Category: News


So I just watched Will Smith’s new movie “Hancock” two nights ago. I don’t mind telling you that it was somebody else’s bootleg copy and I’m glad I didn’t spend any money. Maybe somebody else might have really enjoyed this power-packed, action flick but somebody with my racial-sensitivity issues and my sometimes out-of-control “What’s the real message here?” angst…well, maybe I should explain.

shining example of a Black superhero

Hancock: shining example of a Black superhero

First of all, Hancock is a superhero, a Black superhero. Great! Someone our children can relate to, right? Sure, if you don’t mind the ragged, unwashed, alcohol-guzzling, profanity-laced, irrational, out-of-control dysfunctionality of the character.

And, considering that he seems to be the only one of his “kind,” you can almost understand him. He’s lonely. He’s confused. He’s isolated. All that stuff. He inadvertently finds a kind of mentor — a PR man named Ray whose life Hancock saves. But for some reason, Hancock seems to be “drawn” to the man’s wife Mary: your typical tall, blond, slim white woman whose wiles have been making men go crazy on (and off) the big screen for longer than I have been alive!

Take, for example, the slick way that the writers managed to elevate these white women to sainthood. Mary is actually Ray’s second wife, and his son’s stepmother. As the story goes, Ray’s first wife died — giving birth to their son. Pretty good way to get rid of her, I had to grudgingly admit. There is no more saintlier way to die. And that saves the writers all the problems of divorce, alimony, child-support and the bitter legal battles that can make the average woman look considerably less than sweet. Mary (I don’t think that name is a coincidence!) swept Ray off his feet when he was the confused single-father of a brand new infant (how touching), trying to figure out diapers at the supermarket (we all know how hard THAT can be — I think any non-movie dad would be insulted at this point). And the rest, as they say, is history. Mary and Ray fell in love and Mary generously raised the son who was not her biological child — the only mother he ever knew! She’s no scheming homewrecker, instead she’s Ray’s saviour.

After one excrutiating scene after another where this “tension” between Hancock and Mary is played out, finally we are let into the mystery: Mary has the same powers as Hancock! A cruel trick of amnesia has separated the two: she is his powerful alter-ego and wife!

Unfortunately, when the two are together, they are like Kryptonite to one another: causing them both to weaken and lose their powers. So Hancock is safer and better off living his life separately and leaving her to continue to live her own.

The picture-perfect suburban family

The picture-perfect suburban family

My frustration with the film was not really built around the fact that this white woman is the center of all power, beauty and desirability in the film — come on now, I get that on a daily basis just from your everyday shampoo commercial! What concerned me is that the film continued to portray this loving, happy, functional white family with angelic mother, devoted dad and spunky son. Hancock had no such situation. Even when all the drama had passed with Ray finding out about his wife’s hidden superpowers (total deceit!) and matrimonial link to Hancock (umm…that had to be a shocker!), at the end of the movie, they were still able to pull it together (magically?) and come through as a stronger, still functional family. Hancock, of course, was the lone ranger, cast out on his own — and pretty damn happy about it all the same.

And you wonder why it is so hard for Black actresses to find quality roles. Whether lead character or sidekick, the Black man almost never has a quality life-partner, wife, girlfriend, whatever. Anyone remember Hitch? Would it have been so crazy to have Will Smith fall in love with a Black woman instead of the usual “pseudo-mixed-maybe-Latina” symbol? Anyone see “The Game Plan” starring The Rock and Morris Chestnut? Morris was all good playing the functional family man. The only problem is that his family was never once shown on screen. I just experienced the disappointment of Jennifer Holiday’s nothing-role in the Sex In the City movie. Maybe SHE could have played Hancock’s wife; turned that poor sucker around.

Well, at least I can take comfort in the fact that the real Will Smith is married to a real strong Black sistah and not selling out in that regard (thank you Ms. Jada Pinkett). But, with as much influence and bang for the buck that he has in Hollywood (or maybe I’m making a big assumption here), I just think that he could do a lot more to help portray images of functional Black families in movies. And that’s my rant of the day. What’s yours?

