Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review :: Black Feminist Archaeology

BLACK FEMINIST ARCHAEOLOGY is written by Whitney Battle-Baptiste, PhD, historical archaeologist and associate professor of archaeology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This author, who is "interested in race, gender, and cultural landscapes,"shows that too often in mainstream archaeological theory, Black culture and the experiences of Black women and our families are overlooked and dismissed. In BLACK FEMINIST ARCHAEOLOGY Dr. Baptiste shows how her work at the Andrew Jackson Hermitage, Lucy Foster site and the W.E.B. DuBois homesites, fuse Black Feminist theory and archaeology and how it is not only beneficial but a necessary perspective in complicating the experiences of members of the diaspora; it paints a clearer picture of the ways Black culture was experienced.

The initial chapter begins by perfectly 'Constructing a Black Feminist Framework', in order to explain that a theory based on gender and race is essential in order to understand this concept, add another dimension to the discipline. And as Black feminism shows the way Black women experience society, there is also a different interpretation of historical archaeology -- that moves beyond the teachings of the mainstream discipline. Dr. Baptiste offers her explanation on how conjoining Black Feminist Theory and archaeology in her projects provides a way to open a discussion between archaeologists, which is her intent. It also shows that "when archaeologists critically engage with a dialogue about the intersectionality of race and gender, we begin to see the deeper forms of oppression and how they affect the lives of marginalized populations."

I don't know much about archaeology. The course I took as an undergraduate required for all anthropology majors, hardly qualifies me to have a thorough understanding of this subfield. However, since I have studied anthropology and have made an effort to examine the pieces of the past that are related to members of the African Diaspora, I have come to see that there are more ways to look at my ancestors that tells a more complicated story and provides a more complex view of our past.

Before I allowed myself to adopt a label -- feminist, or before I allowed anyone else to label me, it was generally assumed by people that I was a Womanist, and I've had several people ask if I identified this way. I assumed since Womanist  was a reaction to mainstream feminism that failed to take into account the experiences of Black women, and was a concept and term coined by a Black woman -- Alice Walker, this was my path. But like Baptiste, I recognized this vantage point was limited and did not allow the reasoning, and critique that was necessary to look at the past and relate this to our current times. I wanted to challenge intersectional injustice. It is also when I began to understand that there was Black Feminist territory that allowed me the critical standpoint needed, and I often apply this much of my reasoning. Today, there are some things I just don't understand without looking through a Black feminist framework.

I have hope in the work presented in BLACK FEMINIST ARCHAEOLOGY. Not only for my ancestors and the people who continue to be marginalized by current mainstream theory, but for countless others who will be able to recognize the ways these teachings show how we can more readily level the field and start producing a true story that is more in accordance to the reality of slavery and beyond.

Year: 2011
Paperback: 29.95
Genre: Archaeology/Ethnic/Gender Studies
Pages: 199
ISBN: 978-1-59874-379-1

Thank you, Left Coast Press, for providing a copy of Black Feminist Archaeology, for this review.

Note: All opinions are my own and honest, and I am not compensated by the publisher!

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Book Review :: Raw Food Cleanse: Restore Health and Lose Weight by Eating Delicious, All-Natural Foods — Instead of Starving Yourself

Raw Food CLEANSE is written by Penni Shelton, who presents four ways to detox our bodies -- a 3-day energy boost, 7-day rejuvination, 14-day deep detox, and a 28-day total reset cleanse, and provides tips for ridding your body of environmental pollutants in a world with increasing industrialization, food processing and other harmful substances.

I'm not a big fan of a raw food vegan diet as a lifestyle choice. In fact, I don' t support it at all. However,  I do believe it can offer benefits for short-term uses -- like a body detox, for example. I had been wanting to do a cleanse and have looked around online and on YouTube for places to start -- for recipes and for reviews, and although most of what I came across explained the ways to go about detoxing, these usually required practicing the method for nearly one month and removing all food. Well, I'm not too keen on the idea of skipping meals, so when the words 'detox,' 'health,' 'delicious,' and "instead of starving yourself" were all in the same sentence on the cover of this book, of course this caught my eye.

I found that reading Penny Shelton's book was pretty easy and straight to the point, and did not require an extensive knowledge of nutrition. It also did not require me to ask many questions of my best friend/sister -- a nutritionist and personal trainer, who I frequently call when something on either topic is unclear. The recipes also sound appetizing and filling, which was a big concern of mine -- and there were even a few cooked ones, which I believe is nice for those of us not completely used to raw food ways. And even though I also appreciated the section towards the end that provided a more holistic look at health and wellness -- physical, mental, spiritual and emotional, along with more areas to examine, that are undoubtedly needed to address ways to be healthy, it is this same reasons I feel it would have been nice to see an expansion on this in the other chapters -- or to take a more extensive look at how these are all connected in ridding ourselves of toxins and staying detoxed.

