Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African American Marriage — My Review

Hello World,

Today marks a year that my debut novel Destination Wedding was released into the world! And God has been so good throughout this year in helping me to get the word out about my book to the world. Just this week, I discovered that the Detroit Public Library  chose my debut novel as one of the best works of fiction for 2019-2020!!! It was mentioned in its 2020 AFRICAN AMERICAN BOOKLIST!!! I’m on the list with the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Victoria Christopher Murray, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Jacqueline Woodson & More!!! (Crazy, right?)

Below is the cover of the booklist, which has been published for 52 years, along with my book cover. According to the Detroit Public Library website,  “This bibliography provides a selected list of books by and/or about African Americans. The works of fiction and nonfiction for adults, children and young adults were reviewed and recommended by librarians of the Detroit Public Library.” Click HERE if you want to see the entire list.

Along with celebrating my book release anniversary, I also wanted to help spread the word about another important book that validates why I wrote Destination Wedding in the first place. Destination Wedding is my response to a real ABC News Nightline piece “Single, Black, Female and — Plenty of Company” in which it was reported that 42 percent of black women had never been married, which is double the amount of white women who find themselves in that dire predicament.

Obviously, as my book is a novel, the women in my book are fictional; however, this statistic illustrates a very real dilemma. Dr. Dianne M. Stewart, an associate professor of religion and African American studies at Emory University here in Atlanta, writes about this dilemma in her sweeping treatise Black Women, Black Love America’s War on African American Marriage, which was recently released. Dr. Stewart actually interviewed me about my novel last year at my book launch at Auburn Avenue Research Library in downtown Atlanta. Through our discussion, we were able to identify how our works intersect. While I address personal solutions to this dilemma through the lives of my main characters in my novel, Dr. Stewart identifies systemic solutions for what she refers to as “our nation’s most unrecognized civil rights issue” in her nonfiction book.

Similarly, as the ABC News Nightline report was broadcast in December 2009, Dr. Stewart cites that in 2009, 71 percent of Black women in America were unmarried, according to the 2010 US Census. As the ABC News Nightline report was broadcast in 2009, that time period was explored in my novel, but Dr. Stewart starts at slavery. She writes that “endless studies examine racial slavery in America as a reverberating assault upon Black people’s historic and contemporary liberties in perhaps every arena of life but one: romantic love and marriage.” Further down, she writes, “yet from its very beginnings, the transatlantic trade in human cargo, which set the American institution of African bondage in motion, required the disruption of intimate relationships and marriages.”

In Chapter 1 “Jumping the Broom: Racial Slavery and America’s Roots of Forbidden Black Love,” Dr. Stewart writes about a 19-year-old slave Celia who was hanged to death after killing her owner, who repeatedly raped her. Her true love was her boyfriend George, but she was unable to “freely choose a Black man as her lover and life partner.” Additionally, she writes that “less than 1 percent of slaveholders in the South held more than 100 persons in bondage, and by 1860 enslaved persons in the South, on average, lived in groups of 10. For this reason, enslaved women such as Celia were fortunate if they found romantic partners residing on the same properties with them.”

In the next chapter “Slow Violence and White America’s Reign of Terror,” Dr. Stewart writes about how Black love continued to be under assault even after slavery ended. Although they had been married for 22 years,  Atlanta, Georgia resident Carolyn Gilbert’s husband, 42-year-old Henry, was lynched in 1947. Through sharecropping, the  couple had saved enough to buy a 111-acre farm. But reportedly, he was shot and killed for allowing a “young black troublemaker” to hide on their farm. Additionally, a police officer shot Henry claiming the “deacon and treasurer at his small Baptist church ‘drew a chair on me.'”

In the third chapter, “Love and Welfare: Johnnie Tillmon and the Struggle to Preserve Book Families,” Dr. Stewart interweaves pop culture examples in addition to more poignant real life cases of how Black love has disrupted throughout the decades. I loved the 1974 movie Claudine. Dr. Stewart wrote that the movie ” depicted the structural obstacles welfare posed to Black love and marriage and the stark reality that for millions of Black women in America at the time, choosing marital fulfillment (as the main character Claudine eventually does) meant loosing welfare benefits.”

