Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

In just a few hours, 2008 will be history. I am so glad that I've lived to see all the exciting, history-making, heartbreaking, and life-changing chains of events that have occurred. It's hard to believe that in just a year I saw the American people elect their first African-American president, I watched the Olympics and was blown away by M. Phelps and U. Bolt, I watched my countrymen (Haitians) from afar protesting food prices, I witness the fall of capitalism (as I learned it at school), and as I am trying to make the most out of the last hours of this year, events are unfolding....

On a the personal side, I've been able to reivent my relationship with food. I've dropped 26 pounds, and I'm feeling healthy and happy.

As I am standing on the dawn of this New Year, the only resolution I want to make is to live through each day while trying to be my best self.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Abu Dhabi

Getting to know a city is like getting to know somebody. It involves a similar dose of excitement, a comparable degree of openness, and a dash of mystery that make you wary at first. Then as you engage in the relationship, you get fascinated, disappointed, amused and saddened. It’s all of these emotions that besiege you and change you over time. These past couple of weeks, I have had a chance to feel Abu Dhabi in a way I hadn’t before.

1:00 PM. It’s Rush hour. I am not sure I know the reason. Whether it has to do with people who are heading home for their siesta at around lunch time or with children who are coming back from school, it’s when you could wait up to an hour in the scorching sun before you finally get in a cab.

The city—hot and humid, lively and imposing, neat and fresh—offers an impressing view of Arabia. Here, domes and minarets of traditional mosques rest in the shade of modern skyscrapers. There, recently -built boulevards ornamented with aligned palm trees are keeping up with gigantic roundabouts where hundreds of cars speed constantly. Not too far on the sidewalks, circles of construction workers are eating their lunch while calls for prayer reverberate loudly from everywhere. It’s a bizarre blend of wealth and poverty, arrogance and deference.

The people—a pot-pourri of nationalities and personalities: Filipinos, Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, Sri-Lankans, Europeans, Americans, Africans, and Emiratis. As the Arab men, dressed with their ‘kanduras’ walk around like the lords of the new era, the women, buried in their ‘abayas’ hold their Versace handbags in defiance. But under this interesting modern-day Babel lie a kaleidoscope of parallel lives that rub shoulders with one another with no chance of intersecting, a melting pot of hearts, souls and stories that can make or break your day in a second.

I was in a cab with my baby. The driver, in the rearview mirror, kept on starring at us. As he maneuvered his way to the jammed streets, he asked: “baby boy?”

“Yes”, I responded in a whisper.

“Nice baby”

“Thank you. Do you have kids?” As soon as I asked the question, I wish I could take it back. It’s a question that I vowed not to ask anyone.

“Yes, a boy”. He paused briefly. “A small baby, 5 months.”

Before I could respond, he pulled a picture out of nowhere and handed it to me. Before my eyes was a perfectly beautiful baby boy, bundled in a green overall. I opened my mouth to congratulate him, but he did not let me finish.

“My wife is dead”

I told him that I was sorry and asked about the cause of her death. He said quietly: “I am from Pakistan; I’ve been here 2 months”. I did not understand whether it was a change of topic or an explanation, but I said in more cheerful voice.

“See, you got a new president in Pakistan”

He answered “yes , very bad people”. As he insisted “very very bad people”, his eyes, void and yellow, projected a subtle gloom upon his smile. It took me fifteen minutes to get to where I needed to go, but my enthusiasm was gone.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Becoming an adult

I don’t know exactly when I traded my young-adult status to mature status. I don’t think it has anything to do with turning 30. Indeed I know 40-something women who are in the best shape they have ever been—physically and emotionally. My husband was just teasing me for my sudden interest in politics and global warming, when I realized that it had been a while since I watched a movie, Fashion TV or read an entertainment magazine. CNN, CNBC, and ejunior are the three channels that we watch in our ‘free’ time. The rest of the time, I am running errands that have to do with my children.

Last time we had some time off, there wasn’t any time and energy for late night dinner, love making on the beach or any adventurous leisure. Going to amusement parks, museums, and children-focused activities were the only activities that were feasible. Furthermore, last time I went shopping, 90% of the stuff that I bought was for my children.

Yesterday, I was in a taxi and the driver asked me the usual “where you from?”


