Monday, March 30, 2009

Kindred and the Spirit of Black Women

There are a couple of sayings that are prevalent in our society. “Black Americans are the backbone of our society” another is, “Behind every great man, there is a great woman”. Taking these sayings into consideration, it could be concluded that Black women have had a large part in the establishment of family life in this country.

Octavia Butler exemplified this in her novel, Kindred (1979), with just a minimal number of characters. By the introduction of the slave character named Sarah and Alice in addition to the main character of Dana, Butler showed the great strife that Black American women have went through to keep their family together.

Sarah, a slave on the Weylin plantation was a dominant figure in the novel, established as being the one who worked in the cookhouse on the plantation. Dana, a woman of the 1970's was introduced to Sarah on her third visit to the past when Rufus, Dana’s past relative and heir to the Weylin plantation, unconsciously called her back to the past in order to help him after he fell out of a tree. Despite the presence of Rufus’ mother, Margaret Weylin, Sarah made sure that the household chores were in order and did not take care of her master’s household out of love or kindness, but out of the love for her own family's well being.

After having two of her children sold away from the Weylin plantation, Sarah did whatever she could to try to keep her last child, Carrie, close to her and away from the auction block. Sarah tried to keep what was left of her family by being obedient to her owner, bringing the first example of how Butler shows how Black women went through strife to keep their family together.

The next example can be fund in the the character development of Alice who was introduced in the novel early on. It was Dana’s second visit to the past where she was introduced to her, then a free Black, while patrols were accosting Alice’s mother and her husband. As Alice grew, Rufus began to take a liking to her, and eventually bought her. Rufus had children with her, and even though these children were half white, Alice still regarded them as part of her.

There was a point in the story where Alice had the impression that Rufus had sold her children away, causing her to become so distraught that she took her own life before she found out the truth that her children were still close to her. This example shows the ramifications that are brought on to a person when their family is broken apart. Alice saw that her duties as a Black woman had been usurped with the “selling off” of her children, becoming so heart broken from this that she thought it best to end her life rather than to continue living.

The next example of Black woman cherishing their family structure that Bulter gave to her reader is brought to light with the character of Dana, a Black woman living in 1976. She is a modern woman and is married to a white man living in California, making her living as a writer. All of a sudden Dana started to be snatched back to the past and the reason of this displacement, Dana soon realized, was to ensure the survival of her heirs.

Dana was repeatedly compelled to save the life of Rufus, a white plantation owner, and also her relative, despite the repeated mental and physical abuse that was inflicted on her by him and his family. Bulter used Dana as the ultimate example of the way that Black women have been a major factor for keeping their family together. Dana endured the physical and mental abuse from the Weylin family when snatched back to slave days, not because wanted to, but because her entire family's survival was dependant on her strength.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Own Stimulas Package...No Pun Intended

For the past few months, I have been getting Black Enterprise magazine delivered to my apartment. I am not sure how I got on their mailing list because I do not pay for it, but I am not complaining.

Not surprisingly, this month's issue focuses on the economy and ways that regular folks can save a few dollars here and there. The issue takes a look at the situations of families, singles (with and without children), divorcees, retired couples and even widows and shows them ways to save money in these tough economic times.

Though I have respect for BE, mostly due to the fact that I am an African American business owner (shameless plug: ION Consultants), they do have a way of perpetuating the Black community's blind eye towards gays.

I guess that is what I am here for.

Earlier in the year, I formulated a simple four step financial plan that will assist gays around the country in navigating through the economic downward spiral in which our nation will be facing in the upcoming months, while still keeping up with the Jones'.
Though mostly written in a satrical fashion, there are key points that can be used to save money.

Step One: Check Up On Your Checking Account

One way of saving a couple of duckets is to go through your checking or saving accounts and take a good inventory of all the automatic deductions that you have established. Do you really need to spend $45 a quarter for your subscription? How about your Netflix account? I know
that $20 per month is not a lot to spend on three movies at any one time, but when was the last time you visited your local library? You know they have DVD's as well, and they are free. Not only that, they have those things that go on bookshelves. You could even learn a thing or two in the process.

