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Celebrate the Phenomenal Women in Your Life: 10 Simple Ways to Do It!

It’s Women’s History Month and we want to shout out some of the women in our lives who have inspired us. While it is important to highlight women from history, it is often our own life histories that have the largest impact on our day-to-day lives. The women we’re featuring below are exemplars of style and beacons of light on very personal, everyday levels.

Aisha’s Mother – “My Mommy is the Best Mother of All Time”

Aisha_Mother[Womens_History_Month]_the phoenix rising collective

The first person I want to recognize is my mommy. I know that everyone claims this, but my mommy is the best mother of all time. She has always been an inspiration to me and continues to inspire me every single day.

One of the main ways she has been an inspiration is by providing a blueprint for perseverance. When my father became a drug addict, my mother found herself raising three children on her own. In true mommy style, she not only raised us but also did a great job at it. Growing up she found a way to work two jobs and still be an extremely active parent. And she is still the number one supporter of my siblings and me; honestly, she is one of my best friends.

After I left for college and my sister left for the Navy, my mother decided to go back to school. Working two jobs, still, she started putting herself through school and moving toward a nursing degree. She has shown me that perseverance is key. Oftentimes when I feel down, she reminds me that bad times do not last forever – and she is right.

My mother’s style of doing things, of making a way out of seemingly no way, and of pushing that rock to get everyone out of a hard place is simply amazing. So often my mother stops to tell me how proud she is of me – but honestly, I owe everything I am, both literally and figuratively, to her. She brought me into this world and it is her determination and perseverance that have gotten me this far.

Aisha’s Sister – “Having a Little Sister to Play with was Pretty Awesome, Too!”

Aisha_Sister[womens history]

Most of my time during childhood was spent with my brother and sister. Because of this we are all very close. My sister, Jazmin, was born two years after me. Although I was initially my older brother’s partner in crime, having a little sister to play with was pretty awesome, too. Like all sisters who grow up sharing everything (toys, clothes, and a room) we also shared a pretty healthy mix of arguing and getting along. As we’ve grown older we have grown closer.

Jazmin joined the Navy on her 17th birthday. Because of this she ends up spending most of her time thousands of miles away from our family. This can feel rough at times because we miss her a lot, but when we talk on the phone or when she is stateside (and I get to visit her) we always have an amazing time. Sometimes it feels like Jazmin is my little-big sister because she seems to have her life so much more together than I do. She pushes me and our mother to take care of ourselves (even from oversees right now, Jazmin checks on me to make sure I am eating healthy – that is LOVE).

My sister is an inspiration to me because she exemplifies determination. She knew very early on what she wanted and she went for it. She wanted to join the Navy – and so she did. She wanted to make her life and our lives better – and so she has. Jazmin was determined to make an amazing life for herself and she has. One of the greatest pleasures of my life, thus far, has been being able to watch Jazmin grow up into the beautiful and smart woman that she is.

aisha_family_collage[womens_history]

Simone’s Mother – “I Did Not Recognize My Mother’s Light Until She Passed Away”

simones mother_womens history[the phoenix rising collective]First, I want to honor my mother who is my angel. Truthfully, I did not recognize my mother’s light until after she passed away in 2003. So much of it was blocked by her struggle against her insecurities. My mother’s solution, to undergo gastric-bypass surgery, eventually cost her her life; she died as a result of post-operative complications. Initially, after she passed, I did not see my mother as a strong woman because I thought she was always preoccupied with how others perceived her. She chose to have the operation because being called fat made her upset and also made her feel ugly. Sometimes she defended herself against the marks, and there were also moments where I could not tell that people’s remarks affected her. Reflecting on those moments, I realize that my mother did, in fact, love herself. No matter the pain (physical and mental) she was going through, she still laughed and smiled—oh, and took hundreds of pictures of herself (ha—if she had Facebook, we’d be competing with selfies!). I can still see her throwing her head back in laughter the day she had her left breast amputated.

I am honoring my mother for her simplicity. She was in and out of the hospital and had to take care of several children after being laid off. The struggle with her insecurities complicated her life in some ways; however, she never lost sight of peace and happiness. During her panic attacks, she just wanted me to lie with her. And during her stays in the hospital, she just wanted my grandmother to comb her hair. She was aware of the love in and around her, and though “too late,” I think she realized that she did not have to risk her life to be accepted/loved by the people who would never love her anyway. My mother taught me that pain is complicated and will attempt to eat away your happiness. Her journey continues to inspire me to live my life simply, especially in a way that keeps her light shining.

