

For a second time, I’ve had an opportunity to see a New Orleans school established post-Katrina initiate steps to establish a relationship with the alumni community of the school that previously held the space it now occupies.

But this time was different.

Perhaps this was because John McDonogh Sr. High School hasn’t necessarily received the best local/national media attention nor adequate resources from the city’s previously run school board.

Having grown up just blocks away from the school, I am even guilty of glossing over any glimpses of light John McDonogh’s students experienced, having intentionally sought out admission to another school outside of my neighborhood.

And unfortunately, longstanding, negative narratives were true for most of the city’s schools before being taken over by the RSD in 2005.

John McDonogh Sr High School Performance Scores(20052011)

2005

2009

2010

2011

25.1

21.6

32.2

41.8

*scores out of 200 points according to Cowen Institute

Failing performance scores, a 2003 school shooting and the 2013 Oprah Winfrey Network(OWN)-produced docu-series Blackboard Wars all sealed the deal for a perception that wasn’t the best and still leaves it’s former staff and students upset to this day.

According to The Times Picayune’s description of the 2013 docu-series Blackboard Wars,

“A teaser trailer released a few weeks ago depicts McDonogh as a dangerous, dysfunctional institution.”

Via data, the televised documentary and news reports, sure, this synopsis may have held some truth, but now, as both an adult and educator with greater awareness of how gravely low-socioeconomic status oppresses black communities, the sad truth I’ve come to realize over time is that these situations were never solely the problem as we were led to think.

These situations were rather symptoms of a larger problem- SYSTEMIC POVERTY and NEGLECT OF A COMMUNITY.  

And this is the message former students and staff want to convey.

They were not the problem.

“We are not what they say we are…”

As Bricolage Academy now prepares to occupy the newly renovated John McDonogh Sr High School building, their staff has connected with former John McDonogh High students and staff to identify ways in which a meaningful relationship can be formalized to provide what alumni and community members have wanted all along – someone to listen, and a place to call home once again.

This led to an organized opportunity for dialogue titled, “Listening to John McDonogh,” facilitated by Bricolage staff members who stressed the importance of the staff listening with the intent to understand each individual’s stories, because for so many years, those in positions of power, wouldn’t.

And for many community members, that is the greatest frustration.  Despite attempts to assume management and be involved in the process post-Katrina, the school was essentially awarded to charter management operator Future is Now, drawing more contention between its current students/staff, former students/staff and community members than ever,

 

Through simply listening,

I felt the apprehension.

The anger.

The sadness.

But I better understood their plight.

And although they may believe their feelings have been ignored over the years, I better understand the power of the voices of alumni.

Especially given my little to no involvement with my high school alma mater, who, unlike John McDonogh, was allotted more resources and support to thrive rather than suffer like the majority of schools.  Survivor’s remorse maybe?

It’s so easy for these voices to be mistaken merely for overbearing complaints, but I was able to see past the surface.  There was no arguing or yelling, but a deep need to be heard. There is so much unresolved trauma that needs healing. There is so much apprehension and fear about white leaders and educators overtaking spaces previously held predominately by black community members.

Despite disappointment with convincing Orleans Parish School Board/RSD to preserve their former building and school name, leadership at the now Bricolage Academy at John McDonogh have listened to what alumni need and are continuing to work and discuss greater opportunities for integration of the two communities.

The building that once housed the students and staff of John McDonogh Sr. High is going through its final finishes and touches to finally reopen its doors and more than ever, in addition to ensuring their school’s legacy is painted in a more positive light, alumni and staff want nothing more than the best for its current and future students served, even asking for ways they can be supportive to students on their first day of classes and thereafter.

The personal stories I had the pleasure of hearing, highlight memories of school pride, family, and support.  Our guests didn’t deny that challenges existed, but what they took away from their high school experience was far greater than what any school performance score or reality show could ever accurately capture.

As former school principal, Dr. Thompson said about the community members during a scene of Blackboard Wars, “I don’t think they resist change, I think they resist the process of change.”

And if this is true for most, those moving toward occupying that space have a responsibility to work toward mending the broken pieces of a school that lost its way along the way because after all, John McDonogh alumni LOVE that place.

And their voices matter.

