Saturday, August 28, 2010

Great Advice Rejected

Poor people like myself tend to say things like, "Even when my bank account is empty, I am rich" or "My family and my friends are my treasure." And it's true. I love my fam. If I have $5, and a good friend needs $6, I'll eat the overdraft fee. (Shoutout to the new legislation on overdraft fees.) Our inner circle is our confidante in rough times, a shoulder to cry on, an audience for our corny jokes, our alibi to the police, our getaway car -> Blue Mobile!, and a provider of great advice.

That last one... great advice, that's what we want... right? Someone to guide us through life's pitfalls, warn us of bad decisions, deter us from harm? Eh, I don't know. At the ripe old age of twenty mumble mumble, I've learned that usually your closest friends and family are best equipped to see your situation with a clear mind, with the only bias being concern for your welfare. And yet, I, along with many others, have made some horrific decisions, even with my crew holding huge signs pointing me in the opposite direction. Why?

When someone comes to you with a problem, and implicitly or directly asks for your take/opinion/suggestion, they usually don't want it. They really just want you to agree with the decision they've already made (or pretended to make) and to help them justify the path they're taking with statements like, "Yeah.. it's worth a try" or "You only live once."

How can you tell when people want real advice or simply a cosign on a bad loan? A few signs that someone wants the latter are below:

1) The problem/decision has a clear cut answer. We all have that friend who's dating someone who treats them like Hummers treat the Earth's environment. They come to us claiming to be "fed up" or "over it" or worse... confused about what to do.
Friend: Girl, do you know he had the nerve to borrow money to take some other chick to the movies??!? What should I do?
Sounds like he's a total dirtbag.
Friend: I don't know, maybe this is a test to see if I'm really down for him... I mean, she ain't even cute, so I know he really wants me. Yeah, that's what it is. I don't want to fail this test.
You: Sounds like you'd fail an IQ Test right about now.
Friend: Girl, you always hating on me and my man. I don't even know why I asked you.

2) You've been asked about this problem/decision several times before. When you see the number on the caller ID, you already know what the conversation is going to be about.
Friend: Dog, you are never going to believe what I'm about to tell you.
You: Wait, I bet we're going to talk about your roommate borrowing some money and not paying you back.
Friend: Yoooooo... how'd you know?!?! He said he was going to pay me yesterday, but he still hasn't... and I know that dude just bought an iPad. WTF?!?
You: Yeah, you should stop probably stop loaning him money.
Friend: I'm so serious this time, never again.
*Wait 3 weeks, then repeat above conversation, interchanging ipad with other items that this friend continues to buy with borrowed money*

3) The Advice Seeker makes excuses about the poor decision they are about to make before you can even tell them it's a poor decision.
So, I was thinking I'm just going to move to Atlanta and get serious about this whole modeling thing.
Friend's Mom: What about--
Friend: I know I don't really have any money saved up, but I figure with my talent I'll make some. I can charge everything till I do.
Friend's Mom: Well, what about--
Friend: I know, I know, I don't know anyone in Atlanta, that I have no modeling experience, and that I'm 5'2", but that doesn't mean I can't follow my dream, Mom.

4) The Advice Seeker makes references to vague cliches, Bible verses, and statements often found in chain emails.

You: Are you sure it's a good idea to give yourself a mohawk?
Cousin: What will be will be.

You: Are you sure you want to eat that entire bin of ice cream?
Friend: These aren't real calories. We're in a dream within a dream. #inception

5) The Advice Seeker references a "gut feeling" that defies all logic, including their own. FYI: Menstrual cramps, dire hunger, desperation, food poisoning and especially lust are often misconstrued as a "gut feeling."

6) The advice seeker becomes defensive when you point out significant flaws in their judgment. Nothing says, "I just want you to agree with me" like "You're hating on me... you're just jealous... You don't know how this feels." But chances are, if they're coming to you, it's because they trust you and know you're level-headed. (Unless you have become their official cosigner of all their bad decisions, and they can trust you to just agree.) So they know you're not really hating on their outdated gauchos. You just want her to stop wearing them. Because they make her look pitiful. But they say these things because they can't think of anything else and it makes them feel better.

What are some other signs that your advice is not really wanted or falling on deaf ears?

