Social Causes

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals via Mode Media. The following story is entirely my own and reflective of my actual experience.

As a parent, there is little that feels worse than being completely helpless when your child is hurting. And yet that is precisely the place my husband and I found ourselves in back in 2010 when our daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.

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The process began innocently enough. She had a cold that took a little too long to clear, and swollen lymph nodes that just wouldn’t go away. Her pediatrician told us to keep an eye on her, and bring her back if things didn’t look better in a week. In that week, she tripped over a baby gate, sprained her ankle and developed a swollen lymph node on — of all places — her head. A lymph node that an ER doctor told us was just a cosmetic problem we shouldn’t worry about.

But I knew my daughter, and I knew she didn’t seem like herself. She’d been sick for weeks, and I wanted to know what was wrong. So I took her back to her pediatrician, who asked to do some blood tests. Within minutes, she came back with words that scared me probably more than anything else ever has in my life — she thought my daughter might have leukemia. She didn’t even let us go home. She immediately called our nearest Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and had them send an ambulance to come get us.

When we arrived at the hospital— as ridiculous as this might sound — I immediately knew we were in the right place. The staff welcomed us and did their best to explain everything in terms we could understand with a care that made it clear they had done the same before with the families of countless other children. They had a team whose job was specifically to focus on the kids. Not their physical health, but their mental well-being. They came in to distract our daughter with games and movies and funny stories and puppets and toys. She was four, so she didn’t really understand what was going on, but the combination of the doctors and nurses hovering around her and what had to be frightened looks on her parents’ faces couldn’t have been easy to handle.

Once the doctors confirmed her diagnosis and admitted her, we were left to figure out life now that cancer had come calling. I can honestly say that if it were not for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, we would’ve had a much, much harder time with that.

Their entire mission is working with children and their families who are going through the worst times of their lives, and they are absolutely amazing at it.

My daughter was admitted to the oncology unit. The doctors took the time to explain everything to my husband and I in detail, but in words we could understand, and they answered every question we could come up with, no matter how many times we had to ask. They allowed us to control what information we exposed to our daughter so that she never heard or knew more than we wanted her to know.

They kept her mind occupied with movies, video games, toys and a playroom next door. They indulged when she wanted to ask her own questions and wanted to watch intently whenever they had to take her blood pressure or more blood or any of a variety of tests. They brought in retired greyhounds just to put a smile on the kids’ faces. Never mind the fact that my daughter isn’t smiling in the photo above. She was ecstatic!

More important than all those details, though, is the fact that they just made us feel like we could — like we WOULD — get through it and find our “new normal.”

And we did. Within a week of starting treatment, she went into remission, and six years later, she still has not relapsed. My family owes a debt of gratitude to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals that we will never be able to pay. My daughter is now a 10-year-old healthy competitive gymnast who spends every day making me thankful that I get the chance to be her mother.

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The very least I can do is to use my platform to tell the world how amazing they were for us and spread the word about what they need.

CMNHospitalslogo_color (1)Quite simply, what they need is us and our charity. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals works to raise funds and awareness for 170 children’s hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. All told, they provide more than $3.5 billion in charitable care each year, including the purchase of life-saving equipment, research and all the intangibles that make children’s hospitals the type of places that offer magical care.

All of this means their need for donations is great. So please, put your money where the miracles are. Support your Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

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This weekend was a great time to be a Black woman. Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of my melanin all day, every day — twice on Sundays. But over the past few days, the rest of the world has gotten to witness that pride in all it’s glory, and it is exactly what my spirit needed.

Or at least it was, until the hate started to roll in.

You probably know by now that on Saturday, Beyonce did what only she can do: She dropped a surprise video on us for her new song, “Formation.” As always, the internet collectively lost its mind. But this time, it felt different. It wasn’t just the Beyonce stans getting in on the praise. It was all the Black people and even the woke white people on my timeline and all over the web. Because more than a song, “Formation” is a political statement about Blackness in all it’s forms — feminine, queer, ratchet, refined, and everything in between — racial injustice (Hurricane Katrina, anyone?) and police brutality.