Not that I'm unwilling to try other methods that require liquids only (at least for a short time), but Raw Food CLEANSE resonates with me. It was really nice to see the ways the foods put here for us can and do offer a way to cleanse our systems, when many other outlets insist we steer clear in order to feel our best. And since I had never gone on a cleanse before, I decided I would take the author's advice and begin with the 3-day energy cleanse, that will allow to "learn how your body will react."

Author: Penni Shelton
Publisher: Ulysses Press
Year: 2010
Paperback: 12.95
Genre: Vegan/Cleanse
Pages: 244
ISBN: 9-781569757420

Thank you, Ulysses Press, for providing a copy of Raw Food Cleanse: Restore Health and Lose Weight By Eating Delicious, All-Natural Foods  Instead of Starving Yourself, for this review.

Note: All opinions are my own and honest, and I am not compensated by the publisher!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Who has two thumbs, became a member of another coalition and is going to Atlanta, Georgia to give a workshop on ending breastfeeding disparities among Black women?

Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), has coordinated an event aimed at ending breastfeeding disparities among Black women, in a conference called Reclaiming Our Breastfeeding Experience, and I am excited about this for a number of reasons.

The coalition, whose founder Kim Bugg just made me a member, has a vision to "Empower African American women to embrace breastfeeding as a cultural and social norm throughout the US," and to enhance the overall mental and physical health of African American women, babies, and their families," since the disparities associated with the low rate are significant. This is also why this conference aims to bring together Black women from across the country who have dedicated their time and effort to ending these imbalances through their personal and professional work as MDs, breastfeeding advocates, IBCLCs, nutrition experts and others, in one place. I can only see great things come of this.

Even though I was not selected to speak at the ILCA's Annual Meeting when I applied last year, this almost reaffirms my belief that indeed things do happen for a reason. Had I been chosen, according to their guidelines, participants are prohibited from speaking at other engagements for two months before they present at their conferences, believing the appearance has the potential to negatively affect the outcome of their audience. Had I been selected, I would not be able to speak here in July, since the ROSE workshop happens just six days before. But I am thrilled to be taking part in something that deals exclusively with ways to positively impact Black women -- an area I have dedicated countless hours, vying for greater personal, cultural and social change. Yes indeed, things do work out. And I'm so happy they do.

Shit People Say.... to NON-Breastfeeders (who advocate breastfeeding)

Have you seen the latest meme on the internet -- spawning from the "Shit Girls Say" series? Where people make parodies talking about well, 'shit' people say -- that reflects their character, personality and cultural experiences? Shit Jamaican moms say, Mexican girls say, Chinese teens say, capitalists say, vegetarians..... "Shit people say to": tattooed people, single people, broke people, gay males, hippies, grandmas, truck drivers -- the list seems endless! I've had a ton of laughs watching these, have a few favorited on my YouTube playlist and have even thought about making a video or two of my own -- until I realized my digital camera broke months ago. Well, I guess I could have sat in front of my macbook and used my built-in i-sight, but I've decided on the next best thing I could think of, and of course this does reflect some of the things I've head from both men and women without and with kids (some mothers who have even breastfed), since I am a mother's milk advocate and IBCLC-to-be -- who does not breastfeed!

Shit People Say.... to NON-Breastfeeders

"Hmmmmm" (as they look at you under-eyded)

"What could you possibly know about nursing a child?"

"Are you trying to make some kind of a statement or something?"

"You think YOU can make an impact?"

"An IBCLC? Really?"

"Honey, if your titties ain't making nothing, how you gonna support something?"

"You just want to see boobies! Don't You? (wink)"


"No one's gonna listen to you, hon!"

"Now that just don't make no kinda sense! (smh smh)"


"Breastfeeding has nothing to do with you!"

"You just want to see boobies! Don't You? (wink)"

"A breastfeeding advocate, really?"

"What are you gonna do? Breastfeed a doll?"


"Hmmmmm" (nothing else, just "hmmmmm")

I hope you get the picture, and maybe even a laugh as well in spite of the absence of visual material. I also hope that there are truths in this area that will cause us to become curious and more aware, and recognize they are ones we can and should address through this humor, and get more people involved.