*Disclaimer: I have made, and continue to make, horrible decisions despite my friends' best efforts. That's probably why I recognize all these signs so well.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why I Love Hip-Hop (Even When It Doesn't Love Me Back)

Maaaaaaaaan.... if people defended poor children and the homeless the way they defended Rick Ross, we wouldn't need Boys & Girls Clubs or homeless shelters. They'd all be taken care of! My last post "Rick Ross' Identity Crisis", inspired heated debate in my office, a few spirited BBM conversations, a halfway serious death threat, several text messages, and a few long-winded tweets. Sidenote: Rick Ross has a charity, where aside from the fact that it appears he's performing his music, it looks like he's doing good work.

Let me put it out there... I'm not a hip-hop head. Clearly. But I am Black and while hip-hop doesn't define Black culture, it represents a significant chunk. Similarly to spirituals, blues and soul, urban gospel, funk, and et cetera, hip-hop has provided the backdrop for Blacks from the late 70s to now. (It's also cued whenever the bad guy appears in a movie, which is a whole 'nother topic.)

Because I love and respect us, our potential, our brilliance, our creativity, I have high expectations for us. This includes the films we put out or the music we saturate the world with. I mean, many of us are descendants of folks who took the least desired/left over parts of the chicken/hog/pig and made them tasty snacks.
You gonna tell me Tyler Perry and Wacka Flocka is the best we have to offer? Nah, I'm not buying it.

Rap music in many ways, frustrates me. It's often misogynistic, homophobic, and sometimes I really believe it sets us back a decade or two---> looking at you Yung Joc. But not always. Actually, more often than not, (as long as you ignore mainstream radio), hip-hop rocks.

I want to stress that I am
not well-versed in hip-hop, and while many folks (see Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatterton Williams) , couldn't imagine their childhood without hip-hop, I knew very few rap lyrics before high school and college. I didn't hear Biggie's Ready to Die album until after the title proved true.

So what has hip-hop done for me?

1. Educated me. Even though my family is not even close to the Forbes list, I never lived in an unsafe or truly urban neighborhood, until I went to college. I didn't know any drug dealers, crack users, corner boys, gang members, Shanequas (who don't live here no more) , etc personally. I also was aware of racism in that murky, black and white films, civil rights history kind of way, but not intimately aware of its daily manifestations. (Don't worry, I know now!) While I am extremely grateful to my parents for shielding me as a child, you can't begin to understand the problems in the Black community until you're at least mildly familiar with it, beyond reading about it in a book. Hip-hop gave me a vivid picture and in many ways, influenced my desire to work and teach in these communities. While I was no "streets expert" in Watts, and my students made it clear that they thought I was from Beverly Hills, I wasn't oblivious or completely green. A few artists/songs that provided insight for me:

a. 2pac - Brenda's Got A Baby, Keep Ya Head Up, and the list goes on....
b. Mos Def - Mr. Nigga
c. NWA - Straight Outta Compton
d. Eve - Love is Blind
e. Lauryn Hill - Doo Wop (That Thing)

2. Inspired Me: I love Kirk Franklin and his gospel tracks, probably more than the average person. However, some hip-hop has a way of uplifting you in a way that no other music can. Sometimes you don't wanna hear someone singing or wailing. You want someone to talk to you, over a beat, preferably with some bass. A few examples of my favorite inspirational hip-hop tracks are:

a. Nas - I Can
b. Jay, Beanie Sigel, Scarface - This Can't Be Life
c. Lauryn Hill - To Zion
d. Will Smith - Just the Two of Us

3. Romanced Me: I love soul music, and NOBODY sings better than my Howard colleague Donny Hathaway (looking at you Chris Brown and your horrible cover of This Christmas). Hip-hop holds it own though, even without the Ja Rule and Lil Mo collabos.

a. LL Cool J - I Need Love
b. Outkast - Prototype
c. Fugees - Killing Me Softly
d. Ghosftace Killah feat. Mary J. Blige - All That I Got Is You

4. Gave me a Reason to bop my head! Ahhh... my favorite. Hip-hop knocks. It is the best riding music, best getting ready to go the club music, best time to leave work and hit the happy hour music, and hands down, best music to flip your hair/shake your locks to. A few are:

a. DJ Kool - Let Me Clear My Throat
b. Kid Cudi - Day N Nite
c. Ludacris - Move!
d. Wale - Pretty Girls
e. DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince- Summertime

Of COURSE this is not even CLOSE to a comprehensive list, and doesn't address everything hip-hop does for me, it's a start. I want to hear your hip-hop story. What is it? What are some songs you could add to the list? Humor me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rick Ross' Identity Crisis

When I first heard the track "B.M.F." (Blowin' Money Fast) which I prefer to call the "Larry Hoover" song, I thought to myself, "Who records a single while they're eating/out of breath?" In case you haven't heard the song, (which means you probably also have a flip phone and don't know what "lol" stands for), here's a look at the chorus:
"I think I'm Big Meech, Larry Hoover, whipping work, halleluiah,
One nation under God real n****s getting money from the f**king start."
Upon hearing this, curiosity got the best of me and I just had to figure out who the Hoover character was. A distant relative of Herbert, maybe?