Due to my age, I’m most familiar with the examples presented in the next chapter “Black Love in Captivity: Mass Incarceration and the Depletion of the African American Marriage Market.” And the first sentence in this chapter is particularly arresting. Pun intended. “No other institution has perfected America’s project of forbidding black love better than the contemporary prison industrial complex.” Further down, she writes, “Black men are incarcerated at much higher rates than any other group in the United States, even when convicted for the same crimes.” Did you know that former President Obama was the “first sitting president to actually tour a federal prison in 2015?” Additionally, former President Obama, “actually commuted the sentences of more inmates than his twelve predecessors combined.”

Speaking of Obama, Dr. Stewart writes about the former First Lady Michelle Obama in the chapter “Will Black Women Ever Have it All? Michelle Obama, Kheris Rogers and African Americans’ Shifting Landscapes of Love.” Dr. Stewart cites an article “Dark and Lovely, Michelle” by Vanessa Williams. Williams wrote, “A lot of Black women fell for Barack Obama the moment they saw his wife.” Let me raise my hand because that is true for me as well. While Dr. Stewart provides example after example of how Black love has been under assault by exterior forces, in this chapter, she presents an interior force that has its beginnings in slavery. In slavery, lighter-skinned Black people were treated better than their brothers and sisters of darker hues. And unfortunately, due to colorism, light-skinned Black women have more of a chance of getting married than medium-skinned and dark-skinned Black women. Within this chapter, Dr. Stewart presents many solutions that I won’t reveal here because you have to read the book. However, one solution that I will share from her book is addressing colorism in the Black community.

Recently, actress Gabourey Sidibe shared that she got engaged to Brandon Frankel, who also works in entertainment. Sidibe, who is a dark-skinned black woman, has apparently received some criticism from Black men for being engaged to a white man. One YouTube blogger points out that in the past, many Black men have criticized Sidibe for her complexion and deemed her as undesirable and therefore have no standing to critique her coupling choice now. See the commentary HERE. Dr. Stewart writes that “Black women not only confront a shortage of Black men but also wrestle with internalized and interpersonal color consciousness.”

You have to read the book to experience the full breadth of Dr. Stewart ‘s exhaustive examination of this dilemma, but I hope I’ve provided enough information to make you buy your own copy of Black Women, Black Love America’s War on African American Marriage. It is a must-have resource if you care about Black love. I think employing personal solutions while addressing systemic solutions is the most comprehensive way to win the war on African American marriage.

What say you?

For more information about Dr. Stewart, see her website: DianneMStewart.com.

Any thoughts?

 

OWN Kicks Off Holiday Season With Premiere of its First Ever Gospel Music Special ‘Our OWN Christmas’ Hosted by DeVon Franklin & Meagan Good on Dec. 1!

Featuring The Clark Sisters, Kierra Sheard, Erica Campbell, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Lalah Hathaway, Le’Andria Johnson, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight & More!!!

Hello World,

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends even if it was a socially distanced one. That’s what we did. Hubby and I stopped by my parents and in-laws for a few minutes each while wearing our masks. Long enough to pick up plates of food from each household which we are still eating on as of today! Question: How long do you make Thanksgiving leftovers last? I think today will  be the last day for me. Or maybe tomorrow. What say you?

Anywho, now that we have taken some time to thank God for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us (with His presence being the most important  blessing of all), it’s time to celebrate the birth of His son, our savior Jesus Christ! This year OWN is kicking off the holidays early with the premiere of its first ever gospel music special Tuesday, December 1 called “Our OWN Christmas” which is hosted by DeVon Franklin and Meagan Good.

Below is the official description:

The one-hour long special, which starts at 9 p.m., will feature festive collaborations, uplifting holiday moments, surprise acts of giving, and a whole lot of inspiration to help spread the holiday cheer this season. Viewers will enjoy magical performances of Christmas classics ranging from “Oh Holy Night” to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to get them in the holiday spirit right at home from music’s most celebrated artists including legendary award-winning gospel group The Clark Sisters, Grammy-Award winners and iconic gospel singers Kierra Sheard, Erica Campbell, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Lalah Hathaway and Le’Andria Johnson and singer-songwriter Ne-Yo, BJ The Chicago Kid, singer and record producer PJ Morton, a capella groups Shelby 5 and The Walls Group. With a must-see collaboration between Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight.

I was blessed to be able to watch an advance screening “Our OWN Christmas” so let me give you my top reasons to watch the show.

