Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri is Everyone's Concern

Howard University students protesting the death of Michael Brown.
"Don't shoot"

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with a friend in a coffee shop to do some work, and he started streaming the press conference from the Ferguson Police Department providing some follow up to the death of Mike Brown (at the hands of a police officer.) Immediately, I was uncomfortable. We were in a room with a few other people of various backgrounds, and for whatever reason, I felt it was inappropriate to draw attention to our concern about the passing of this young black teenager. I didn't want to ruffle feathers; I wanted people to believe that I was one of the safe Black people that wouldn't make them face hard questions.

Over the past few days, it's been a lot easier for me to discuss my sorrow at the passing of Robin Williams versus the death of Mike Brown. While both are tragic, Robin Williams's death is a much safer topic. Robin William's suicide wasn't particularly controversial and didn't rile up strong opinions that varied depending on your race, gender, or socioeconomic status. But Mike Brown... that's a whole different matter. It involves topics that make us all squirm - race relations, police brutality, perceptions of black men in the media, and more. So I kept quiet.

I have a disproportionate amount of friends who happen to be attorneys that taught me to reserve my opinion until the facts have been revealed and made clear. So when people ask me, even now, what are my thoughts about Ferguson, Missouri and Mike Brown, I respond "I don't know." It ensures I don't appear apathetic but also gives me an out in providing any real opinions or thoughts.

However one question has emerged for me and bugged me as I read the articles and saw the raw passion, anger and frustration from folks I know.

"Where are all the non-Black people in this discussion?" 

I'm seeing posts from Howard University students, the Black students at Harvard Law, and other Black friends of mine, but almost nothing from others. (I say almost, because I read a few articles like this). I am most frustrated by the deafening silence from the Christian community, a group called and committed to serving the "least of these."

I realize that by both stating that I am afraid to discuss it and also voicing my frustration about non-Blacks silence, I appear somewhat hypocritical. However, I believe one fuels the other. If the death of Mike Brown was met with concern, peaceful protests and a collective consciousness of the reality of race relations and police brutality in America by ALL kinds of people, I believe it'd be easier for us all to speak up and grow.

I've used this blog space, my social media accounts, and my voice to advocate for fair treatment of undocumented citizens, (namely the Central American children escaping horrific conditions), same sex couples fighting for marriage equality, and victims of genocide in Syria. As a human and a Christian, I believe that I am required to care for more than those who are exactly like me. I welcome this obligation; I chose it!

I chose USC for my graduate studies because it boasts a significant amount of international students.
I chose Oasis LA because it is the most racially diverse church I've ever attended.
I chose my hipster side of town in Los Angeles, because living with different kinds of people is the best way to develop a genuine understanding and empathy for others.

Now I wonder, when will others choose us? 

I applaud those individuals -of all races- who have had the courage to speak up, do something and inspire meaningful change in regards to social justice and equality. In many ways, your bravery exceeds mine and I strive to be like you.

Update: This is one of those times I am elated to be proven wrong. A photo captured by @darling_darla  at the #NMOS14 (National Moment of Silence) protest in DC shows that a diversity of folks care:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Four Things That Happened When I Stopped Caring About Getting My Hair Wet

You know how some women get really upset when you touch their hair? That's not me. I think a pretty good indication of the beauty and health of your hair is how "touchable" it appears. I've always believed it's the ultimate compliment when your hair is so attractive that it generates a reflex to reach out and touch it.

Note: That doesn't mean that I particularly enjoy complete strangers touching my hair (although this has never happened) or that I enjoy when people approach my hair with a curiosity that makes me feel inhuman (this has happened sparingly). 

So for years, in my quest to create hair that made it difficult for any one to resist touching it, I visited the lovely Amanda of Bang Salon (if you're in DC - get you some!) every two weeks faithfully. The result was touchable, soft hair that earned approving nods from strangers and friends alike. The other result is that I (really my hair) became downright allergic to water. In my opinion, if I wasn't formally washing it, my hair had no business getting wet.

And then... one day a few years ago, me and a few coworkers were rewarded with tickets to a Nationals game. It was gorgeous out, the boss was buying Five Guys, and I was having a more favorable hair day than usual. Everything was swell. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a la Miami, the DC sky turned cloudy and in an instant, there was a downpour. We were all soaked completely through and sprinted to the car, dodging puddles, our hair curling and tightening as we finally made it to the car. My friend and I sat there for a few moments, breathing heavily, shivering a bit in the cold, looking down at our drenched clothes, and then we looked at each other... and burst into laughter so intense we hiccupped. I pulled my hair into a messy bun, and after the rain magically disappeared, we headed back to the office with the windows down, hoping to air dry. And you know what happened? Nothing detrimental. The world didn't come crashing down. My hair just wasn't perfectly coiffed, which if I'm being 100% transparent, usually didn't look perfect anyway... which brings me to my list.

What really happens when you stop caring about getting your hair wet?
1. I found out what my hair really looks like. Even though my hair isn't chemically straightened, I almost always pressed it immediately after washing it, and didn't really take the time to explore too many natural styles. It turns out... it's actually pretty cool!

2. I got healthier. For years, I only sparingly participated in activities that would "sweat my hair out." This long list included swimming, running, hiking, weightlifting, biking... basically moving. That's just silly. Also, thanks to a great date idea sponsored by Groupon, I tried bikram yoga a few years ago and I am now addicted. For those of you who don't know, bikram is a 90 minute session of yoga in a room set to 105 degrees... with a humidifier. In short, the moment you walk in, you're sweating. Since I've let go of this obsession with keeping my hair dry, I've become an avid hiker and (bikram) yogi.

3. I saved more money. When you know that there's a possibility your hair might get wet, you're not as willing to spend significant amounts every two weeks on something that could all go down the drain with one bikram session or spontaneous water gun fight.

4. I had so. Much. More. Fun. As some of you may have already noticed reading this, the restrictions you place on your life to protect your dry hair are pretty well... restricting. The other day I invited a friend to a party at a lounge and the first question she asked me was "What's the temperature like? Is my hair gonna sweat out? I just got it done." And my reflex (in my head) was "Really??" It'd been so long since that was a concern of mine, I couldn't even fathom deciding on whether or not to go to a party because of a "sweat out" concern.

If I was worried about my hair, I never would have been able to do this [video]:

I realize that proper care of hair --particularly kinky hair like mine-- requires moisturization and such. I also realize that we only get the chance to live life once. I prefer to spend it jumping cliffs. :)

So what are you thinking? Do you protect your hair from water religiously? Do you schedule your activities around hair appointments? Do you think it's ridiculous that I ever cared? Do you think it's ridiculous to participate in 105 degree yoga?

Share your thoughts!