Here in Abu Dhabi I always answer Africa when asked that question—most people have never heard of Haiti, and I don’t have time to give geography lesson to everybody. Many people believe that Africa is just one country; so when I say ‘Africa’, the person often leaves me alone. But if he/she is a bit more aware of the world, he/she will ask: “where in Africa?”
Then I’ll say any country that comes to my mind. So far I’ve said Soudan, Senegal, South Africa, and Ivory Coast.

But yesterday the driver was in a chatty mood. After I answered ‘Senegal’, his questions kept on pouring” “How long have you been here?” “Why did you come here?”

The truth is I did not choose to come here. Coming here has chosen me, as have most of the things that have happened to me. I guess I did not choose to become a ‘mature’ woman, a ‘mature’ status has chosen me without my noticing it.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

First step

These past couple of weeks, I hadn’t had too much time for my hair. Between the Phelps phenomenon and the Bolt fever of the Olympics, the Georgia crisis, the Obama-Biden partnership, the DNC, and the tiny events that unfold in my world on a daily basis, the interest that I had previously put on hair-related issues had faded.

What has surged instead is a thrust for holistic health, a drive to kick back all things unhealthy that stand between me and myself. Whether it is food, television, anger, or impulse buying, I am willing to claim myself back. The plan: exercising at least four times a week, control eating, less television time, more readings, meditation.

I am not in a hurry. One day at a time. As experience has taught me, no change has a greater impact than the small one that takes place on the home front or deep within—when no one is watching or when no one has a clue that we are rebelling against some long-cultivated bad habits, some silent addictions, and some inner battles that are undermining our well-being.

Being ‘nappy’ is just the first step of a long journey.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008


Keith Josef Adkins

CNN's Black in America was a tease. From homicide to AIDS to single-parent homes to white ancestors and willing black concubines, it was interesting, daunting, frustrating and simply too much to cover in a short two hours. Blacks in America need at least a two month series dedicated to AIDS alone. But check this out: when the segment with Michael Eric Dyson started I got weird. The moment he and his incarcerated brother began to list reasons why two brothers, from the same household, made two different life choices and then a friend of mine yelled out "because he's yellow" and then Dyson himself said "cause I'm a yellow Negro child", I got weird....

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Afro Latin-Americans: Reactions

I’ve gotten some interesting reactions about the MiamiHerald article that I posted last month about Afro-Latin Americans. A lady replied to say that :

I am so proud of seeing how you are comfortable with your yourself. You definitely feel good in your skin. However, I don't share your views on hair and its relationship to blackness. Being black has nothing to do with nappy, kinky, straight, or curly hair. Black women have the right to wear their hair whichever
way please them. Caucasian women do not define their whiteness by their
hairstyle. They feel free to wear their hair short, long, straight, curly, black, white, purple, braided, with or without extension and they are still white. Perm was actually very popular with Caucasian women to make their hair curly some decades ago.

Haircare is a billion dollar industry and black women only make a small portion of it. It is the irony of the human race to always want what they do not have. Curly hair women want straight hair and vice versa. Long hair women want short hair and vice versa. The analogies can go on and on.

And the beauty of it all is that the billion dollar haircare industry can
satisfy us all.In industries that are very conservative, like banking, law,
business (non-art related), women tend to portray a more conservative look.
Ironically, conservative equates straight hair. However, in industries that
involve the art, fashion, etc... women are more free to express their creativity
through their hairstyle. Consequently, you will more likely see women with
purple hair working in graphic design than in banking.I don't straigten my hair
to become white just like white women do not curl their hair

But this article was not written by me. Although many women including myself can relate to it, it doesn’t speak for my opinion about hair relaxing. I don’t have anything against women who choose to relax their hair. That’s what is great about being in a free world. We can make our choices. What I’ve been rebelling against is the notion that choosing to have natural hair makes black women less acceptable. I am against that pressure that most women in Haiti or elsewhere living on less than $2 a day have to bear. Indeed, despite being unable to meet their most basic needs, they manage to straighten their hair most of the time by themselves or a friend not capable of reading the instructions and ending up burning their scalps, damaging their hair, and being caught up in a cycle of failed expectations and lost self-esteem.

