What We Won’t Talk About-HIV/AIDS

African-Americans comprise approximately 12% of the population, but we make up almost 43% of those infected with AIDS in America.  It’s thought by many that Black women are catching this disease by leaps and bounds over other races due to the fact they are having unprotected sex with men who sleep with other men.  Some others speculate it’s a matter of these women being careless and having unprotected sex with multiple partners.  Whatever the case, we need to begin speaking to those who are sexually active and encourage them to practice safe sex with ALL partners.  Below are some tips that I think are essential when it comes to dealing with your sexual partners.

1. Know your status– It’s up to each of us as individuals to know our status.  There are plenty of places to go in your community.  Click here to see what testing site is near you.  Even if we don’t feel like we have any symptoms or if we’re protected each time, continue to get tested the recommended 3 months.

2. Ask your partner his/her status– Not everyone that has AIDS “looks” sick.  Before you engage in any type of sexual activity with your mate, ask them the last time they got tested.  If it’s been a while for both of you, or even to ease your mind, go together. 

3.  If you’re sleeping with multiple people at the same time, let them know– First, each person you sleep with has the right to know if he/she is your only sexual partner.  We open ourselves to so much when we engage in sex with others.  It’s only fair that we give our partners the option of knowing if they are our only bedmate. 

There are tons more things that need to be put into practice, but the main thing is that a healthy, honest dialogue regarding HIV and AIDS needs to take place with all partners.   That’s the only way we will stop the spread of this disease that is killing our mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, sons, and daughters.  Parents, when you begin talking to your children about sex, tell them about all STDs.  Yes, our focus is on preventing teen pregnancy when sharing birth control information with our children.  But we also want to let children know about AIDS and HIV.  And this disease doesn’t care who you are or where you live or how much money you make.  Please use this post as an opportunity to TALK to your children, partner, and even friends about HIV and AIDS.  I’m sure it will save someone’s life.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

PS- A few years ago a movie titled “Cover” starring Aunjanue Ellis, Vivica Fox, and Leon came out in limited cities around the US.  This movie discussed secret bedmates and what could happen if we betrayed a loved one.  I strongly suggest you all see this movie. 

What We Won’t Talk About-Abuse

Today’s topic will deal with various types of abuse-mental, physical, sexual, and emotional are a few types.  Most abuse comes at the hands of people we know (parents, extended family, siblings, family friends, spouses, etc.).  Predators come in all ages, races, genders, and types.  Back in the day, as a culture, black people didn’t talk about abuse.  If Lillie Mae was getting touched by Uncle Bo, no one discussed it-parents just kept their kids from that family member.  And it was nothing if a woman was getting hit by her husband.  They would patch her up and take her and the kids in, but when that man came to get them, they went back home.  Another issue is when children are getting mistreated, no one knows what to do or how to handle it. 

Let’s think about Mo’Nique.  While promoting the film, “Precious“, the actress shared her own story of sexual abuse at the hands of her brother.   When Mo’Nique told her mother, her response was akin to, “I didn’t know what to do; you were both my children”.  On the flip side, I know of a young lady who was approached by a family member at 6 years old.  She was able to run away before anything happened and brave enough to tell her mother. 

Another form that no one really discusses is emotional abuse.  This can come in many different ways.  I know of a woman who was emotionally abused by her father.  If she did something he didn’t like, he was quick to call her “stupid” and yell and do anything else he felt was necessary to belittle her and lower her self-esteem.  He wanted her to grow up dependent on him and not able to think on her own.  Luckily for this young lady she shared what was happening in her home and was able to leave that situation. 

The sad thing regarding abuse is that the abuser was most likely abused as a child, and the abuser preys on those who appear weaker than he or she.  With children, it’s very important that parents teach them what’s appropriate and inappropriate behavior, such as touching, speech, etc.  If a child feels uncomfortable with ANYONE, they should go tell an adult they trust immediately.  And if that adult doesn’t believe them, they need to go tell someone else until someone believes their story.  When it comes to adults, men and women need to realize their worth and know that they do not deserve to be mistreated in anyway. 

I’m glad that people like Don Lemon, Mo’Nique, Oprah and other celebrities are coming out and sharing their stories of abuse.  Their situations are very unfortunate, but hopefully their willingness to open up about their abuse will prompt others to share their stories.  And if we believe a person is in an abusive situation, we MUST do our part to encourage him or her to tell the proper authorities so the abuser can be stopped.  Until next time, I”m just a Southern girl…in the city.

What We Won’t Talk About-Mental Illness

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a mental health specialist or social worker or anything of the like.  I’m just here to state some facts and share my opinion.  If you are a mental health specialist, feel free to comment and share your expertise.

Last Monday, Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead in his home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  He was 23.  The focus then went to Kenny’s mental health.  After his second knee surgery, he was heard saying that he “should just kill himself.  No one thought he was serious.” 