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Watching TV this afternoon, I really paid attention to that new commercial from Gardasil. “What would you do to protect yourself?” The main thing being to get a PAP test and get vaccinated against cervical cancer. Good advice I suppose. I have heard commercials being played ceaselessly on our local urban radio station (I haven’t heard so many on non-urban stations) encouraging young girls to get themselves vaccinated to protect against cervical cancer. I thought this might be a good place to discuss some of the other risk factors of cervical cancer that we can encourage our daughters and young women in our community to AVOID — instead of seeing vaccination as the be-all and end-all of our cervical health. We have more control than we think:

http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca/centres/cancer/cervical/prevention/index.html

Risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • becoming sexually active at a young age
    Young women are more susceptible to HPV infection since the cells of the cervix are undergoing rapid change at puberty.
  • having many sexual partners
    Women who have many partners or who have sex with partners who have had many partners, have a greater chance of getting HPV.
  • HIV infection
    The immune system of a woman infected with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is less able to fight both the human papillomavirus and early cancers.
  • having a weakened immune system
    Immunocompromised women with chronic fatigue syndrome, women who have had organ transplants and women who are taking steroids are less able to fight HPV infection.
  • smoking
    Smoking appears to be a cofactor with HPV in causing dysplasia, which may progress to cervical cancer.

Let’s talk about these things too. Gardasil may not be talking about them (why discuss risk factors when you only have a few minutes to promote your product) but we can talk about them in our own families and communities. Any thoughts?

CNN will premier a series, ‘Black in America with Soledad O’Brien’

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2008/black.in.america/

Wednesday July 23 at 9pm – Black Women and Families

Thursday July 24 at 9pm – Plight of the Black Man in America.

I’ve heard it said that you should watch it with your children (or record it, if they have to be in bed!). It might make a good showing and discussion piece for a youth group. We may not all be American but there are sure to be commonalities that affect us all. I’ll be back on the blog to let you know my thoughts after the series. I hope you also do the same. Let’s keep the lines of communication open. Visit the site too, it’s powerful.

In my humble opinion, it sucks to make minimum wage. Right now I don’t, but it wasn’t so long ago that I did, and a lot of parents still DO. Trying to make ends meet on minimum wage is a joke that isn’t even funny anymore. Where I live (Ontario, CANADA), minimum wage was $6.85 in 1995 and stayed that way until 2004 when it went up 30 cents to $7.15. Under tremendous pressure from activists and other starving people, minimum wage has been raised to a whopping $8.75 as of yesterday. Keep in mind that 2007 saw the movement pushing for a $10 minimum wage but instead we got 25 cents, taking us from $7.75 to $8.00 an hour. Thanks a million!

If I sound particularly disgruntled today, it could be because March 31, the day that minimum wage in Ontario was raised to $8.75, was the same day that the “Sunshine List” was released — all those lucky Canadians making over $100,000 per year. Count among them those Ontario MPPs who are getting their third pay raise in 16 months to $116,550 a year. That’s BASE pay, a lot of them actually make more than that. Now, minimum wage didn’t budge one red cent in eight years and has since grown less than two dollars in the last four years. But the base pay for MPPs has risen by almost $28,000 since December 2006. Something stinks.

So that’s my rant. Ain’t no sunshine making minimum wage, that’s for sure, and more than a million people in Canada do exactly that. I think that the wealth in this country could be better distributed. What do you think? It’s not enough for me to say “Stay in school, get your degree, YOU could be doing one of those top dollar jobs.” Most of us will do those things, stay in school, all that, and end up with crippling student loan debt and a middle-of-the-road salary if we’re very lucky.

We all need to do our part, even if you don’t make minimum wage. Better distribution of the wealth means stronger, healthier families and more stable communities. Safer and better for everyone I think.

Find out more at www.amillionreasons.ca.

Let me know your thoughts.

Racist police too? Who knew?!

