A Must-Read Before Touching My Hair Without Permission

I see ya'll are still out here cutting up when it comes to black hair. Here we are, almost halfway through 2018...

AND HERE I AM STILL TELLING SOME OF YA'LL TO KEEP YOUR PAWS AWAY FROM MY FRO. 

Truth time: I don't like being touched by strangers. Who does? I don't know what kind of actual filth someone might have been rummaging around in right before coming out of the restroom and NOT washing their hands. My fight or flight was tested for the first time a few months ago when a coworker tried to 

GRAB. 

MY. 

HAIR. 

Before that day, I'd NEVER experienced it personally. I'd always heard the stories from other black women and thought "hmm...glad this hasn't happened to me. Sounds terrible." I mean, black women are already labeled as aggressors even when we speak in the calmest Toni Braxton tones in stressful situations. Often, it doesn't matter what we do anyway since Carol will always find a way to be the victim.

We're wrong for hurting a person's feelings by saying "no."

We're responsible for how you react to being told "no." 

We can say "no," but it has to be in a way that's pleasing to you.

Sounds mad predatory and kinda victim-shamey, right? Man. That's crazy. 

But back to Stacy, ya'll.

 

So here Sarah comes, asking questions about work processes.

Cool. 

Then, out of nowhere, I hear "Wow! Your hair looks amazing!"

I looked up to see a hand coming straight for me as she's simultaneously asking, "Can I tou--." 

You know what I did? 

I slid straight back in that rolling chair like she had the plague. I rolled all the way backwards to the other cubicle. Because what is you doin, baby? 

That embarrassed her (of course, because how dare I), and I swear Emily went through a few stages of grief while miraculously dodging the acceptance part of it all. 

  1. Shock- What's wrong with letting her touch my hair? Why was I overreacting? 
  2. Denial- Susie tried it again, and I leaned all the way to the left in my chair and gave her a cold ass stare that said, "Try it a third time and we're both getting escorted out of here." 
  3. Bargaining- She ACTUALLY told me "the other girl" lets her do it all the time. I'm still trying to figure out what someone else's hair has to do with mine. But...go off. 
  4. Anger- You know that typical thing all the Samanthas do. They get loud, make a little scene because you denied them, and tell everyone who will listen that you don't like them/ are mean to them. No, girl. I'm just not your pet. 

She asked me “why?” several times, and each time my response was "no." That's all Shannon deserved from me.

Sometimes it isn't just hair that people might be after without permission, and it's scary to think about how inappropriate people are when it comes to personal space. Think about how often you see grown-ups giving children kisses on the face, how the kids CLEARLY don't want to be bothered, and how these kids end up getting in trouble because they were "rude." Some of ya'll are mad cringy and need to rethink some things. 

You don't owe anyone an explanation. Your "no" is always enough.

As for me and my fro? You ain't touching us. 

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How I Learned about Real Black Love

To that special guy:

Almost seven years after becoming your partner in crime, I feel like I get what black love is really supposed to be. I'm so thankful for you, and here's seven reasons why: 

A throwback pic of us at Centennial Park for the culture. Ya'll see the matchy-matchy fly! LOL! He was 21 here, and I was 20. 

A throwback pic of us at Centennial Park for the culture. Ya'll see the matchy-matchy fly! LOL! He was 21 here, and I was 20. 

