Monthly Archives: January 2010

Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthdayyyy

So if you couldn’t tell by the title, today was my birthday. It was a surprisingly good one, actually. My friends and family are wonderful. ❤

And haha, the best thing happened to me within the very first minutes of my birthday. I was at the bowling alley with some friends, and after they sang to me at midnight, on my next turn they were like, “This turn will predict the epicness of your twenties!” And I got all nervous and only bowled a 7 and it was sad. But then the lane we were using, like, self-destructed after I bowled that seven…the pins didn’t get picked up and the balls didn’t come back, and the bowling alley employees couldn’t fix it, so they had to move us to a new lane, and it took us back a turn, so I got to re-do my first bowl, AND GOT A STRIKE! It was as if the Universe said, oh no, Maya, that is not a good enough epicness indicator: REDO. It was pretty great. 😀

Now that my day is winding down, it’s time for a Private Party, India.Arie style. I’m 20 today. That deserves a “Baby, look how far we’ve come.”  A whole new decade of my life is opening up. When we think about the fact that we’d just survived the Y2K scare and I was in the 4th grade the last time this happened to me, I should be expecting a whole mess of growing and changing and changes in the coming years. It’s kind of crazy to wonder what this decade is going to do to/for me: finishing college, probably going to grad school (I’ve been thinking law recently…), getting a real job and becoming a functional member of society…

My new motto in life is to roar, loudly and confidently and make my presence known. I mean, they were called the Roaring 20s, right? Might as well take advantage of that, stop being such a scaredy-cat, and live my life out loud, with the volume turned way WAY up.

I was scared in the past couple weeks that I wasn’t “old enough to be 20.” When I was younger, I always imagined that by the time I was in my 20s, I would know what I wanted to do and be on track to accomplishing some major goals in my life…and I didn’t think I was. But then today I stopped to take a look at where I am and how far exactly I have come, and I’m right on time. “Life is a journey, not a destination”, right? That means schedules can be rearranged a little for the trip’s sake. After all, I’m the only me there’s ever gonna be, right? I gotta make my own journey count for something, even if I’m the only person it matters to.

I got this great birthday message from this website I’m subscribed to today. I’ll copy and paste the best part here: You see, someone like Maya Reid doesn’t come along all that often. In fact, there’s never been a single one like you, nor is there ever ANY possibility that another will come again. You’re an Angel among us. Someone whose eyes see what no others will EVER see, whose ears hear what no others will EVER hear, and whose perspective and feelings will NEVER ever be duplicated.Without YOU, the Universe, and ALL THAT IS, would be sadly less than it is.

Today of all days, I will not be critical. I will not laugh at that statement and wonder bemusedly if the person writing it was cracking up. I will simply accept that my existence matters to someone out there, to a lot of someones out there…most importantly of all, to me.

And I think that today of all days, that should be shown. Here’s a poem I wrote for Valentine’s Day and will perform on campus in about two weeks:

———————————————————————————————

True Love

Restin my arms on this table, lookin into those eyes I see that you

love me. Real love, like I can remember my mama listenin to

Mary J searchin for when I was too little to even sing along

That lift me up and make me feel like I can fly like Maxwell gave me Pretty Wings like me screamin

“Faster, Daddy, Faster!” on the swingset in Burch Grove Park when I was five

kind of love. I wanted him to spin my head right round, right round go over the top and

turn inside out like that boy on TV. But you already know me inside and out.

You love with that protective kind of love, like seat belt races and a pink bike helmet for my 6th birthday.

A proud kind of love, like That’s my baby! at graduation even though I made her promise not to.

You love me like you know me like he wanted me to know my people when I was 13 and he made me watch Roots, all four DVDs.

With a love that knows its own history, like what we made November 4, 2008, in what was once called the Third World Center, right across the street.

It ain’t that foolish kind of love, no: Only through loving you have I ever truly been able to see.

With that celebratory love: with no shame, you congratulate me when I accomplish something and you remind me of my strengths when I feel weak.

You love me with a love that grew, like my little sister’s hair has since her flat iron caught on fire.

With that deep kind of love, deep like the trenches in the Atlantic Ocean where my ancestors lay.

That rollercoaster, keep-your-hands-and-feet-inside-the-car-cuz-this-is-gon-be-one-helluva-ride kind of love.

With that spontaneous love, that “I wanna go dancing in the rain” “Okay let’s go” kind of love.