Wow, African schools just can’t catch a break, can they? I was reading Pride newspaper this week and learned about an email sent by a senior police inspector to several staff, entitled “Afrocentric Math for Toronto’s new black only school.” One question asks: “Ramon has an AK-47 with a 30-round clip. He usually misses six out of every 10 shots and he uses 13 rounds per drive-by shooting. How many drive-by shootings can Ramon attempt before he has to reload?”

Well, I also learned that the police inspector was suspended over this mess. That’s what I call results! Can we get somebody suspended at the Globe and Mail too? Let’s work on it.

http://www.thestar.com/News/Ontario/article/304040

http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/303904

Let’s keep the pressure on, people. Here are some good examples to give you ideas for your own letter — as well as responses to that rubberstamped apology. Remember:You can leave comments directly for the Globe and Mail at www.theglobeandmail.com/feedback. You can also email letters@globeandmail.com or fax to 416.585.5085. Click here to see the original post. Let’s take action!

Here is a Call to Action from Louis:

“Hello All,

I know that you will have all seen or heard about this cartoon that was published in the Globe and Mail newspaper. This is totally unacceptable and requires a quick and immediate response from our community. There is no way that the Globe and Mail would have published a similar cartoon attacking the Jewish, Chinese or Gay communities in Toronto. The questions now are…..what was their motivation and how will we respond?

Respectfully,
Louis”
Here is some timely advice from Kay:

“Silent protest will not accomplish anything in this glaring case of a
rascism. Please find attached additional comments and an avenue to make
your voice heard.

Please also send to the the following, we pay taxes:
http://www.premier.gov.on.ca/feedback/default.asp

The big cheeses:
pcrawley@globeandmail.com – Phillip Crawley, Publisher and CEO

egreenspon@globeandmail.com – Edward Greenspon, Editor-in-chief

Also make sure to CC the Chief, so that they can’t sweep it under the rug:
Barbara.Hall@ohrc.on.ca or cco@ohrc.on.ca – Barbara Hall, B.A, LL.B, Ph.D (hon)
Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

Thanks,
Kay”

This response was sent via email to Kristen, a Globe and Mail reader. It is from Gerald Owen, reader response editor at the Globe and Mail. I received it as a forward from a colleague.

“Thank you for your letter, to which Mr. Greenspon has asked me to reply.

Yesterday morning, the first four letters on the letters to the editor page all complained about this cartoon.

The intention of the cartoonist was not racist. Rather, the idea was that mathematics, one of the essential elements of education, does not vary with ethnicity, though language often does. The cartoon was therefore critical of the proposal for a black-focused school in Toronto, and this was expressed by the words “Afrocentric algebra …” at the top. We regret that it was offensive to a considerable number of readers.
yours truly,

Gerald Owen
reader response editor”

Your thoughts? As far as apologies go, do you think this goes far enough? And do you agree that mathematics does not vary with ethnicity? Wow, there are so many issues at stake here.

Globe and Mail - Racist Cartoon
This cartoon ran in the Monday, February 18, 2008 edition of the Globe and Mail. This is their opinion of Afrocentric Algebra. And this is why we need our African-Centered Schools. Because if anybody knew REAL history, they would know Africans were the ones who created and taught Math to the world.

I have to site some serious references and we have to write some serious letters to these people. Don’t turn your backs! If you want to post your comments here, click the link about. I will make sure that they get to the right people. I don’t know who drew this cartoon. If it was an African, that makes it sadder than ever. But more importantly, we have to make sure our children know their history and know that we have a lot more going for us than ‘Sup Dog. Ridiculous! And don’t talk to me about having a sense of humour. When it comes to putting Black people down and trying to make us look stupid, the history is just too fresh. My generation was still being put back a grade on arrival to Canada as a matter of routine! This is no laughing matter.