  1. YOU'VE GROWN WITH ME: We were babies when we met each other the first time. I was eighteen, and you were nineteen. As a country girl, the whole "ATL dude" thing took some getting used to. We've been through some crazy moments together, from surviving on ham sandwiches for our rescue kitten's surgery to me throwing your phone into the woods at our first apartment because your 22-year-old self was a complete idiot. I love that we're SO grown now and can laugh at our younger selves. 
  2. YOU'RE A NATURAL PROVIDER: The first time I went to your grandmother's house and saw you working on her car, I knew I wanted you to stick around. I'd never seen a guy close to my age who actually enjoyed getting their hands dirty. Where I come from, everyone only wants to be seen. I knew that someone who was willing to not be 'perfect' all the time might be the change I needed. 
  3. YOU'VE BEEN MY NURSE: Two years ago, I almost died from a clot in my lung. The ER doctor told us both that if it hadn't been caught that night that I would have been gone within 2 days, and it was the only time you've ever cursed me out. I was in shock and couldn't speak, but you were afraid. Your eyes always say so much without you opening your mouth, but you had TIME that day to let me know that you weren't with my hush-mouth behavior, and you sat in the hospital bed with me and hugged me tight. You told me to never suffer in silence if I felt like something was wrong. Now I tell you every time I crack my knuckles too hard LOL! 
  4. YOU LISTEN: I'm hard on myself, and never think I'm good enough. You never put me down for my feelings, but you're quick to remind me of all the things I'm capable of doing. You always encourage me to go after the ideas I have, and you're always there to support me when it gets hard to handle. 
  5. YOU SEE 'ME': So often I lack self-confidence. I'm not the same 90-pound girl with killer 8-pack abs from years ago, and I scowl at myself most days when I walk past the mirror naked. I always catch you staring at me with a grin on your face when I'm standing in the mirror picking myself apart, and I'll ask "WHAT?," ready to defend myself against the opinions of myself that I project onto you. You always say, "Nothing. Just felt like staring at you." You don't think my legs are too big, or my thighs too wide. For almost seven years you've said I'm "just right."
  6. YOU TEACH ME: You've taught me to stay patient with myself, to treat myself, trust myself, challenge myself and cherish myself. When I learned how into cars you were, I was excited but worried. I wanted to learn way more about them, but was always told that it wasn't for girls. We talked about it on one of our late night phone calls as I sat on that hideous hot pink comforter in my freshman dorm room. A few days later you called me and said to come over, "but don't wear anything nice." YOU TAUGHT ME HOW TO INSTALL A CAR RADIO THAT DAY, and I remember being so proud of myself. Now I know how to rewire steering columns, too! What are we learning next? 
  7. YOU'RE MY BEST FRIEND: Now, I now it might sound corny to say..but it's TRUE! I come to you for advice on everything. When we started hanging out at the end of August 2010 (yep, I remember), I knew you'd always be my friend. We hung out almost everyday, even if it was just you helping me study for a test, playing pool in the student center or walking around the mall to talk about life (because #teenagers, right?). Six months later when you asked me to be your girlfriend I was shocked. You'd already told me you loved me three months in, but it was never weird. I remember you saying, "IDGAF if you ever say it back to me. I'll still tell you every day!" You never pushed yourself onto me, and I was never worried about you trying to harm me in any way. 

 

We turned into some good-looking grown-ups, huh? We're both 26 now, but his 27th is coming soon and it's going to be AMAZING!  Image by  Aneris Photography  

We turned into some good-looking grown-ups, huh? We're both 26 now, but his 27th is coming soon and it's going to be AMAZING! 
Image by Aneris Photography 

Best Friend,

I'm thankful, grateful, and lucky to call you my person. Here's to 70 more.

Love,

Karmen

PS- Bet I'll smoke you on my Hoveround years from now! 

We Are NOT Your Costume.

Y'all. Halloween is still one of my favorite times of year, even though I'm a smooth 26 years old now. And even though I enjoy myself, I always have to stay on guard and prep myself mentally for the inappropriate and downright ignorant ways that some of your friends out there try to outdo themselves from the previous year. This post isn't about your obvious blackface that happens every year like clockwork, because #idiotsgonnaidiot. I'm not wasting my time on y'all this year. 

Who I DO want to address, though, are the ones who run from criticism and choose to belittle the feelings of others by hiding behind the shield of "I'm a person of color, too!" I want to address those of you out there who try to drown voices like mine out by saying things like "I'm black, and I don't find this offensive." And let's not forget those of you who run to support your tone-deaf friends in their public "apologies" in droves by further drowning my voice and others like it out by saying: 

"You don't need to apologize for anything! ESPECIALLY when it wasn't your intention to hurt anyone." 

"People these days are always trying to find something to be offended about." 

"Haters gonna hate. I think your hair looks amazing in this picture!" 

Let's be VERY clear: NONE OF YOU SPEAK FOR ME. None of you speak for anyone except yourself. It's pitiful to see how black voices respectfully (because y'all always stress that we have to be, right?) share their real, valid feelings repeatedly just to have them square-danced around in order to enthusiastically acknowledge those voices that support a dry afro wig for the sake of getting in touch with an inner "soul sister (look that one up if you don't know the origin of the term)," and even going as far as using the AFROPUNK hashtag to widen the reach of said tomfoolery. Use that same energy to respond to feedback like mine, because it's all about learning from each other, right? Or is that just something y'all like to say that sounds good? 

When you know better, you do better. Or...you delete posts and go into hiding until you've come up with a good enough angle to make yourself out to be the victim "attacked" by fed-up individuals who simply want you to pay more attention to what the hell you're doing.

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In the spirit of not speaking for anyone else, I'll just say that I, myself, am tired. Do with it what you will, but please make an effort to make it positive instead of pretending to build bridges by starting one-sided "conversations."