1. Hosts Devon Frankin & Meagan Good  — So this year’s quarantine has led to some, shall we say, “different” hairstyle choices. For a long time, many of us halted our hairdresser appointments so that we would lessen our chances of being exposed to COVID-19. I don’t know when this was filmed, but I wonder if that is why Meagan choose to wear a brown turban/head wrap during the broadcast. At one point, when my grays were getting impossible to camouflage, I wore a head wrap for an interview I conducted via Zoom. Hair conundrums were definitely happening this year!

Also, DeVon may be a bit more high maintenance than his beloved because while Megan rocked one outfit the whole time, DeVon rocked two looks. My favorite was a black Gucci scarf with red and green highlights that was paired with a snug green turtleneck.  Also, I enjoyed their trading of corny jokes such as DeVon referring to his wife as, “Meagan Good or Ms. Franklin if you’re nasty.” Also, I learned that one of DeVon’s Christmas traditions is a lip sync contest complete with costumes. Meagan talked about being a part of the show for the first time I imagine around the time they were getting to know each other or in the earliest days of their marriage. Anywho, I love cute couples and they are among the cutest black couples in Hollywood. If you want to know more about them, you should definitely watch “Our OWN Christmas.”

2. Boyz to Men & Bryan McKnight  — Boyz to Men & Bryan McKnight can sing anything I imagine, but I loved their rendition of “Let it Snow.” So how about I was today year’s old when I realized that Bryan McKnight was on the original version of this song when it debuted in 1993. I Googled it as I was writing this and discovered the original version. Here is the original video:

So what has changed since the original video? How about Wanyá Morris, Shawn Stockman and Nathan Morris all have a bit of gray in their beards now! LOL. But I can’t talk. My family grays early so I’ve been hiding my grays for years now. Know what else? Michael McCary and his beautiful bass voice! I wish the group would figure out a way to reconcile. If Will Smith and the original Aunt Viv can reconcile so can they…

As an aside, did you know that Wanyá’s children, four of which are named Wanya (yeah, that’s EXTRA), have a group entitled WanMor? They can saaang too! Check them out HERE!

3. Socially Distanced Filming  — Number 50-11 on the list of Quarantine Quandaries is likely how to film while socially distanced. I think OWN has figured it out! I believe that Erica Campbell may have been singing “Joy to the World” with The Clark Sisters from her back yard. Although she was surrounded by Christmas trees while she was standing on a stage surrounded by poinsettias, I could see palm trees in the distance while The Clark Sisters were in another location altogether. Also, she wore some kind of reddish,sequined head garb that wasn’t the best choice by wardrobe. Additionally, we got to see a portion of the kitchen of DeVon & Meagan. Finally, there were struggle Christmas trees behind Shelby 5 and The Walls Group in their respective homes. LOL

4. Michelle Williams — Although she didn’t perform, she was included in the show. On behalf of AT&T’s Dream in Black and Shea Moisture, she awarded $10,000 to mother and daughter authors Fionna Wright and Madison Martin who wrote the book “100 Days Inside,” a children’s book about being quarantined this year. Also, and this is most exciting of all, Michelle is going to help rerelease the book by recording an audio version to include her voice as well as the voices of the original authors. How exciting is that?

I could say more, but I don’t want to reveal too much! But here is the trailer:

Will you be watching “Our OWN Christmas” Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 9 pm?!!!

“Our OWN Christmas” is in partnership with Relevé Entertainment, which was founded by multi-faceted producer Holly Carter. The company consistently delivers high-quality, “break-through” family and faith-based programming that engages national audiences. Most recently, Carter created and executive produced “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel,” the highest-rated original TV movie of 2020. In addition, the OWN network has ordered two new unscripted series to development, “Back to the Altar” about divorced couples working to mend their broken relationships, and “Love & Faith” following the women behind some of the faith community’s best-known pastors.

Any thoughts?

 

 

Seven Reasons I’m Thankful in 2020…My Pandemic Praise!!!

 

Hello World,

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, this post is inspired by a post I saw on Facebook some weeks ago when the person who posted wrote that despite all that has unfolded in this devastating year, there are still some things to be thankful for in 2020. And the person encouraged everyone to comment on how they’ve still been blessed despite it all. I was among those who posted. I only shared one thing on that post, but I have seven to share with you, my dear readers.