On the off chance you haven’t seen it, check it out. Or just watch it for the hundredth time. I won’t judge you.

Come through, Bey! This video is the Blackest thing to happen in 2016, and I am completely here for it.

In the days since its release, there have been many, many thinkpieces that break down why it is the best thing Beyonce has ever done (seriously), so I’ll let you read some of those. But suffice it to say that I love how she managed to make space for queer voices while she addressed her own Blackness, the persistent rumors about her AND #BlackLivesMatter, all the while calling her sisters into “formation” to join her. The song and video are a truly powerful statement, particularly coming from a person who is typically viewed as being apolitical and not “woke”.

So that was Saturday. But Beyonce was also slated to perform during the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday. And everyone was hoping she would perform “Formation.” King Bey did not disappoint. Not only did she perform it: She did it with a group of backup dancers dressed like Black Panthers in a costume that also paid homage to Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime outfit. She basked in all her Blackness in front of 100 million people, and I could not have been prouder.

Tina Knowles / Instagram

Tina Knowles / Instagram

Of course, I knew the white tears would be coming. I knew white people would be all up in arms about the song and her performance, and I was right. They’ve called Bey’s performance overtly sexual (What? Where?), boring (Compared to WetBlanket, I mean Coldplay?), race-baiting (Why does this term even exist? As if Black people need encouragement to be pissed off about our oppression), and even anti-police.

I want to address that last one in detail. White people have actually — like for real — responded to the pro-Black message and Black Panther costumes by claiming Beyonce is now anti-police. They are comparing the Black Panthers to the KKK, and calling it a racist, terrorist organization.

Listen. Being pro-Black does not mean being anti-white, and speaking out against police brutality does not mean being anti-police. The Black Panthers was not a racist organization: It was a response to racism. It was an attempt to protect Black people and Black communities from racism and the oppression of white supremacy. But somehow, they are being equated to the KKK, which murdered and raped and conspired to systematically oppress black people with reckless abandon, and STILL EXISTS today? This is somehow the same as an organization that developed programs to feed and offer health care for the Black community while fighting to come out from under the boot of white supremacy?

Miss me with that nonsense. Making the logical leaps to those conclusions requires hella mental gymnastics. Being proud of our Blackness and working to offer representation when mainstream media offers little to none does not mean we are against everyone else. It is us taking back the power that has been denied us for so long. Taking back the narrative that says we are not beautiful, intelligent, or complex, or deserving of love or success.

And hell if we’re going to let anyone take that away from us too.

With all that Black Girl Magic and Black pride in the air all weekend, I guess I felt like it was finally time for me to use my voice here the same way I use it everywhere else. If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know how often I talk about race, racism, intersectional feminism and social justice in general. This is also true in real life. Here though, in this space, my space, I don’t talk about it as often as I’d like. This post is the start of my effort to change that.

This is me, getting in formation.

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Fashion Project. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Over the last few years, I’ve become a bit obsessed with with fashion: The trends, the brands, how to incorporate both of those into my personal style (and budget), etc. I use fashion as a tool to help me feel my best, and I bet a lot of other women out there feel the same way. Unfortunately, I also I know a lot more about cancer than I would like, thanks to my daughter’s battle with leukemia when she was just 4 years old. I saw firsthand how the side-effects of cancer — severe bloating from steroids, pale skin, hair loss — can weigh on a person’s self confidence. So when I learned of a project that aims to do something about that through fashion, I couldn’t wait to share their cause with you.

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The mission of the Look Good Feel Better program is to help people who are fighting cancer also fight back against the changes to their appearance by offering free workshops that include lessons on cosmetics, skin and nail care, wigs, turbans, accessories and wardrobe. Well, they have partnered with Fashion Project, a new “thrift store” option that donates a portion of the profits from every item they sell to the donor’s charity of choice. So for example, if you had a designer handbag you wanted to donate to a regular thrift store, that handbag might end up on the shelf for only a few dollars. Great for the customer who finds it, but Fashion Project allows you to put that bag to greater use by reselling it for a price closer to what it’s worth, then donating up to 55% of the proceeds charity.