Sigh... turns out...

Larry Hoover is a murderer. And a Gang Leader (of Black Gangster Disciple Nation). As a pseudo community leader, he led riots and drug transactions... from prison. He's there. For life.
Big Meech is a founder of the Black Mafia Family (alternative explanation for BMF title). Another great addition the Black community, Big Meech is also a criminal and former druglord, but he fared better than Larry. He gets out of prison in 2031.

So, I'm thinking, why does Rick Ross, a rapper, think he's a criminal in prison?

Turns out...

Rick Ross isn't even Rick Ross! He's actually William Leonard Roberts. A former corrections officer. The real Rick Ross is Ricky Freeway Ross. (He's been made even more famous by TWO rappers, both Freeway of Philadelphia and the Teflon Don derived their stage names from him.)*
*I know that everyone and their mom knew this about Rick Ross apparently months ago, and I'm late, but I'm proud to admit I didn't become a Rozay aficionado until recently.

William Leonard Roberts aka Rick Ross, aka Rozay... who are you?!?! And why, former student at Albany State University, are you so bent on adopting the names of criminals? All in a recording session that sounds like it was sponsored by KFC.

More importantly, while I'm concerned about your mental health, I'm more concerned about its effect on its youthful audience. A friend of mine, pointed out the "conscious" tracks he has on his album, which I conceded were... borderline inspirational if you ignore all the coarse language, and you focus on the great production and sparse gems of knowledge sprinkled through the tracks. But the majority of folks don't know Tears of Joy. They know Big Meech, Larry Hoover. (By the way... Hoover and hallelujah don't even rhyme!! What's that about?!? Is the hip hop community just gonna let that slide?!?!)

Anyway, I used to teach kids in Watts, South Central (politically correct term - South Los Angeles), Philadelphia, Cabrini Green neighborhood of Chicago (torn down now), and I mentor a child now in DC. While my job was to teach reading comprehension, or theatre or prealgebra, it turns out... it was also my job to fight against the poison many of them had learned in their homes and neighborhoods. For example, in LA, while accompanying a group of middle school girls on a field trip, the school bus driver, who was extremely Stringer Bell esque, hold the sexy, inspired one of the girls to giggle, "Ooh he walk like he just got out of jail... he fiiiine." What?!!?!?!?!?!!? Now we have a moderately successful rapper saying, "I think I'm a criminal... hallelujah." To add insult to injury, he's talking with food in his mouth. Horrific etiquette. We want our kids to grow up and do better than the generation before, become the next Barack Obama, write books, cure cancer, design the Iphone 87.0, but Lenny (William Leonard Roberts), a former college student is determined to glorify criminals and poor table manners.**
**I also don't like that he punctuates his lines with "ugh". Whose idea was that?
The Many Faces of Rick Ross
Big Meech and Larry Hoover below

Ricky Ross and Leonard Roberts

Of course good ol' Lenny isn't the only person marring hip-hop. He's part of the majority; I just felt like making an example of him. I try to be solution-oriented, and I'm not really sure what I could do to address it, but... Lupe Fiasco did! He released a track, calling Building Minds Faster, with the chorus:

I think I'm Malcolm X... Martin Luther. Add a King, add a Jr
Some Bible verses, a couple sunnas, An AK-47 that's a revolution!!
Think I'm Tupac, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Marcus Garvey.

