#BlackHistoryFacts | Michelle Obama

I could not think of a better person with whom to finish off my series of black history facts, and enter into Women's History Month, than First Lady Michelle Obama.

Black history fact #28

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Married to the 44th President of the United States, she is the first black First Lady.  Born in Chicago, Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She spent the early part of her career practicing law at the Sidley Austin Law Firm, where she met her future husband Barack Obama while serving as his advisor. After two years of dating, the couple got married on October 3, 1992. As first lady, Obama focused on military families, healthy living, and education. She often made appearances at public schools, stressing the importance of education. Committed to health and wellness, Obama worked planted a garden of fresh vegetables and installed beehives on the South Lawn of the White House. She was particularly focused on fighting childhood obesity. In 2012, she launched the Let's Move initiative, a fitness program for kids. Obama is also widely recognized for her sense of fashion, having appeared twice on the cover of Vogue Magazine and featured on numerous best dressed lists. During her time as first lady, Michelle Obama maintained a high approval rating among the American public, soaring over her husbands, and remains one of the most liked first ladies.

Thank you Michelle Obama for being a great role model, strong woman, and OUR FIRST LADY!

#BuyBlack Spotlight: Designs by Bolaji

I discovered the beautiful paintings of this young black female artist Bolaji Ogunsola, while attending a holiday concert performance on Harvard University campus. She was selling her paintings in the lobby of the venue and I was immediately attracted to the bold colors and the images of black women with large carefree afros. I had to have one of her paintings to add to my collection of black art. 

If I had more money, I would have bought more of her paintings. Instead, I have made Designs by Bolaji my #BuyBlack spotlight of the week. 

For information on the artist and her work, check out her website: http://www.designsbybolaji.com

#BlackHistoryFacts | Maya Angelou

Every since I read her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" in the 9th grade, I have felt connected to Maya Angelou and her works. I live by her famous words: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." I also have the line "Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave" from her well-known poem "Still I Rise" as part of my email signature. So, it seems appropriate that I celebrate and honor her this Black History Month. 

Black history fact #17 

Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson, (1928-2014) was a poet, writer, producer, director, performer,  and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and a list of plays, movies, and television shows. She is known for her critically acclaimed autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)," which she was encouraged to write by fellow black writer James Baldwin. The book is critically-accalime and taught widely in schools. Angelou also was very good friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and worked with him as the northern coordinator for his Souther Christian Leadership Council (SCLC).  Wanting to stretch her creative talents, Angelou made her directorial debut in 1998 with the film

Down in the Delta

, starring Alfre Woodard.  She has received several honors; Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton in 2000 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the US) by President Obama in 2010. 

Thank you Maya Angelou for being unapologetically you! 

#BlackHistory Facts | Florence Griffith Joyner

Because she is still a track and field world record holder (and had some kickass nails).

Black history fact #9

Florence Griffith Joyner (1959-1998), also known as Flo-Jo, was an American track and field athlete and Olympic champion. Coached by Bob Kersee, she made her Olympic debut in 1984 at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, where she won a silver medal in the 200m. After her performance at the 1984 Summer Olympics, Joyner became known for her great speed, form-fitting bodysuits, and stylishly-painted 6-inch nails. Joyner is the holder of 5 Olympic medals in 4 different categories (a silver medal in 200m in 1984, gold medals in the 100m, 200m, and 400m and a silver medal in the 1600m in 1988). She is considered the fastest woman of all time, holding the world record that she set in 1988 in the 100m and 200m at 10.49s and 21.34s, respectively. Both records have not come close to being challenged. In 1995, Flo-Jo was honored with an induction into the Track and Field Hall of Fame.

Thank you Florence Griffith Joyner for breaking records and setting the bar high! 

#BuyBlack Spotlight: The Watercolor Portraits of Debra Cartwright

I was exploring Instagram this past weekend and I came across this beautiful watercolor portrait of three women standing arm in arm (in arm) with each other. What I found most touching and socially poignant about the image is how the women are embracing the woman wearing a hijab (a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women). The embrace among women appears loving, natural, and reciprocated. The two women are embracing the women wearing the hijab, as much as she is embracing them.

This image feels me with HOPE. 

With the current political situation occurring here in the US with the 45th President's "Muslim travel ban," I thought this portrait and the artist deserved to see potlighted and celebrated. This image speaks to what we need to be doing---EMBRACING and SUPPORTING EACH OTHER in spite of our differences. 

Debra Cartwright

 is a Harlem-based artist that creates watercolor portraits of black woman in all of their wondrous, magical, strong, and beautiful GLORY. 

For more information about the artist and her work, check out her website www.debracartwright.com 

Lemme Get This Off My Chest: Don't Mansplain My Feminism

Ladies, has this ever happened to you? You comment on a friend's post and a (male) stranger thinks that it is okay to mansplain to you about why YOUR decision to do or not so something is wrong. 

Check out the video below to find out what I had to get off my chest: 

Highlights from the #BlackGirlMovement Conference 2016

I had such an amazing experience at the first national Black Girl Movement Conference in New York City. It was an indescribable feeling to be in a room filled with black women, black girls, and black female scholars, activists, and game-changers talking about the greatness of black girls and black girlhood. Looking around it felt like I stepped into a different world. 

There were black girls of all ages, shapes, shades and hair textures, proudly proclaiming their love for themselves and each other. The three days of the Black Girl Movement Conference was a celebration of black girlhood and all the things that make us unique, from the games we play to the way we wear our hair. Even though I am in my 30s, I sometimes need a reminder of how great it is to be a black girl because there are so many times that we are not shown how beautiful, smart, unique, strong, powerful, talented, and amazing we are, always have been, and always will be. 

The mainstream media largely ignores us. When we are assaulted, kidnapped, or killed, we do not get the same attention and urgency as our white counterparts receive. We are often told that we are not beautiful. Our bodies are scrutinized, fetishized, and degraded. Our hair and hairstyles are considered  unkempt, dirty, and unprofessional. But, when a white girl displays any of our characteristics, features, or cultural stylings, there are considered attractive, fashionable, exotically beautiful, and innovative. 

This conference truly is a movement. It is a reminder, declaration, battle cry: BLACK GIRLS MATTER AND THEY ARE ALL THE MAGIC THEY WILL EVER NEED.

I really hope they continue this conference for years to come. Here are some of the highlights: 

Panel Session: Writing and Researching Black Girls

Only at a Black Girl Movement Conference will you find a sing-along 

Little bit of black girls moving, led by Camille A. Brown. 

Check out those moves (and smiles). 

#BlackGirlArt:::Picturing Black Girlhood exhibit (at Raw Space in NYC)

My black girlhood, all you needed was chalk and a pebble. 

Join the movement:

http://iraas.columbia.edu/Event/black-girl-movement-conference

#blackgirlmovement #bgm2016