Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Gifts That Mean The Most: #GivingTuesday #BGCCares2013

Just in case you were not aware, today is the second annual #GivingTuesday, a movement that was created to encourage folks to give during the holidays. After first giving thanks for our own blessings, then spending time and money searching for great deals, now is the time to think about all of the men, women, boys and girls who could use a helping hand.

Naturally, several non-profit organizations are using this day to encourage more financial donations (some are even offering matching funds to spark immediate action), but I want you to think outside of the box and find a different way to serve someone else during this time of giving. Here are just a few examples:

  • Volunteer to serve at a soup kitchen or prepare food for Meals on Wheels.
  • Visit the Children's floor at the local hospital and read a holiday-themed book to a child or make up a few care packages and hand-deliver them.
  • Spend some quality time with a person who lost a loved one this year. The holidays can be very challenging for people who are grieving.
  • Bake some cookies and drop them off at your local women's or men's shelter.
  • Adopt-a-Family from your local social services agency or church and fulfill their Wish List.
  • Forgo the Secret Santa exchange at your job and gift a week's worth of lunches to a co-worker who eats Ramen Noodles every day. 
  • Pay a gas or electric bill for a Senior Citizen on a fixed income.
  • Provide food items to a child or two who won't have access to school meals during the winter break.
  • Donate a coat, or a blanket or snow boots to someone who needs them.
  • Offer your babysitting services to a single parent who needs some time to do her shopping and chip in a gift card to her favorite store so that she can pick up something nice for herself.
  • Visit a nursing home with a group of friends and sing your best version of The Temptations' "Silent Night."
  • Give that person who holds down two or three jobs some time off, by paying his or her salary for a day.
If you have children, it's a good idea to come up with something that you can do as a family so that they can begin to understand the importance of giving to and serving others. After all, it is more blessed to give than it is to receive! 

In conjunction with today's event, I am launching #BGCCares2013 as a way for the Brown Girl Collective Family and Brown Girl Diaries readers to share their giving stories/photos, information about local nonprofit or community programs, or additional ideas for ways to help others during this holiday season. Please use the hashtag #BGCCares2013 on Facebook or Twitter and let the world know just how much we care! Or you can join me here: BGCCares2013.

VERY IMPORTANT: Please list established/legitimate organizations ONLY. Organizations will be reviewed daily and removed, if necessary. Personal requests for assistance will be deleted as well, as I cannot verify their legitimacy. If you are in need of assistance during this season, please contact local area churches or social service agencies for help within your community. My prayer is for everyone to end 2013 and begin 2014 on a positive note!

Monday, December 2, 2013

An Open Letter to My Sisters


First of all, I want to begin this message by offering my sincerest apologies to any woman that I have ever willingly or accidentally harmed in any way, whether in thought, word or deed. It is sometimes too easy to criticize or disrespect another person without acknowledging the root cause of your actions, which, more often than not, are based upon your own issues and not those of the other person.

As Iyanla Vanzant regularly shares on OWN and author/TV correspondent Sophia A. Nelson reinforces daily on social media (and in her upcoming book, "The Woman Code"), supportive relationships between and among women are critically important. No matter how wonderful the man or men in your life may be, there is something extra special about the bonds of sisterhood, whether the "sister" is a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker or the woman that you see in the grocery store or on the big screen.

Because I live in the real world, I realize that we will not always agree with the actions or point of view of every woman that we encounter, but that does not give us the right to attack her as a human being by talking about her behind her back or calling her out of her name or criticizing her appearance or wishing ill-will upon her or members of her family. While there are many of you who would never dream of doing such things, that type of behavior is the standard for others and has indeed made many "reality" TV stars rich.

It's My Story and I Am Sticking To It!

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
 -- Maya Angelou

I am so glad to see the beginning of December, primarily because November was a month full of ups and downs, highs and lows. I started out the month on a quest to blog daily, but quickly lost traction with changes at work, changes at home, and changes within the family. On the positive side of things, I embarked on new ventures with outstanding people and began laying the groundwork for even greater things to happen in 2014. 

On Thanksgiving Day, after an emotionally gut-wrenching talk with my mother, I arrived back home to have the most open and honest conversation with my Maker that I have had in a very long time. During those moments of crying out to God, I saw my life flash before my eyes and began to understand myself and my journey in ways that I hadn't understood it in the past.

You see, I am a 47-year-old, childless, never-married, multiple degree-having sister who has spent most of my adult life searching: for the right career, the right man, the right friends, the right lifestyle and the right place to call home. Like the quote at the top of the page suggests, my story has often felt like a combination war story/horror story/comedy of errors, so I just had to ask, "Why?"