Are you a non-breastfeeder who advocates breastfeeding? What shit people have said to you?

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Breastfeeding... at 12 (Video)

"Justin is just like any regular 12 year old. He loves to play, laugh, play X-Box, run around -- just happy. Happy, happy Justin. He also loves to steal food out of the kitchen cabinets, take money from his mother's purse and buy twinkies. Just like any other regular 12 year old. But there's one thing that's not so normal about Justin." 

So, how hard did you laugh? At most of it anyway?

This video is a spoof of one titled 8., where a woman shares the story of why she continues to nurse her daughter who is nearly 8 years old.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review :: Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind, Body, and Planet

Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind, Body, and Planet is a cookbook written by nutrition expert, Christy Morgan, who is a vegan macrobiotic chef and cooking instructor, and who, according to her 'about me' section of her website, graduated form The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas -- a mostly vegan institution. Christy tells us "Bliss," which she defines as "being so comfortable in your own skin that you feel tapped into the universe," can be found in a place that begins with healthy conscious eating -- in our kitchen.

This text is organized and filled with over 175 recipes, and is neatly arranged in Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, and also has an "Anytime" section.  Blissful Bites says it will "set you down the path to better eating and living by changing your diet from processed foods to those that are light and naturally delicious."

Although I am not a vegan I can appreciate all foods, and over the past number of months I have experimented with different recipes, have a lengthy YouTube playlist and also visit numerous blogs that have a variety of easy-to-make meatless meals. I was really excited to find this text since I had read numerous reviews so I anxiously awaited its arrival, since I assumed a book filled with recipes from a 'Blissful' chef were bound to encourage my eating habits as well as my happiness.

However, my initial thought started with the front cover  -- that did not look very interesting, and as I flipped through felt the same about many of the meals throughout the chapters. But I won't pretend nothing really appealed to me, since that absolute is not at all the case. There were a few dishes I felt sounded awesome -- like the marinated portabella steaks, with an accompanying marinade made from red and baslamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, maple syrup, lime juice, and black pepper. Or the macro "mac and cheese," made with butternut squash, tofu, nutritional yeast, tamari along with a few other ingredients, or the coconut bliss granola, with rolled oats, sunflower seeds, dried coconut, brown rice crispy cereal, along with sesame seeds, walnuts, raisins, vanilla flavoring, maple syrup and nutmeg. Or the veggie stuffed pasta shells and of course the lemon meringue cupcakes with lemon-coconut frosting -- with frosting made from tofu, freshly squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup. But however unfortunate, I did not feel this way about most of the meals throughout the text, and my initial reaction to Blissful Bites was the foods did not look very captivating, but dry and not very appetizing -- not something that would grab my attention. I did take into account that my reasons could possibly stem from the fact that it was cold outside and I was in a season where there was still frost on the ground in the mornings, so my body may have wanted something heavier, warmer, but it is warming up outside and I still have this reaction. I assumed the dish I chose would change my outlook.

If you've ever walked into a store around the holidays and noticed a distinct smell that reminds you of pumpkin and spice, then you know what I mean when I say I was ecstatic to find a chapter "breakfast and brunch of champions" with a Pumpkin Spice Pancake recipe. It was warm, sounded filling and yes, I was in the mood for fancy pancakes.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

The steps and ingredients are easy enough; Mix together the dry ingredients; whole grain flour, baking powder, baking soda, a pinch of sea salt and pumpkin pie spice.

Then whisk together the wet ingredients; pumpkin filling, unsweetened almond or rice milk, olive or coconut oil, in a separate bowl, then combine thoroughly so no lumps remain. Note: I added extra rice milk, since the original was too thick for me. 

Cook over medium flame, pouring 1/4 cup portions into skillet. Serve with vegan butter and real maple syrup.

Yes, it was an easy, quick recipe and my nieces and nephew were happy to hear I was making these. They kept asking about them, and I assured each one they would have them for breakfast on their very first day at their new school. We were all excited. However, in spite of the pancakes being very thick and rich, they did not have the flavor we were at all anticipating. They were pretty bland, and the kids did not like them. On a separate occasion when I was making breakfast and mentioned pancakes were on the morning's menu, I had to reassure my eight-year-old niece it would not be Pumpkin Spice Pancakes. She was concerned. If I make these again I'll definitely alter the recipe, adding more spice and filling, something to strengthen the flavor. And I do plan on trying more recipes from Blissful Bites eventually -- at least the ones I mentioned earlier that really caught my attention, but for now I believe its home may be on my shelf for a while.

