Not Who I Am

hiphopglobal_wide-ab6d0bc96c66a7476831f9059cc34d2d589a4f49-s6-c30[1]I’ve been studying in London for the past six months. The best part of this experience is the cultural exchanges I have with my classmates and other students. For obvious reasons, I’m particularly intrigued by the African students I meet.

The one thing that a lot of African students I meet or see all have in common is their infatuation with hip-hop music and culture.  Every day I see them wearing YMCMB sweaters and t-shirts with Jay-Z’s face. They blast Meek Mill and J. Cole from their phones and sing along to the lyrics with a passion that seems to transform them. Almost every time I’m speaking with a black man the conversation is about or related to hip-hop. If they’re not talking to me about hip-hop they’re saying something about President Obama, who is basically a pop star in his own way.  And a black woman made a comment one day that all Black-American women care about is their hair and nails, an assumption that is entirely incorrect!

When they find out I’m from Miami they ask me about King of Diamonds. Have I ever seen Rick Ross? It’s like they assume because I’m black and from America that I must be in strip clubs regularly and I’m hanging out in places that I will see Rick Ross because I’m from Miami. I don’t have anything against strips clubs or rappers and I listen to Two Chainz, Jeezy and Juicy J just like everyone else, but for some reason I was offended. It was offensive to me to feel that a culture that promotes misogyny, violence, materialism and sometimes downright ignorance was the best representation that these people had of me and my country.  Strip clubs and Rick Ross, really?  That’s not who I am.

At home in Miami, I never thought of the negative side of hip-hop as a complete or whole representation of Black-America. I know there’s so much more to it and us than that. I know that many of us, like me, are of Caribbean heritage and still hold onto that culture as our primary way of life. We mix with each other and other races so we have a fairly broad cultural awareness as it relates to that part of the world. America has black best-selling authors, dancers, chefs and successful business people but those things get lost in hip-hop’s shadow abroad. I may be experiencing this because I’m at a university with men and women in their early to mid- twenties, still it’s disturbing.

This isn’t an attack on rap music or hip-hop culture. My experience in London just makes me wonder if rappers realize the impact that have on youth worldwide. Does this impact mean that they have a greater obligation to us to be more responsible in their lyrics and lifestyle?  And if hip-hop can have such a big impact, how can we spread the popularity of other black arts in the same way? Is rap even an art?

Kisses,

Adia Kamaria

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Doing You?

Presentation1I know I’m not the only woman that’s fallen asleep next to an empty wine glass (or bottle) with Mary J. Blige playing in the background after screaming or crying through an argument with my boyfriend and swearing that this is the LAST time, at least I hope I’m not. Yes, there’s just something about Mary. No one delivers I’ve loved, hurt, but now I’m doing me like she does. What does that even mean?

So often women, me included, go through these phases where we withdraw from any and all things male. It might be after a break-up or a slew of bad dates. We say things like, “I’m just doing me right now,”     and “I’m just going to focus on myself for a while”. Then we start eating better, working out, doing yoga, every Sunday we’re in church…We feel good while we’re actually working out, sitting in church etcetera but overall we don’t feel any better than we did before we started “doing ourselves”. That’s because avoiding men doesn’t solve the issues that we have with them, it only feeds the fear we have of another failed relationship.

While it is healthy to take time away for you, there’s a difference between spending needed time alone and being afraid to date because of past bad experiences. Unfortunately, many women fall into the latter without even realizing it. I personally feel that a lot of women don’t trust their self enough to believe they can go out with a man and get to know him the proper way— In other words, without sex too soon. That’s really the only time women feel bad about a situation. In a woman’s mind if there was no sex then there was no loss.

It’s completely logical to be jaded if you’ve had a lot of bad experiences with men, but let’s be honest, if you’re a grown woman that’s had so many bad experiences with men that you don’t even want to go out with one something is wrong with YOU. Some women realize that they may be the problem and they think that staying away from men and “working” on themselves is the solution. Again, makes sense but it’s not true. How will you ever get better at dealing with men if you don’t get any practice? When you learned to drive the more you did it the better you got at it, right? Right.

That’s not to say you should just start going out with any and every one that wants to go out with you so you can get practice. It means you should stay open to dating and love if you really want it. The only way to grow and to learn is to experience. If you’re doing it right, from experience you’ll learn when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away and know when to run (Shot out to Kenny Rogers) That experience should also eventually reveal what you’re doing wrong with yourself that’s causing your relationships to fail.

