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New Year, New Blog…Sort Of

cropped-MAMP_logo_FNL1.pngHello Meltingpot Readers,

I’m still here. In the midst of an existential blog crisis. As usual at the beginning of a new year I wonder if anybody is actually still reading My American Meltingpot. I know a few dedicated souls are and I thank you for that. And as usual I always consider shutting this all down. But I can’t. I just can’t. Instead I’m tinkering and playing with new ideas and fantasizing and dreaming. All good things for a creative person like myself. So, please stay tuned as I play with The Meltingpot behind the scenes. It is my intention to be up and running again, better than ever in just a little while.

Hasta Pronto!

I Read #DiverseBooks: Ms. Meltingpot’s 2015 Year in Review of Books

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

On this last day of 2015, I thought it only appropriate to reflect. Reflect that is, on what I read this past year. If you recall, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read more in 2015 because I’d noticed that I’d been reading for work and not for pleasure and reading is one of my greatest joys. And when you realize that you’ve neglected a simple joy in your life, something has to be done. I wrote in this early 2015 post that I was going to try to read one book a month, and now having compiled my 2015 Reading List, I realized I met that goal.

Here’s what I read in 2015 with a mini review/summary. For the most part, you can assume I enjoyed the book enough, if I took the time to read the whole thing. One thing I won’t do is read something I dislike. Note: the order is reverse chronological, meaning the first book is what I most recently read in December and goes back to the beginning of the year.

1. YO! by Julia Alvarez. A novel about a struggling Dominican-American writer, told in the various voices of the people who know her best. Funny and touching.

2. Disgruntled by Asali Solomon. The hilarious and heartbreaking coming of age story of a Black girl in Philadelphia whose life begins in an all-Black urban neighborhood and then shifts to the mostly White tony suburbs. A great novel that felt very close to my own life in many ways.

3. The Search for Susu by Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts & Marcella McCoy-Deh. A novel about a Black female adjunct professor who is offered a rare opportunity to improve her position in the world of academia. Real life drama with a dollop of extra drama for effect.

4. The Cutting Season by Attica Locke. A thrilling murder mystery that melds history and present day life on a Louisiana plantation. After reading this book, I’m definitely going to be reading more by Ms. Locke.

5. Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith. Another thriller merging past and present. A Black lawyer meets a group of powerful Black men who have a sinister secret that they claim is the key to their power. Disclaimer: I loved the premise of this book but reading the whole thing made me a bit queasy and uncomfortable at times.

Substitute Me by Lori L. Tharps. Yes, I read my own novel. For the first time! And for the first time, I didn’t cringe and berate myself for everything I could have done better. It’s a good book about what happens when one woman hires another to be her nanny and the nanny does a better job than anyone ever imagined. 2015 actually marked the five-year anniversary of the book’s release.

loving day7. Loving Day by Mat Johnson. A fantastic and funny book about a Mixed-Race (Black and White) man who discovers he has a teenage daughter he never knew about. The book tackles the issues of family, race and identity with great skill and insight.

8. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae. Besides discovering that Issa Rae is not her real name, this well-written memoir by up and coming comedian/actress/writer Rae tells her unique story of life as the daughter of an African father and a Black American mother. As expected, it was funny all the way through.

9. Miss Jessie’s by Miko Branch with Titi Branch. I admit, I didn’t have high hopes for this book. I was really only reading it because I was going to interview Miko Branch at an event. Well, I was pleasantly surprised by not only how well the book was written – I couldn’t put it down – but also how much I learned about the sisters who started the trailblazing Miss Jessie’s brand of hair products. The book is about so much more than hair, it’s about family, following one’s passions and the power of possibility. I highly recommend this book for anyone with a entrepreneurial dreams.

10. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I re-read this book for research for my book on colorism in American families. Even though it was the second or third time I read this classic, it still slapped me in the face with it’s searing pain and helplessness.

GodChildBook11. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison. Morrison’s latest novel was a slim volume that depicted the tale of a dark-skinned woman in modern times who was rejected by her light-skinned mother. I lapped it up because it portrayed a fictional family dealing with the issues I was writing about in my nonfiction book, Same Family, Different Colors. Thank you, Toni.

12. Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile. Full disclosure, I didn’t love this book about a single mother who moves south to claim a sugar plantation left to her by her deceased father. But I appreciated the unique story and the descriptive writing.

9780062072269_p0_v6_s260x42013. All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior. I reviewed this book here. Very informative and easy to read.

14. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyen. I loved this book about a group of Black Jazz musicians fleeing Nazi Germany. I reviewed it here.