That nitty-gritty not afraid to put your hands in my fro kind of love.

Not that romantic comedy omg isn’t everything just so freaking perfect kind of love, no

You love me honestly, like I’ma give it to ya straight, but only because I know you’re worth the truth

Truth, like Sojourner, you will make journeys for me. We got that ain’t no mountain high enough kind of love.

And it’s a strong love, strong like that football player my momma wouldn’t me date when I was 15 who could bench press me

We got that faithful kind of love, the kind where you will never cheat on me, never con out of knowing how phenomenal I truly am, a gift Maya Angelou gave me when I was 8.

It’s that curious kind of love: you’re constantly trying to peel back my layers and find out what’s inside.

And some might call it a free love, not that hippie spread-your-legs for anybody type of B.S. , but a Monica Now I know why they say the best things are free love

And I think we’re ready for it to be an open love; we don’t gotta hide it no more, like when I was 7 seeing Hercules in theaters and Meg wouldn’t say she’s in love.

And if we’re gonna be open about it, I guess we should start right now: if my girl India were here right now, she’d call this my Private Party. True love begins with me. I wrote this poem looking in a mirror.

————————————————————————————-

Ps, you know how folks always ask you if you feel older on your birthday? I usually think that’s a dumb question, but today I almost do. I…have a recognition of the fact that I will be getting a lot older soon. Is that the same thing? Also, I had a glass of wine today and am planning a trip to see a concert with my friends all with the help of no adults…we are the adults. I realized that today. Today I can say this and actually believe it: I am an adult, and I finally feel like one.

*ROARRRRRRRRRR!*

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I’m Not Suicidal!

So a few weeks ago, a friend of mine who recently transitioned from a weave to her natural hair, bought this book on Amazon called Thank God I’m Natural. She’d heard about it in a lot of natural blogs and chatrooms online, and people said it changed their life! So she decided to check it out. She thought it was okay, but didn’t think her hair had grown out enough to try some of the styles it showed, so she let me borrow it for a while. After finals were over, I decided to start looking through it, and the reviewers online were right–my life will never be the same. Not because of its witty tone or inspirational vibe, though those elements are definitely there: I’ve been changed forever because I found out that I didn’t know it, but I’ve been killing myself for the past 15 years or so.
Some of the most commonly found ingredients in hair care products not only are secretly bad for your hair, but could cause CANCER and other diseases.
I had 19 hair products. I laid them all out in front of me and decided to, for the first time, take a look at what exactly is in them. Here are the shocking results of what I found:
About 5 bottles contained a substance called TRIETHANOLAMINE, which can interact with nitrites, which are often contaminants in hair care products, and when these things interact all kinds of chemical badness starts to happen and it can lead to the creation of nitrosamines, which are CARCINOGENS.
18 contained some kind of PARABEN, either Methyl, Propyl, Butyl, or Ethyl, which recent studies suggest might cause breast cancer. Those studies have yet to be confirmed, however, so these products may or may not be safe.
One had IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA, which can lead to dermatitis.
12 had either PETROLEUM or MINERAL OIL, which, along with LANOLIN, as opposed to moisturizing your hair, actually weigh it down and prevent hair’s natural oils from being absorbed. They won’t kill you though.
3 products had PROPYLENE GLYCOL, which can cause allergic reactions, dermatitis, dry skin, hives, and eczema. The EPA requires that all workers who come into contact with this product wear protective gloves, clothing, and goggles–and yet we’re rubbing it into our scalps! This product has also been shown to cause brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.
16 contained the ambiguous word FRAGRANCE. While fragrance may seem harmless, the ingredients used to create fragrances may cause headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discolorations, coughing, vomiting, and skin irritation.
6 of my products had SYNTHETIC COLORS. I thought they’d be okay, since they’re in tons of the foods we eat too, right? I was wrong. Synthetic colors are derived from COAL TAR, which is a known carcinogen. They may cause skin sensitivity and irritation as well.
I threw away everything except the stuff that only had parabens in it, because they might not be harmful. If they are, I’ll get rid of that stuff too. I then went online to Carol’s Daughter and NaturallyCurly and got all natural products, looking through the ingredients to make sure that this stuff can’t hurt me. I love my life. I wasn’t trying to hurry up and end it. I am not suicidal or masochistic, and I don’t want to be inadvertently giving myself cancer by trying to do my hair. So I’ve taken being natural to a whole new level, and now even my products are generally all natural.
Be wary, ladies. 