Sadly, in the black community, no one ever REALLY talks about mental health issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.  Our way of dealing with a relative or friend who’s dealing with some heavy stuff is, “Oh, you’re alright. Just pray about it”  or “She’s always been crazy; she’s never going to change.”  As a Christian, I am very aware of what God can do, but we can’t let some things go by the wayside.  Just as we need medicine for the common cold or the flu, people also need help dealing with mental illness.  We need to encourage each other to seek professional help.  It never hurts to speak with a healthcare professional and if he or she sees fit, to take the necessary steps to take care of any thing from which we may be suffering.  We may not be able to “cure” what we have, but we can at least take the recommended medicine to deal with our illness.   If these illnesses go untreated, that is when we become a threat to harm others or even ourselves. 

If you ever have a loved one whom you think is suffering from a mental illness or just went through something traumatic, be there for them to make sure they are dealing with things appropriately.  If you believe their behavior has changed, talk to them about it and encourage them to seek help.  If a loved one says something akin to, “I would be better off dead” or “I should just end it all”, don’t ignore them or laugh it off.  Continue to be there for them and encourage them to seek professional help.  We should never ignore those when we feel like they are dealing with mental health issues.  When we turn our backs on each other is when unnecessary tragedies occur.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

What We Won’t Talk About-The Series

Due to recent events, your favorite Southern Girl has an upcoming series.  In the series, What We Won’t Talk About, I will discuss certain things that are considered taboo in the Black community and topics that we shy away from.  Hopefully this series will spark debate, commentary, and sharing from my readers.   Most importantly, I want to bring attention to topics that are swept under the rug in most black households and families.  In order to protect our children, and even some of our adults, some things need to be brought to light.  So keep an eye out to see what will be discussed.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

Southern Girl Movie Review: This Time

Reagan Gomez, the older sister Zaria on “The Parent ‘Hood” and the current voice of Roberta Tubbs on “The Cleveland Show“, wrote a movie entitled “This Time”.  This movie, directed by Matthew Cherry, deals with “the realities that many people have to face when a loved one returns home from war and everything has changed.”  The movie stars Terri Vaughn, Michael Moss, and Reagan Gomez. 

As someone who works on a military base and works with current and former military personnel, I am very sensitive to the facts of soldiers being deployed and the issues they go through overseas.  This was an excellent depiction of what things are like when a soldier returns home and finds the love of his life is about to belong to another.  Even though it’s a short film, it’s very powerful.  I truly believe this movie should be turned into a feature film.  There aren’t too many movies that tell the story of what happens after a soldier comes home. 

The movie is currently on YouTube and has been submitted to numerous film festivals for awards.  Even if you don’t know anyone who has been deployed, I believe all viewers can relate to the plot.  If you’ve seen the movie, what do you think?  And if you or someone you know returned home from war, what was your experience like back home?  Or if you’ve ever been in love with someone and they belonged to someone else, how did you deal with that?  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.

This Week in the News-Enlightenment

This is what everyone's face looked like at the news this week...or maybe just mine

Happy Friday, folks! So of course there’s been WAY too much going on this week, so no small talk today.  Let’s just get this show on the road.

First, Bishop Eddie Long.  I’m not going to spend too much time on this, but I will share my thoughts.  We are not God, so we cannot judge anyone.  I will say I hope people focus on the real crime in this story-not the fact that Bishop Long may be a homosexual but the fact that he is accused of molesting young boys.   If he used a church-based organization to find his victims, that’s what makes this issue even more despicable.   I will pray for everyone involved in this, from the pulpit down to the congregation.  These people need all the support they can get.  Lastly, people need to be honest with themselves and the people in their inner circle.  I’m sure it would make their lives a whole lot easier…

On a brighter note, Micheal Vick has been named the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.  IMHO, I believe he should have been the starter from the beginning, but what do I know???  I truly believe with him leading this team, they are destined to have a great season. 

The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has agreed to donate $100 million to Newark, N.J. public schools.   Newark Public Schools is the largest school district in New Jersey, and I’m sure they can use the funds.  Some skeptics believe Zuckerberg is making the donation to off-set his non-flattering portrayal in the upcoming film “The Social Network“, which is set to be released on October 1.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad Zuckerberg has decided to make this donation, because I’m sure the schools need it and appreciate it.  And please believe I’ll be going to see “The Social Network” next week, if for no other reason than Justin Timberlake is in it…LAWD!!!

Sad to say, but Lyfe Jennings is headed back to jail.  In 2008, the singer was arrested for a dispute with his ex-girlfriend.  The singer was sentenced to 3 1/2 years behind bars and was charged with DUI test refusal, criminal trespassing, discharging a weapon near a street, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and fleeing or attempting to elude a police offer.   I hope this will be Lyfe’s last stint behind bars.

