I wanted to post this for Throwback Thursday but time just slipped all the way away. Sooo I’m posting this late because who knows what next week brings.
This song is my song of the week. Whitney did that. Every. Single. Word.
I wanted to post this for Throwback Thursday but time just slipped all the way away. Sooo I’m posting this late because who knows what next week brings.
This song is my song of the week. Whitney did that. Every. Single. Word.
DISCLAIMER: This is simply my own opinion. I also stress throughout the post that no one has the right to be disrespectful. Writing is a business and publishing books is a career move. I always encourage you to use wisdom in all that you do. Even if you are speaking truth, don’t put people down. That’s not wise.
I think it boils down to why you write in the first place and what you hope to gain from it. It should be a personal choice, not a commandment.
I understand why people propose you don’t post about super controversial topics. The reasons are obvious and have been stated repeatedly already. I won’t bore you with a regurgitation of the facts (see disclaimer.) But at the same time, I don’t understand why some propose Indies stay clear of it altogether. Even if it can help others. I think about what it means to be a writer. For me, this is not a job. It’s much more.
I know most people don’t take blogs and bloggers seriously, but when it comes to writing, it’s not like the 9-5 you go to every day where there are rules, regulations, and guidelines you must live by. Let me put this in perspective.
I am a part-time teacher as well as an author. I know what it means to go into a place that already has a set standard and to clock in and out.
I blog and I write books but when I am not doing this, I am teaching.
To teach, you have to be certified, have the educational background and follow the governmental guidelines necessary to do so. There is already a schedule, a curriculum, etc. (It is why one day, I would like to open my own school. I try not to do anything without an ultimate end goal.)
When I think about being an author, on the other hand, I think of having a much greater freedom than working a 9-5. The freedom to own my own and to speak the truth. Now, there are some that say that because this is a business (writing is) you shouldn’t talk about things that are controversial because you’ll lose readers. Perhaps it is a matter of perspective because I do not think of it this way.
Losing readers for cursing people out is one thing. Losing readers because you are rude and arrogant and just don’t care is one thing. Professionalism is important. If you don’t know how to talk to people, perhaps you shouldn’t be in business.
On the other hand…
If I lose readers for being real. If I lose readers because they cannot stomach the truth I have to offer. If I lose readers because they do not agree with me, then they were not my readers, to begin with. If I lose these people because I decided to be real and they didn’t like it, then they were not part of my target audience in the first place. I know it sounds harsh, but I see a lot of Traditionally Published authors speaking their minds too and writing their truths. I see a lot of them using their platform to raise awareness of social injustice and other things. There’s a lot they say that can be considered controversial and it seems that for Independent Artists there should be more freedom. It is only when I get to Independent / Self-Publishing that I hear this talk about how we should, in short, censor ourselves and I understand the need for it but only to an extent.
Using wisdom is one thing, I understand that. In the words of my father-in-law, “Don’t be a fool your whole life.” However, using your art to expand conversations and to raise awareness cannot be done without some inkling of controversy. Someone somewhere is going to disagree with you. The whole point of writing, it seems to be, is to ultimately expand the conversation of the book. To not speak about your thoughts concerning the political, religious or social climate of today, to censor this in fear of losing readers, doesn’t make any sense to me. Why are you alive?
If I am going to write then I am going to write the truth and if people feel that it is a truth they cannot accept then they weren’t part of the chosen few I was meant to reach in the first place. I have long given up trying to save the world. I am not that naive anymore. I am only trying to reach those who are interested.
I am not saying to be disrespectful. Be choice with your words. That’s important and I’ve spoken about that a lot on this blog. I am only saying that if you are truly speaking the truth you are going to offend someone somewhere sometimes and that it’s not something you can control. If your job is not to offend anyone, where does that leave you? You may as well go work for someone else.
Listen, my intent is not to offend but it’s inevitable that when telling the truth you will annoy someone. To spend my life writing trying not to do so is to not do my job. In case you haven’t already noticed, I do not write to get rich. I don’t care about being famous, political correctness and offending people who can’t handle the truth and all that. It would be nice for my books to reach a large audience of course, but that is not why I write.