  

One More Way the Government is Trying to Keep Us Out of College…

So I started filling out my FAFSA tonight, right? And while I was filling it out, I was reading the fine print and came across the fact that if you’ve been convicted of drug possession or distribution, you’re not eligible to receive financial aid from the government. And you have to pay back all the money you’ve received prior to the time of your conviction if you get convicted of one of these things while receiving financial aid.

Well, given the exorbitant rates at which blacks and other minorities are convicted of these crimes (as the “War on Drugs” targets us disproportionately…check out the facts here), this means that the ridiculous percentages of Blacks and Hispanics that are going to JAIL for having a bag of weed in their back pockets are also unable to turn their lives around by going to college because they can’t get help from the government to pay for their educations. When we’re already living in a world where it’s easier for a white man with a criminal record to get a job than it is for a black man with no record–see Marked, Devah Pager (my Sociology professor from last year)–AND like President Obama said about ten minutes ago during his address, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job, then this little piece of fine print in the FAFSA application can be viewed as a direct attempt on the part of the government to keep those of us who have lost our ways from ever finding them again!

This is not okay. Not okay at all. WE NEED REFORM IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PRISONER RE-ENTRY SYSTEMS. Kthnx.

Reasons I Love India.Arie

Brown skin, you know I love your brown skin
I’m not the average girl from your video, and I ain’t built like a supermodel, but I learn to love myself unconditionally, because I am a queen. I’m not the average girl from your video, my worth is not determined by the price of my clothes, no matter what I’m wearin I will always be, [Maya Reid]
When I look in the mirror and the only one there is me, every freckle on my face is where it’s supposed to be. And I know our creator didn’t make no mistakes on me–my feet, my thighs, my lips, my eyes: I’m lovin what I see!
Put your salt on the shelf, go on and love yourself, and everything’s gonna be alright…
Strength, courage, and wisdom…it’s been inside of me all along.
Don’t make no mind about fallin down, cuz it’s when you’re in that valley you can see both sides more clearly
You are wonderful. You are beautiful. You are powerful.
Baby, look how far we’ve come, yeah. I’m havin a private party, learnin how to love me, celebratin the woman I’ve become.
My body is beautiful and sacred, and I’m gonna celebrate it.
Are you a pauper or a superstar? So you act, so you feel, so you are.
Behind my eyes there is a me that I’ve been hiding for much too long.
I have found that the art of simplicity simply means making peace with your complexity.
I am not my hair, I am not this skin I am not your expectations no. I’am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within.
I can’t live for everybody; I gotta live my life for me.
I choose to be the best that I can be. I choose to be courageous in everything I do. My past don’t dictate who I am…I choose. And I choose to be the best that I can be. I choose to be authentic in everything I do. My past don’t dictate who I am….I choose.
From this day forward, I’m gonna be exactly who I am. I don’t need to change the way that I look just to get a man.
Life is a journey, not a destination.There are no mistakes, just chances we take. Lay down your regrets, cuz all we have is now.
I open up my heart and I’m gonna do my part and make this a positively beautiful day.
Life is a challenge, not a competition. You can still smell the roses and be on a mission. Just take a moment and get in touch with your heart. Sometimes you feel like you’ve got something to prove. Remind yourself that there’s only one you. Just take a moment and give thanks for who you are.
Cuz you’re beautiful like a flower, more valuable than a diamond. You are powerful like a fire. You can heal the world with your mind and there is nothing in the world that you cannot do when you believe in you who are beautiful, yeah you who are brilliant, yeah you who are powerful, yeah you who are resilient.
…All in all, I love india.Arie because it’s impossible to listen to her without falling more and more in love with yourself.

Honestly?

A. “Honesty is the best policy.” — Benjamin Franklin

B. “A half truth is a whole lie” — Yiddish Proverb

C. “People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty.” — Richard J. Needham

D. “Society can only exist on the basis that there is some amount of polished lying and that no one says exactly what he thinks.” Lin Yutang

Pick the statement with which you agree the most. Can they all be true??

I was always told to be honest. All the time, in all situations. And when that could not be the case, I was told simply to never ever lie to the people I love, because they above all else, deserve respect. We shouldn’t be afraid to hurt the feelings of the people that matter the most, for those people deserve to have us as we really are. If truth is a virtue, then these are the virtues upon which I was raised. You are polite, courteous, and decidedly fake amongst strangers and people who have power and control over us. You are real and true and rough and gritty with everyone else. To that, I have recently added that above all else, you must be real and true and rough and gritty with yourself.