Simone’s Sister – “Brittani is One of My Best Friends”

simone_brittani_womens history[the phoenix rising collective]Ah, my little button-nose lover! (She is probably cracking up reading this right now.) My younger sister, Brittani is one of my best friends, and I am honoring her for her love and positivity. I can always count on her to make me laugh, or laugh at my crazy jokes! And just like my mother, she always throws her head back in laughter.

And speaking of mothers—Brittani is the mother of two beautiful children, Breaker (Baby Breaker) and Brielle (Chunka Munka!). When she became a mother, she was as nervous as any first-time mom would be. She was also very happy and in love with her new role, though some people judged her for becoming a mother at the age of 16. When she had Chunka Munka at 21, people continued to judge her; however, Brittani loves her life and sees her children as on time and a part of the Creator’s plan for her. Sometimes she does call me because she is upset at people and their hurtful remarks. However, before I can tell her that I am on my way with Vaseline, she bounces back. She moves from being upset to “Well, anyway. Grey’s is coming on tonight!” And what’s most beautiful, I think, is her unwavering love. She continues to love and do good things for others despite the pain some have attempted to cause her.

Brittani does not always think she is this positive and loving person, but I want her to know that when she texts me things like, “Good morning, my sista!” or posts Facebook statuses about how much she loves her family, I melt on the inside. She is such a beacon of love and light. I want her to know how resilient she is, and how her resilience inspires me to bounce back and keep moving. And I know watching Netflix through a wine hangover is not the same struggle as changing diapers on 3 hours of sleep, but all that strength and happiness in her, encourages me to live in love and positivity. Mother Earth loves you, Sissy Button Love.

So, who are you honoring for Women’s History Month? How has she inspired you? What does her life mean to you? What does her style of doing things teach you?

Below we’ve compiled 10 simple ways to honor and celebrate the women in your own life:

  1. Have tea/coffee or a meal together (or cook a meal for her) – A home-cooked meal or hot beverage always warms the soul; it’s also a very inexpensive way to show someone how much you appreciate them.
  2. Plan a craft or cooking day – If she’s artsy/crafty, this will be right up her alley; not only will she love spending time working with her hands, she’ll enjoy doing it with you.
  3. Write her a letter or a poem – This is almost a lost art, especially in the days of social media. A letter or poem will provide an opportunity for you to carve out down-time to write and to be thoughtful with your words while writing. She’ll definitely know that it’s from your heart.
  4. Go on a hike or walk in the park – It’s great exercise and nature has a way of opening the imagination, making it a perfect time to share what’s on your mind.
  5. Make sugar scrub or a piece of jewelry for her – Self-care should always be at the top of the list, so selecting her favorite scents for a sugar scrub or the perfect stones for a necklace will make the gift even more special to her.
  6. Tell her that you love her everyday – Time is precious; let people know how you really feel about them.
  7. Work out/do yoga together – Having an accountability workout partner can provide that boost of energy to keep going! Why not make that partner someone you consider a phenomenal woman?
  8. Do a wine and movie night – It’s another great way to relax; in fact, let her choose the wine and her favorite movie.
  9. Send her an inspirational book – We all need inspiration to maintain resilience – even the women we’re inspired by, so send her a book that has empowered you.
  10. Make her laugh often – It’s definitely the best medicine, and nothing is more special (and hilarious) than hearing someone you love laugh!

 

Let us know how you honor the women in your life. Share your own life stories in the comments section—we want to continue to honor Women’s History Month with the stories we don’t read about everyday.

 

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About the Contributing Writers:

SimonePic3Simone Savannah is an English instructor and contributing writer for the Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English-Creative Writing and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Her poetry is based on personal experiences she can’t let go—imagined or otherwise. Simone also enjoys making green smoothies, attending Bikram Yoga classes, and laughing uncontrollably. Simone is teaming with Aisha (read about her below) to bring you a unique take on Life + Style.

 

AISHA_BLOG[PHOTO]Aisha Upton is a second-year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her research interests include Black women in service organizations and violence against Black women. She is passionate about many things including community service, lipstick, baking, thrifting, knitting, and being a proud owner of a Cockapoo, Napoleon. At the intersection of being a diligent student, a fashionista, and an activist – you will find Aisha, attempting to find a balance.  Be sure to read Aisha + Simone’s unique take on Life + Style and the importance of letting who you are shine through when defining your personal style.

