About MichelleMichelle Brown is an author, activist & public speaker who believes in common ground for all people.
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Category Archives: Black identity
By Michelle E. Brown
Her streets no longer lined with trees
Branches arching across streets
Paved with hopes and dreams
Now minefields of disrepair
Potholes, broken sidewalks
Lots and playgrounds strewn with litter
Vacant lots, crumbling buildings
No neighbors sitting on stoops sharing stories
No quartets under streetlamps singing songs
Store fronts sit vacant
While residents wait for buses
Always late for a trip to no where
She is maligned, misrepresented,
Stripped of her authority
As her people suffer
As her people thirst
Managed neglect for the benefit of profits
But she’s a queen.
Her majesty does not lie in institutions
Credit ratings, political wrangling
Her majesty cannot be bankrupted
Because she’s a queen
Of, for and by the people
She is the people
And she/they are rich
Rich in spirit, rich in art
Feeding her people from gardens
Growing in forgotten lots
Entrepreneurs, innovators, dreamers
Calling her people, all people
Black, Brown, White, Young, Old
From across the street
From around the world
To rise up, to stand up
Not in war, but with voices raised
To wage love
She is a queen
She is Detroit.
And the winner is – ME!!!! The theme was “Stand Your Ground” and I told a story about standing my ground in support of the city I love Detroit, MI, in support of building community by supporting local businesses and in standing your ground for respect as a consumer. An eclectic field of ten storytellers, but in the end there could be only one -winner that is – and I am so honored to be that winner.
The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers (TSSOTS) was created by award-winning performer and actor Satori Shakoor. TSSOTS has a global mission and purpose to connect humanity, heal and transform community and provide an uplifting, thought-provoking, soul-cleansing entertainment experience that is unique through the art and craft of storytelling. In Detroit on the third Friday of the month? Come experience TSSOTS at the Museum of African Am erican History.
Every day I read another report on the condition of Nelson Mandela or falsely claiming South Africa’s beloved Mandiba has died.
I can only imagine his thoughts as he lays in that hospital bed – having done so much and knowing that there is so much yet to be done. Seeing the sadness and grief not only in his family’s eyes but on the faces of everyone who comes in to visit from nurses to dignitaries. He is Mandiba, father and like any family elder it is hard to let them go, hard to imagine life without their presence.
My aunt “Little Nanny” was 94 when she transitioned. She was the last one having out lived parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. She was the family matriarch. Life without her seemed unimaginable.
After each trip to the hospital she’d look at me and say “I’ve been to the mill and back. Never thought I’d be here this long.” As the trips to the hospital became more frequent, when we got back home she would look at me and say “Michelle, we’vebeen to the mill and back. How many more times do you think we’re going to make this trip?” I’d smile and say “as many times aas you need to make it.”
And like the proverbial comeback kid, each time the doctors said this was the last time, and everyone would gather around to say heartbroken goodbyes, Nanny would take a look at all the faces and decide to hang in there just a little longer. She’d tell me “Gwen needs to get a good car.” She’d ask “How is Fred really? i can tell he is not feeling good.” “You think Terrance and Karol will make it to the altar?” And looking at me say “Who is going to take care of you Michelle? I’m sorry all this landed on your shoulders. We sure have been to the mill and back.”
About a month before her transition, Nanny and I had a talk I told her that her family was going to be ok and all that she had stood for would go on gave her peace of mind and we spent that last month in a love fest of hugs, kisses and laughter.
That last night in hospice, as she struggled with each breath, I kissed her forehead and told her it was ok if she wanted to go home to be with her mom, dad, sister, brothers and husband. We had been to the mill, but this time I could go back by myself and it would be ok. About ten minutes later, Little Nanny drifted off going home to be with the ancestors
If I could visit Nelson Mandela I would kiss him on his forehead, thank him for everything, promise to continue his work. He has been to the mill and back many times but now it is time for us to pick up the message, and continue the work. I wish Mandiba safe passage home to the ancestors. Rest now mighty warrior.