Even more recently, I have been told that I am decidedly wrong. That I should be polite to everyone, even the people I care most about. That if I care about them then I should care enough not to say anything that might hurt them. Which to half of me, makes sense. But to the other half, I feel like if I can’t be my self, honestly really and truly myself, with my closest friends, then when can I ever really be me?

My friends say that hurting people doesn’t define me. I never said it did, but I feel like my feelings define me, and if I can’t express myself freely, isn’t that lying to myself? That breaks a cardinal rule.

I’m not a Christian, but doesn’t somewhere in that Book of theirs, it say “To thine own self be true”? My goal for this year and the rest of my life is to love myself above all else. If I censor myself so that my friends love me too, isn’t that like cheating myself out of something? Is it worth it to be loved?

Rated M

This needs a disclaimer. The following post is for mature audiences only. Proceed with caution.

Ladies, this is directed at you.

I’m really concerned. This started about a month ago maybe; I was having a conversation with a very close friend of mine and somehow the conversation turned to vibrators. She didn’t understand how one worked. I was like, honey, it’s pretty self explanatory… Blah-da-de-blah-blah, you don’t need to hear this entire conversation. The killer line is right here: She “didn’t even know girls could [masturbate]”.

If I was a cartoon character, my jaw would have HIT THE FLOOR. She asked me how I knew how, and I honestly didn’t even know what to tell her. It was part of my journey of self-discovery waaayyyyyy back when I started going through puberty.Further into this conversation, I learned she didn’t even know anything about her own anatomy, other than “where [her] hole is”. I mean, they have health class in private school, don’t they?! I couldn’t even handle this, so I sent her to a pretty decent website so she could educate herself about how she works. (Ladies, I really hope you don’t need this, but I feel obligated: LEARN ABOUT YOUR BODY, I’M BEGGING YOU.)

She was scared that she didn’t have all the right parts, and later was absolutely incredulous as to the fact that it is possible for a woman to bring herself to orgasm. I really kind of almost wanted to cry; I can’t remember not knowing what one felt like. I can’t imagine never trying.

A couple of weeks later, I found out that one of my roommates is deathly afraid of…tampons. She is afraid of having anything inside of her, which to me sounds just like she’s afraid of her insides.

And then this happened: Last Friday’s Daily Princetonian featured on the front page an article entitled “Pleasuring Princeton” that revealed that, based on some study they did, barely more than half of the females on campus reported that they masturbate. Seriously, 52.4 percent. And 34% of that percentage say they only do it once. a. month. …EXCUSE ME, WAT?!

So I decided to see if I’m just living amongst a bunch of freaks (…or anti-freaks, I guess) or if this is widespread….and turns out, it’s an epidemic! Reports that I found on Google claim that as many as 40 percent of women in the US simply don’t masturbate. And have never! And I just, ladies, I don’t understand.

But then I think back to those books my mom bought me when I got my period for the first time–I believe that part of this issue stems from the fact that black women, in particular, are often very reluctant to talk about their sexuality, which may be a result of the ways in which society portrays us as vastly oversexed Jezebels– and remember that even when they addressed the issue of female masturbation, they put in the following caveat: Some women don’t like to do it. My friend said she thought vaginas were wet and smelly and she felt bad for guys who give head; she bought into that stereotype that female sexuality is somehow dirty or wrong. Well, truth be told, ladies, being open to exploring your sexuality doesn’t automatically make you a slut or a whore, I promise. I don’t care if people have been shoving the idea that being sexy and being ladylike are directly at odds with one another; a new day has dawned. It’s two-thousand-freaking-ten, women; we’re free to be who we are, and we, like all humans, are sexual beings, okay?

Did you know that statistics say that as many as 25% of women cannot physically have orgasms from sex alone? So don’t fret about the myth that masturbating can make it so you can never orgasm any other way–it might be the only way you’re ever going to experience the thrill. And–get ready, I’m about to blow your mind–research shows masturbating is actually HEALTHY. Yes, you heard me, healthy: orgasms lead to the release of endorphin and estrogen, which promotes smooth skin and healthy hair. Masturbating promotes healthy vaginal and urinal tracts. It also feeds your sex drive, increases your self-esteem, and it can lead to you becoming multiply orgasmic….mmm, girl let me tell you. These are not things you want to miss. Also it just FEELS GOOD. Great, actually.