So, as Wendy Williams used to say, keep your waist tight and your nails done! Love might be right around your corner waiting for you to turn and bump right into it.

Kisses

Adia Kamaria

Mothers

Mothers_day_Wallpaper1[1]My mom died in February 2011. I was twenty-eight years old when I sat in the funeral home and listened to her eulogy, half-hoping she would just sit up so I could see her alive again. I was only half hoping because the previous five years of her life wasn’t living at all. She had been on and off life support, unable to walk, talk or eat solid food and her body was literally skin and bones. Her breasts seemed to have disappeared and her face was sunken in. No, that surely wasn’t the way a woman who had visited five of the seven continents would have wanted to live, so there was a huge part of me that was happy to see her finally resting in peace.

I miss my mom more and more as I get older. I realize now that I never got to be an adult with her which is when I think mother-daughter relationships are best. I never got to tell her about my first true adult love and cry on her shoulder when he broke my heart. She wasn’t at my college graduation and I couldn’t get her decorating advice for my apartment. Her home isn’t there for me to go back to if I ever needed to or if I just wanted to hang out on a Sunday afternoon. I feel emptiness knowing that when my child is born I won’t have my mom there to guide me.

I am grateful however for all the other women who have stepped into her place. My grandmother and my mom’s cousins and friends have always answered my calls when I wanted to talk about life. They have been the ones to congratulate me on accomplishments and encourage me through trails. They call to check on me when I’m traveling and advise me on “woman things”. I sit at their dinner tables on holidays and receive gifts from them on my birthdays. Women co-workers and college professors of my mom’s age have given me their shoulders to cry on and a hug just because. Life only gives you one mom, she can never be replaced but the world is full of mothers.

Losing my mom has shown me that all women are mothers. We mother our friends, families, co-workers and sometimes we even mother strangers. We are natural nurturers that celebrate each other every day in a way that only women can. So happy Mother’s Day to all the women in the world!

Kisses,

 

Adia Kamaria

Lyrically Speaking

whipsEvery one over the age of twenty-one seems to have a problem with the state of hip-hop today. Rap lyrics glorify selling drugs and they abase women, there’s no message in the music, hip-hop sets a bad example for the youth…

Gregory Inman of Hoodie Muzik Group posted something on Facebook about people spending years in school to learn proper English then not using it but being quick to use whatever new slang rappers came up with. I couldn’t agree more! I commented on the post about the use of the word ‘cray’. I spelled it that way because I thought that ‘cray’ was short for crazy since that’s the way people used it. Well, Gregory schooled me on what ‘Kray’ really meant to Jay-Z and Kanye West. Supposedly, they are comparing themselves to mid-twentieth century London gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray. They were NOT shortening the word crazy, yet thousands if not millions, of people used the word as such. I started thinking about how much influence hip-hop’s lyrics have on people, particularly young people.

I remembered years ago overhearing men in New York talking about X5s being feminine cars, all because Jay-Z said, “We don’t drive X5s, we give ‘em to baby-mamas”. I certainly can’t forget the popularity of the Motorola two-way pager after he mentioned it in “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it to Me)”. The mention of Ciroc in too many songs for me to name, has resulted in a bottled being present in every black home I’ve entered in the last six months. I thought about when I heard of young girls searching Aston Martin on Google after hearing it in Rick Ross’ song and the YOLO movement/madness created by Drake.

The bigger picture is that hip-hop has grown into a major marketing platform since Yo! MTV Raps days. It’s commercial now and that commercialism has contributed greatly to its growth. Lyrics are often calculated marketing schemes that people buy into. I don’t think Jay and Ye are secretly laughing at us for not being as worldly as them and knowing that they were comparing themselves to the Kray brothers. The truth is that most rappers today live a totally different lifestyle than they used to. Back then, rappers and their fans were more closely linked socially and maybe even financially. Now, rappers are experiencing and talking about things that most of their fans only hear about from them.

This is definitely a different era of hip-hop. Most of what we hear in hip-hop today is about big booty hoes and Lambos. The Lost Boys aren’t telling us about Renee and Pac isn’t telling women to keep their head up. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe there just aren’t enough Lupes to balance out the 2 Chainz?