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So how exactly do these two organizations work together? Well, you can now shop the Look Good Feel Better boutique at FashionProject.com, which features clothing and accessories donated by members of the Look Good Feel Better and Fashion Project communities, along with celebrities and designers. So you can shop and donate women’s designer clothing and accessories in like-new condition to the boutique through June 7. More than 850 items have already been donated, and more than $4,000 has been raised for the Look Good Feel Better program.

What that means is you can find gorgeous clothing, shoes and accessories from brands like Vince Camuto, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Alice + Olivia and even Givenchy for up to 90% off, and your purchase will help women with cancer feel better about themselves throughout their battle. You can also donate clothes to the sale.

I genuinely cannot think of a more worthy cause or a better excuse to shop.

When I was growing up, I was fortunate to have strong women in my life to look up to, including my mother. So when the time came for me to start my own business, it never crossed my mind that I couldn’t because I’d had so many examples of women doing big things. I was empowered by those women, and it is my duty to provide the same example for my daughters. Running my own business is part of it, but really, it’s just about providing an environment in which they believe in themselves enough to do whatever they set their minds to.

So needless to say, I am a huge fan of Walmart’s global Women’s Economic Empowerment initiative, which aims to improve the lives of women around the world in a variety of ways, not the least of which is their commitment to source $20 billion (that’s BILLION) worth of products from companies owned by women by 2016. To clarify, Walmart defines a woman-owned company as on that is at least 51% owned by women and also run by a woman.

Patricia Wallwork, CEO of Milo's Tea Company

Patricia Wallwork, CEO of Milo’s Tea Company

Well, March is Women’s History Month, and Walmart is featuring six of those items manufactured by woman-owned companies:

  • Milo’s Sweet Tea
  • Budget Saver Popsicles
  • CLR Remover
  • Smart & Sexy Bra
  • Carter’s Infant Shoes
  • Hefty Trashcan

Though I recognized almost all the brands, I had no idea that these companies were run by women. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. But these are just 6 of more than 10,000 items that can be found both in Walmart stores and online that come from companies owned by women. This page will help you find them, along with the Women Owned badge like the one shown below.

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But why does any of this matter? Well, aside from the fact that it’s just a great idea to let girls see women being successful, there is the fact that women are responsible for more than 80% of consumer decisions globally, and it’s great to be able to support other women with our dollars. Plus initiatives like this one can, and very likely will, help those companies grow by leaps and bounds.

That sounds like money well spent to me.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links may have been used.

I can’t lie. This year, the holidays will probably be a struggle for my family. The whole year has been a struggle really. But when I look at the big picture, I recognize that things could be much worse. We have a roof over our head, our bills are (mostly) paid, and thanks to my family, my work, and some luck in giveaways, my kids will have gifts on Christmas morning.

Sadly, for many kids, this is just not the case. It’s hard to focus on gifts when you’re struggling just to survive and provide the necessities. This I know too well. That’s why my favorite part of working with Walmart during the holidays is the opportunity to do something for others.

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This holiday season, Walmart is partnering with The Salvation Army for their Fill the Truck campaign. From Fridays to Sundays through next Sunday, December 14, shoppers can drop off new, unwrapped toys at the trucks or bins located at local Walmart supercenters. These toys will be given to parents to give to their children for Christmas. To give you an idea of just how many families can get help, last year, Fill the Truck collected more than 136,000 toys and 6,600 coats from generous shoppers. Here’s hoping the total will be even higher this year!

My family and I headed to our local Walmart with $50 to spend on toys for the drive, and we were only too excited to help. Baby Juliza was too excited to touch everything in the cart, but you get my point.

