Big Sexxy

As a child, every weekend I looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons and for my stepdad to finish the Sunday paper so I could get lost in the comics section. Although I’ve always loved cartoons and animated movies, I was never entertained by comic books or superheroes. Not only were there none in mainstream popculture during my childhood who looked like me, there certainly were no women superheroes to whom I could relate to. Pam Grier came on the scene around the time I was born during the 70’s in the blaxploitation Foxy Brown films, but even in my later years I couldn’t identify with her character being someone to look up to or at the very least a superhero.

One so-called hero at the time who shared my skin color was Dolemite which in my opinion was a grotesque satire of every cliche created by blaxploitation. My parents along with their friends raved about the films. Once I revisited those movies as an adult, I couldn’t help but notice the same racial archetype of the “angry black man” often depicted as mad men seeking revenge on white America or black character’s played the role of a side-kick to white superheroes. It may be safe to say that these blaxploitation films were made in an effort to appeal to urban audiences but regardless, I was unable to relate. In the 20’s before superheroes hit mainstream, minstrel shows were popular entertainment. The images in the comics pertaining to blacks were racist stereotypes. The drawings depicted blacks, specifically woman as jezebel’s and being over-sexed. There were the “mammy’s”, domestic workers who’s jobs were specifically to serve whites. These charecters were dramatically portrayed as having huge lips as well as other voluptuous physical attributes.

Eventually superheroes of color became more popular on the scene with characters like “Black Lightening” and “Luke Cage”, but they were not my idea of what a superhero is, especially since becoming an adult experiencing life first hand. Besides they were still men, unrelatable to my plight not only as a woman, but also a mother. Not to take away from the beautiful Linda Carter as Wonder Woman, but the first signs I saw of woman heroes in relation to real life along with my passion for mythology were Jane Seymore as Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and Lucy Lawless as Xena Warrior Princess. These were real women only not of color which is what led me to realizing I will become my own superhero “Big Sexxy”!

Charecteristics

  • Super Hero name: Big Sexxy (w/2 x’s because I’m plus size, lol)
  • Powers: State of mind, confidence, resilience, determination, human kindness, integrity, love
  • Super Suit: I wear the Armor of God which shields me from negativity & those who doubt me
  • Mission: Fight by being the VOICE for those who have yet to find their own and be an example for future generations

Those who choose to not keep an open mind may initially assume otherwise upon hearing the name; however, it has nothing to do with physical attributes nor sex appeal. I personally find intellect to be sexy. Reading a book or the willingness to continue seeking knowledge regardless of the amount of degrees obtained because there’s always more for us to learn. “Big Sexxy” is simply a stae of mind. The name was given to me decades ago as a sign of respect by those who recognize me as a leader in my community, know my integrety and how I carry myself as a mother and woman being a role model in various aspects. Surprisingly, it caught on and stayed with me through four states so I decided to own it. The way I conduct business ultimately getting results all while walking with my head held high with extreme confidence, determined to overcome any barriers are apparently traits that many seem to admire. Eventhough most days I’m uncertain of the right decision all while struggling with various issues along with everyone else, but I dont complain or show it. Instead I figure out another way. Superheros to me are those moms and dads who produce a full meal with only scraps or miraculously produce gifts under the Christmas tree during hard times. The foster parents and others who take on the resposability of caring for someone else’s child, etc. I believe we all have a bit of super hero in us, many simply havn’t discovered their powers yet. When you’re 14 and your mother tells you “you gone grow up to be fat and ugly just like yo aunt and ain’t nobody gone ever love you”, I had to find ways to fight that. Please understand that this is in no way about me thinking I’m better than anyone else. I have flaws as well and don’t feel a need to respond to insults or those who attempt to put me down because I actually am sad for them knowing the only reason for hurting others is usually due to lacking confidence, not yet knowing their worth. I simply like the person I am (inside & out) and I thrive to be better daily. I don’t need a compliment or a mirror to know my worth or see my beauty, for God shows me constantly weather others see it or not. All that matters is that I do!