Enjoy! After you check it out, give me your thoughts. Am I too harsh on Rozay?***

*** The album Teflon Don is actually good, if you just listen to the hooks and the beats. (Erykah Badu, Cee-Lo, NeYo and Chrisette Michelle sound heavenly) Kudos to the Production Team!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Proof I'm Not Perfect

As a Christian, I'm forced to subscribe to the thought that I make mistakes and I'm not perfect. Actually no one is. However, I'm close enough to perfect that I'm willing to outline the reasons here. If you know me, you know most of these, but if you don't, I figure I should get them aaaaaallll out the way in the beginning, that way there are no surprises:

1. You know how some people say, "When I die, I want everyone to be happy and reflect on all the wonderful memories, and for it to be a big party!" I don't. I want everyone, even people who don't know me, but just heard of me, to be visibly upset, to cry, and for a select few of those closest to me, to consider suicide. Now, I don't want any one to commit suicide because I died. But I do want people to imagine their life as pointless without me, for at least a few minutes.

2. Sometimes when I'm tired of talking to people on the phone, I just hang it up, because I can't think of a good closer. And then later, I say my phone died, or I pretend to think it was their fault.

3. When telemarketers and/or bill collectors call and say, "Hi this is Susan, is this Crystal?" I say, "yes... Susan!!! How are the kids?!? Good I hope! I tried that new recipe you recommended and it's scrumptious! Look, I've gotta get on the road, but I will catch up with you later. Say hi to Ron!"

4. I drool a little in my sleep. I can't turn it off. It's not out of control. But it's definitely there.

5. I am hypnotized by Nicki Minaj's cartoon character voices. I don't support wigs, particularly lace front, but I.Can't.Stop.Listening.

6. I don't trust adults that wear shoes with Velcro straps.

7. When people respond to my text/BBM/other typed message with the letter "k" (and that's it), I write them off for the next 24 hours as inconsiderate.

There are at least 2 more things that make me less than perfect, but who really needs to know them all? What flaws do you have? I've shared. Your turn!

The Little Things

Someone asked me a few days ago to describe what it would take to win my heart. There's the cliche things that everyone says honesty, attractiveness, sensitive, funny... Thank you, Captain Obvious. But some little things you may never guess are:

a great tipper. The ability to tip appropriately says that you're generous even when it goes unrewarded.
clean, clipped nails. Just like you appreciate all the efforts we invest in our hair, toes, and in perfecting our hip to waist ratio, I appreciate you taking a moment to rid your nails of Cheetos, the day's grime, and kitty litter. And weed smokers, you are fooling NO one with that extra long pinky nail.
a collection of books (that you've read). The other day, while I was on the train with my handy-dandy ereader , a guy tapped my shoulder and said, "What's the battery life on your Nook like? I'm trying to decide whether I want the Kindle or what you have." I swooned inside.
4. a genuine interest in my friends. I know you're thinking, "You want a guy that likes your friends?!?!" Not exactly. But a guy that understands when my friends are ok, I'm happier, and that if I need to bring her some chicken-noodle soup, I'd appreciate him boiling the water and passing over his grandmother's secret recipe.
5. Initiative. You know I'm in love with Will Smith. You know the prequel to I Am Legend drops soon. Buy the tickets and clear my schedule so we can check it out. Help me looooove Wiiiilllll.
6. An Acceptance of my selective taste in food. I have a list of approximately 101 foods that I don't eat for one reason or another.(If you would like a copy, I'd be happy to email it to you.) I don't wish I was this way. But God made my taste buds and that's the way it is. I once dated a guy who made it his job to remember all the foods I didn't like. I remember once, we went to a Mexican restaurant, and I neglected to see that my entree choice had guacamole in it. After I ordered, he politely asked the server, "Could you hold the guac? She's not a fan." Again... I swooned.

if you have an unhealthy, (yet heterosexual) obsession with any of the following things, you get extra ++++++++++++++ points:
a. The Wire
b. Whitney Houston (When she sings the National Anthem, I immediately forgive America for slavery)
c. Will Smith
d. Donnie Hathaway (besides having the most pure voice I've ever heard, he's Howard alum)
e. Howard University and it's real HUness
f. Glee
g. Michael Jackson
h. Infant Sorrow

What are some things that people don't often mention that make you swoooooon ladies, fellas? I wanna know!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Get a (Bath)room Already

I have a reputation for being dramatic. It's true. That's fine. So a few weeks ago, when I said, "Wayne is always talking about poop!", my friend Chris said, "You're exaggerating Crystal."