Lastly, let’s talk about this whole “No Wedding, No Womb” thing…Yeah, I’m straight on it, and I’m going to tell you why.  I don’t believe that people who have children together should get married.  What if the people don’t love each other, or even like each other for that matter?  What if the only place they get along is the bedroom?  I believe that children need happy homes.  If parents are continually fighting, that child will have little peace.  What I do think should happen is that the two parents should be mature enough to do what is in the best interest of the child. 

Ok, I’m done ranting for today.  I’m sure you all have something you want to say, so be sure to comment.  And if there’s something I missed, which I know I have, please share.  Oh, tomorrow I’ll be volunteering at the Barracks Row Fall Festival!  If you’re in the District, you should definitely stop by!  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!

Next week, you can look forward to more commentary from me on “No Wedding, No Womb” and mega-churches and the messages they send.

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Discussion with the Modern Day Matchmaker

The Modern Day Matchmaker-Paul Brunson

Most of us are looking for love and are focusing on becoming better people.  Paul Carrick Brunson, the Modern Day Matchmaker, has made it his goal to assist his clients do just that.  I was able to speak with Mr. Brunson and pick his brain on a few things.  To see what’s going on his world, read the interview below.

Elle: How long have you been a matchmaker and life coach?

Paul Carrick Brunson: Unofficially for 10 years.  I began doing this officially in early 2009.  I began by attending conferences and trainings.  I also did an apprenticeship under Rachel Greenwald.

Elle: What made you choose this profession?

Paul: There were actually two drivers and one incident.  First, while working for a Turkish family, I was a world traveler.  I was always in conversations where relationships were brought up.  At times I was the only American/male/married person.  And I enjoyed answering questions.  Second, I work with a non-profit foundation that runs a summer camp in DC.  Not one of the 100 students had both parents in the home.  Lastly, the incident is what I refer to as the “Obama Epiphany”.  When he was elected, he stated that you can achieve anything you want and that we must do something in this space.  A year after that, I made my decision to pursue this full-time.

Elle: What are some things that people should look forward to from you over the next 6 months?

Paul: A tour is coming in 2011, we’re making upgrades to the website and blog, and we’re premiering the new season on the web series, hopefully by September 30.  There are some possible television appearances and special events I’ll be attending.  I’m always looking to push the envelope and do something different.

Elle: What’s the most difficult thing about your career?

Paul: From a business standpoint, I’m still in the beginning stages. I’m pulled in various directions-I have so many opportunities.  I have to be disciplined and focus on what I do well.  Also, I’m the first full-time black male matchmaker in a historically white, female occupation.  Clients are typically based in the upper socio-economic echelon; most of my client’s make less than $100,000 a year.  I also use social media a lot.  I still get resistance and have to continue to prove myself.  But the distinct challenge as a pioneer is that the sky is the limit for what can be accomplished.

Elle: Are more of your clientele men or women?

Paul:  Women, but we are getting more male clients.  The ratio changes day-to-day.

Elle: What’s your greatest matchmaker success story?

Paul:  We have a couple that is married.  90% of our clients who have worked with us for 6 months or more are in a committed relationship.  Also, we’re able to send out great information via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Elle:  Have you ever had to tell a client that you were unable to work with him/her anymore?

Paul: Absolutely.  The #1 reason is that they don’t want to work.  There is a myth about matchmakers that the matchmaker will do 90% of the work. The truth is that the client needs to put in about 60% of the work.

Elle: I know you have a web series; are there any plans for you to write a book?

Paul:  Yes, and it will be sooner than you think.  I’ve waited because I want to be emerged in the industry.  No one knows that I was planning on writing a book.  I want to see if any patterns or trends exist.  The book will be from my point of view and observations.

Elle: Who do you look to for inspiration?

Paul:  In the industry, Evan Marc Katz and Rachel Greenwald.  Evan is one of my mentors and is a great date coach.  I saw him at a conference in 2009.  Rachel is the best in the world.  Non-industry, I look at Kanye West.  As a producer, he takes hip-hop and gets unconventional.  I also look at Gary Vanyerchuk.  He’s a social media leader.  Everyone should read his book “Crush It”.

Elle: How do you improve and become a better matchmaker/coach?

Paul: I continue to ask for feedback.  I listen to peers and clients, and I’m open to what they say, whether it’s critical or not.  I treat this like it’s a craft.  I continue to study, read books, observe clients, and read blogs.  I believe in getting my feet wet by putting the things I learn into practice.  There’s a big difference between those who are talking heads and those who are service providers.

Elle: How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?

Paul:  The best way to get in contact with me is through the website, One Degree From Me, and Twitter and Facebook.

Elle: Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Paul: Absolutely.  For everyone reading this, you should all support the “Freshman and Sophomore Class” of life coaches.  The best relationship coaches are also life coaches and are sending out totally new messages.  Some young black men with terrific messages you should keep your eye on are Thomas Edwards and Tony Gaskins.

I want to thank Paul Carrick Brunson (again) for allowing me to interview him and pick his brain.  What are your thoughts on the interview?  Are there any questions you would have liked for him to answer?   Share any thoughts that you have!  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!