My Most Cherished Possession

The above images are a few of my favorites from childhood through my late teens, once I enrolled in college and introduced to an entire new world of literature I thrived for more. However none can compare to the one book that initiated my love for reading as a whole.

The Living Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary

Preface Excerpt:

“It is the latest contribution in the great tradition of English-language lexicography, a tradition that includes the works of Nathan Bailey(1783,1730), Samuel Johnson (1755), Noah Webster (1783,1806, and 1828), Joseph Emerson Worchestor (1830) and Charles Richardson (1836-37). Our dictionary carries on the name “Webster” in recognition of and respect for American lexicographer, Noah Webster, whose work in the standardization of American usage and pronunciation set the quides for those of us who follow.”

Aside from the family photo album; this year my mother finally surrendered to me, my most cherished possession. The biggest book I had ever seen as a child and had always been curious as to what was inside. Once I began to learn how to read and my tiny arms were strong enough to lift it, putting it down then became the struggle. Perhaps my love for words was motivated by the wrong reasons in the beginning. My mother’s lack of education and struggles with literacy were an embarrassment as a child. Being a kid, I thought parents knew “everything” until it was time for me to begin school and found myself constantly debating with the teachers over certain words or phrases. My rebuttals were always “but my momma said…”, not understanding the conditions of the south where she grew up regarding the lack of education for many of color. However, that’s not to say momma was necessarily mistaken with her facts, but simply didn’t know how to express them. So I decided to take matters into my own hands learning as many words as my brain could hold. I entered every spelling bee I could, winning most with the help of “my” dictionary (I’ve always claimed it as mine even threatening my brother if he touched it). It helped me all the way through school, caring information on every subject taught. I’ve always had a love for drawing, mostly cartoons then soon fell in love during our vacations with building structures. The career guide(one of many features in the book) is what helped me discover I could become an architect, that is until I reached high school finding out how much math was required for that field of work. I used it to study the times table chart, learn about our first 38 presidents, foreign languages and phrases, moneys of the world(currency/units), the information was never ending. As I got older it became very useful for jobs with a “Secretaries Guide” showing how to format and address letters for specific individuals and budgeting with a “Salary & Compund Interest” table. Calorie conversions since I’ve done most of the cooking since the age of eight, “Metric System” and the list goes on. The only section I never took much interest in was the “Musical Signs and Abbreviations, but my favorite was the “Table of Alphabets” in Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, etc.

Although the back binding is worn, every page is still in tact. Inside it states that it is printed on glare-free long-life paper which apparently is accurate since my mom bought the dictionary along with her bible (which she still reads) back in 1971. I turned 49 a few days ago, so this book has been in my family fifty years, over four generations. Not only did I get great use out of it, but my children and grandson have as well. We all still refer to it on occasion or atleast I do, they simply google everything. I prefer the experience of rediscovering other aspects every time I open it, like seeing the words I’ve highlighted in pinks and yellows over the years or papers where one of us have taken notes that are still wedged between the pages. I cried when I opened it for this post and found where my mom was determined to learn the “Gettysburg Address” and remember it, written in her beautiful hand writing with notations along the side describing how long “4 scores” is. I remember the day she wrote it out. My brother keeps saying I should sell it. I did have it appraised out of curiosity, but even the thought of not having this dictionary with all the wonderful memories attached to it especially after begging for it for decades, saddens me. I couldn’t bare to part with it for any amount of money.