Also, a lot of men report that they find female masturbation to be incredibly attractive, as it’s generally the best way for your guy to find out exactly what you like. So don’t think you’re cheating on your man or your future man by doing it. Men like a woman who knows what she wants.

I heard a great line on the internet somewhere once: If you don’t wanna fuck yourself, why would you expect anyone else to want to fuck you? In my personal and decidedly non-expert opinion, I believe that making love with yourself is a critical element of loving yourself, and ladies, I highly recommend it. It’ll be my 20th birthday in a week, and my birthday present…well, let’s just say it’s hot pink, 7 inches long and one inch wide, curved slightly, ribbed, waterproof, and has multiple speed settings.

Love yourself, ladies. In every way that you can.

Haiti…

Heh, so I’ve got this friend that always says that before he came to college, he didn’t know what a “Haitian” was. I wasn’t much better, but now some of my closest friends are Haitians, and I just want to take this time to let them and everyone else know that my heart is truly with them at this time.

I’m not a religious person, but I’m helping to put together a Candlelight Prayer Service in the University Chapel tonight for my Haitian friends. I’m not a religious person, so I don’t pray, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be there. I’m not a religious person, so I don’t pray, but I do believe that thoughts become things, and that we shape the world around us with our every thought and action, so I will light my candle tonight in the hope that the only news my friends hear will be good news. I will envision joyous family reunions and tears of joy streaming down their faces, and pour as much effort as I can into willing these visions into being.

I have seen images of a capitol destroyed, buildings that stood strong 25 hours ago now fallen to rubble, human beings coated in dust, the bodies of babies being piled high. I have watched videos of people running for their lives. I have heard stories that have brought tears to my eyes and friends, for your sakes, I hope that I hear no more. I have seen images that have made me feel entirely helpless.

Thoughts become things, so choose the good ones–they’ll shape your destiny. When my check comes in on Friday, I’m going to donate to relief efforts, and I encourage everyone else to do so as well. I’m not a religious person….but it’s times like these I wish I could believe there was a reason for it all…

 *later* …I must be a bit of a masochist, because after I finished writing this, I looked for more videos and pictures of what was going on in Haiti. I found one of a rescue, and it gave me the little bit of hope I needed to keep thinking good thoughts. Miracles do happen, I promise. 

CURING BLACK HAIR?!?! ;FJKDJF’ADKJFA’KDJFDK WTF?!?!?!?

Article I read on Essence.com earlier: SCIENTISTS DEVELOPING A PILL TO MAKE CURLY HAIR STRAIGHT 

Evidently some scientists in Australia have siscovered the gene that makes hair curly, and as such are trying to “CURE GENETICALLY TEXTURED LOCKS”.

I shared this link with a girlfriend of mine, and the first thing she said was “Nice.”

My jaw dropped. This is NOT. NICE. Not in the least. Not okay.

When she balked at my reaction, I told her that I feel like this would just be another way for black women to white-ify themselves, rather than embracing our beauty for what it truly is. And her response was basically, if outside society doesn’t value us, why should we value ourselves? She called me out, saying my hair isn’t nappy enough for me to defend naturalism so staunchly.

…I feel like minorities don’t even care about being themselves anymore. I’ve had both black friends and Asian friends tell me they would rather be white, and I simply can’t understand this. Who would voluntarily give up such a huge chunk of themselves as their race? She said she feels devalued. I told her that we as a people need to value ourselves, rather than try to be just like those who devalue us to begin with. She said she couldn’t value herself by parading her natural hair, if that’s what I meant, because she doesn’t like her natural hair (though she compliments me on mine almost daily…), or by sacrificing her goals of a husband and a family to make a stand (going back to the statistics about the dearth of professional black women who have ever been married., ie another rant for another time).

Call me an extremist, but I see partaking in a product such as this theoretical pill to be a traitorous act against one’s people, and perhaps even as an act of terrorism against one’s own body. This “If you can’t beat, ’em, join ’em” attitude that she has is just…a scary sign to me. It kind of sucks all the hope right out of me. I mean, maybe I’m biased because I’m the daughter of a man who marched with Malcom X and the granddaughter of a woman who marched with Dr. King, but it actually hurts me to my very soul that black women are harboring these feelings. I am SHOCKED  and APPALLED that women would go so far as to genetically alter themselves. How many people feel this way?