Blogging has greatly impacted my writing life. The knowledge and wisdom from my fellow bloggers is amazing. I love that we build each other up and alert one another to things that may seem fishy in the publishing industry. I love that we promote each other and help advance the other’s writing life. That said, my tip for new authors is this:
This is just a suggestion, but if you are about to publish for the first time and you’ve never published a book before (and people don’t know you as a writer, maybe as other things but not as a writer) consider starting a blog at least 6 months to a year of publishing your first book. Spend that time talking about your passions, networking with other writers, readers and getting a feel for the online community. Don’t just talk about your work, talk about yourself. Post funny pictures, inspiring quotes, short story excerpts, articles and anything that appeals to your target audience and that (most of all) showcases your personality. Let people get to know you better while also getting to know the writer you. Then, when you’re ready to publish your book, you have a platform and people who are interested outside of your immediate circle.
This tip is only for those who are close to publishing. If you are still writing your book, I would say to focus on that for now. If you are publishing soon however, you may want to try blogging to test the waters. It’s a better platform for networking (in my opinion) than Facebook and Twitter.
Title: Crossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda
Editor: Christopher Conte
Print Length: 180 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1507680228
Publication Date: August 30, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
*I was gifted a copy of this book by the editor*
Crossroads is a fascinating anthology comprising autobiographical essays by several Ugandan women. I loved the opportunity to learn more about the Ugandan culture and the upbringing of African women and how it is different (and in many ways similar) from the upbringing of Black women here in America. Rarely do we hear of what these women endure so it was refreshing to read about it. All of the stories have a common Coming-of-Age theme where the women discuss their experiences coming into womanhood among the customs and traditions of their country. We learn about their childhoods, sex, marriage, career, and livelihood.
All of the stories were compelling but there were a few that really stuck out for me more than the others. I enjoyed the opening story, for instance, about the meaning of names and the cashier treating the woman unfairly because of her name. Personally, I can relate to having a unique name myself and I am often asked the same questions that Nakisanze Segawa was asked.
There were two stories that had the biggest impact on me above all the others. The young women taken from their University without a word, abused and forcibly imprisoned was heartbreaking. I also found the customs surrounding the Ssengas both fascinating and also odd.
By custom Ssenga’s are paternal aunts who assume special responsibilities and help to guide the women, their “nieces” in the ways of society. They teach the women how to behave, submit to a man, how to display class and grace, they monitor their manners and their ways around the house.
Ssengas teach young women about their bodies, about hygiene and sex and ultimately prepare them to be good wives. I love the concept of having someone there to mentor young women and to ensure they grow to be respectable wives and mothers. The fact that the Ssengas take over this role and not the mother is interesting to me. I found myself wondering if it would help for young women in the States, especially young Black women without mothers, to have this kind of guidance and support instead of having to figure things out on their own or in the street.
What I enjoyed least about the role of the Ssengas is that their teachings go too far, at least based on the testimonies of the women. It’s one thing to teach young women about their bodies and how to be wives but the extent to which these women are obligated to serve their husbands is, in my opinion, oppressive. Some of the acts, in fact, were downright disgusting and unnecessary. I should be clear that I am all for submission. I believe that women are to submit to their husbands like the bible instructs and that the man is the spiritually ordained head of the household.
The problem I have is ways in which Submission has been portrayed, defined, twisted, and distorted all over the world. Not only do women in America have a concept of submission that is not, in my opinion, accurate but so do women in other countries. Submission is not slavery and a man’s authority over his wife does not exempt him from certain duties and responsibilities or give him the permission to be abusive. Men are to love their wives as their own bodies and a wife respects her husband.
I believe that if done properly, submission and authority can work well but if not done correctly, can easily look like slavery as it, sadly, often does.
There are some great qualities that are promoted in Uganda that many women across the globe can benefit from but then there are some things that we may find strange if we didn’t grow up that way.
In what way does earning degrees and having an education balance with being good wives? Do the women defy tradition or follow it?
This book sparks great conversation about the lives of women and is relevant considering the social and political climate of our time.