After all, "We are community that needs to come together to move forward," right? 
 

The Queen's Roundtable w/ Queen Quet: Africa Fashion Week Lowcountry 2017

A mean round of typical Charleston traffic couldn't keep us away yesterday as we made our way back to the Hampton House in Beaufort, SC to attend the Queen's Roundtable event with Queen Quet. Unique and I left right after work to hit the road, but if you live here in Charleston you know that we kind of set ourselves up for a rough ride when we decided to hop on Hwy 17 at 4:30 PM DURING some intense post-eclipse traffic.

Long story short, be better than us when it comes to finessing these Charleston roadways, y'all.  

From left to right: Queen Quet, Najmah Thomas and Donellia Chives. 

From left to right: Queen Quet, Najmah Thomas and Donellia Chives. 

The first time I saw Queen Quet was a little over a week ago at Cane Rhum Bar here in downtown Charleston. I went in for a dope brunch event hosted by Charleston's own Chef BJ Dennis and The Cocktail Bandits, and I could NOT stop staring at this one woman in the dining room.  

I was there with my boyfriend Devon and my girls Andrea and Chevy when my eyes kept drifting to this one woman over and over. I'd never seen her in my life, and couldn't figure out why I kept wanting to LOOK at her. When Andrea leaned over and told me that she was Queen Quet, my eyes felt like they grew three sizes.  

I wasn't going to miss my opportunity to hear her speak, even if traffic did stop my shine for a lil' bit. And LISTEN... she dropped soooooo many gems. The biggest one that stood out to me surrounded the concept of adornment. Being black people in America, so much of our existence outside the home is consumed by making ourselves more palatable to the majority. I've been thinking hard about this specific phrase from Queen Quet since last night:

"Anything you adorn yourself with, you should know what's in it."

This hit me on a personal level, because I've lived most of my life up until recently trying to do what I think others wanted me to do. My own sanity suffered because of it, because (let's be real) everybody who says they're for you ain't really for you. Ever since a health scare back in 2015, I've made it a point to cast out any interactions and relationships that don't contribute to my mental and spiritual well-being. It does still take work, but exercising that right to choose your own path goes a long way toward protecting your spirit. Don't thank me, thank Queen Quet for that one.

As an artist, activist, fashion designer, environmentalist, historian (for more in the list of greatness visit her website, because mama is EVERYTHING, in the best sense possible), the Queen Mother of the Gullah Geechee Nation spoke about the negativity she faced along her journey in the fashion world as she encouraged other black people to outwardly celebrate their culture and take pride in the heritage that we carry. All of her anecdotes still ring true today in regards to the ways some people dampen their blackness to appease others, and when she said that we were people of the sun and that people should look at us with that same excitement that they watched the recent eclipse with it took everything I had to stay in my seat and not yell out "YES!!!" 

After filling up our spirits with Queen Quet and feeling reaffirmed in the power and joys of being black, Unique and I needed to fill up our empty stomachs. We left straight from work, and dinner was calling. We were in luck through, because Donellia reached out to Mr. Jason and Jason's Seafood and Wings asking him to stick around and feed us before we went back to Charleston. 

AND FEED US, HE DID. 

I have been trying to track down BOMB lemon pepper wings like back in ATL since I've been in Charleston. Mr. Jason is all the way in Beaufort, but I'll gladly make that 1hr. 20min. drive to sit at his table and eat wings. I tasted that food and felt like I was right back at home!

I have been trying to track down BOMB lemon pepper wings like back in ATL since I've been in Charleston. Mr. Jason is all the way in Beaufort, but I'll gladly make that 1hr. 20min. drive to sit at his table and eat wings. I tasted that food and felt like I was right back at home!

Let me tell y'all. I adorned myself with those wings, and I could tell that love was all up and through them. I left that place so happy, because not only was my stomach fed but my spirit was topped off by Mr. Jason right along with that glass of sweet tea that tasted just like my mama made it. 

From left to right: Me, Mr. Jason of  Jason's Seafood and Wings , and Unique Law of  Uniquely His Productions

From left to right: Me, Mr. Jason of Jason's Seafood and Wings, and Unique Law of Uniquely His Productions

Anything you adorn yourself with, you should know what’s in it.
— Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation

 

 

We're mere HOURS away from the headlining event of African Fashion Week Lowcountry!

What are you doing to ensure that you're adorning yourself in healthy ways this week? 