Like many African American women I have had a love/hate/love history with my hair. I have worn it long, short, straight, braided, twisted and natural. I have covered it with wigs and had it dyed every shade of red imaginable and even a few shades of blonde. We, my hair and I, have traveled a long way to get to the place of love we share today.
You see I was born that middle child. I was supposed to be the long awaited son but instead they got me. Unlike my older sister with her fine curly “good” hair, I came into the world with a head full of thick, unruly, ‘had a mind of its own’ hair.
If my mother braided it in pig tails, it didn’t lay flat like my sisters. After a few hours of play, it would work its way free from the rubber bands and rise up, so my mother and aunties would say, like “someone had sprinkled baking powder on it.”
When appearance really mattered I would sit between my mother’s or aunt’s knees, my head in a knee-lock vice grip, and have it braided so tight my head would hurt. I’d cry “Take it easy” but my hair was a beast and taming it could not be done by “taking it easy.”
One year there was a big wedding. Relatives came from far and wide. When time came for hair combing I started to cry before my mother even touched me because I knew she was going to pull those braids so tight my toes were going to curl.
Aunt Helen who was in from North Carolina asked me what was wrong to which my sister answered “She doesn’t have ‘good’ hair like me. Mommy has to really comb it hard to make it look nice and it’s going to hurt.” She probably giggled (yes she was that kind of big sister.)
Well Aunt Helen looked at me and said “Come here baby. There’s nothing wrong with this child’s hair. You just have to work with it.” She took the comb and brush from my mother, worked a little hair magic and when she was done I was rocking my first set of Afro Puffs.
When I saw the photo on face book of the smiling little girl with her Afro Puffs above the headline that an Ohio School was banning Afro Puffs and braids I felt a pang in my heart.
Horizon Science Academy in Ohio sent a letter to parents including a ban on some Natural hair styles including Puffs as not in keeping with their dress code.
Seriously in 2013 natural hair banned, lumped in with other personal appearance bans like Mohawks, hair dye and body piercings!!!
Ironically I read this post on the same day my city Detroit, Michigan celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March in Detroit where Dr. King first gave his I have a dream speech in 1963. We all remember his dream for his four little children (two were little girls) that they would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I’m sure if he were alive today; Dr. King would look at that photo of that beautiful child with her puffs and see his own daughters Yolanda and Bernice.
Maybe he’d remember seeing their heads locked in that knee vice grip, remember hearing them cry as their mother or auntie braided or pressed their hair so it would be acceptable to a world where little black girls were repeatedly told they weren’t good enough, weren’t pretty enough.
I’m thinking he’d feel more than a pang in his heart that in 2013 the quintessential pretty black child look, the Afro Puff, along with braids and natural hair would be banned as unacceptable to Horizon Science Academy’s dress code. .
I believe he would see that speaking out against this ban and talking about instilling self-love in our children was part and partial of not being judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character if the dream is to ever be fulfilled.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not pointing the finger solely at Horizon, this decision did not come in a vacuum. We need only look at the community in the mirror with our penchant for assimilation, each generation getting further and further away from being black as we become more multi-racial, people of color to see how any school board could so blindly see this as just a matter of personal appearance on the same level of body piercing.
I bet Dr. King would be mad as hell, not just at Horizon but at us as community for still allowing our beautiful black children to be seen through a lens of beauty that denies our history, culture and inherent African American beauty
When I saw the photo on face book of the smiling little girl with her Afro Puffs, I remembered all those years I thought I was not pretty and some of the questionable choices I’ve made (like the blond hair) trying to fit someone else’s idea of pretty.
I think of all those dollars I spent on hair products trying to tame my hair so I would look “more professional” when trying to get a job, knowing my black skin was already a strike against me.
I think about how it still stung a little, just recently when someone asked me if I combed my beautiful natural hair and how appalled I am that people still ask if they can touch my hair (yes my hair, part of me not IT).
Although my first thought was to twist up my Afro puffs, gas up the car and head down to OHIO, instead I twisted up the puffs, gassed up the car and went over to visit my nieces. The youngest was wearing her puffs too. I told her “I love your puffs.” I gave her a big hug and said YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!