Empty Nest

One more ounce and I would have given birth to a 13lb baby boy, wow! My children (grandsons included) each have a unique role with in our immediate family. My son is the entertainer, always putting on a show making everyone laugh and the one I look to when I need cheering up. I suppose I’m being a bit selfish, but I miss my baby. I miss his soulful voice when he’s singing my favorites, wrestling with him or grabbing something I can’t reach since he was already 6 feet tall by the age of 12. As a kid he loved drawing, played nearly every sport. Most of my time was spent as soccer mom driving to and from golf courses soccer/football field and every type of mixed martial atrs studio there is. He has a beautiful personality and as he grew older all the younger kids in the neighborhood looked forward to hanging out with him. Teaching them how to do ollies and kick flips on the skateboard and simply being a role model. I’ve always been proud of him and I love him deeply. Now as an adult man married with a child and working a full time job, I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like. I tell my children use me while I’m here. Talk to me instaed of holding everything in, I’ll “listen”. I worry that the pressures of life get overwhelming for him, but he wants to be a “man” and feels he’ll bother me or stress me out with his problems. He struggled the most when I began having seizures and recieved an epilepsy diagnosis which is why I think he’s afraid he’ll be a burden. When he was two months old; although he was in the care of a babysitter, it was my daughter who was seven at the time who realized something was wrong with him. She called me at work several times and on that final call she told me she’s calling 9-1-1 because he hadn’t urinated all day (she was anxious to change his diapers) and he looked like a racoon, with two black eyes. The doctors said if he hadn’t arrived at the hospital when he did, he surely would’ve died from kidney failure. The thing is, I was told he was born a healthy baby. Turns out ( I can’t recal the technical name of the operation) he was born with part of his intestines missing and what he did have was wrapped around other organs is the best I recall his doctor’s explanation. They had to remove his appendix and put organs in their proper place. He was hospitalized for two months. When things get tough for him, I remind him how we (my daughter and I) were never afraid because he is here for a reason. God surely has a purpose for him and I’d like to share one of my favorite poems I’d recite to him in hopes of encouraging him to never give up, written in 1922 by Langston Hughes.

Mother to Son
Well, Son I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And Splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor-
Bare.
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now-
For I'se still goin; honey,
I'se still climbin';
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Who You Callin’ a B.I.T.C.H. ?

The line may sound familiar if you know about Queen Latifah’s hit song “UNITY”. The “B” word is thrown around all to often in many scenarios. Personally, it’s what I was referred to on a regular from my mother during my childhood. Later it became a common weapon of insult by males (notice I didn’t say men) who’s ego’s were shattered after politely declining their advances. Eventually; though I never understood this, it became a popular casual greeting amongst female friends. “Hey bitch, how ya doin'”, “ooh bitch come go to this party wit me”. Turns out, I didn’t have many “friends” because when I demanded to be addressed by my name, suddenly I was no longer “cool”. Mainly due to the hurt of my mother’s use of the word towards me, I grew to despise it which usually led to a beat down after I grew older against anyone who referred to me as a bitch. At least that was the case until walking in to the job one day, all eyes were on me as my boss stood at the front of the conference room as he greeted me with, “there she is everyone, give it up for the baddest B.I.T.C.H. of the cmpany!!”

In my head, I saw myself responding with my hands around his neck and asking “who you callin’ a bitch?” I wasn’t concerned with loosing my job because I didn’t like it at all. I’ve never been good at selling anything, not even girl scout cookies as a child, but while witnessing the smiles on the faces of my co-workers as they applauded me, my instincts warned me to stay calm. That’s when I noticed the cake, a congratulations banner displaying my actual name hanging over a huge table covered with gifts. The boss held a tiny box in his hand that was open as he approached me almost glowing and said “great job Tammy, you did it”, while presenting me with the box. I’m thinking, what the hell did I do? Inside was a beautiful diamond broach with the letters B-I-T-C-H. He proceeded by saying, “Tammy, we’d like to present you with this award for being a Beautiful Intelligent Talented Chic Hustler!” Now confused and still somewhat irritated, I managed a smile once he assured me the diamonds were authentic. Apparently I’d made top sales that quarter, setting a company record.

Unfortunately that broach was lost in a fire with other treasured items, mostly photos of me as a teen and when I first had my children. Thankfully, I was able to retrieve most of them due to copies I’d shared over the years with their father and my mom, but I’ll never forget the two main lessons I learned that day. One is to think before reacting so quickly. The other, is that perhaps I wasn’t too bad in sales after all. I remember feeling as though I was stuck in that job for reasons I can’t recall. However, I knew that at the time I had to make the best out of it to provide for my child which began with changing my overall attitude about the job. You all may recall a time when people were out everywhere selling large bottles of fragrances for $20 each. We traveled to surrounding cities like Clearlake, Ukiah and Vegas taking me away from my only child at the time. Soon after being presented with the broach, my confidence rose to new heights which eventually led to an opportunity to open my own consignment shop. I rented a small retail space with low over-head and ran an ad in our local PennySaver for $12/mo, a free paper magazine for an assortment of advertisements that went out of circulation years ago. My office also provided space for people to view and purchase my art work that had previously only been viewed by those closest to me. I learned that I can do anything as long as I have faith, the right attitude and determination once I put my mind to it!