1. Although I still wear contacts during the day and glasses at night, as of this year, I have been restored to 20/20 vision! In fact, I wrote a post about it earlier this year. Below is an excerpt of Seven Scriptures to Provide Insight to the Coronavirus Crisis (ODE to 20/20 Vision)

By now you must know that any vision board someone created for 2020 has been totally wrecked. I haven’t had 20/20 vision since before I was in the third grade when I started wearing glasses, but I was among those who decreed and declared that 2020 would be my Year of Perfect Vision. When this Coronavirus Crisis started a month ago or so, I thought my resolution to have 20/20 vision was misguided. But a month later, I see the Good Shepherd is faithful and guiding me (and all y’all)  into perfect vision after all — even if it wasn’t what I thought I saw at the dawn of this New Year. As my hubby shared with me, I do believe individually we will have personal insights, and that there are some collective insights that all of us will share. Read the rest HERE. 

2. Precious family members have been spared of the worst of COVID-19!!! Although I’ve had family members who have suffered from COVID-19 with one even being hospitalized for several days, no family members that I’m aware of, even my elders, have been casualties of coronavirus. This is a sickness you don’t want to experience even if death is not the end result, but I thank God He has seen fit to spare the lives of my family as of now.

3. My hubby and I have continued to work. Many people have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, but thankfully, my husband and I still have the financial resources to take care of our two-person household. My husband works in healthcare so you would automatically think that designation translates into job security, but many people in healthcare have seen their income adversely affected. For example, I only recently saw the dentist a few weeks ago after having rescheduled an earlier appointment. From what I’ve read, many are still putting off seeing doctors for appointments unrelated to coronavirus for fear they will be exposed while at the doctor’s office.

4. Although I have lost a vital-in-more-way-than-one income opportunity, I have pivoted. Y’all Jamaicans have more than job and I’m no exception. I’ve been teaching group fitness classes twice a week at L.A. Fitness for more than a decade. It was one of my side hustles. But that ended in March. Although I can go back if I like, I don’t feel comfortable at a gym right now. I don’t know about you, but I’m huffing and puffing at the gym as a rule. There is no way that I see avoiding an airborne illness at the gym. That being said, although I miss my class, I’ve been able to keep up my workouts at home and in a nearby park. It’s not the same, but it will do. Most of all, I thank God for the continued health and strength that I enjoy that enables me to workout!

5. I’ve been able to continue to promote the release of my debut novel  Destination Wedding I was just getting into the groove of promoting Destination Wedding when the world shut down. (Have you bought your copy?) Thankfully, as my novel was released in December 2019, I was able to have a book release party at Auburn Avenue Research Library, host a book signing at a local bookstore (Nubian Bookstore) and attend a book club meeting where Destination Wedding was featured before the pandemic was announced. But with the pandemic announcement, many of the events that I was planning had to be reworked or cancelled altogether so I was worried about how I would promote Destination Wedding going forward. Although I still believe that the pandemic had a negative impact on some of my promotion efforts, one benefit of the pandemic was that I was able to meet with several book clubs via Zoom. I’m not sure if I would have been able to do so otherwise. Additionally, I was able to participate in other online events that I may have not have had access to otherwise.

6. I sold my first home during a pandemic! Y’all, when I was 28 years old and a brand new reporter for a small newspaper, God blessed me to buy a townhome although I was making practically $10 a paycheck! I experienced many single girl shenanigans and grew up as a grown woman there. But as I haven’t lived there in a few years now as a married woman, I was grateful to God to be able to pay the mortgage month after month while no longer wanting that debt. At the beginning of the year, I met a realtor Dionne Sanford,  of EXP Realty, who also renovates properties. She told me that if I spent money on renovation, I would get that money back and more in sales. I didn’t want to spend the money and when the pandemic hit, I wondered how I would recoup it since real estate agents including my agent weren’t showing properties in person. But God did as He always does: Showed Up and Showed Out. I sold the property to a young lady who reminded me of myself when I first received the keys to my first adult home. See my pictures from that day above!

7. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have stopped coming by. I apologize to anyone who may be offended, but hubby and I will never be Jehovah’s Witnesses. And even though we have told them this in so many words and have not answered the door sometimes, they have continued to come by our house for some reason. But since this pandemic hit, we haven’t seen them at all…LOL…But I have received two letters from them I must say. I will give them this: they are persistent…

And I have other reasons to be thankful in 2020, but I will stop now to ask you:

What are you thankful for in 2020? Leave a comment and let me know!!!

Any thoughts?