 


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bell hooks, Growing Pains, and Womanhood: How My Commitment to Feminism Empowered Me to be the Change I Wish to See

womens_history_month2014[the phoenix rising collective]bell_hooks

bell hooks.

“SHE is NOT a feminist!” I adamantly expressed to my male mentor/adviser (whom I’ll call “David”) during a heated exchange as a high school senior. He was just as livid and turned up in opposing my viewpoint (with a very condescending smirk on his face) stating, “YES SHE IS!” We were referring to the beloved bell hooks. I was so sure in my conviction that she was not the man hating, ball busting, dyke (please excuse my terminology as this leads up to an excellent point of correction) that I assumed in my very, very, very young and immature mind that ALL feminists were. The little bit that I knew about bell hooks was that her writings heavily criticized the lack of historical literary recognition of black women’s presence within the U.S. women’s liberation and feminist movements. Her writings also sought to empower black women to find our voices and speak our truth in eradicating any and all forms of oppression against us. So, after the debate was over with David, my female mentor/adviser calmly pulled me aside and said very sternly, yet in a loving voice, “Sistah, I admire you for speaking out so passionately about something that appears to be so dear to your heart, BUT bell hooks is a feminist.”

Growing Pains

kaneesha[feminism_March article]I was CRUSHED. CONFUSED. BEWILDERED! I felt so dumb for arguing a point with very little merit or specific facts to support my claims. She, Regina Laurie, my high school mentor/adviser (and now best friend of 15 years) explained to me why bell hooks was a feminist and how my perceptions of feminists were extremely flawed. She also kindly referred me to a bibliography of bell hooks’ writings that provided more insight, as I OBVIOUSLY needed to get my facts straight.

I was still vehemently angry though. I was angry because David knew that I did not know what I was talking about and he continued to argue with me. I was angry because the tone, the words, and the body language (in my opinion) that he used during the dispute further validated my foolish beliefs about how feminists, and in particular, bell hooks preached jargon that was strongly anti-strong black man,  anti-heterosexual relationships, anti-nuclear black family, and any other “anti” that somehow emasculated black men. This is precisely why he was so obstinate in expressing his viewpoint.  I was angry because of my realization that both our assumptions were completely inaccurate, yet he deliberated as if he was speaking THE absolute truth; thus, we both were guilty of the same crime. As my participation in the youth group progressed I recognized that I was the only one between the two of us committed to challenging my erroneous perceptions. David was completely comfortable in his male privilege. Through my awakening I gleaned he was slowly but surely interjecting his views into the fabric of the youth group comprised of precocious high school students trying to “figure it out.” Somehow the youth group committed to organizing the community, undoing racism, empowering and educating youth, and celebrating the arts as a form of social justice, experienced some major internal conflicts leading to tension and the loss of some members. We were, however, able to regain our focus and intention, and also reclaim our mission before the sponsoring organizations were no longer able to support us.

Awakening

This series of events over a period of six to seven months set the stage for me to completely fall in love with bell hooks’ writings. Through her work I was able realize my life’s purpose. These experiences were also the catalyst to transitioning my relationship with Regina from mentor/mentee to best friends, as I legally had become an adult and was entering my freshmen year in college. She continued to informally mentor me, helping to shift my juvenile thought processes and foster an enlightened young woman seeking the answers to some very real questions about life, self-identity, the “isms,” my ancestral history, and essentially what it means to be me. So between the gifts of knowledge, enlightenment, and unconditional love bestowed on me by these two powerful black women, I felt I was ready to take on the WORLD!

bell_hooks_ain't I a woman

Sisters of the Yam, Ain’t I A Woman, Talking Back, Killing Rage, Salvation, and Communion were on heavy reading rotation during my first couple of years in college. I became heavily immersed in the books, articles, lectures, recordings, interviews and anything I could find written or spoken by bell hooks. She was my introduction to truly re-examining and re-defining the ideas of being a feminist, feminism, sexism, racism, hetero-sexism, homophobia, and classism. She helped me understand the intersections of race, class, and gender, and how these variables impact black women. I gained a sentience of my place in this world as a black woman and what that generally means pertaining to my interactions with everyone else and their perceptions – and possibly preconceived notions – about me. Through this same lens, I was able to critically analyze my relationships with black men ranging from my father to the males I dated. More importantly, bell hooks challenged me to look deeply within my conditioned self and how I had learned to perpetuate the stereotypes popularized within mainstream U.S. culture in what she would call, “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Ultimately, her extensive work helped liberate my mind and soul and that allowed me to begin accepting all of humanity as a reflection of me. And only through committing to my life’s work based in feminism am I able to BE the change I want to see in the world.