Apology?

Hello beautiful people! This week I’d like to share one of many very proud moments of my children by posting a poem written by my daughter as a young teen ; her response to the first break-up.

You want to tell me your story and those other females don’t matter no more, but where were you when I read the first email and my tears fell through the keyboard?

I don’t understand your motives and the games you’re trying to play,, you talk s*** to me and expect me to forgive you because you had a bad day!

It’s like the clouds apologizing to us, “oh, I’m sorry it rained”, but we know rain will come again on another day.

You’re fake and you know it! You played the innocent role through your emails, but face to face you didn’t show it!

Aapology, a sorry a** excuse for something you did wrong. P-player’s never change their game, it’s always the same song. O-overestimating yourself thinking I’ll fall for your lies, L-love, you have to earn, it won’t simply fall from the sky. O-owning up to your mistakes, and admitting what you did was wrong. G-growing from your mistakes and moving on. Y-yesterday’s news, never take a step back because “bigger and better things is where I’m at”. I would forget, but me as a young lady, you disrespected……so it’s unfortunate for you, but Apology not accepted!!!!

By T.F.C. (Age 15)

Starting My Day

Years ago, my college counselor gave me the book shown in the image above which I refer to often. Simple concepts regarding life and my perspective then as opposed to now has helped tremendously in my growth. I recommend it to anyone who may need a little help with figuring things out. We all have ups and down or challenges we face daily. For many like me, struggling with mental health, success can be a simple task lile getting dressed in the morning. I realize I have a choice regarding my attitude when faced with difficult moments. People often ask me, “why are you so bubbly” or “how do you stay so positive all the time”? I giggle because like everyone, I have times of sadness, worry and fear; however, I refuse to be a victim of my circumstances. It may be several times a day when I have to stop and take a minute to regroup by praying and reminding myself that things only seem bad in that particular moment. I realize the Lord has provided me with everything I “need”. There are people dealing with so much more like the loss of their homes and loved ones from the wild fires and sickness in general. Therefor I “choose” to view my life as a whole, being thankful that the good outweighs the bad. Life often means situations beyond our control being thrown at us, so I’d like to share how I start my day to prepare for those unexpected moments. First by having faith and trying to keep a positive mental attitude and staying mindful, not of what I have, but of who I am and who I’m “Becoming” as a person. Like Mary J. says in her song, ” I like what I see when I’m looking at me and I’m walking pass the mirror….my life’s just fine, fine fine wooo…”

My favorite daily affirmation:

“Thy will be done this day! Today is a day of completion; I give thanks for this perfect day, miracle shall follow miracle and wonders shall never cease”
My favorite coffee cup
My motivation before leaving the house!

Then and Now: Seven Generations

Some of my posts leave me feeling a bit overwhelmed emotionally. When that happens, my plan to eliminate stress for the following week is usually to share a poem or something less emotional. This week I decided to share photos which I thought would be an easy task, but found myself just as stressed yesterday using the technology to position them in chronological order and add caption. I did my best. I’ve been fortunate enough to reach back obtaining seven generations of stories and photos. I find that visual aids tend to compliment the writng. From my Great Great grandparents Lydia & Derry who gave birth to my Big Momma, then my grandad (Eighty-Six) and so on down to my two grandson’s. The oldest will be twelve this week and the other is three. I was surprised when I learned that many of the older generations never ventured from the town of Wilmar and died on the same land they were born on. Unless it was for items like sugar or things they couldn’t grow or get from the land it wasn’t necessary to go anywhere else. The population of Wilmar, Arkansas was a little over 500 back then and prodominantly black, now just about 700 or so. The very last photo I found in Big Momma’s things when she passed along with the photo of her husband (on the horse) who passed before I met him. He is featured in the photo at school on the left side, note that many of those young boys are barefoot. Dirrectly above that is a class picture of my aunt in 1st grade. I treasure these photos and am blessed to be able to share them!

