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#WomensLives: 50 Years of Nigerian Hairstyles

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Ojeikere's stunning hair photos are captured in a book.

Ojeikere’s stunning hair photos are captured in a book.

Not so long ago I shared with you that I would be highlighting some great stories about women around the world in partnership with PRI’s #WomensLives initiative. Well, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this story, posted today, about the work of the late Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, who captured over 50 years of Nigerian hairstyles in stunning black and white photographs.

The hairstyles are amazing and each one is imbued with meaning. Many of them harken back to the styles my co-author and I wrote about in Hair Story, in the chapter about pre-colonial hair practices. In general, one’s hairstyle said something about one’s identity. So, a person with a lot of status in the community, for example, would have a very elaborate hairstyle, man or woman. On the other hand, a woman in mourning, would wear a very subdued style. Each family also had their own style that served as an identity marker. Viewing these pictures of Ojeikere’s makes me believe that the significance of the hairstyle has not changed much over the years. They are still clearly a source of identity as well as style.

Of course Black people aren’t the only ones who use the hair as a medium for identity messages. What about you dear readers? What does your hair say about you?

I’m listening.

Peace

#LinkLove: Fresh, Hot and Tasty New Meltingpot Links

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Mater Mea is one of the new links over there on the blogroll. Trust me, it's worth the click.

Mater Mea is one of the new links over there on the blogroll. Trust me, it’s worth the click.

Please notice over there on the right, that I’ve added some new links to my “Tastes Like the Meltingpot” blogroll; HapaMama, Mater Mea, and Multiracial Sky. These are websites/blogs I love and I’m sure you will too. I’m always trying to keep it fresh for my loyal (and new) readers who, like me, are always looking for new voices and new resources on the multiculti/ pop culture/ parenting beat. So, take a look and enjoy the new offerings. And please note, that while Afro-Viking author, Heidi Durrow’s blog, Light-Skinned-ed Girl isn’t new, she’s just come back to regular blogging after a prolonged break. I’m excited to hear from her again.

And, one more link before I go; check out this 2012 story in the Washington Post about the almost extinct Punjabi-Sikh-Mexican American community in the Southwest United States. I know, what? Yes, there once was a thriving East Indian-Mexican American community in states like California and Arizona that are only now getting attention as they face extinction. Think chicken curry enchiladas and let your imagination run wild. Yum and Yummy! By the way, before this community fades into extinction, there is a kickstarter campaign meant to preserve the culture through dance. Yep, the story of the Punjabi-Mexican community has been recreated in a show called “Half and Halves: A Dance Exploration of the Punjabi-Mexican Communities of California.” I can’t make this stuff up. America’s meltingpot is just this delicious.

Peace!

Dispatches from Pakistan Where Women Can Be Jailed for Falling in Love #WomensLives

What would you do for love?

What would you do for love?

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

So, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. With three kids ranging in age from three to 13 and not a babysitter in sight, my Valentine’s Day means Taco Night and silly movies that will appeal to a teen and a toddler. Plus we’re making pink sugar cookies. Not exactly the most romantic plans, but I’ve never been a huge fan of this holiday that commercializes the most important and miraculous human emotion, love. I always felt pressured to feel something and do something to prove how much I loved my boo on this one day and usually ended up feeling like a pile of warm dog poo because nothing measured up to the commercials and Hallmark cards. So, at least making Valentine’s Day fun for the kids is a welcome respite from my feelings of Valentine’s Day failure.

But then I saw this story, promoted by PRI’s #WomensLives campaign. The story was actually recorded in December 2014, but it couldn’t be more timely as we prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The piece is about journalist Yalda Hakim‘s documentary about the women in Pakistan who dare to defy tradition and the law and fall in love with someone other than their “assigned” mate. Jail and death by stoning are both popular punishments for this defiant act. From the PRI site: “Hakim says reporting the story made her realize women in Pakistan don’t have what should be a basic human right: The right to love whom they choose.”

So, after learning about the plight of Pakistan’s women, I reconsidered my own situation. After being with el esposo for more than 20 years, it’s probably reasonable not to feel all Hallmark happy every time he walks in the door. What I can feel extremely happy about however, is that he is still the man I would choose if I had to do it all over again. Now that is something to celebrate. And the situation in Pakistan is something we should all fight against. Take a listen to the story. And then let me know, what will you do to celebrate Valentine’s Day, if anything at all?