Chef Stew Helps Youth Transition to the Next Level

 

Baltimore, Maryland native Robert Stewart, known as Chef Stew, wants to empower youth through the culinary arts.  He remembers the struggles he faced on the path to becoming a celebrity chef and he wants to use his talent to show young people that cooking can help them transition into a sustainable career.

How did culinary arts become your career?

To be completely honest, I was kind of forced into the culinary world very early in life. When my older sister eventually moved out, that left me in charge of the household. My mother worked nights so when we got out of school, my mother would be on her way to work. I had to make sure we ate dinner. After learning from my grandmother and watching her cook on the weekends, I began to experiment in the kitchen and try my hand at it. It actually backfired on me because my brother began to like my food better than my mother’s. I literally became the cook of the house. This lead to me enrolling in Eastern Vocational Technical High School to study culinary arts and restaurant management. Food is a common factor in many life situations. Lose your job. Let’s go eat. Got a new job. Let’s go eat. Meet a girl. Let’s go eat. Someone died. Let’s go eat. Someone is born. Let’s go eat. I realized early in life, we can’t go without food. I wanted to be part of the good and bad times of life and maybe my food could make someone feel better.

How did you become a Food Network star?

Food Network contacted me about competing on the Great Food Truck Race. At the time, I had a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to raise money for a restaurant, and instead, got a opportunity to compete on the show. Next, my apartment in Atlanta caught on fire when a friend made a crucial mistake of throwing frozen fish into piping hot grease and caused a fire. I had to move out of the apartment. So, I went to San Francisco and waited for the follow up call for the show.  When I did get the call, it was to inform me that I was selected in the final round and they would reach back out. I explained to the casting agent that I had moved to San Francisco believing this opportunity would change my life. She referred me to Guy’s Grocery Games where I was eliminated in the 1st round after cutting my hand from being super nervous. Then, I got cast for Cutthroat Kitchen where I won the show and $9,600.

It was incredible to win the show. My family finally got to see what I have been working so hard on. My children got to see dad on TV. The phone lines and social media exploded. I was able to secure interviews, guest appearances on other shows, and the respect I rightfully was seeking amongst chefs in the industry.  I’ve cooked for Guy Fieri, Richard Blais, G Garvin, Chef Aarti, Chef Antonia, and Alton Brown. That amazing feedback was a confidence booster. Think about the fact that there are four contestants per episode, maybe 15 shows a season and, so roughly, 100 people get called out of the four million that apply. It’s unexplainable and to this day I still get emails about the show from all across the world.

What is Transition KitchenTM?

Transition Kitchen is my give back to the city that raised me. As things began to unfold and I felt that I would be a millionaire soon, I wanted to create a system and program – a blueprint for others to follow – to offer a solution to some of the inner cities biggest problems. However, I realized that it could take longer than I expected and without the ability to finance it, I decided to use what resources I had and what money I could afford to invest in what will be a multifaceted culinary arts  program for youth, young adults, and returning citizens of Baltimore.

Growing up in the hood, in all honesty, I glorified the wrong things. Society makes a basketball player or football player look so great. Even the newest rapper had me wishing that I had money to do the same things they could do: live how they live, drive the cars they drove, be seen with the woman they dated and married, but not having the body type for the NFL, the NBA, nor the ability to rap, left few options. Sad but true, like many, I thought being able to live like the drug dealers, who literally had all of the things I wanted, could be a way to make it out. After dancing with the devil and trying my hand, after a few arrests here and there, a few friends dying or going to jail, and almost being killed in a robbery, I decided that culinary arts was my way out. From that moment, I gave it everything I had, and thank God, it worked for me.

I’m now dedicated to making it work for someone else. Though many become a product of their environment, Transition KitchenTM is a resource center designed to help change the narrative and inspire many brothers and sisters that there truly is another way…and I intend to show them.  Through my program students, aged 16 and older, will take classes to learn the industry. Top students will help train the next cohort.

What’s next for Transition KitchenTM and Chef Stew?