And there you have it. Ms. Meltingpot’s year in review, of books. Clearly with 14 titles I read more than one book per month, so there’s one resolution I actually kept. Now, if only I’d been so good with my resolution to start exercising consistently. Oh, well. There’s always next year!

Happy New Year, dear readers. What’s on your reading list for 2016? I’m totally listening and taking notes.

Peace!

Magazines for the Holidays: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Some of my favorite magazines. All would be perfect gifts!

Some of my favorite magazines. All would be perfect gifts!

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

It’s that time of the year again when we’re all supposed to focus on the reason for the season: consumerism. Yes, it seems to me that every year Christmas becomes more about gift giving than reflecting on the changing seasons, the birth of Christ (if that’s you’re thing), a celebration of light (if that’s your thing) and / or giving to the less fortunate and counting our own blessings.

But I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s gift giving parade. I realize there is something intrinsically wonderful about not only receiving gifts but giving them as well. And I think with a wee bit of thought, gift giving can be more than just hitting up your local mall or Amazon page. In fact, finding that perfect gift can be so satisfying not just for the person on the receiving end, but the giver as well. But what is the perfect gift?

I’ll tell you what the perfect gift is, dear readers, a magazine. Think about it, a subscription to a magazine is a gift that keeps on giving for 12 months after Christmas is over. Delivered right to a person’s door, a glossy new magazine chock full of information and entertainment is like a curated care package for the ones you love and all you had to do was send in a check with a delivery address. No worrying about the right size, or color, or whether they’ll like it or not. Who isn’t going to love a magazine? As long as you pick the right magazine, that speaks to the interests and/or hobbies of your loved one, you can’t go wrong. And trust me, there are magazines out there catering to just about every single hobby, interest, fetish and fan. Here are just a few ideas. You can thank me later.

1. Ebony Magazine – For your Black friend or Rachel Dolezal-esque friend who just loves Black people and Black culture. Kierna Mayo is the new Editor of Ebony and it’s better than ever before.

2. Afar – For your friend full of wanderlust, Afar magazine is a travel magazine for the traveler not the tourist thanks to its gorgeous photography and editorial content that goes way beyond the obvious, trendy vacation hot spots.

3. Poet’s & Writers – For your struggling writer friend who would buy their own subscription to this inspiration-packed, bimonthly magazine, but is a poor writer so can’t justify the expense.

4. Bust Magazine – For your funky feminist friend who still secretly wants to be Martha Stewart but also joined the local roller derby league and is about to start her own business.

5. Culture – For your foodie friend who loves cheese. Yes, this is a gorgeous magazine dedicated to cheese and the people who love to eat it. Seriously.

6. Catster and/or Dogster – For the cat and dog lovers in your circle, these new magazines take all the fun from viral animal videos, plus useful columns and advice and offer a bimonthly magazine for anyone who considers their pet a part of the family.

Okay, dear readers. What magazines do you think make great gifts? I’d love to hear any you think Ms. Meltingpot would like. I’ll pass the info on to el esposo. I’m totally listening.

Peace!

Dear Black People: An Open Letter to the Black Families on Philly’s Main Line

Dear Black People on the Main Line,

#Warning This story may break your heart, or harden it.

#Warning This story may break your heart, or harden it.

No, not all the Black people. I’m sure some of you are super happy there and if you are, please feel free to completely disregard everything I’m about to say. I’m actually talking to the Friday family that was profiled in the depressing and disheartening story in the December issue of Philadelphia magazine, titled “Racial Profiling on the Main Line.” And while this letter was inspired by the Fridays, I know there are other families like them dealing with the same, ugly, race-based incidents and I hope they heed my advice. And that advice is, MOVE! FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR CHILDREN, PACK YOUR BAGS AND GET THE HELL OUT OF DODGE.

Dear Black people, you’ve been misled. You’ve drunk the Kool-Aid labeled American Dream and forgot to read the ingredients list. Just because you can afford a “million-dollar house” in the tony suburbs of Philadelphia where African-Americans make up less than four percent of the population, doesn’t mean you should move there, especially if you have children. And really, it’s the children I care about. Quite frankly, Black people, if you are a full-grown adult and you don’t mind being subjected to racist slights on a regular basis, like the chef profiled in the story who admitted he was stopped at least once a month on the Main Line for driving while Black, then that is your prerogative. But, if on the other hand, you are trying to raise happy and healthy children and you subject them to not only the same type of racist slights by neighbors and police, but also an environment that does not offer any positive reflections of Black life and culture, then we have a problem.