Movement / Strength: 5/5
Entertainment Factor: 5 /5
Authenticity / Believable: 5/5
Thought Provoking: 5/5
Christopher Conte is an American journalist who spent fifteen years as a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal before beginning a freelance career. He has traveled extensively throughout Africa, eastern Europe, and Asia, as a consultant for the World Bank’s International Finance Group. Conte has also worked as a trainer and mentor to journalists in Uganda, and other locations throughout Africa and Asia.
Time for some real talk before the week ends.
I am sitting here getting some work done before the sun sets and a thought came to me. It’s a thought I’ve thought on many times before and that I voice with my husband many times over, though I’ve never said much of it publicly. The thought is in keeping it real. I don’t like the term and frankly, the fact it has become a catchphrase annoys me. I understand what is meant by it. I know how important it is to be real and to “tell it how it is.” I understand no one should ever water themselves down and more, no one should ever sacrifice their integrity for the sake of being “Liked.” That’s not the part that annoys me. What annoys me is when we use this term to assume things about people that are not true, we perceive wrongly and our discernment is off. Why is this? Because “Real” is different for each individual but we act as if it means the same for everyone.
Just because I limit my profanity, read the Bible, encourage people and don’t say the first thing that comes to my mind doesn’t make me fake, for instance. This is who I am and these are things I do even when no one is looking. I am not perfect just a little boring. I like to read all day, spend time with my family, write, laugh and drink wine. That’s literally it as anyone who knows me and has been around me more than 5 minutes could testify to. No one is worth me getting out of character for so I don’t try to “fit in” by being unfiltered. That would be fake of me.
Another example is on telling the truth. I do understand the realness that deals with being open and frank about things. I encourage it because it’s needed. For example, women, don’t get with a man just because the sex is good.
That’s a form of keeping it real or telling it like it is because you are telling the truth. But, this doesn’t always mean the person is being real either. I’ve spent years around people who were direct, forthcoming, and to the point but were still phony. Not because I think they should tell all their business or because the things they said weren’t true but because they were not being a real reflection of who they truly are.
My point is what’s real for you isn’t necessarily real for someone else. You may be funny, loud, quiet, outspoken, reserved, or direct. My blog has a serious feel to it because that’s my persona. I’m a serious person. I expect your blog to reflect your persona. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re truthful like in our example, if you tell people how it is, no filter, be that. The point is, people don’t have to act like you or do what you do to be authentic. They may post a lot or post a little but that doesn’t mean they are trying to get something out of you. They may tweet a lot or post on Facebook or IG a lot, that doesn’t mean they are seeking attention. Maybe they are just “doing them.” Maybe they actually enjoy blogging. Maybe they enjoy posting. Perhaps it’s fun to them. Maybe the standards and limitations you apply to your own space don’t apply to them. Maybe, just maybe, this is who they are. Remember this the next time you judge.
Enjoy your weekend people.
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Mbuti or Bambuti are one of the several indigenous pygmy groups in the Congo region of Africa. One famous Congolese Mbuti, who was made famous in a horrific way, committed suicide 100 years ago. On May 20, 1916, Ota Benga put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger. Depression and sadness are modest terms we use to understand the spirits that troubled him. But who was he and why is knowing his story important in our time?
In the early 1900s, a “businessman” (more appropriately speaking a slave trader) named Samuel Verner, tasked with the responsibility of acquiring pygmies for a cultural evolution display at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, encountered Benga in 1904. Paid by the St. Louis Exposition Company a year earlier to hunt men instead of monkeys, he was to bring African Pygmies to America for the St. Louis World Fair.
Ota’s family were killed by a Belgium militia group who set out to control the natives of that land for the large supply of rubber in the Congo. Ota had a wife and two children who were killed in such raids on villages and survived because he was on a hunting mission. To make a long story short, Ota was kidnapped and taken to America by Samuel along with other pygmies who were kidnapped as well and brought to America.
Benga’s physical appearance, as is most Mbuti, astonished onlookers who immediately compared him to an animal, specifically for his short stature and razor-sharp teeth. Displays of humans were very common in the early 20th century to prove the theory of the evolution of man. Most specifically, men and women of color from the Eastern part of the world were used as examples of the lower class of humans and often put on display. They were usually those with abnormal features and deformities. It’s no surprise then that Ota and his fellow men became an instant attraction. Ota’s personality was also said to have been lively and the men attracted spectators wherever they went until Ota was eventually caged at a Bronx Zoo in 1906. He eventually became fond, allegedly, of a monkey and so began The Caged Man in the Monkey House.