Thursday, November 7, 2013

If I Only Knew Then...: A Letter to Myself, Part 1

Yesterday, I received a surprise in my e-mail box, a letter that I had written to myself a year ago. The note, which was sent through FutureMe, reminded me of the importance of setting goals, but also how the best laid plans are subject to change based upon things that are out of your control, and sometimes things you can control, but don't. I will share more about that message at a later date, but it got me thinking; not only about my future, but also from whence I came.

You may or may not be familiar with the concept of writing to letters to yourself: either person that you were or the person that you hope to become. Many of us keep journals or diaries, which is cathartic in and of itself, but writing a letter to your younger self helps you to acknowledge the wisdom that you have gained over the years, and forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past. With that knowledge, you are free to move forward and speak power to your future self. I have shared my letter below, I encourage you to create your own.

Dear 12-Year-Old Marcie,

First of all, I want you to know that you are a perfect representation of who and what God created you to be. I know that there are times when you don't feel like you are all that important, especially when others tease you about being tall, wearing glasses, or being more interested in books than sports or boys. In a few years, the things that seem to haunt you now will become your best assets, if you handle them correctly.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Putting the Pieces Together

If you have been following my posts for the last few days, you will see that I take a lot of my inspiration from music. Today is no different as Ledisi's 2011 hit, "Pieces of Me," has been ringing in my ears for the last day or so.

In the song, Ledisi shares what it means to be a complex (and oftentimes complicated) woman who is doing her best to be all that she can be, both for herself and the people in her life, in her own perfectly imperfect fashion.

As I continue to evolve into the woman that I am meant to be, I am becoming more cognizant of all of the different expectations that society places on females, and even more aware of the pieces that fit and don't fit into my life.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Remembering My Grandma: Better Days

Phoebe Malvina Goodson Thomas (November 3, 1923 - January 8, 2000)

Today, I would like to pay homage to my beloved Grandma, who would have been 90 years old today. It's really hard to believe that she has been gone for almost 14 years because her presence is still felt in so many significant ways.

Born in Detroit to a preaching father and a college-educated mother, my grandmother was the first daughter in a family that ultimately included nine children (5 boys and 4 girls). My great-grandfather, John Goodson, had moved from Texas to Detroit in order to find work and establish a church. My great-grandmother, Ruby Holley, was a graduate of Prairie View A&M who couldn't get hired to teach, in spite of her degree. Together, both of my great-grandparents poured a lot into my grandmother, both spiritually and academically.

At a young age, my grandmother exhibited a talent for music, so her parents made sure that she was able to obtain music lessons. Being a preacher's kid, she played in the church and in later years, served as a choir director for several different churches in the Ohio Valley, where she had moved with her family as a young girl. At one point in time, she had a radio show with her mom called, "The Upper Room." (It has been said that my great-grandmother Ruby sounded a lot like Mahalia Jackson.)

Academically gifted, Phoebe graduated from high school with honors at the age of 16. She was prepared to attend college to become a teacher, but remained close to home to help with the family. She met Louis Thomas, Sr., my late grandfather, got married, and started a family of her own. My dad, Louis, Jr., was her first-born child. (They are pictured together on the top right corner.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Brown Girl 'Hair Story:' I Am Not My Hair! (And Neither Are You!)

Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend?
Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?
I am expressing my creativity! 
-- India.Arie, "I Am Not My Hair"

Like many women of African heritage, I have fond memories of sitting on a pillow on the living room floor while my mother oiled my scalp and plaited/braided my hair. When she was feeling really ambitious, she would create tiny braids and put equally small beads on the end of each braid, long before Venus and Serena debuted the style on an international stage.

On special occasions, like Easter Sunday, she would turn on the stove, heat up the hot comb and sit me on a stool in the middle of the kitchen. I did my best to keep still in order to avoid getting my neck or ears burned, while the smell of burning hair and grease floated through the air and Chaka Khan sang "I'm Every Woman" on the radio. 

Once my hair was sufficiently pressed, we would get out the Dippity-Do gel, a few sponge rollers, and a box of end papers, so that the hair curling could begin. Early the next morning, she would carefully remove the curlers, comb out my style and send me on my merry way, hoping that my style would last through the day.

Fast forward to the age of 13, when I was taken to the salon to receive my first relaxer, which allowed me to start managing my own hair. I must admit that I missed the days of sitting and connecting with my mom in the kitchen, but as a young woman, I needed to learn how to do my own 'do. 