And what exactly is the problem? Is it really that bad for young girls (or anyone) to find out what an Aston Martin is from a hip-hip song? Doesn’t this happen with other genres of music too? Maybe it doesn’t. But isn’t that the power that consumers give to celebrities? Doesn’t star power equal marketing power which grows into cultural power? If that’s true, who’s to blame when the outcome of this marketing is a culture of materialism, vanity and ignorance?

I say Diddy and those shiny suits are to blame! That’s what changed hip-hop. I’m only joking, or am I?

Adia Kamaria

Yesterday, I Cried

I recently moved into a new house. It was a tiresome week of packing and unpacking, up and down stairs, cleaning and then cleaning again. Of all the things that needed to be done, I dreaded sorting through a big green plastic container that sat on the floor of my closet, untouched for years.  That container had moved with me twice without ever being opened.

I remember packing the container in 2006 when I was moving from Miami Beach back to my old neighborhood. I didn’t know exactly what was in the container but I imaged that it contained stuff from the years just before it was packed. A time when my mother and I shared cigarettes by the pool and I woke up on most mornings next to a man who loved me through a lot of things, despite a lot of things―the man I affectionately called, “My Home Team.”

Just as I thought, sorting through the container brought back a lot of fond memories. As I dug through the pictures, cards and notebooks I remembered things that hadn’t crossed my mind since they had happened. It’s like I had put all those memories in that container and sealed them away. I sat on the cold floor inside my closet and cried for the memory of things I knew I would never experience again. It’s 2012 now, my beloved mother is deceased and “My Home Team” has a new home, nowhere near me or my life.

At the bottom of the container were at least a dozen books that I hadn’t read. I was taking them out one by one when I came across Yesterday, I Cried by Iyanla Vanzant. It originally belonged to my mother and had somehow stayed with me for over a decade. With tears running down my cheeks I picked it up and thought to myself, Maybe I should read this tomorrow. I put it in my “keep” pile and decided I would read it when my move was completed.

I remember my mother reading Yesterday, I Cried when I was in high school and I tried to read it right after she did but I couldn’t get into it. I tried reading it again sometime around 2005 and I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Three weeks ago I made my third attempt and that time it stuck. I hate clichés and I especially hate when people say that if something is meant to be it will be. If that were true we would all be aimlessly walking through life waiting for things that were “meant” to happen to just, happen. I believe that things happen when they are sought after and worked towards. This experience, however, was a testament to me that some things really do happen when they are supposed to.

I didn’t understand or appreciate Yesterday, I Cried when I tried to read it before, but I’m at a stage now where I can. My life experiences aren’t very similar to the ones described by the author but I was able to relate to the way her experiences made her feel. The whole book was a comparison to and struggle between the old Rhonda Harris and the new Iyanla Vanzant.  These three passages stood out the most to me:

“Often, when you are on a spiritual path, there is a war that goes on between the person you once were and the person you are becoming…The old you, the one who helped you survive, the one that was there for you in rough times, is going to fight to stay alive. The old you knows your secrets and your history. The old you knows your defense mechanisms, what you will do when your buttons get pushed, and exactly where your weaknesses lie. The old you knows what works for you and is terrified by the thought of trying something new…The old you has home-court advantage.”

“When you need to be loved, you take love wherever you can find it. When you are desperate to be loved, feel love, know love, you seek out what you think love should look like.”

“I wanted to prove to her that I was grateful. When you are grateful to someone, you must show it. One way to show it is to let them do whatever they want to you. You let them beat you and don’t fight back; you lie there and let them rape you.”

I could write an entire book on how and why I can relate to these passages so I won’t go into detail on that. Overall, Yesterday, I Cried gave me an explanation for things I’d done and felt in the past. It also reassured me that being at peace and happy with yourself doesn’t mean that you or your family is perfect and that there is nothing wrong with abandoning your past and some people from your past if you believe that’s what’s right for you. There is no obligation to be friends or associated with anyone or anything forever and those changes don’t always have to be made because of a negative force. It’s okay to simply not want to do or be something anymore.

Yesterday, I Cried is the story of a woman who defied the odds and believed in herself enough to become her true self.  It’s an in-depth look at how neglected children become careless adults and how that cycle is repeated. It’s a view of love from a heart that’s been damaged and it makes so much sense if you’ve been there before.

Anyway, right now I’m reading A Royal Duty by Paul Burrell. Nothing life changing here, but it is an interesting look into British monarchial life. Until next time…

Muah!