Peace!

#WomensLives Being Black in Honduras: One Woman’s Story of Longing and Belonging

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Women Matter!

Women Matter!

I am so excited that I am getting the chance to take part in an initiative to highlight the lack of focus on women and women’s issues in the news media and really in society at large. Public Radio International (PRI) has spearheaded this initiative called Across Women’s Lives and has partnered with Blogher to help get the word out. Blogher is how I get involved.

My job is simple. I get to highlight all of the amazing journalism PRI and its media partners are creating that highlight women all over the world. From the PRI website, here’s a sense of what they are trying to do. ” PRI’s The World and our partners will travel across the globe to share stories of what it takes to change the status of women. We’ll look at how initiatives that raise women’s status affect their communities and countries.

As a female journalist myself, I know I always interpret the news and tell stories from a woman’s perspective, so I am flabbergasted by statistics that show “only about 24 percent of all news subjects talk about women in any way and only six percent of news stories highlight gender inequality.” That’s unbelievable to me, yet not really. *sigh*

But PRI is doing something about it in a big way, and I’m ready to lend a hand and a voice. As I said, my job is to simply show you all what great stories are being produced by PRI about women all over the world. Of course, this story about the plight of Black people in Honduras caught my eye. I have never heard of the Garifuna culture before listening to this story. Now I must add it to my list of “Kinky Gazpacho” communities of color in Spanish-speaking countries.

Here’s the radio version of the story. Enjoy!

Peace!

Breakfast, Kids and International Flavors

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Pancakes, they're not on the menu.

Pancakes, they’re not on the menu.

If you could sum up Ms. Meltingpot’s favorite things in the world, children, breakfast foods and international travel would probably make the top-ten list. Well, the New York Times combined these three things in stupendous photo essay this week called, “What Kids Around the World Eat for Breakfast” in their Sunday magazine. I’ve reread it several times, shared it with my own crumb snatchers, and then checked out the online version which offers a few more photos than the print magazine. Besides providing a glimpse into other cultures and showcasing adorable kids, the essay proved to me that what I feed my kids fits in nicely with what the rest of the world deems appropriate. In other words, everything — from chocolate sprinkles to fermented bean sprouts — is potential kid fare and as parents we should not judge. To each his own and bon appetit!

French Kids Don’t Get ADHD? Really?

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

He may not look sexy but because he's French he is sexy. Mait Oui!

He may not look sexy, but because he’s French he is sexy. Mait Oui!

As if we didn’t already gnash our teeth over the fact that French women don’t get fat even though they eat cheese and French children aren’t picky eaters and French men are just really good at bringing the sexy even when they look like Gérard Depardieu. Now we have to contend with the fact that French children don’t get ADHD.

Even though this article was written last year on PsychologyToday.com, it just appeared in my Facebook newsfeed last night so I read it. The first line had me intrigued: ” In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%. “

How can that be, I wondered? In a nutshell, it’s because Americans define ADHD as a chemical imbalance where the French see the disorder as a result of environmental factors. Please read the article for yourself and assess the author’s argument. Personally, I think it is a slippery slope and kind of careless to suggest that French parenting — aka superior parenting — is the reason French kids don’t have ADHD. Because that argument then implies that American parenting is so bad that we have spawned a generation of kids with severe mental disorders.

That being said, as a true meltingpot mama, I’m always open to learning how other cultures raise their children, especially if they seem to succeed in ways that we Americans consistently fail. Of course, nobody is perfect. And no single culture has a lock on perfect parenting and this seemingly constant holding up of the French as ‘perfect’ can be annoying. And please don’t get it twisted. I’m not hating on the French. Naturellement pas!  I’m just annoyed with the silly Americans who think emulating the French will solve all of our problems — from belly fat to annoying kids. Come on, people.

Okay. I am done. If you have anything to add, you know I’m listening.

Make it a great Monday.

Peace!

Black History Month: It’s Not Just for Black People Anymore

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

In honor of Black History Month, I’m reposting one of my favorite ‘articles’ from my original blog. I’ve added some minor updates in italics. I hope you enjoy!
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February is a busy month in my home. My birthday is in February, so is el esposo‘s. So is my dad’s, which coincidentally is the same day as el esposo‘s. That’s weird, right? And then sandwiched between our birthdays is Valentine’s Day. Of course we also celebrate George and Abe’s birthdays too with a day off from work and school. But the biggest celebration of all in the month of February has to be, Black History Month. That trumps all of our birthdays and celebrations.