My Dominican friend did not agree either with the article. She wrote:

As a Dominican black Woman, I think this article is not in touch with the
reality of the Dominican Woman. It is not a denial of being black why most
Dominican straighten their hair, but more to "look good" by their own standard
that is...And Yes, there is still at lot of racism back home. Sad, but that's
the reality. However, I have never felt more discriminated against than when I
moved to the USA.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I would not have embarked on this natural journey, hadn’t it been for my friend Rithlus. She’s one beautiful and strong woman. Thank you Rit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

I missed my nappies

I had braids for about 6 weeks, and I missed my nappies.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Manageable hair

Next time you meet a black woman with relaxed hair, ask her why she straightens her hair. The answer will be similar to this “I want my hair to be manageable”. As if natural hair were patently UNMANAGEABLE. That just shows how profound the brainwashing has been.

Black denial

Nearly all Dominican women straighten their hair, which experts say is a direct result of a historical learned rejection of all things black

By Frances Robles


...But a professional Dominican woman just should not have bad hair, she said.
"If you're working in a bank, you don't want some barrio-looking hair. Straight
hair looks elegant," the bank teller said. "It's not that as a person of color I
want to look white. I want to look pretty."

..."I always associated black with ugly. I was too dark and didn't have nice hair," said Catherine de la Rosa, a dark-skinned Dominican-American college student spending a semester here. "With time passing, I see I'm not black. I'm Latina.

...To many Dominicans, to be black is to be Haitian. So dark-skinned Dominicans tend to describe themselves as any of the dozen or so racial categories that date back hundreds of years -- Indian, burned Indian, dirty Indian, washed Indian, dark Indian, cinnamon, moreno or mulatto, but rarely negro.

Several women said the cultural rejection of African looking hair is so strong that people often shout insults at women with natural curls."I cannot take the bus because people pull my hair and stick combs in it," said wavy haired performance artist Xiomara Fortuna. "They ask me if I just got out of prison. People just don't want that image to be seen."

...The Dominican Republic is not the only nation with so many words to describe skin color. Asked in a 1976 census survey to describe their own complexions, Brazilians came up with 136 different terms, including café au lait, sunburned, morena, Malaysian woman, singed and "toasted."

Friday, July 11, 2008

AMA apologizes for racially biased policies

(CNN) -- The American Medical Association, the nation's largest organization of physicians, apologized Thursday for its history of discriminatory policies toward African-American physicians, including those that effectively restricted membership to whites.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Indian man found guilty of masterminding killing of black daughter-in-law

An Indian-born businessman was convicted Thursday of plotting to have his daughter-in-law killed weeks after she wed his son because, prosecutors said, he believed she would bring down the family stock because she was black.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In Italy, At Least, Black is Beautiful

By Veronica Chambers

An interview with legendary modeling agent Bethann Hardison.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

From Myrfabru

I was 17 years old when I had my first perm. My mother forced me into it because I looked way younger than my age. I hated washing my permed hair because it felt weird. So, nine months later I cut my hair to fro. It looked pretty cute. A year later, I had another perm because my dad threatened not to let me go to church with my natural hair. I kept yoyoing between going natural and peming until 2001 when I had my last perm. I had a texturizer in 2004, that was a disaster. Since then, I have not experimented with chemicals. I try quite a few styles: extensions, cornrow, twists. I stay away from the fro as much as possible because it makes me look like a lollipop. Lately, I have been using organic instead of mineral oils. They smell good, and my hair loves it. I also search the internet for ideas. What people think about my hair, I don't know. And I don't care because I am comfortable with who I am whether people like it or not. Until next time,


Monday, June 9, 2008

My fair lady

In the Friday issue of this weekend, an article by Ritu Raizada, entitled My Fair Lady, talks about the obsession of Eastern women with fair complexion. The author writes: “While a high percentage of westerners are spending hours in the sun to acquire a tan, a large number of people in the East are slapping on creams and lotions hoping to become fair and look young.”
The authors continues to say :

If you think this obsession with light, spot and blemish-free skin is restricted to a vain few, think again. The vast selection of pills, lotions and creams is testament to an industry that is flourishing. Women in Japan, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan all know the secret of pale beauty. Now, using a skin-whitening cream has become the ‘in-thing’ in the Middle East too.