Ijeoma Oluo is the Hero I Needed in These Times

First of all, read Ijeoma Oluo's article on the person formerly known as Rachel Dolezal if you haven't already.

(Hint...click the bolded portion of that sentence to head straight there.) 

I read the article while I was at work yesterday, and today I had to run to Twitter to tell Ms. Oluo thank you. It is hard work for people of color on an emotional level to engage with whiteness that is closed off to the concept of introspection. So much so that all we can receive in the end is answers we already knew. Here's what I gathered: 

  • The person formerly known as Rachel Dolezal gives off the impression that she sees true black people as inferior and less intelligent. 
  • She's riding that white savior wave
  • Becoming a black woman felt like the right fit for her because she didn't grow up rich (because apparently poor white people aren't' actually a thing? Ok, girl.)

Reading that article opened my eyes to a ton of things I experienced from an organization I worked with for almost a year that were like a mix of "Nkechi (she thought...)" and the moment when Issa Rae gave me that gut-punching monologue about Secret White Meetings in Insecure. Ramona Dixon herself is an extreme case of whiteness taking over, fetishizing and remaining willfully ignorant, but I was surrounded by a room full. And the most DEFINITELY had Secret White Meetings. The Oluo article shockingly gave me a sense of closure. Yes, it's info that we all pretty much assumed about the woman. Yet Ijeoma Oluo truly came through and carried the team on her back for this one so that we could all begin the process of putting Rac...Nkechi...in the backs of our minds.

 

Is there a particular line from Ijeoma Oluo's article that hit close to home for you?  

No Chaser The Series: Six Black Men on Dating, Relationships & More

 

Starting Onyx Marten almost a year ago has opened up some amazing doors for me to collaborate with some amazing people along the way, experiencing all of the creativity that flows from my people. You all know that my blog is dedicated to uplifting black, so when I was able to collaborate with Brown in the City recently to preview a new YouTube series before the rest of the internet I was THRILLED. Follow this duo on Instagram and Twitter. You're welcome. 

I won't drop any major spoilers into the post because you NEED to watch No Chaser The Series starting MONDAY, APRIL 3, 2017.

 

Don't act like you didn't know, because we JUST talked about it. I'll remind you though, don't worry. 

 

I'll admit, I was worried after I learned that the first episode was about interracial dating. Many black women feel as though black men have little to no interest in us and see us as loud, or not good enough when they "get on." Y'all know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. As a teen, my own dad (who is black af) even told me to my face that essentially men of all races would want to build a life with me last. When you're fed the idea that you're a consolation prize or placeholder until something better (and lighter) comes along, it sticks to you. The thought of sitting in front of my computer and risking feeling even more inadequate by the end had me on edge.

Within the first minute, I felt myself relaxing. I kid you not. 

The first episode is a digestible segment of around five minutes, and by the end of it I thought of so many women and men to share their YouTube channel with in preparation of the release date on April 3rd! I'm all for knowing your worth as a black woman and not needing validation, but sometimes it's just great to know that others, ESPECIALLY black men, see us as being more than enough. It definitely helps that the cast has great senses of humor all around, because I'd imagine that upcoming episodes will become more intense as the subjects change from episode to episode.

Another cool element that sets this show apart from your typical interview-style videos is the incorporation of statistical information. Many of the numbers in those sidebars were brand new to me, and presenting them alongside the conversation already in progress made it so much easier to process in my opinion.

 

I know that was a lot, so here's a quick summary to reiterate why you need to make this part of your YouTube lineup: 

  • The black male cast speak on dating with children, celibacy, racial preferences and more (yep...STRAIGHT. NO CHASER. You've got it.) 
  • The show's goal is to provoke dialogue and kill stereotypes in the black community while having a great time and sharing a few laughs

 

***NOTE: Season 1 premieres on 4/3/17, and there are a total of 6 episodes.***

  

 

BONUS INFO YOU'LL NEED:

The show is seeking sponsorship/funding to shoot season 2 later this year. So, if you like it as much as I do, get in on this and help support a much needed tool to get people talking about topics normally swept under the rug.  

Social media links for the cast and crew are below! Make sure you follow each of them to say hey and show support. In the meantime, follow No Chaser the series on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as well to stay up to date on new episodes. Make sure you come back to Onyx Marten, because I'm itching to talk about future episodes!