Our dedicated sister Yolisa sent these comments:

I am responding to the offensive racist cartoon in your paper on Monday Feb. 18th, the first family Day holiday, no less.
This cartoon caricature exposes a deeply racist Euro-Canadian mindset that shamelessly promotes these stereotypes of Afrikan/Blak people, much less a teacher. This type of racism is fueling the hysteria toward Africentric schools, a desperately needed option for learners and their families who confront racism everyday at school.
This cartoon is exactly why we need Africentric schools where learners are ‘safe’ from such blatant racist behaviour from educators and administrators. In a mainstream school this probably wouldn’t even be talked about but could be the basis of an entire unit on Race & Racism in Canada in an Africentric school.
Not only does this betray ignorance & hate, it also exposes fear that Africentric schools will actually make a difference that threatens the status quo.
For a national paper, you should be ashamed and owe the collective Afrikan/Blak community an apology. Furthermore, the person who created this cartoon should be fired and made to undergo anti-racism training as well as community service in the Afrikan/Blak community!
All Canadians should be outraged by this not just those who are for Africentric schools. Everyone who is committed to anti-racism should hold this paper accountable!

All Canadians should be outraged by this not just those who are for Africentric schools. Everyone who is committed to anti-racism should hold this paper accountable!”
So let’s follow our sister’s advice and hold this paper accountable. You can leave comments directly for the Globe and Mail at www.theglobeandmail.com/feedback. You can also email letters@globeandmail.com or fax to 416.585.5085. I wish we could totally bombard these people. But every one letter makes a difference. No matter how short or long, say SOMETHING! Click on the heading to leave your comments.
Visit this link for another comment – from Jason Robinson from AKA Activist – www.akaactivist.org.

So Black-focused schools have been approved by the Toronto District School Board. All I can say is, I wonder what all the fuss is about? I don’t know too much about “black-focused” but I can tell you that my children have been thriving at an African-Centered school for over three years now. And there have been African-Centered schools in Canada for much longer than that. We’re paying out of pocket for it and it is more than worth it. Next issue: fighting to pull our tax dollars out of the public school system and have the choice to put those dollars toward the educational institute of our choice!

Yes, Black schools: To all those who were arguing about if we should or we shouldn’t have it — sorry, we already have it, have had it and have been having it for quite some time now, if anybody cared to notice. And we’re not alone. Check out this article that we published in the Spring 2006 Black Woman and Child. Special thanks to Angelot Ndongmo.

On the Frontlines Report: African-Centered Schools

“For decades, black mothers have put their faith in public and private school systems that have failed them miserably. Our children are still complaining of racism, unfair treatment, a lack of understanding of their cultural heritage and the frustration of having to learn about every other race’s contributions except their own. African mothers are no different from any other mother when it comes to wanting the best educational experience for their children. These parents desperately need a resolution to help steer their children away from a life of hardship or crime which seem to be gripping countless black youth.”

Click here to read the full article.

Click on the heading to leave your comments.

World Breastfeeding Week 2008Announcement: Theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2008 announced!

“The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action has released the theme for next year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebrations. The theme “Mother Support: Going for the Gold” coincides with next years landmark Summer Olympics in Beijing, and was designed to direct focus on the need to support mothers in achieving the gold standard of infant feeding practices: exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by appropriate complementary foods and continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond.

 

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated October 1-7 in Canada, and August 1-7 in the rest of the world.”

 

 

>> Sisters, let’s get on board with our own celebrations for World Breastfeeding Week. To be honest, I’m starting to feel a little funny about being the ONLY Black woman out at some of these events. If we’d feel more comfortable doing our own thing, by all means let’s do our own thing. Are any sisters out there organizing events for WBW? Let us know what you’ve been doing. Send some pictures!

 

 

I have to say I can really appreciate the theme. When I was a new mother just learning how to breastfeed, it really DID seem like an Olympic sport and, let me tell you, I was FAR from winning any medals! At least that’s how I felt anyway. But I persevered…if my son could remember, I’m sure he would be telling some pitiful stories about me. Yes, I stuck it out and now I am a breastfeeding guru with healthy children to prove it. Yes, when you see that woman nursing a baby on the park bench, in the shopping mall, in line at the grocery store, in church (before “security” escorted me out — no food or drink in the sanctuary, I’ve been told!), wherever…when you see her, come on over and say hi because it might be me. Then again, it might be somebody else but say hi anyway.

 

 

Find out more about WBW at www.infactcanada.ca.