As a teenager in the early 1980s, I must admit that I was a Jheri-Curl wearing sister for a time. (There's a picture of me posing with the Michael Jackson "Thriller" album cover somewhere. Ola Ray, his leading lady in the iconic "Thriller" music video, didn't have anything on me!)

"You Gotta Be" Willing to Soar

Just last night, I was listening to music from a few sister singers from the UK and pulled up one of my favorite pick-me-up-when-I'm-down tunes from Des'ree, "You Gotta Be." The entire song is encouraging, but the chorus is the stuff that gets taped to the bathroom mirror and quoted daily:

You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, your gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Silent No More!

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Unless you have been off on a deserted island for the last few weeks, you are well aware that there have been countless hours and pages filled with news stories which revolve around race in some fashion or another, ranging from the Paula Deen case, to the "Dark Girls" documentary on OWN, to the Supreme Court decision regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to the fresh acquittal verdict of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder trial.

Though I have opinions about each one of these news stories (and a few others that have floated across my computer and television screen), I have kept most of my thoughts private, save for the occasional conversations with friends and family members or a few "Likes" on the Facebook statuses of others. However, as of approximately 6:00AM this morning, I determined that I can be SILENT no more!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Why Images of Color Matter: Building Self-Esteem in Brown Girls


Recently, New York mom Karen Greene Braithwaite was faced with the challenge of giving her young daughter a Barbie-themed birthday party. Karen had no problems with the guest list or deciding which treats to serve, her difficulties arose when she tried to find an African-American version of the brand's party supplies. Unable to find what was looking for, she started a petition asking Mattel to include images of color in their line of party goods (Barbie Petition).

When I posted a link to Karen's survey on the Facebook page for Brown Girl Collective, all of the response was positive, with one exception: One person felt that the petition was "stupid," since Barbie is "just a doll." As an African-American woman who grew up with dolls that looked like me and a one-time collector of Black dolls, I beg to differ. Just as it is important for young girls to see positive images of Black women in the media, it is equally important that they have "brown" images in the books that they read, the toys that they play with and the plates, cups and balloons that are displayed at their birthday parties.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Free Angela: The Story of an Icon

“It is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo.”
 – Angela Y. Davis

Coming to theaters this Friday, April 5th, the documentary film, Free Angela and Other Political Prisoners (in limited release), will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the events which earned Dr. Davis a permanent place in history. Though best known as the iconic sister with the fabulous Afro, raised fist and fierce attitude, educator and activist Angela Davis is a woman of many complexities that is revered by some and misunderstood by others.

Born in Birmingham, AL, and educated in many of the world’s most prestigious universities, young philosophy professor Angela Davis shook the world by becoming a member of the Communist Party, while teaching at the University of California. In a strange turn of events, she is implicated in the kidnapping and murder of a Marin County judge and several other citizens, in 1970. Wrongfully accused, Angela flees California, which promptly lands her on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.

Labeled a fugitive, Professor Davis is captured in New York City and taken back to California, where she spends 18 months in prison. During her time behind bars, students and members of the community rally on her behalf, demanding that she be freed. Following a lengthy two-year court battle, she is acquitted of all charges in 1972.

A soul survivor, Dr. Davis continues to speak her mind and fight for the rights of others. Free Angela serves as introduction to a great woman and a reminder that freedom isn’t always free.

Free Angela and Other Political Prisoners will be in selected theaters in Washington, DC, New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago, Detroit and Boston.

Black Bloggers Connect Presents: The "Free Angela" Blogging Contest With $1000 Grand Prize


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year, A New Way of Experiencing Life

"It's a new season, it's a new day...."
 Taken from the song, New Season, written and performed by Israel Houghton.

Today marks the beginning of a new year for each and everyone of us who was blessed enough to see the clock strike midnight or wake up this morning (or afternoon) to a new day. 

I have to admit that 2012 was a bittersweet year for me as I lost one of the most important people in my life, my grandfather, Louis M. Thomas, Sr., in February and went on to experience the loss of several other extended family members throughout the year.

My grandfather and I, circa 1967

The process of grieving loved ones is different for everyone, but for me, watching others reach their sunset has forced me to remember that the sun is still rising in my own life. In other words, I realized just how much I had allowed situations, circumstances and yes, people, to keep me from living my best possible life, and that it was time to make some changes in order to make the rest of my days the best of my days. 

Sunrise at Tybee Island, Georgia - Taken by Marcie L. Thomas