I AM A Feminist

I have since been deeply inspired to define and write my own story through my work with precollege and college students, my close relationships, my home life, as well as social activities about how feminism, womanhood, and motherhood looks in my life. I’m also exceedingly encouraged by women’s stories from around the globe that define, walk in, and own the power of self-defined feminism.

In honor of Women’s History Month; March 2014, I salute the phenomenal, brutally honest, lovingly critical; author, feminist, and social activist, bell hooks.

Thank you immensely for planting seeds of self empowerment and truthful self identity as they continue to blossom, destined for greatness.

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About the Contributing Writer:

Kaneesha_bio_pic[shine]W. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions.  She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.


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Don’t Look Too Far: Black Her-Story is in Your Own Backyard

Black_Women_History[phoenixrisingcollective]

Each year I welcome the national recognition of Black Her/History month with such reverence, admiration, and reflection. While I strive to honor the significant contributions my ancestors have made EVERY month, this year is quite different. Why? Well, for one, my role as contributing writer for The Phoenix Rising Collective has provided a platform to discuss all things pertaining to motherhood and its intersections with race, class, gender, love, health, wealth, and education, to name a few. But secondly, The PRC also allows me to inform readers by spotlighting how the extraordinary contributions of our foremothers have tremendously influenced our modern world, as well as the Divine Goddess DNA that flows through our bodies as women of color.

So, in celebration of Black Her-story Month 2014, and rolling with the theme of honoring our foremothers every month, this Motherhood Empowerment article will be about, none other than, MY MOTHER!

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Marilyn Clarke cutting a client’s hair. Photo Credit: Flint Journal Archives

According to a February 12, 1972 Flint Journal (Flint, MI) newspaper article, Marilyn Clarke was the first black woman to graduate at 19 years old from the predominantly (99%) white Flint Institute of Barbering Inc. since the 1920s. And, she was distinctively known as the shortest female barber in Flint, Michigan during that time, measuring 4’11. She had to stand on top of a box to reach the top of many of her clients’ heads. My mom began cutting hair as a teenager for my uncle and grandfather, as well as young men from the neighborhood where she grew up – located on the Southside of Flint. She immensely enjoyed cutting hair during this epic era of Afros, blowouts, tapers, pompadours and Caesars (better known as the quovadis back then). However the quick and precise cut of the Afro was my Mom’s claim to fame! She was able to shape the finest, roundest, symmetrical Afro in the city. Hilbert Hambrick the owner of Personality Hair-styling, who was her boss, had only one major complaint: she only spent 15 minutes on an Afro versus the suggested 25-30 minutes. She responded, “Time is money!” Charging $4.50 for an adult haircut and half that price for a child’s haircut, my mom was determined to keep her services quality yet fast paced. The result?  A thriving clientele of black, white, young, and old customers!

Being able to work creatively with one’s hands, in whatever capacity, is an exceptional gift. This is a gift my mother has passed down to all of her children and many of her grandchildren. We have all been blessed with the ability to create just about every hairstyle for just about every texture of hair. While none of us at this point in our lives have decided to pursue careers within the hair and beauty industries, we’ve definitely acquired the necessary skills to do so thanks to a little old woman named Marilyn Clarke who broke ground in a male dominated field during the 1970s.

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Baby Marilyn Clarke

So, as a follow up to one of my recommended tips from the November 2013 Motherhood Empowerment article, extend gratitude, gratitude, and more gratitude to your mothers, grandmothers, great- grandmothers, great-great grandmothers, and so on and so on. Simply reflecting on their greatness, strength, wisdom, and accomplishments can help ease what appears to be your most challenging moments, heal what feels like your deepest wounds, and shine light on your darkest hours.

This month (and every month), Mom, I honor and salute you! Thank you for lasting legacy in our hometown and within our family.

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About the Contributing Writer:

KaNeesha_reflectW. KaNeesha Allen is the Motherhood Empowerment contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an educator with extensive project management, student support services, and community outreach experience in K-12 and higher education institutions.  She is also the mother of two extremely rambunctious and fun loving boys – Ausar and Mikah. Seeking to master the balance between being a highly engaged mother and taking time to BE with herself in the divine energy of the universe, KaNeesha finds peace, solace, and regeneration through meditation, Vinyasa yoga, and her “Sistah Circle”. She welcomes mothers from everywhere to join her on a journey of self-discovery and evolution towards harnessing, embodying, and emoting the Goddess power within.