Well.... Weezy fans, here is a list of the ones I can think of... and I'm not a Wayne fan, so the fact that I know this many is alarming to say the least:
1. Kanye West feat. Lil Wayne - See You In My Nightmares
You think your ish don't stink, but you are Mrs. P.U. - Wayne
2. Lil Wayne - We Be Steady Mobbing
Got ten bathrooms; I can shit all day. - Wayne
3. Birdman feat Li l wayne - For my Town
Man I'm the shit and ya'll janitors. - Wayne
4. Shawty Lo feat Lil Wayne - Dey Know Remix
My flow crazy and I ain't too sane; But I am the shit, and they just poop stains. - Wayne.
5. Lil Wayne - My Weezy
My Stomach hurt; my shit is dropping real soon - Wayne
6. Lil Wayne - Money on My Mind
Dear Mr. Toilet, I'm the shit. - Wayne
7. DJ Khaled - I'm So Hood feat Lil Wayne
i be shitting on you boys; I need an Alka Seltzer Sandwich - Wayne
8. Lil Wayne - Lollipop Remix
I flushed out the feeling of me being the shit, cuz I was leaving skid marks on everywhere I sit. - Wayne
9. Young Jeezy - I'm Going In Remix
Hello mother effer, hey hi how ya dern? It’s Weezy F. Baby, come to take a shit and urine on the toilet bowl. - Wayne

Words I'm Over

I'm liberal, so by default, I don't support censorship. If Weezy wants to make over a dozen references to feces in his body of music... and you all want to dance to it, be my guest. See - Weezy References to Poop

Despite my tree-hugging tendencies however, I believe there are a few words/phrases, we really need to just let go, for the betterment of America, and maybe even Haiti. (Texting a link to this blog to Yele Haiti will
not provide clean water for Haitians, but... it's worth a try.)

*Disclaimer: I have used some of the words below, and while I would like to say that I won't anymore, I can't make any guarantees. I'm a work in progress... 

Swag (and it's spin-offs): Just like all the rest of you, I enjoy caressing my hair and moving in sync with the rest of the mid-twenties urban professional crowd when Pretty Boy Swag comes on. My eyes also light up at the opportunity to swag-surf. But at some point, we've got to stop. There has to be another way to describe the way a man walks across the room with a limp (his smooth gait?!). Little known fact: There is no correlation between the ability to swag surf and the ability to surf on water.

Mother-fuck: Look at the word. Now is that REALLY what you mean when you say that? The other day, while walking through one of the few portions of DC unaffected by gentrification, I overheard a teenaged woman tell her 3-4 year old son, "Stop all that motherfucking crying!" I'll ignore the fact that it's normal for a 3 year old to cry when he has just been mollywopped by the back of an adult hand. Without getting too on you, I'd like you to consider the subconscious effect of jumbling the words "mother" and "fuck" around together. Unless you're talking to Delonte West, it's probably inappropriate.

About 10 years ago, I was joking with my coworker, and I said, "What are you, a crackhead?" I don't know what she did that made me say that, but her face fell, and she ran into the bathroom and cried for at least 45 minutes. Turns out... she used to be an abuser of cocaine. Whoops.

If you watch The Wire, you're familiar with "Bubs", the drug user and also informant to the police. Throughout the seasons, you watch him grow from a fiend to a successful addition to Baltimore's society. (This was a random aside and reference to The Wire that was neither necessary nor exciting, but... I do that sometimes.)

We all probably know someone who uses cocaine. Whether it's the guy that washes your car, or the aunt that steals your license plate and any loose change... in your pocket... you know it's not a fun problem. It's easy to laugh at Tyrone Biggums and enjoy the comedy that drug abusers bring to our lives, but calling them a crackhead is a bit... objectifying, and similarly to "mother-fuck", minimizes the gravity of the situation. Sure, yelling out, "Look at that abuser of amphetamines!" doesn't roll off the tongue. But is it really suppose to be convenient for us to call people names?

Bitch: I know, I know, you're saying, "Sometimes, someone really is being a bitch!" Well, by the time we reach jr. high, we've eagerly looked up the word in a dictionary and learned that it actually means female dog. And some people do look like feminine Rotweilers. But the ban is for the indiscriminate use of the word "bitch" for "women I don't know individual names for". For example:
Man 1: Yeah, I was at The Park last night... so many fine bitches in there. You shoulda came!
Man 2: For real? I knew me and my dogs shoulda went through. We ended up staying at the crib playing Madden all night though. (No homo) I tried to get them to come out (no homo again, my bad), but Evan was being a
bitch about losing 3 times, so they kept going at it. (No homo my nig).
..... Sigh. Until Webster and the American Kennel Club decide to let humans have bitch, and give dogs something else, it's out of pocket. Just because Too Short said it's his favorite word, doesn't mean it has to be yours!