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We grabbed a doll, destined to make some little girl a fine companion, a Tonka truck, because they are the best of the best, a Flutterbye fairy, because they are apparently really hot this year, and a few Hot Wheels cars that could fill some stockings. My only regret is that we weren’t able to do more.

Next time you’re at Walmart, if you’re able, pick up an extra toy for a child who might not otherwise get one and drop it in the truck. You have one more week to get in on the giving if you’d like to do it in person, but you can donate online right up until Christmas.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Want to see my mama bear come roaring out? Tell either of my girls that they can’t do something. Better yet, tell them that the reason they can’t do it is because they’re girls. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

As you might imagine, that kind of talk doesn’t go well around these parts. Not even a little. I tend to shut down gender-based expectations and objections in a hurry, because I never want to teach my girls that being girls is a hurdle to overcome. Rather, I want them to understand that being girls — becoming women — is a part of their identity, but not the entirety of it. That while there are unique challenges they may face because of their gender, those challenges can be overcome. I want them to know that they can be beautiful and intelligent as well as strong and capable. Period.

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So needless to say, when Walmart asked me to share the COVERGIRL #GirlsCan campaign, I didn’t hesitate. The campaign is about empowerment and encouraging girls to turn every “can’t” into a “can.” Sounds tailor made for my girls and I.

I was fortunate to have grown up with a strong mother and two older sisters, and as a result, I never received the message that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. In fact, it was expected that I would do great things, and I was fully encouraged to be who I wanted to be. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many other girls shut down when they wanted to accomplish something, discouraged because “girls don’t do that.” It’s sexism, plain and simple, and it shouldn’t fly in this day and age. This campaign is turning this outdated concept on its head.

How can you support #GirlsCan? Well, first you can teach your daughters to be fearless and empowered and encourage all the girls and women around you to do the same. Share your stories of empowerment online with the #GirlsCan hashtag. But you can also purchase specially marked packs of Covergirl Flamed Out Mascara and Pro Mascara from the #GirlsCan tower at your local Walmart.

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Covergirl and Walmart will each donate $50,000 each to Dress for Success to help empower women. Dress for Success® is an international non-profit that provides disadvantaged women with professional clothing, a network of support along with career development assistance. All of this is designed to promote economic independence so they can not just survive, but thrive, in work and in life. The organization has a presence in 135 cities in 17 countries and has helped more than 775,000 on their way self-sufficiency.

They’re doing their part to remind girls what they’re capable of. Let’s do ours.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

I like to think that most of us, if given the chance, like to help others whenever we can. Sometimes, that means giving of our time or money directly, but sometimes, we can’t do that. That doesn’t change the fact that there are people who need help. And Walmart is offering a way for all of us to help with our votes, even if we can’t help with money, with their Fight Hunger, Spark Change campaign.

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As unbelievable as this may seem, one in every six Americans struggles with hunger. One in every six. This means that when you look around at the park, or the gas station, or the school bus stop, chances are you are looking at a few people who aren’t sure where their next meal will come from, or who haven’t gotten enough to eat. Here’s a story from one of those families:

Something must be done on a large scale if we are going to help all those who are hungry.

Walmart has committed to donating $3 million to 50 local food banks through this campaign, and they need all of our help to decide which food banks will get a share of that donation. The 50 food banks with the most votes will receive $60,000 to fight hunger. Every day through October 5, you can visit Walmart’s Fight Hunger page and cast your vote for the food banks you’d like to see get the help. You can search by state if you’d like to vote for organizations near you.

That’s literally all it takes to help a food bank near you get an infusion of money that will help feed people in your community. However, you can also click the name of each food bank to find out more about the organization and how you can volunteer or donate directly.

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At the very least though, please lend your vote to help those most in need. No one deserves to be hungry.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and there have been events going on all month long to help promote and normalize breastfeeding. This week — August 25-31 — is Black Breastfeeding Week.