Author: Christy Morgan
Publisher: BenBella Books 
Year: 2011
Paperback: 19.95
Genre: Nutrition/Cookbook
Pages: 269
ISBN: 978-1935618515

Thank you, BenBella Books, for providing a copy of Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind, Body, and Planet, for this review.

Note: All opinions are my own and honest, and I am not compensated by the publisher!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

RACISM HINDERS BREASTFEEDING!: Raising Radical Breastfeeding Awareness When 'Breast is Best' Just Doesn't Cut It!

Patriarchy, sexism, class elitism, white privilege, apathy, homophobia, insularity and lack of cultural relativity, and a slew of others, are also culprits.

On Monday I was in a meeting. While I was there for those few hours, the breastfeeding paraphernalia stared me right in my face -- and ironically sitting in that space is when when it clicked that this is all wrong. And I realized the extent of my disdain for 'Breast Is Best'. I  I know everyone's seen this stuff -- the bumper stickers, magnets, buttons, keychains, etc -- that read something along the lines of "Human Milk for Human Babies" "Breast is Best," "Babies were born to breastfeed" and other appropriate and encouraging words. I really liked those and have seen the sayings time and time again, but it was while I was there is when I realized how idealistic it is and just how much it overlooks reasons why people are not nursing. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all of the encouragement and promotion of mother's milk, and who doesn't like those sayings that evoke warm fuzzies?! But to me it seems breastfeeding advocates don't often mention the issues situated at the backdrop of our society that play role in our breastfeeding outcomes, and inevitably determines who breastfeeds. I understand that as someone who does not have children and who has never breastfed a baby, my outlook is shaped by this and I come from a different place. But I also know this position allows and even requires me to look at human lactation through a different lens, and examine those social issues.

From where I stand, it seems too many breastfeeding advocates focus on the so-called shortcomings of individual and groups, without going below the surface. Race and color contention has been at the backdrop of our society since our country's inception, and racialized oppression and RACISM have been systematic and is responsible for countless levels of inequality and is a fundamental element in breastfeeding disparities. This structural imbalance has caused generations of hardship and contention, and determines breastfeeding outcomes, and is the undercurrent of WHITE PRIVILEGE. WHITE PRIVILEGE allows special advantages to white people based on no other reason than their whiteness. WHITE PRIVILEGE  allows white people access to jobs, education, housing, and a list of others that make it much easier for a group of people to have access to breastmilk, while PATRIARCHY and male-dominated societies, continue to be responsible for horrendous crimes against women as well as the exclusion of women from positions of power. This also interferes with access to education and this denies women a voice.

INSULARITY -- being ignorant and unconcerned with cultures and ideas outside of one's own is too often accepted among us, which is especially evident in Euro-centric communities, that often overlook other cultural practices in a society where whiteness continues to be seen as the most prominent representation in movies and many other facets -- even breastfeeding texts, but this does not mean people of color do not participate in insular behavior. Learning traditions from other cultural and racial groups in order to promote breastfeeding awareness among all is essential to build combined action, and work towards the common goal! LACK OF CULTURAL RELATIVITY -- not looking through the cultural lens of others to see their outlook and traditions, also follow along these lines, along with APATHY -- simply being uninterested of what's going on around us -- one of my personal irritants! Of course CAPITALISM, which is clearly seen in about every aspect -- and accounts for aggressive marketing of infant formula, and telling mothers their milk is sub-standard, our desire to consume what we do not have or need, and an array of other social ills. Other hindrances of "non-conformers" include homophobia, sexism and any other system instituted to marginalize and malign.

All of these are connected, working interdependently in obstructing a woman's ability to provide breastmilk, which is why I have decided to launch this awareness project, providing a holistic in-your-face view of these. I am hoping this will not only start the dialogue, but allow us to see the part we play in supporting the structure, and more importantly --  how we can work together towards change.

When we fail to recognize the role racism, class elitism, and other systems of injustice play in a woman's ability to provide her milk, or are simply uninterested, we fail to give our all at truly advocating a baby's right, and we must hold ourselves accountable for the role we play in that separation. I also remember another slogan in the manager's office that day; "What you permit, you promote!" Help me spread the word!

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National Worksite Breastfeeding Support for Employers of Overtime Eligible Employees: Innovative Strategies for Success: I'm Heading It!

During a conference call among several coalitions and breastfeeding advocates in the state last month, there was a mention of a project by HHS Office on Women's Health, who were offering members an opportunity to assist in a project designed to gather information on companies who have successfully adhered to the federal break time for nursing mother's law and have established an area for lactating mothers, in order to input this into a national database. I was interested!