Step Two: The Smaller The Better

It's not always the size that matters. Speaking of Netflix, if you simply cannot live without your subscription, how about cutting your movie delivery from 3 to 1 at a time? I am sure that the extra two movies will still be waiting for you in your que when you are ready for them. You can also take a good look at your cell phone bill. If you are paying for 600 minutes per month but only use about 250 minutes on average, maybe it's time to switch to a less expensive plan.

Another area to investigate is that of your gym membership, which I know you must have.
Ask your gym if there is a way to save on your monthly costs by only paying for a membership to one of the gyms in town instead of having the all inclusive package.

Step Three: Entertain Yourself

Get your mind out of the gutter bois. I am not saying become a hermit and only leave your apartment to go grocery shopping. What I mean is, take a good look at the money which you shell out each time that you have a night out on the town, and see where you can save a little bit of cash. It may be as simple as passing on one round of drinks or even guzzling down a domestic beer verses the expensive imported microbrew which you are accustomed.

Step Four:Put Your Money To Work

All that hard work to save money will do no good if you just go out and blow it all on a new pair $300 designer Seven jeans or your next trip to Cabo San Lucas. Why not make that extra cash start working for you? Explore some investment options that will foster financial returns such as money markets, certificate of deposits or savings accounts. For those who find that they have a bit more cash after the afore mentioned saving strategies, you may want to stash your cash into more lucrative investment ventures such as real estate or 401k plans.

By no way are these steps a complete and all encompassed financial strategy. There are several different variables which must be factored into your individual financial saving's equation. But, by taking these baby steps in the financial walk of life, with a little help with a professional financial advisor you will be sprinting to financial freedom in no time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Must See Movies

I am not too much of a movie buff, meaning that I go to the movies maybe 4 times per year. I mostly just wait until I can order them via Netflix, pop in a bowl of popcorn and call it a night.

This being said, I am a sucker for sequels and prequels. For example, I seem to venture out to the theatre to watch every single new Harry Potter film. This will be the same for the following two films:

X-Men Origins

Star Trek (2009)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Can B-Boy Style Survive The Office?

For years, there has been a rift in the thought by some African-Americans as to what is professional dress. The sixties showed African American conforming to the social norms of the workplace. Straight-laced suits and ties fell strictly in line with their white counterparts.

The 70’s brought about a change, where afro’s and bell bottomed pants dominated the professional African American dress. This was mainly because of the radical Black Power and Civil Rights movements which was the love child of the turbulent fifties and sixties. The 80’s showed a return to more subdued professional dress of the African American male with the 90’s doing more of the same.

With the millennium came and resurgent of everything that was culturally relevant. African Americans felt more confident with themselves and were not as ashamed to relinquish our flare for color, style and glamour on the rest of the work.

The surprising thing was, the rest of the society thought the same way. Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karen New York (DKNY) and other upscale designers saw that urban street where was not just adored on the street corner, but also embraced in the office place. This also led the way for many African American designers and labels to get their foot in the door.

One of our nation’s fastest rising and most visible African American fashion moguls is Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs. Combs’ clothing line “Sean Jean” was founded in 1998 and has taken on the likes of Tommy, Abercrombie, and Pierre Cardin in everything from sales to window time at Macy’s.

This line has become one of the most famous lines in hip-hop and un-arguably, that most famous launched by a celebrity, it was only a matter of time before the his hip and urban street savvy style surpassed it’s urban street personal and bombarded its way into the suits and styles of business life.

Russell Simmons is yet another established African American mogul who has taken the street wise street wear from the curb and and infused it into the business district. Some would say that being the older brother of Rev. Joseph Simmons, better known as "Run" of Run-DMC would have given him and ‘in’ on discovering what was hip. That is not entirely the case. Simmons has street credibility on his own right. He began his career by promoting such famous rap act as Kurtis Blow and went on to found Def Jam Records where LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys became famous.

Def Jam was not the only thing that made Simmons famous. Been only one of his many companies, Simmons established Rush Communications to umbrella a movie production house, management company, advertising agency and a clothing company called Phat Farm. Though the line is expensive it has found homage in the streets and has recently made its way into the boardroom.

My overall suggestion when it comes to incorporating you personal flair at your place of business is to be true to yourself without compromising professionalism.