Adia Kamaria

Pardon Jay

I was a sophomore in high school when I bought Jay-Z’s second album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. His boasting on “Imaginary Players”, reference to Biggie on “The City is Mine” and the belief that my fifteen year old life was somehow relatable to “Sunshine” made him the ONLY rapper alive to me. Then a friend of mine introduced me to his first album, Reasonable Doubt, and that was it for me—Jay-Z was king.

After that came Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, Vol. 3…The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, The Blueprint…and he still sat on the throne I built for him in my mind. He lost me with The Blueprint² The Gift & The Curse, got me back with The Black Album lost me again with Kingdom Come and got me back again with The Blueprint 3. I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with his music. Still, I always respected him as a businessman and Jay-Z as a brand. How could I not respect a man that got people to wear Reeboks again and introduced the word swagger to urban lingo? With that said, it bothers me that so many people have negative things to say about him and his current projects.

Tweets like, “This coming from a man that used to sell crack” and “Jay-Z is a drug dealer”, in reference to an ad that he’s featured in for the Obama re-election campaign.  I was surprised to see more negative than positive comments on articles about the opening of the Barclays Center and the Nets move to Brooklyn. Things like, “I don’t care what this man does, he sold his own people poison”.

Really? It’s like people are saying: “How dare you? How dare you Shawn Corey Carter live to be forty-two years old and still be relevant? How dare you go from bricks to Billboards and grams to Grammys? Didn’t you know you were supposed to have five kids and three baby-mothers that hate each other? Didn’t you know that you were supposed to go to jail for selling crack and then come home and not be able to get a job and lose your right to vote? Are we supposed to believe that you’ve changed? We don’t believe you, you need more people!”

It makes me wonder if people are only upset because Jay-Z has reached such a high social status. Like, it’s okay for a drug dealer to become a rapper but we shouldn’t have him campaigning for the re-election of the nation’s first African-American president. It’s okay for him to put his name on sneakers but we certainly don’t think he should be involved in a major enterprise such as an NBA team and sporting arena.I would be puzzled if this is true since American society treats celebrities like royalty, which puts them in the best positions of influence in this country. Who else should President Obama have gotten to get the attention of young black people? Think about some other rappers and Jay-Z will probably be the best choice.

People always say that black men need to do better. Jay-Z is a black man doing better than he was “supposed to”. I’m not saying that selling crack and then rapping about it is cool, but he’s not doing that anymore. Can’t we just be happy that his story didn’t end in prison or death? Can’t we just be happy for one of them that made it?

I’m hoping that when Tuesday comes he can say that he is a small part of the reason the president is black, again.

Kisses,

Adia Kamaria

 

Happy Girls :-)

Confidence is supposedly the best thing a woman can wear―I disagree, somewhat. Yes, confidence is sexy but a smile is pretty. A sincere smile on a woman’s face is unquestionably feminine and gracious. I know we can’t walk around with a big grin on our faces all the time for no reason, that’s silly, but when you’re in a happy state of mind you smile at just about everything without even realizing it. When you smile your eyes are brighter and your presence is pleasant. Audrey Hepburn was right, happy girls are the prettiest girls.

As a former ABW, I notice the difference that being happy makes in the way that men treat me too. I get a lot more compliments from men now than I used to. I mean real compliments, not game. On a daily basis men say to me something along the lines of, “You’re beautiful” or “Have a nice day, pretty”. They help me with bags and offer to pay for my groceries and sometimes do pay for things without me knowing―and that’s it! They do or say something nice and walk away. They don’t stand around asking for my number or give me lame reasons why I should get to know them. (Of course this could also be because my skirts are much longer and my nails are much shorter now too)

This past Monday morning I was in a Publix supermarket and as I walked past a stranger he said, “You look very nice today, and have a nice day too.” I asked him why he said that to me and he said, “Because you smiled when I passed you.” I took that to mean that my smile made me look nice, approachable and like someone that he genuinely thought should have a nice day.

We’re only human, we can’t be happy every day and I don’t believe there is a magical way to control all of your thoughts so that unhappy ones don’t ever enter your mind. If you’re like me you’re the type of person that gets upset by other people, not things. Something like spilling sauce on my shirt at lunch won’t change my mood for the entire day but someone I love doing something I hate will. The key is to stay the same no matter what someone else does. I have to remind myself daily that my mood and my happiness are MINE and not to be given away. Have I mastered this? No, but I’m learning more and more that smiles are curves that set a lot of things straight.

Kisses,

AdiaKamaria