The focus of this initiative is to gather information and input it in a database to show other companies across the country how they can be successful, even facing barriers. Here is an excerpt from the Orientation Packet:
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, with support from the HHS Office on Women's Health (OWH), launched a major national initiative designed to improve worksite support for beastfeeding women. This initiative included a resource kit, The Business Case for Breastfeeding, which focuses on encouraging employers to establish, maintain, and expand programs to enable their breastfeeding employees to continue breastfeeding their infants after they return to work.... In October 2011 OWH  began a national initiative that focuses on employers of hourly workers, particularly in non-traditional, non-office settings that are often challenging and may require more creative solutions to comply with the law -- A central goal of this initiative is to develop a national online searchable database of many types of varied worksites that comply with the law, to serve as examples or models for other worksites.
We (BCW Manager and I) submitted our proposal for the project and were one of four coalitions in the country selected, which includes a small grant in order to complete the project.

The steps involved require me to contact businesses throughout the state to begin the screening process,  providing some background information on the project, and making sure they qualify -- meaning ensuring they already have an established environment for nursing mothers of course, and at least 30% of staff members are hourly-paid. There are a few more screening questions, but the overall goal will be to visit the company, interview the manager or other Human Resources personnel, as well as someone who is currently using, or who has previously utilized the lactation station, take a few photographs and input this information into a database. I must visit at least ten (10) businesses.

I am very excited about this for several reasons. Aside from it being my first "official" project and being able to advocate mother's milk, it allows me to begin exploring and examining those areas I feel need most representation -- those areas that contain people who are often in the shadows, which is nice because this is exactly where this project encourages me to look.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mother's Milk and Fair Play: Breastfeeding as food justice (Video)

I've been thinking a lot about food lately. Of course this is no surprise to folks who know me since I always think a lot about food. But lately it's  not just what's on the menu for the next meal (yes, I like to eat), but more specifically as access. I've been thinking about food justice! In fact, what really got me thinking about this is SISTAH VEGAN -- a book I read and reviewed on the topic, whose editor, Breeze Harper, made the video below.

Of course I believe it makes sense. Being able to nurse anytime, anywhere, is a fabulous idea that in my opinion, is a human rights issue. But being able to nurse on demand it is also something that is frought with privilege, since countless women are not capable of this luxury. This video also got me to thinking about the recent Blacktating post Pumpin Ain't Easy, and how that also examined our culture's blatant disregard for human lactation, the difficulties of pumping and inevitably the disregard for those holistic health benefits, including the mother-infant connection, maternal and child health, potential environmental issues and a list of others.

These both came at a point when I will be working with the state coalition in a project surveying companies in Washington State who are compliant with the Federal Break Time for Nursing Mother's law -- something I believed to be forward-moving. Of course I don't think it's all bad, since it does provide some opportunity to provide mother's milk. But are we selling ourselves short?

From the way I see it, if nursing on demand were actualized it would necessitate the dissipation of a slew of justice issues -- including the capability to nurse on demand, ridding our society of those many systems that are constructed and strengthened with inequality that hinders our access to provide this priceless benefit to our babies. I will be thinking about this, and I hope you do as well.

So, about that breastfeeding and slavery thing....

I am again reading Harriet Jacobs -- her autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. If you're unfamiliar with who she is, do a google search, visit the link above, or read her book where you'll find she was born into slavery, taught to read and write by her mistress, which was a true rarity -- one who died when Harriet was still young, and as a result "willed" her assets -- her home, dishes, jewelry, and human beings, to others. Harriet was willed to a family, where the Master Dr. flint began making sexual advances at her when she was young.

One of the many things things that makes this story remarkable (and I use the word 'remarkable' in a f'd up, and resistive sort of way -- not as glorifying) is how she escaped this -- becoming pregnant by another white man, then living in what the writer of the book's introduction calls a 'large coffin' -- a nine foot long by seven foot wide, by three feet high area attached to her grandmother's porch -- for seven years!

The quote stuck out! And I think of the time I recently talked about slavery and breastfeeding while out to lunch with some (older, white) friends -- wondering if that's the culprit for our numbers and all -- an idea questioned by many others, but generated laughs when I mentioned it that day. I don't know if I have anything conclusive to say about this -- yet, or if there will ever be anything to conclude. Of course I can't say I do not believe there has been some legacy at the bottom of this by being made to feed a slaver's baby, neglecting your own. But at this point I have more questions than answers, and I can't keep from wondering.