After actually launching my first Transition Kitchen and after years of hard work to make this happen, I really want to pick up on a personal goal I have yet to achieve which is to open my first restaurant. I detoured off the trail to do what I felt was a collective goal. Many of my accomplishments were personal, but this accomplishment [Transition KitchenTM] was for an entire city to be apart of. Truthfully,Transition KitchenTM belongs in several other cities. Additionally, I am looking  to partner with other programs that will enhance and strengthen my efforts. Chef Stew will continue cooking for celebrities, corporations, and making TV appearances. Ultimately, I just want students to understand the endless possibilities that the industry provides.

What would you do if you weren’t a chef?

I would be competing on Jeopardy! weekly, or be an astronaut, or an attorney.

I love brain games, space, universal law, and helping other people win.

To learn more about Transition KitchenTM latest fundraising campaign, visit https://www.gofundme.com/registration-kits.

For more information: visit www.chefstew.com,  follow @TransitionKitchenbmore on IG, like Transition Kitchen Bmore on Facebook or send an email to [email protected].

Five Reasons why HBCUs are Life

By Samjah Saulsberry

As a kid, The Cosby Show used to be my addiction.  Each week, I anticipated seeing that family on TV who resembled my family and other families I knew.  I was in awe of the storylines, Denise Huxtable’s fashion choices, and the positive perception the show exuded.  I remember my mother scolding me about something, and I bravely stood up and said to her, “Clair Huxtable wouldn’t talk to her children like that.”   Yea, I was hypnotized by the show.  Therefore you can imagine my excitement when Denise went off to college and A Different World was born.  I thought I had died and gone to television heaven.

After witnessing the characters on A Different world, their colorful personalities, stylish gear, trendy hairstyles, the camaraderie, and how proud they were to be at a historical institution – I made up my mind at a young age that Hillman College was my school of choice.  It wasn’t until later that my dreams were deferred when I discovered that Hillman only existed in the television world.  “What?  Hillman isn’t for real Momma?”  I was disappointed.  

My disappointment didn’t last long because I was later introduced to nonfiction Historically Black Colleges/Universities.  My mother would take my brother and I to college Greek shows and football games so that we could see what campus life was actually like.  We were amazed at the sea of African American people we saw gathering together for the pursuit of higher learning.  When I actually got the chance to attend an HBCU, I developed a deeper understanding of why they are so essential in our culture.  Below are five reasons why HBCUs are life.

  1. The Culture– The atmosphere feels like your old neighborhood or high school. You feel like you’re a part of a family when attending an HBCU.  You are the majority, and you fit in everywhere you go.  You don’t have to be quiet in a classroom because you feel that your opinions don’t matter.  You can be just who you were meant to be.  There are no funny stares from people, no one clutches their purse, or moves to the far side of the sidewalk because you are walking by.  It’s a homey vibe, and you fit right in. 
  2. The People– While attending an HBCU, you get the chance to interact with tons of people from all over the world that look just like you!  Almost everyone at an HBCU has similar backgrounds, goals, and struggles so it is easier to relate to your peers.  When one person accomplishes something major at an HBCU, everyone feels the win.
  3. The History– Every HBCU has a story behind its doors.  Either it’s a college/university where a sorority or fraternity was first established, or it’s a college/university that educated profound leaders like Thurgood Marshall, talented actors like Taraji P. Henson, or creative souls like Erykah Badu.
  4. The Education– The education you receive at an HBCU is priceless.  When I took my first film course at Howard University, I learned so much about African American filmmakers that I never knew!  A friend of mine from Nigeria once said to me that he learned more about Africa at his HBCU than he did from living there. 
  5. Life Lessons– HBCU’s tend to prepare students for life.  Most HBCU campuses aren’t blessed with state-of-the-art facilities and the latest technology.  Long lines are nothing to us because we learn how to endure them on the first day of registration.  If a child doesn’t already have tough skin, they will surely develop it at an HBCU. Our students have to work harder than students at other schools to be noticed and to receive the accolades we deserve.  Therefore, when we graduate and go out into the real world, we are equipped to endure whatever comes our way and ready to put our best foot forward.  

An HBCU is more than just an institution.  It’s a familiar world within an unfamiliar world that cultivates as well as indoctrinates our kids.  HBCU’s not only prepare students for jobs, but also for life and the many injustices that come along with it.

A Proud HBCU graduate,

Samjah Iman