I feel like this pill is the first step to saying that blackness is a disease that needs to be cured. Haven’t we as a society come past that?

Will we ever if, like my friend, the people being affected most by society’s devaluing are always trying to escape their blackness, rather than embrace it? If those who claim they wish black beauty woulld be affirmed live their lives affirming it for other people, but never for themselves? Whateverh appened to leading by example???

This is just my personal opinion, but I feel like black women will never be truly considered beautiful until they consider themselves to be beautiful. No amount of the outside world telling you you’re beautiful is going to make you feel that inside–that kind of self-love has to come from within.Love has to start with the self, and personally, I want to love myself as I came into this world, nappy and all. If I were a religious individual, which I’m not, I promise–if I were a God-fearing individual, I’d say well, weren’t we all supposedly created in His image? Why would you want to do anything but embrace that?

An exercise for all those lacking in self-adoration:  I want you to go stand in front of a mirror and look at your face and tell yourself five things you love about it. You’re not allowed to leave until you’ve said 5. Ready, set, go!

–Dada Chiku

Frog Doesn’t Flop (Princess and the Frog **SPOILER ALERT**)

Okay, so I’ve seen the new Disney Princess movie, The Princess and the Frog, in theaters twice in the past two weeks, and now I feel comfortable responding to all the criticisms that havee been surrounding it. 

I’ll start by saying the truth: As excited as the little girl inside me was for there to finally be a princess who looked like her–note that that’s not “who she could relate to”, because, albeit not on the same level, I could identify with Belle the book-lover, Ariel who wanted to explore new worlds, and Jasmine who felt trapped just like me–the adult me concerned about the betterment of her race as a whole was skeptical of this film. Having a sun-kissed Princess by the name of Tiana couldn’t just be making a movie–in the production of this film, Disney was making a statement, and the whole world knew it and viewed it just as such. That statement could either be the biggest step Disney as a company has ever made towards correcting the negative, racist, and stereotypical images of blackness it has promoted in the past (the hyenas in the Lion King are violent and unintelligent [and all voiced by blacks and Latinos]; the crows in Dumbo wore pimp hats; the monkeys from The Jungle Book wanted to be “real people”; and, expanding this to people of color in general, neither Pocohantas or Mulan were real princesses [meaning they didn’t marry Princes]) orrrrrrrr it could go horribly wrong and be just another greivance to add to the list.  And even though the movie didn’t come out til last month, this New York Times article about the film came out way back in May, and really just substantiated my qualms about the progress this movie was really going to make.

But, scared as aI was, I absolutely HAD to go see the movie. I mean, I was raised on Disney–all the girls in my generation were. These movies are my childhood. So after promising my best friend that I wouldn’t analyze it to death after we saw it, over Winter Break I journeyed to the theater amongst throngs of little girls clutching Princess Tiana dolls and saw the film for the first time. Andddddddd…..**drumroll please** I LOVED it! My critical eye wavered and I was just as enchanted by the film as I had been by Disney movies in my VHS player as a child. Sure, she had to go through some shit, but she got both her man and her dream in the end, and I was thrilled.


But enough about initial reactions. Once I got back to school, my Women’s Center offered the opportunity to take a free trip to go see the film and discuss it afterwards, and I jumped on that as an opportunity to take a really critical view of the film since that desire failed so epically the first time around. And now, after seeing it twice, once for just pure entertainment value and once trying to analyze how good a job Disney really did, this is what I think:


The opening scene when Tiana’s mother is reading the story of the Frog Prince to her charge, Charlotte, and Tiana, paints a rather interesting view of femininity differences between the races (or maybe the classses?) In my mind, at least, the upper class white girl with all the fancy dresses would be against the idea of kissing a frog, and the lower-class black girl wouldn’t have such a hoity-toity attitude about it. But Disney switched these predictable roles, having Charlotte start practically drooling over the prospect of kissing a frog if it meant she’d get to marry a prince, and Tiana wrinkle her nose at the idea. This is rather obviously a ploy to get the audience to identify with Tiana, as the majority of us probably wouldn’t go around kissing frogs just in case either, but the role reversal is still interesting. From the get-go, Tiana did not have a sorry beggars-can’t-be-choosers attitude, and we can tell she’s going to be a woman of strong values and with a very determined personality, while we are a bit concerned about Charlotte’s gross materialism and the hissy fits she throws to get her way. 