Females and Males: I don't know if it's a recent phenomena, but I've noticed that when referring to men and women, people often say "females and males." Most major animal species have a name for their female version and a name for their male version. (For a complete list, see here: Female and Male Animals)

Even if someone isn't a
lady, she's still a woman. Not a Phenomenal Woman, a great poem by Maya Angelou, but still a woman. And whether or not he pays his child support on time, he's still a man. Not a responsible one, but still a man. Maybe if you called him a man, instead of "nigga", "motherfucking loser", "little boy", or "these trifling males", he might get the inclination that he should act like one.

Drizzy: This is as a personal favor. I don't like that Drake's nickname is so close to sounding like a synonym for Reading-a-Good-Book-Weather.

Any other words you can think of? By the way, I've left off quite a few because I'm saving the biggies for another post. I'm ignoring the big N-word elephant in the room.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why I Chose an HBCU

I recently read an article that asked the question, "Do We Still Need HBCUs?"

If you had asked me this question prior to 2003, I would have boldly proclaimed, "No! We's all free, now!"
Thankfully, I know better now. How did I go from AntiHBCU to Faithful Howard Alum and Donor? Glad you asked.


HBCUs are not for everyone. Just like every man doesn't look good in skinny jeans, the HBCU setting isn't a conducive learning environment for all.This isn't an argument that HBCUs are better than PWIs. It simply comes in response to people who fail to see the advantages of attending an HBCU!

Why Did I Go to Howard?
I was an Army brat and attended a whole lot of schools growing up. The single common denominator: My peers = all white bricks . I worked hard to get out of state scholarships because I attended high school in South Carolina, and I knew I wouldn't last in a place that offered one sushi place in the entire county, sweet tea that reminded me of syrup, and a stubborn pride in any and everything Strom Thurmond. I was blessed to be accepted everywhere I applied. When my mom bribed me with gas for my purple Altima, I decided to check Howard out. After all, what's the harm in a visit? I was already memorizing the NY Public transit system, and had made a non-refundable (darn it!!!) housing deposit for Columbia U.

Weekend at the Mecca
I landed on Howard's campus on Thursday in the middle of a snow blizzard. The very last weekend of February and the first couple days of March. I'm thinking "Snow in March!?!?" However, more importantly, it was the 1st time I was surrounded by Blacks who were serious about their education. Talking with them I was humbled. They gave shining reviews of Howard and its ability to attract the strongest minds from across the world. I gingerly asked during a Q and A, “is it tough to get a job with a Howard degree?” The recruiter responded, “Ma’am, are you interested in working for a company that doesn’t recognize that Black institutions are perfectly capable of producing well-educated graduates?” I was stunned into silence. I knew Howard was where I needed to be.