Ota’s story is worth telling because Africa is a continent with over fifty countries and comprise many different people and cultures. There are just as many cultures and nationalities of people as there are languages and just as many languages as there are colors. But when you group a people together and call them “Blacks” you deny them their right to heritage and nationhood, because Black does not properly define a people. While I use these terms (Black, African American) for understanding sake, the Bible says nothing about race, nor is the word or concept of different “races” found in the Bible at all (See Gen Ch 10) despite the fact that the term has been used to cause divisions among man. More appropriately, some of the Black “races” of the world are Israelites, some of them Egyptians, Ethiopians, Ghanaians, Senegalese, Congolese, Libyans and so forth. Thus, this story is important to the understanding of identity as well as the medical field and how it fits in with the racial oppression of Blacks in America going back for centuries.
Contrary to popular belief, Eugenics did not start with Margaret Sanger and The American Birth Control League but the concept started much earlier.
Coined by the cousin of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, Eugenics comes from the Greek word eugenes, meaning “well-born.” It is a racist scientific process that set out to prove, through alleged psychological and medical evidence, the inferiority of Blacks. From 1924 – 1936, thirteen states in the U.S. utilized Eugenics programs that ranged from isolating those deemed “feeble-minded” from the general population to forced sterilization.
“When the infamous German eugenic sterilization initiative began in January 1934, seventeen U.S. states were already performing sterilizations routinely, and that year between two thousand and four thousand Americans were sterilized. Indiana passed legislation requiring the sterilization of the mentally unfit in 1907. By 1911, six states had passed laws providing compulsory sterilization of the mentally unfit. In 1935, twenty-seven states had such laws for the feeble-minded, those on welfare, or those with genetic defects. Forced sterilization was made legal in the infamous 1927 Buck vs Bell.” (Medical Apartheid, Harriet Washington, The Black Stork, pp 202)
Galton, in short, took Darwin’s philosophies and ideas on Evolution and put them into practice in what became known as Eugenics. He proposed that the poor, the sick, the weak and the untalented should be prevented from multiplying. Leonard Darwin, Darwin’s son, was also one of the supporters and proponents of eugenics in Britain. Galton maintained that the principle of the “survival of the fittest” had to be complied with and that only the strongest should be allowed to participate in the world.
“… modern eugenics thought arose in the nineteenth century. The emergence of interest in eugenics during that century had multiple roots. The most important was the theory of evolution, for Francis Galton’s ideas on eugenics – and it was he who created the term “eugenics” – were a direct logical outgrowth of the scientific doctrine elaborated by his cousin, Charles Darwin.” – Ludmerer, Eugenics, In: Encyclopedia of Bioethics, Edited by Mark Lappe, New York: The Free Press, 1978, p. 457
A reviewer of the time said:
“After 1859, the evolutionary schema raised additional questions, particularly whether or not Afro-Americans could survive competition with their white near-relations. The momentous answer was a resounding no…. The African was inferior—he represented the missing link between ape and Teuton.”
– John C. Burnham, Science, Vol. 175, February 4, 1972, p. 506.
Nineteenth Century scientists were convinced that the white race (something that doesn’t actually exist) were superior to other races and that this superiority can be found in Darwinian Theory. One key person in the perpetuation of this was Thomas Huxley who said: “No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man.”
And while Darwin claimed to be opposed to slavery and the horrors of the brutality, his own words are questionable. He presumed that man evolved from ape-like creatures and surmised that some races developed more than others:
“I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit…. The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.” – Charles Darwin: Life and Letters, I, letter to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, p. 316; cited in Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, by Gertrude Himmelfarb (London, Chatto and Windus, 1959), p. 343.
And of course, the most debated statement of all:
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes… will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as the baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. – Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 2nd ed., New York: A.L. Burt Co., 1874, p. 178
In short, it is a fact that White Supremacists supported Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and used it to further racism. For them, the white race had, in short, moved up the evolutionary ladder and was destined to eliminate the other races in the struggle to survive.