After a long train ride home to the decidedly poor section of town, Tiana and her mother are joined by her father–YES, YOU HEARD ME RIGHT, THIS IS A TWO PARENT BLACK HOME–to make dinner, which they share with the community, and Tiana is tucked into bed. The promotion of the idea of a stable, even if not particularly affluent, black family in the mainstream media like this is absolutely wonderful, and really made my heart just sing.


Oh, and speaking of singing, Tiana sings too. She’s not that different from the strong-willed songbird princesses that come before her…


The movie goes through how Tiana grows up to work two jobs trying to save enough money to build the restaurant she and her father always dreamed of. Her peers tease her for working too hard, and it is evident that she doesn’t have very friends. At first glance this social ostricization seems very troublesome, but going back through Disney history, we see the same thing happening to Belle for liking to read, and it could even be argued to be present in films where the heroine is banished or her  only friends are woodland creatures, such as Sleeping Beauty. Also, there is no one in Tiana’s life who truly supports her following this dream of hers, but again, this is not new: Mulan’s father does not believe she can go to war in his place, Cinderella’s stepmother does not believe she can go to the ball, King Triton does not believe Ariel should have any desire to go to the world above, and just like Tiana’s mother, The Sultan believes Jasmine should be concerned with nothing more than getting married, and this is the main concern of Mulan’s matchmakers, who believe that a good marriage is the only way a woman can honor her family. 


And then, **fanfare** Prince Naveen arrives! Now I’ve heard two major complaints about him. First off, he isn’t “black enough”. He’s too light-skinned to be a brotha and too dark to be a white man, voiced by a Brazillian…this is a man of ambiguous race. But my question is: what person of African descent in this country ISN’T of ambiguous descent?! Our family histories get lost when you go back before the Emancipation Proclamation, so how do any of us know “how black” we areally are, as ridiculous a concept as this measurement of blackness may be? Some people ask, well, why couldn’t he have been an African prince? Why does he have to be from this made up land of Maldonia? To these people, I say, well, check your history, honey. Sure, Naveen is from nowhere recognizable, but you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a Prince from a known land. This isn’t the first time Disney has made up a location for a movie to be set or a Prince to be from: Aladdin’s Agrabah doesn’t actually exist, and even in that movie when he arrives in town with all the fanfare the Genie has provided him and is pretending to be a Prince, he makes up a kingdom name to please Jafar off the top of his head; the land of Genovia that the Princess Diaries both I and II are set in was made up, Ariel hails from the mythical land of Atlantica, and Prince Eric’s kingodom goes unnamed, as do the kingdoms in Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast, among others. In fact, the only Disney films I can come up with that do feature real locations don’t involves Princes or Princesses: Pocohantas, Mulan, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Thus, I have decided that this is a classic Disney trope, and this movie cannot be faulted for it. I hold that Naveen is meant to represent an everyman, as opposed to being nothing at all.

Many people also pick at the rampant use of dialect in this film, claiming that it makes the characters seem less intelligent. I think the critics must just be grasping at straws here, because Ray the firefly, arguably the most Cajun of all the characters, also speaks French and writes out his name–he is obviously an intelligent character. Mama Odie has a much more common, wise, aged knowledge of the workings of the world, and passes that knowledge on to Tiana, Naveen, and Louis, rather than simply giving them the answers because she knows the most valueable form of knowledge is that which you learn yourself. 


And people complain about the voodoo that runs wild in this film as well. In response to them, I say that most of the classic Disney Princess movies have magical villians. For a film set in New Orleans, a “Shadow Man” is kin to Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent, Aladdin’s Jafar, or the Little Mermaid’s Ursula. Voodoo is historically the magic of choice in New Orleans. The fact that Mama Odie is also a practicer of voodoo is also matched by the Genie in Aladdin, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderlla, and the Blue Fairy in Pinnochio. 


There’s only one real criticism that I can see basis for: the fact that Tiana seems to change Naveen for the better simply by the force of him loving her. This could send very negative ideas into young girls’ minds that they could change a man in the same way. But I argue a) that this is not the first time Disney has propulgated this idea (note how Belle softens the Beast’s rough attitude and Nala tames Simba’s carefree attitude to get him to come back and save his pride), and b) it is just as possible that simply being out in the real world for the first time, entirely changing his setting and way of life, is what changed Naveen’s perspective on life, falling in love with Tiana just being something that happened along the way.