Wait, are you surprised? Are you telling me that in your house Black History Month isn’t heralded as 28 days of fun and excitement? Of delight and wonder for the whole family? Maybe that’s because you’re not celebrating it properly. Or maybe because you’re not Black, you’ve always felt that Black History Month wasn’t for you or about you, so you just kind of let it pass you by. Well, not anymore. I’m going to give you some how-to tips so that you too can enjoy Black History Month like a pro, and then in subsequent years, you’ll look forward to February as much as I do.

So without further ado, here are: Five Tips to Help You Enjoy Black History Month

1. Read a book by a Black author! And I don’t mean a dry, historical tome with big words and too many pages that won’t fit in your purse. I mean a really good, juicy novel or heart wrenching memoir by a Black author that seems interesting to you. It could be a romance, a comedy, or even a thriller. It just cannot be written by Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. Are you stuck because you don’t know any other Black authors? Well, don’t despair, just click on over to my friend Carleen’s wonderful website where she recommends all types of books written by Black authors for your enjoyment. You will definitely find something you like. And if you’re too lazy to even do that, try reading one of my books. I’ve written three, non-fiction, memoir and fiction, and you can buy one at a bargain price just by clicking here. Done.

2. Go out to eat at restaurant that is owned by a Black person, or has a Black executive chef. Now, before you wrinkle your nose in distaste because you don’t like collard greens, fried chicken or chitterlings, let me tell you, Black chefs don’t just make soul food anymore. They have expanded their repertoire. If you live in the New York City area and you appreciate inspired Mediterranean food, you could eat at Amali, where the executive chef is Nilton Borges, Jr. He’s black. Or if you live in my new home town of Philly, you could check out Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Peruvian/Chinese restaurant, Chifa. Why? Because Chifa’s chef du cuisine, Chad Williams, is Black. So as you’re munching on grilled Spanish octopus or Peruvian ceviche you can say to yourself, ‘man, Black people really can throw down in the kitchen. I had no idea Black History month could be so tasty!’

3. See a movie with at least one significant Black leading character. But it can’t be Denzel’s new flick, cartoons don’t count because they’re not real, and Tyler Perry can not be involved. This may feel like a real challenge, but you can go to the video rental store, or search on Netflix for a good movie with Black characters in it. But just to stretch dear readers, you may not watch The Color Purple or Roots. We have moved on as a people. Want some suggestions? Check out Shadow and Act.

4. Just for kicks, try to imagine how Black people feel about current events. Try to get into our skin and see how things may be different. Not into role playing? Well then, for the month of February, just bookmark The Root.com and read the news as it is reported by Black reporters. If you want an alternative to The Root, visit, NBC’s The Grio.com. They have more video on their site for those of you who don’t like to read all that much.

5. And finally, this is the big challenge but you have a whole month to try to accomplish it. Try to find a Black friend. Really, make the effort to make friends with someone who is Black and see how your life changes. (spoiler alert: Having a Black friend probably won’t change your life in any obvious way.). If you live in a part of the world where there just aren’t very many Black people, well you can try to find a Black friend on Facebook. Heck, I’ll be your friend on Facebook. Just go out there and do the work to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Why? Because ultimately Black History month is not about going back into the past, it’s about celebrating the here and now. By celebrating the authors, chefs, musicians, politicians, teachers, moms and dads of color of today, we are acknowledging the ones that came before.

I say Black History Month should be lived in the present day, every day.

Happy Black History Month! What are you going to do celebrate?

Peace!

Happy Holidays from Ms. Meltingpot

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had a joyful and peace filled holiday. Ms. Meltingpot and her Kinky Gazpacho family certainly did. We ate, drank and made merry. I think we actually ate too much. I had plans to cook a fabulous Christmas Eve dinner, but by the time Monday night rolled around, we were so overwhelmed with holiday treats, we had a simple dinner of scrambled eggs and mushrooms. Simple, tasty and delicious.

Here’s a shot from our family holiday party table where we consumed every thing from homemade chili and tamales to Caribbean codfish cakes and fried plantains. It was perfectly marvelous and perfectly meltingpot, of course. Wish you could have joined us. food

What are some of your favorite holiday dishes? Since my parents are getting older, it’s my time to create new food traditions, so I’m always open to suggestions.  You know I’m listening.

Peace!