Certain African Americans are not to be excluded. Many prominent Blacks also supported Eugenics. Fisk University’s first Black President and critical contributor to The Harlem Renaissance Charles S. Johnson, said that “Eugenic discrimination was necessary for blacks” and that “the high maternal and infant mortality rates, along with diseases like tuberculosis, typhoid, malaria and venereal infection, made it difficult for large families to adequately sustain themselves.” – Charles S. Johnson, A Question of Negro Health, The Birth Control Review, June 1932, 167-169
He later became an integral part of Margaret Sanger’s Negro Project, but he’s not the only one, many blacks agreed. According to Margaret Sanger’s most infamous quote:
“The most successful approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal….we do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the one who can straighten out that idea if it occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
Sanger said this in a 1939 letter where she outlined her plan to reach out to black leaders — specifically ministers — to help dispel community suspicions about the family planning clinics she was opening in the South. It must be noted that Sanger was not the progenitor of this idea but reaching out to ministers and black leaders in the community was the idea of another very prominent man.
“The mass of ignorant Negros still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.”
– National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Founder, W.E.B. Dubois, The Birth Control Review, 1932, Black Folk and Birth Control, pp 166
Dubois went on to say that the Black community were open to “intelligent propaganda of any sort”, and “the American Birth Control League and other agencies ought to get their speakers before church congregations and their arguments in the Negro newspapers.” It worked. Black pastors invited Sanger to speak to their congregations. Black publications, like The Afro-American and The Chicago Defender, featured her writings and the lines between Eugenics and Birth Control became blurred.
Sanger merged the Southern Clinics, the Clinical Research Bureau and The American Birth Control League, to form the Birth Control Federation of America (BCFA) and recruited black leadership as Dubois and others advised. Soon, BCFA clinics started popping up in poor black neighborhoods. The first clinic was The Bethlehem Center in urban Nashville, Tennessee (where blacks constituted only 25 percent of the population and no one made more than $15 a week), opened on February 13, 1940, and the second opened in rural Berkeley County, South Carolina. This site was chosen because South Carolina had been the second state to make limitations on the number of children part of its state public health program after a survey revealed 25 percent of infant deaths occurred in mothers deemed unfit for pregnancy. (These terms: Unfit, Feeble-minded, Poor, Poverty Stricken, Urban, Welfare, Disease Stricken, and the like have been used as code words to refer to the so-called African American since the end of Chattel Slavery.)
“The BCFA members voted unanimously at a special January 29, 1942, meeting to change the organization’s name to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. By then, BCFA had 34 state league affiliates. The state leagues followed suit in changing their name and bylaws. Particularly, the New York State Federation for Planned Parenthood’s old bylaws stipulated that the object was: To develop and organize on sound eugenic, social and medical principles, interest in and knowledge of birth control throughout the State of New York as permitted by law [emphasis added]. The new bylaws replaced birth control with planned parenthood. Eugenics was dropped in 1943 because of its unpopular association with the German government’s race-improving eugenics theories.”
– Robert G. Marshall and Charles A. Donovan, Blessed are the Barren: The Social Policy of Planned Parenthood (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 24-25.
This brings us back to Ota Benga and others like him. Physicians and Scientists were dependent on slavery not just for economic reasons but also for clinical material. Even after chattel slavery had ended, persons like Saartjie Baartman, the first video vixen if you will, Henry Moss, whose leprosy prompted him to exhibit himself, Joice Heth, who racists claimed was the 161-year-old “Mammy” of George Washington and many others were put on display, to argue the “inferiority” and “animalistic” behavior of Blacks.
Finally, Ota’s story is important also to the understanding of the Institution of Chattel Slavery beyond the cotton fields, for in knowledge of what the business of slaveholding was like is a deeper understanding of the magnitude of its influence on American Society. The Slave Market and the “business” of owning slaves was about more than Plantation Life but was a very well thought out and strategic system that bled into every fabric of American life.
Yecheilyah (e-see-lee-yah) is an Author, Blogger, and Poet of nine published works including work in progress and short inspirational guide “Keep Yourself Full.” Learn more by exploring Yecheilyah’s writing on this blog and her website at yecheilyahysrayl.com. Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One) is her latest novel and is available now on Amazon.com.
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