By the end of the movie, we are even left with a positive image of Charlotte, who would postpone her dream of marrying a prince in order to salvage her friend’s (but are they really friends?) happiness, and left with the very positive image of Tiana paying for the restaurant with her own money and having her dream and her man all of her own accord. 


I say kudos, Disney–this is an epic win. But I’m interested in hearing what other people think, soooo let me know! Agreements? Arguments for the other side? 


-Dada Chiku

Back to the FRO

Yay first post! Okay, I’m going to pretend people are actually reading this already.

I guess I’ll introduce myself. My real name is Maya, but on here I’m gonna go by Dada Chiku. (You might also know me as Alaiyo.) I’m not trying play Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana or Beyonce/Sasha Fierce, I promise–I don’t really have any identity issues, I just…I feel more connected to the roots I’ll never be able to trace when I use an African pseudonym, and I wanted one this time that represented my decision to wear my hair naturally again for a long time (maybe even permanently.) I’ll be 20 in 19 days. I’m a sophomore at Princeton University, but please don’t judge me by that. I thought about not even telling you, but you’re supposed to be able to be honest on these things, right? (Oh yeah, this is the first time I’ve tried to have a real blog blog, rather than one solely for my poetry…I guess I should tell you that too. My poetry can be found here, if anyone is curious.) So pretty please I beg of you, throw out any assumptions about me that sentence brings to your mind: I didn’t go to a prestigious prep school and I don’t come from money and I don’t have any big names on my family tree, I swear. I’m just a normal person who sometimes doesn’t understand what she’s doing here.

Alright, moving on. I’ll let you know more about me later, I guess. So uh, I just got back to school last weekend from Winter Break, and now it’s study for finals time AAH! (Princeton works on a reallllllllly weird schedule, lolz) But uhm, when I was home, I watched a movie I’ve seen a few times before called Something New. It’s a really good movie, and there’s one line that struck a chord in me this time that it hadn’t ever really hit before. The main characters of the film are an interracial couple, a white guy who runs a landscaping company and a black lawyer, and this is the first time she’s dated outside of her race. The lawyer wears a sew-in weave in her hair, and during one scene, while they’re in bed, he asks her if she can take it out. She freaks out and kicks him out of her house, and as he’s leaving he pauses and apologizes, he just wanted to see what she “looked like completely naked.”

That kind of made me realized that when I straightened my hair, I spent so much time arranging and styling and fretting over it that it was more like a piece of clothing or an accessory than a living part of my body. Something about that didn’t quite sit well with me.

A couple of days later, I had this great conversation with a really good friend of mine who has recently gone natural after having her hair in braids for years. Now that her hair is GROWING for the first time in a long time, she is really excited about having gone natural, and truly starting to embrace it. She bought a new book I’m going to borrow soon, called Thank God I’m Natural, and was telling me all about this documentary she watched about chemical relaxers (which I have never used), and her enthusiasm reminded me of how much I’d loved having my hair natural and curly in the past.

I remembered that the first time my father saw a picture of my natural hair, he said it was the most “me” I’d looked in a long time–that’s one of those sentences that’s going to stay with me always. I decided that it was a new year, totally new decade, and I was about to enter a new chapter of my life (my 20s…*roar*) and I figured my biggest New Year’s Resolution should be just being me. Embracing the person that I am. Regardless of what people might think, and as sappy as this sounds, I want to be true to myself and my heart, even if that means going against the grain or doing something my friends and family don’t understand.Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:”Cambria Math”; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611985 1107304683 0 0 159 0;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611985 1073750139 0 0 159 0;} @font-face {font-family:Pristina; panose-1:3 6 4 2 4 4 6 8 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:script; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:””; margin-top:0in; margin-right:0in; margin-bottom:10.0pt; margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:Arial; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:Arial; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoPapDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; margin-bottom:10.0pt; line-height:115%;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –> My biggest goal is to fall more and more in love with myself every day…because also on the list is to find me a man (lol) and true love begins with the self, right?

So the next morning after I got off the phone with my friend, I dug out my Relaxed and Natural Shampoo and my Curls Conditioner and went back to my natural state…curly and kind of wild and I have to moisturize it a lot but I feel really just…free.

And that’s what I wanted to say first. 🙂