I know, I know, dear Black people, you only did it for the top-notch schools offered there in Lower Merion. They’re just so off-the charts amazing you decided it was worth it to sacrifice your children’s mental health, racial identity and self-esteem. Because when I read in the article that one of your sons was allegedly called a “black ass” by a teacher, that kids regularly taunted your kids with the N-word, that in school they are laughed at and made fun of because they’re Black and even that they get teased for eating fried chicken in the lunch room, I consider that abuse, plain and simple. Systematic and continuous abuse. And then I wonder, even if the school that these two boys were attending was the Harvard of middle schools, how much quality education could they actually be receiving if everyone from their classmates to their teachers were abusing them? If they were spending the better part of the school day trying their best to be invisible? The last time I checked, stress, abuse and low-teacher expectations had a negative impact on learning.

Now, before anyone says, ‘but Ms. Meltingpot, why should the Black people have to move? They didn’t do anything wrong. They have every right to live wherever they want. It’s 2015 for goodness sake.’ I have an answer to that line of reasoning. The beautiful thing about it being 2015 and Black people having the right to live wherever they want is just that. We do have the right and the choice to live wherever we want and thank goodness, there are choices. Lots of choices, in fact. In Philadelphia, if folks want suburban living, a big, fancy house and more diversity than the Main Line, there are options like Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. These neighborhoods boast gorgeous real estate options with the benefit of a more diverse population. The public schools in these neighborhoods aren’t as good as those on the Main Line, but with the money one would be saving on taxes by living in the city of Philadelphia as opposed to the suburbs, parents could afford a decent private school. But let’s go back to that ‘its for the education excuse.’ You can’t convince me that you’re only staying on the Main Line for the sake of your kids’ education if that education is sullied by daily racist abuse. (see that argument above.) It sounds like you’re staying because of that Kool-Aid problem I mentioned before. Perhaps, dear Black people, you like the status of your big house. Maybe you think it says you’ve arrived because you have a zip code that indicates you have more money than other people. But really, what that house represents is that you’ve chosen status and the false promise of a quality education over the reality that racist wankers can and will ruin your children for life.

Which brings me to my next point; the racist wankers that inhabit the Main Line. Please note, I am not suggesting that everyone who lives on the Main Line is a racist or a wanker. Not at all. I’m simply saying that based on the Philadelphia Magazine story and anecdotal evidence I’ve heard over the years, there is a significant number of racist wankers on the Main Line and they are not moving. Nor do they seem to be interested in becoming less racist or less wanker-ish. As evidenced by what happened when the leaders of a White progressive church on the Main Line posted a Black Lives Matter banner on their church and were met with such condemnation and vitriol from the community, as well as from White supremacist groups nationwide, that church leaders feared for their safety. Now, one could argue that families like the Fridays should stay and fight the racists, but I say, why? One Black family staying put in their pretty house is not going to change anybody’s racist ideals. On the other hand, one Black family who takes their two children to a neighborhood where they don’t have to fear for their lives when they ride their bicycles around the block and where they will have a chance to interact with other people of color could in fact change two lives for the better. And dear Black people, those are the lives you need to be worrying about, your children’s.

What’s more, in one point in the article, the writer details a moment when Mrs. Friday stormed into school and demanded change after yet another troubling racist incident directed at her child happened. Of course, nothing changed. Imagine if Mrs. Friday took her energy and resources to a public school with a little less money and slightly lower test scores, where the complexion of the population looked more like hers. Imagine the change she could engender there, not just as a change agent, but as a role model. Imagine if Black people like the Fridays, instead of trying to integrate a hostile and unwelcoming White community, instead put their energies into empowering the Black and brown community? At the end of the day, it’s simply not Black people’s job to sacrifice their children so that White people might learn to appreciate diversity.

This letter is getting really long, so I’m going to end it here with a final thought. I know there is no magical Black village where everything is perfect. But I also know that for too long Black people have longed to move on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky, without taking stock of the sacrifices such a move requires of the children involved. Nor do they appreciate how significant going to a school where the color of your skin doesn’t make you a target for ridicule and abuse. Attending a school that doesn’t have manicured soccer fields or a girls lacrosse team isn’t going to destroy a life. What will destroy a life however, is being told on a regular basis that you don’t matter and that you are inferior because you are Black. Dear Black people, where you live matters. Where you send your kid to school matters. If you have a choice, exercise it and choose a neighborhood and a school where your children will learn in both actions and words that indeed, Black Lives Matter.