Revelations of my Ancestors

(Top Photo) Grandad in his 20’s (Bottom Photo) Hopping freight train w/ mom (in back)
Granddad working in the mill
Me & Granddad

Many of us, especially in the African American community have family members, usually elders who have taken secrets with them to the grave. I personally never understood why. Did they believe they were protecting us or was it due to shame and stigma? In my day, as children we were told to stay in a child’s place and mind our business. That meant to not ask questions concerning grown folks or there was a good chance of getting a back hand across the mouth. Listening and catching pieces of conversations among relatives peaked my curiosity to the point of as I grew older, it became my mission to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

One of those secrets included stillborn deaths of baby girls carried during first preagnancies of women in my family dating back four generations. Our photo album holds photos of those baby girls in their tiny little coffins. One belonging to my mothers oldest sister who desperately always wanted a girl but eventually had two boys and all grandsons. When I finally learned the truth as an adult, my mom was fortunate that I’m here eventhough other evidence has left me to question if she is in fact the one who gave birth to me. While growing up before learning the details, I always felt God was puninishing me; asking why did I survive, only to be abused when the other babies didn’t. I also learned why my mom and aunt argued constantly since I was little , as they still do today at ages 68 and 73. My mother had always used the term “kidnapped” as did I before gaining the courage to finally confront my aunt when she admitted she did “steal” me from my mother when I was 3. I’d always known deep down that something transpired because I remember a length of time when I was always with my aunt and never saw my mother. That along with the constant arguments over the phone where I clearly recal my mother accusing someone on the other end of the line of “kidnapping her baby”. Later I found out my aunt disappeared with me for close to three years, spoiling me rotten.

Of all the secrets I’ve discovered amongst my family, the one I wanted answers to the most, was how my grandfather got his nickname “Eighty-six”. We spent plenty of time together over the years until he succumbed to lung cancer in 2004 from constant exposure to asbestos. He and my mother were very close and even she had no clue as to why certain folks (mainly back in Arkansas) called him Eighty-six. Over time I asked several family members and assumed they were lying when they said they didn’t know. Whenever I’d ask my grandfather, (usually during our fishing trips or him teaching me how to make his tea cakes) he’d quickly change the conversation to a lesson. “Stay in school and learn ya self sumthin'”, “save ya money and don’t trus no bank”. He was always firm and more serious when he’d tell me to stand up for myself and not let people treat me any ol way, but try to avoid violence if I could. He was a good honest man, but cheap. After returning from the Navy all he did was work in the steel mill and attend church. The remainder of his time was mostly spent in isolation.

I always wondered how/why he ended up settling in Richmond, Ca. when the majority of our family was spread throughout Arkansas. Momma would tell me stories from her memories with him about the two of them hopping freight trains across the country. His mother; Effie who my mom was named after lived to be 100 and I was curious why my grandfather wouldn’t take the trip back down south to visit her. I know he loved his mother, everyone did. Growing up we’d visit every year for the family reunion. Eventually the town began hosting a parade in her honor during Juneteenth for being the longest living resident of Wilmar, even naming a street after her. My children rode horseback in those parades. He did finally make the trip back just before she passed. My brother and I made the drive with him that year, but we were in and out of town before anyone even knew we were there.