Pale, sport-free skin is being aggressively marketed across the region as synonymous with beauty and health. The result: women are willing to go to any extreme to change their complexions little realizing that it could be bordering on the dangerous.

The craze for skin whitening has a long history, dating back to the days of yore in Asia, where the saying ‘one white covers up three ugliness’ was passed on from one generation to the next.

The article then concludes on how to choose the safest skin whitening products. “It is absolutely not necessary to spend on expensive luxury products, the trick is to find a properly researched and trustworthy brand.”

If you are after clear skin, buying every other cream off the shelf will not help you. It is all about a healthy lifestyle, diet regular exercise, protected exposure to the sun and no smoking. …There is only so much that a cosmetic beauty cream can help you achieve. No matter what you use thereafter, no cream can turn back the age clock.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More stories

My friend Myrfabru has been relaxer-free for a long time. She’s still learning how to manage her hair, but, in the meantime, she’s having fun.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Of the fairy tales that filled up my childhood, Beauty and the Beast was the one I enjoyed the most. In part, it was because it somehow reminded me of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame. In part, it was because, unlike the other stories where the princess waited passively to be rescued by some prince charming, Belle was the one who rescued the Beast. She rescued him from a miserable life of loneliness and despair, and brought out the most beautiful aspect of his spirit.

While it was difficult—for a child in the developing world—to picture a princess's life, I could easily see Belle in the micro-entrepreneur who is up at dawn every morning to fight another war for survival for herself and her children. I could see her in the peasant who has to walk 3 miles to the village springs to fetch water for her household. I could see her in the engineer who has to manage the impossible task of balancing work and family. I could see her in every woman who, without knowing it, is the pillar of strength that supports the dreams and aspirations that are constantly threatened by a present filled with uncertainty.

Beauty and the Beast spoke to me the most of what a woman should be: beautiful, compassionate, strong, and intelligent. Qualities that all women—regardless of their race, color, background—have in common.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More hair stories

My friend Rosie, a gorgeous lady from the Dominican Republic who lives in the U.S., went home to visit her family. She doesn’t like to have to straighten her hair all the time; therefore, she went home with her untamed curls, but her family couldn’t believe that her hair looked like that. So, she was taken to the hair salon to have it fixed. Above are the before and after pictures, plus two more pictures of her and her beautiful niece.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

women of strentgh


A man buys a lottery ticket and tells his 10-year old son about it.

“if I win the jackpot, it will be Paris, beautiful women, and caviar”

“what if you lose, dad?

“if I lose, it will be Haiti and your mother”

That is, of course, a very sad and demeaning joke. Nonetheless it points out a pessimistic reality. A reality made out of bleaching products, relaxers, dangerous dieting tricks that women—especially women of color—have to go through in order to fit in and to please their men.


I wasn’t expecting any reactions to my decision at the beginning. I was too into getting accustomed to my new hair. It was only when some friends and relatives thought it was time for me to “get real” that I realized how profound the damage of two centuries of slavery had been.

The comments range from “are you crazy? How can you walk around looking like this?”, “you can afford to do this because you are already married; so, don’t need to look good” to “you are taking risk with your marriage”, “kinky beauty, what’s an oxymoron!”

I was shocked to realize how people’s perception of beauty had been distorted. Although we had been independent for over two hundred years, it was sad to see that we were still enslaved at so many levels. So, the woman with the most prominent African features (kinky hair, flat nose, thick lips, fuller hips, darker skin) was the least attractive. The one who resembles the most the European colonist was the most sought after.

Then I understood that that meaningless decision was well beyond hairstyle. It was about breaking free from that subtle conditioning that has alienated women all over the world for centuries, appreciating our differences and similarities, taking control of our beautiful selves, and just being happy to be women of strength.

Monday, June 2, 2008


My hair, my statement

About 4 years ago, I made the decision to no longer relax my hair and to let it grow as it was intended to grow: nappy, natural, lustrous, and healthy. Four years later, I am still learning about my hair: how to take care of it, how to be comfortable with it, how to master the different natural hairstyles, and how to let it speak about freedom, pride, uniqueness, and self-confidence. What puzzles me is that apparently simple decision to stay away from chemicals had, indeed, very little to do with hair; for, my whole perception of glamour, womanhood, and beauty has evolved into a degree of emancipation that I had never experienced before.