 

Cast:

Fr!day: Instagram (@yamanfriday ) and Soundcloud (soundcloud.com/yamanfriday)

Lex Kimbrough: Instagram (@Lexkimbrough ) & Twitter (@Lexkimbrough)

Dion Quamina: Instagram (@PabloThaGreat42) and Twitter (@PabloThaG )

Thomas C. Knox: Instagram (@datewhileyouwait)

Kirk Oliver

Lindsay Johnson

 

Crew: 

Executive Producer/ Director - LaPorsche Jackson, IG: @itsp Twitter: @la_porsche

Producer/ Director - Kelsey Marie IG: @trinidadianlove

DP/Editor/Associate Producer - Brandon Nick @brand0nnick on IG and Twitter

 

 

Here's Why I'll Always Be Proud of My Blackness

Recently, I did a photoshoot with an AMAZING photographer named Sirena. She's the owner of Aneris Photography here in Charleston, and something amazingly spiritual happened for me in the middle of our shoot. 

We ended up passing by what's commonly known as Old Slave Mart of Downtown Charleston. I can be very emotional when I'm so close to places where I feel like the impressions of the ancestors run deep, and I recall breaking down after visiting the marker of a former slave port last year. Sirena wanted to get some pics there because let's be real: how powerful of a moment is it to take photos of a black woman in a gown representing her culture in front of a place symbolizing the history of oppression of her heritage? Don't play.

Then, we both spotted a single Palmetto Rose on the ground (I provided a link to a brief blurb for you on the history of it so you can catch up in your free time, but definitely feel free to get lost in the research of sweetgrass basket weaving. I won't judge!). She told me to pick it up and stand in the archway of the market so she could get some shots. I was HYPER AWARE of the people around us (mostly white) slowing down to stare, and one man in particular who was across the street eating in a restaurant couldn't take his eyes off of me. A few white ladies walked by and were extremely vocal about how amazing I looked, but I don't think they really understood the significance. 

But a black woman rode past, SLOWED DOWN HER CAR, and yelled: 

"Yasss, SIS! You better wear that dress in front the slave market, honey. You are GORGEOUS for the culture."

This pic is of me interacting with that woman. 

 

Photo Credit: Aneris Photography  This photo IS Lifestyle, Culture & Social Justice all in one, y'all.

Photo Credit: Aneris Photography

This photo IS Lifestyle, Culture & Social Justice all in one, y'all.

 

I come from a people who have been through so much. And yet, we always find was to continue to elevate ourselves. Me standing in the midst of where my people were sold like cattle, wearing not only that dress but my MELANIN? Holding on to a piece of our culture (that ROSE)? This picture makes me realize that even on my weakest days I am forged in strength, and my sole purpose in my turn at life is to not let those who came before me down. That's why I'll NEVER apologize for how Black I am. 

 

Why are you proud of your own specific cultural background? I'd love to know!

"How Come You Don't Post About Him on Your Page?"

Christmas is HERE.

I had this grand plan to make gifts for the ladies in my life, but that's gone so far out the window now. Those gift card stands are clutch for me this time of year!

I'm preparing to spend a solid 4 days with family, and I'm already hearing those nagging phrases:

"When's the wedding?"

"When are y'all gonna have a baby?"

"So have y'all talked about it?"

An awesome caricature this guy did of us at the Perry Fair this year when we visited family in GA. (Peep my boo's glasses! Lol) 

An awesome caricature this guy did of us at the Perry Fair this year when we visited family in GA. (Peep my boo's glasses! Lol) 

I've been told by my mother that I don't have the most tact when it comes to voicing my own annoyance with people, but a lot of times I just see no problems with my response folks. I mean, which is it? Do you want us to build together first so you can talk about how we've been together five years and he hasn't asked me yet? Or do you want me to have a kid so you can talk down on how we moved too fast? 

At the end of 2016, I'm reflecting a ton on how much social media plays into the relationships of many of the folks I follow on my own timelines. In our earlier years, I used to worry that us not posting about each other would give off the impression that we really weren't that into each other.  

I grew up.

 

Honestly, we're around each other constantly. I don't want to plaster him on my timeline. We need a break from each other sometimes. 

I can't resist this pic of him and my niece! It's only in this post for that reason!  

I can't resist this pic of him and my niece! It's only in this post for that reason!  

I've noticed that we actually spend a ton on meaningful time together when we're not on our phones. He'll help me cook, I'll help him work on his truck. We'll play board games or watch an endless string of YouTube videos.  

 

I dont post him on my page because I'm too busy enjoying him! I'm not sure I'll tell the world I'm married until after the wedding, and I need a few more years with him before I can share him with a little one who looks just like us. What's helped us sustain our relationship for this long is not worrying about what the internet thinks. So y'all...and I mean this in the most loving way:

 

Don't worry about what we have going on!