One year after my grandfather had passed, I went back to Wilmar to visit my mother. During my stay I was curious about the juke joint I heard about deep in the woods or as town folk’s called it “the hole in da wall”, like in the movie “The Color Purple”. It was a small double-wide trailer with a few tables full of older folks playing cards. The kitchen area was turned into a bar and there was down home blues blarring throughout the woods. While standing there observing country life, I noticed three older gentleman motioning for me to come over to their table. My first thought was they were some old perverts, until they asked, “hey, you Eighty-six’s granddaughter huh?” Confused yet intrigued by the look in their eyes, I smiled and asked how they knew my grandfather. The town was so small that I wasn’t surprised they knew who I was because everyone gossips when someone new comes to town. Besides there’s also a very strong resemblance between my grandfather and I. The men asked me to have a seat and proceeded with telling me the story about the day my grandfather killed a white man. They began with “whew, it was a cold day in Wilmar”. Each man, who were actually good friends of my grandfather, took turns sharing specific details of what they witnessed. In a nutshell, after the white man spit on my grandfather while spewing racist slurs attempting to cut him with a switch blade, but was not successful due the the struggle between the two, ultimately resulted in my grandfather wrestling the knife away then using it to slit the mans throat (hence the line from my poem 5thGeneration Girl ). I was in awe and anxious to get back for confirmation from my grandfather’s siblings. While none of them offered any details, they also didn’t deny it. All I was told is that our family has never spoke of that day. The three men from the juke joint had already painted a vivd image of what took place. They’d gone on to explain how when the few town white folks that there were, charged up the gravel road to our land, there was a bridge where my Big Momma, great aunts and uncles all lined up across it with their shot guns ready to shoot anyone who wasn’t colored. That land was left to my ancestors generations ago by their slave owners. No whites were allowed. I learned that decades later, the only time white’s were permitted on the land was for hunting and/or purchasing our trees for lumber mills.

To “eighty-six” someone was a phraise I’d heard in an old movie. I knew it meant to to get rid of or do away with someone or something which had in part been the motivation for my curiosity regarding my grandfather. Suddenly, everything began to make sense. Him being so quiet and secluded. Hopping freight trains with my mom ending up in California, but mostly why he didn’t visit Big momma and his siblings who all lived very long lives. The lessons he tried to teach me which the lightbulb did eventually click. Most of all though, I realized that history really does repeat it’s self. My grandfather and I were more alike than I ever could’ve imagined. I know first hand what he must’ve experienced being on the run, watching over his back constantly and not knowing who he could trust. Basically being the “black sheep of the family and having to live with such tragic memories that seemingly haunted him throughout his life. I am thankful for the ability to pass on these revelations of truth regarding my ancestors in hopes of them being lessons for future generations.

Power of Voice

Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. It’s forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuosly towards a better self.

Michelle Obama

If you don’t see that your story matters, chances are no one else will either. So even though it isn’t always easy, it’s important for you to find strength to share your truth. Because the world needs to hear it.

Michelle Obama

Your story is the most powerful part of who you are-the struggles, failures, successes, and everything in between. Remember always to stay open to new experiences and never let the doubters get in the way.

Michelle Obama

We All Have a Gift

My momma (age 17)

Having a conversation with my mother a few months ago, she questioned whether or not she possesses any talents. I was in shock. How could she not know or realize her talents and the gifts God gave her (all of us). In the image above she actually made that outfit she’s wearing. She could sew anything. As a kid she made tote bags that we’d all sell at the flea market on the weekends. I’ve witnessed her reupholstering the couch when we couldn’t afford a new one, even taking apart our ATARI, VCR and other household appliances to fix them. She taught my daughter to read music and play the piano. She’s built working structures out of lego’s and now there’s a show that airs where that skill has apparently become somewhat of a trend. My mother is the most disciplined person I know when it comes to finances as well as other aspects of her life. Although she has struggled in many areas due to limited education; literacy especially, she’s always been an extremely determined individual. She’d always tell us, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. So I’d like all my readers to help me cheer her along with a little something she seems to be very proud of that she wrote many years ago. I can definitely appreciate it due to many ocassions of pondering over and idea or trying to solve a problem while my thoughts are evrywhere. When she found it recently , reading it to me again, I asked for her permission to share it with all of you. Please show her some love!!!

Drowsy Thoughts

Lying in bed just before going to sleep is the worst time for organized thinking, it is the best time for free thinking. Ideas drift like clouds in an undecided breeze, taking first this direction and then that.

By Effie “Joanna” Johnson