Sincerely,

Ms. Meltingpot

Adele Had Me at “Hello”

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Adele's last album, 21 is awesome! Her next one, 25, drops next month and I can't wait.

Adele’s last album, 21 is awesome! Her next one, 25, drops next month and I can’t wait.

I don’t know if you all know how much of an Adele fan I am. Suffice it to say, I LOVE HER! Her voice moves me like none other. I could listen to Adele sing the fine print on my phone bill and I’d be crying tears of joy. And now, glory be, she has a new single out called “Hello.” Considering the fact that more than two million people have already liked the video on YouTube, clearly I’m not breaking any news here, but just in case, I thought I should let you know. And so you don’t have to leave this page to see the video, here it is. You’re welcome.

Did you love it? I did. She literally had me at “hello.” And of course, I was terribly curious who that cute young Black man was who played her love interest in the video. I did some sleuthing and found that his name is Tristan Wilds and he’s actually a pretty well-known actor and musician. My guess though is that he’s going to become even more well-known thanks to this video. Yay Adele, for adding some color to your melancholy.

What do you think, dear readers? Is Adele being daring in 2015 by making a Black man her love interest in this video? Have other White female singers done this before? If you can think of anyone, leave me a comment below.

Thanks!

Peace!

ICYMI: “100 Men of Color Greeted Kids on Their First Day of School”

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

The Meltingpot is now dedicated to promoting what I love. Stay tuned.

The Meltingpot is now dedicated to promoting what I love. Stay tuned.

This morning I posted the following quote by David Wolfe on my Facebook page, “Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.” Ironic because I fell asleep last night wondering if focusing on the positive and the good could be the antidote to the horror unfolding daily in this world. I get exhausted just thinking about working to undo the damage being done by racist politicians, hyper-violent cops, the NRA, and countless other “evil doers” in our midst. But I have to do something. I have the platform of this blog and my books and my voice and I really cannot sit by and wait for change to just come.

But my puny efforts to take down the evil would be like a hummingbird’s futile peck at a stone wall. So, I will not try to destroy the wall, rather I will plant seeds all around it, seeds of love, laughter, and light and hope that they will grow strong and fragrant all over the wall, until that wall is covered with the flowers of my efforts.

So, with that, I give you a fabulous story to inspire – and provide another example of folks sparking change with positive intentions – about a group of Black men who showed up on the first day of school to welcome the kids with a handshake and a high-five. It’s a sweet little piece and it appears on a fabulous (relatively) new website that’s all about promoting positive journalism. It’s called A Plus.com. Imagine if the mainstream media spent more time highlighting positive news stories. Would that make a difference in this world? I think so. Check out A Plus and let me know what you think (FYI, A Plus was co-founded by the actor, Ashton Kutcher.) Do you have any positive news websites that you enjoy? Don’t keep it to yourself, share in the comments, please. And then, enjoy my favorite song from Will. i. am that perfectly captures my mood after writing this post.

Peace!

“Rejected Princesses” Are Way Cooler and Way More Colorful Than Anything Disney

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

When I started this blog way back in 2006 ( I think), my lofty intentions were to create an online publication that showcased the ways that people of different cultures came together instead of clashed. I felt the mainstream media was doing a fine enough job covering discord and strife between different cultural groups and I wanted The Meltingpot to be the antidote, seeing as how my very own life flew in the face of racial animosity and conflict between cultures.

Sadly, I’ve strayed from that initial mission and have been sucked into the vortex of cultural crisis reporting. I’m so done. I’ve decided to go back to my roots with this blog and do my best to highlight some more positive examples of different cultures coming together. It’s not going to be all unicorns and glitter, but I am going to make an effort to be a shining light in the endless news of the dismal and depressing when it comes to race in America.

Trust, I won’t turn a blind eye to injustice, but I will be looking for the other side of the “racism rules the world” story.

This is  a website you need to check out and share!

This is a website you need to check out and share!

For starters, check this awesome website of “Rejected Princesses.” These are some badass heroines from history who would make awesome characters for girls – big girls and little girls that is – to love on. But due to said badass-ness, they will never make it to the big screen. Luckily they will make it to a new book in 2016. The best part is that these princesses hail from every country and culture, from ancient China to precolonial Angola. The folks over at Marvel might want to take notes.

Enjoy and you’re welcome!

Peace!

Time Out for Self-Care

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Please excuse this pause in posts. Ms. Meltingpot had to have minor surgery on Friday and is taking time to recover. She will return next week with tasty treats to tantalize your senses.

Peace!