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Sounds innocuous enough, right? A week to encourage black moms to nurse their babies. I even wrote a post for Black Breastfeeding Week when I was pregnant last year and planning to nurse. In fact, though I knew I wanted to try nursing with baby Juliza, this event is what helped cement in my mind that I really needed to breastfeed. That it was important and life-saving and necessary. Reading stories from other black women who felt the same offered a type of solidarity that was genuinely encouraging.

Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of women — specifically white women — who have taken offense to this. Who insist that black breastfeeding week is racist, that it only serves to divide the breastfeeding community and that it’s exclusionary. Who insist that if there were a “white breastfeeding week”, we’d all be up in arms.

Well, here’s the thing. The breastfeeding community is already divided. The numbers tell us that. White women are statistically a lot more likely to breastfeed than black women. They are also more likely to continue extended breastfeeding beyond 6 months or a year. The result? The rates of infant mortality and low birthweight in the African American community are higher.

The point is that it’s super important that we all work to encourage more black moms to nurse — for our health and the health of our babies. This isn’t about excluding anyone. White women who have a problem with this, I’m going to address the rest of this post directly to you:

It’s really sad when breastfeeding advocates can’t see the importance of speaking to women where they are — even if that means targeting their race.

If you feel excluded from this week, imagine how moms of color feel in every other conversation about breastfeeding. Realistically, the face of breastfeeding in this country is white. It always has been. When you walk into a La Leche League group, chances are most, if not all, of the members and the leader are white. The lactation consultant at your hospital or birthing center? Probably white. The posters in the WIC office, magazine ads or commercials about breastfeeding? Probably feature white women.

So if you want to go there, “white” breastfeeding week is every week.

And images like this one, featuring black women feeding our beautiful brown babies the way nature intended, are rarely included in breastfeeding advocacy:

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Yet, you get to assume that when white women are featured and included, that everyone is included and invited to the conversation. That may be true in intent, but it’s rarely true in execution or outcome. And that’s called white privilege.

The whole point of Black Breastfeeding Week is to show black moms that we breastfeed too, and that there is nothing wrong with it. To combat the perception that breastfeeding is just something that white women do. Because unless we actively seek out other black breastfeeding moms, it can certainly look that way. To combat a culture that would tell us to “take that baby off your titty” or question if you’re only breastfeeding because you can’t afford formula. To combat a culture that would call you a sexual deviant for breastfeeding a toddler or tell you you’re going to make your son gay by breastfeeding him. To encourage women who may never have seen anyone in their family or larger community breastfeed, ever.

And yes, breastfeeding moms of all races face some of these issues. But can you imagine if your whole family — whole community — was largely ignorant about the benefits and necessity of breastfeeding? If even your doctor and nurses assumed you didn’t plan to breastfeed and pushed formula on you simply because of your race?

This matters. It matters to see women who look like us proving that breastfeeding is OK. That it’s natural and normal and beautiful and life-saving, no matter what anyone else might say. It matters to have people who understand your experience as a black woman saying these things to you.

Please, spare me the crap about how “talking about race encourages racism,” or how we’re the ones who are “making things about race” because that makes no sense. Race is a factor, whether we talk about it or not. Your whiteness allows you to ignore that fact because it’s not something you have to deal with on a daily basis. Contrary to what you’d like to believe, talking about it attempts to make the issue less taboo so we can actually FACE our racial differences instead of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending they don’t exist.

But Lord, if I had a dollar for every time a white person said “talking about race just breeds racism”, I’d be rich. The only way we’ll get past racism is to talk about it in real, honest terms and actually LISTEN to each other. Negating the experience of a person of color just because you can’t relate is a glaring example of white privilege.

If you take offense to that, I strongly suggest you look inside yourself about why. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about you. Period. If you call yourself a breastfeeding advocate and you can’t be an ally and support black moms in our breastfeeding efforts, however we choose to do so, then just stay out of the conversation, because your bigotry is not welcome.