Perks of an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) versus a PWI (Predominantly White Institution)
  • The pressure's gone. When you say something stupid in class, you're not making Black people in general look bad. Just people from Chicago.
  • Although more than 2/3 of the world can be defined as "people of color" or "brown people", in America, especially in corporate settings, blacks are the minority. At an HBCU, you are the majority, and for many it's the first time. The confidence one gains from being part of a majority even for 4 5, 6, 8 even years, is remarkable. And believe me, you carry that air with you beyond the campus. It's not pompous, but not to be cliche or too Jesse Jackson, you really believe I Am Somebody! Everyone needs a chance to be a part of the majority to see how white people, particularly, WASP men feel every day.
  • Quick Test. What's the capital of Spain? The capital of France? The capital of Switzerland? I bet you got at least 2 out of 3 right. Ok now... what's the capital of Nigeria? Ethiopia? Kenya? I'm willing to bet that was a little tougher. The American education system has done a great job at educating us about Western civilization and what they've got going on, and a horrible job at teaching us about Africa. HBCUs to the rescue! My professors found a way to throw some Black History in philosophy, literature, and even calculus! It was needed. We learned their history from K-12. Now for OUR history.
  • You learn the diversity that is... Black people. We listen to John Legend, John Coltrane and John Mayer. We hail from Marcy Project, Prince George's County, MD, Kenya, Poland, Belize, and the Bay. We skateboard, freestyle, pontificate, design buildings, teach generations, chemically engineer (whatever that means), and write web pages. We are not a monolithic culture. To those who question the diversity of Howard, because most of us have brown skin, I ask that they click here.
  • While learning our diversity, you also learn about our common struggle in finding Bibles with a Black Moses for our children and finding hair products in our suburbs' CVS.
  • 1st round draft picks for quota fillers. Say you're a prestigious law firm in New York, and you need to hire at least 3 minorities to keep the feds off you. Where will you find 3 qualified minorities at the top of their class? If you look hard, you'll find them at Harvard or Columbia. Or... you can go to Howard, and choose from your pick of dozens of qualified Black (female and male) candidates. It happens all the time.
  • You become friends with folks based on a common interest, not a common color. At my high school, all of us Blacks knew each other and were for the most part friends. Did we like all the same stuff? Maybe, maybe not. But we stuck together, because we were 7% of the school, and were instantly drawn to each other's Blackness. Just like, as adults when you see another Black person in a grocery store in a white neighborhood, you give them the nod. At an HBCU, you become friends with someone because you both like... I don't know... organic food. It's a more organic, if you will friendship, relationship.
  • Homecoming. That's it.
  • The faculty is genuinely vested in your future. My professors at Howard were strict like a tough parent. 10 minutes after class began, if you were late, you weren't coming in. But they also called or expressed concern if you missed a few classes. I was invited to many of my professors' homes, offered a real home-cooked meal from one of my favorite theatre professors, and to this day, the former chair of the psych department is available to dole out advice to me. It's a family atmosphere. They'll be tough because you need it, but supportive because you need that too.
  • The Huxtables will appreciate you. Bill Cosby was a huge fan of wearing Howard and other HBCU paraphernalia. And who doesn't want to be like the Huxtables!?!?
I definitely believe there are perks to attending a PWI, (like on time registration). I also recognize the disadvantages to attending an HBCU. I believe all of those things are overrepresented in these conversations however, and that the perks of an HBCU should be highlighted. Did I miss any? What are your thoughts?

Things That Make Me SMH

I'm a pretty easy going person. It takes a lot to for me to go into a wild rage a la Malik Yoba in Why Did I Get Married 2. And if you don't get the reference, I am jealous. I really wish I didn't. But there are a few things on the Internet that randomly make me scratch my head due to my
  • confusion
  • mild annoyance
  • frustration
  • lice problem (j/k... I'm Black!)
They are (and in no particular order):
  • people whose screen name/handle includes titles they have yet to receive. (i.e. MonicaYourMD, Esquire_Jonathan, MrsSongz) Even if you are in med school, law school, or one of several groupies that caught Trey's eye... stating it before it happens kinda takes away from the excitement you have when or if it becomes true. And God forbid that you decide med school isn't your thing and that you'd actually like to be the next Avon Barksdale. (if you don't get that reference, we may not be friends - See The Wire, Season 1).
  • purposefully mispelled words. This includes 'dat' for that and the exchange of letters for numbers/symbols (l1k3 th1$). I understand shortening things when necessary (2 for to, U for you), but some of it is unintelligible, and I don't have room on my BlackBerry for the Urban Dictionary app.
  • being abstract for no reason. When Twitter or Facebook asks you for your hometown, you don't have to be completely conventional and list "Washington, DC". You can say, "Home of the Redskins" or "Chocolate City." That's fair. But listing your hometown as "Under Fraggle Rock" or your bio as "a complicated puzzle created in the Zulu Nation and bred in the Pridelands" is just ridiculous. No one gets you. You don't even get you.
  • blog comments that have nothing to do with the post.

  • Facebook Middle Names that neither your mother nor father blessed you with. We get it Casey Alwaysgrinding Webster. You work hard getting people to buy into your pyramid scheme for prepaid legal. (Shots intentionally fired).
  • On a related note, capitalizing the first letter of every word in a sentence is suitable for the titles of books, films, names, but not necessary For Every First Letter In A Sentence.
  • Farmville.
  • Blatant References to Illegal Activity. Ok, so you smoke weed... I'm not mad about it. But does the Library of Congress (who archives all public tweets) need to know? And while you thought it was cool to curse out your baby's father's current girlfriend and threaten to *&$% her up (symbols you used... not me), it's evidence in a court of law.
There are probably more, but to avoid looking like an angry, bitter black woman with a chip on her shoulder, I'll stop here. Do you all have any? I'm eager to hear them!