Monday, November 12, 2007

We Send Our Condolences

Dr. Donda West, Kanye West's mother, has died due to complications from surgery. Former chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department Donda left her position at in order to act as Kanye's manager.

Dr. Donda West's strength resonates in her son's success. While Kanye's talents are clearly natural, his confidence and his cultivated talents are evidence of his mother's intelligence and strength.

Kanye never missed an opportunity to praise his mother and she was often by his side at various events and venues. Our hearts go out to Kanye and his family.

-The Coup READ MORE

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Word I Hate To Say: "Hiatus"

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to inform you that I will be taking a break from blogging between now and January in order to study for the GREs, apply to graduate school, and tie up a million loose ends at my Clark Kent corporate day gig.

I will miss you all for the time being, but I’ll still check back in here and there to leave comments. I will be back in January, but until then, happy reading!


- Wendi Muse
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Monday, October 29, 2007

Wear Red on October 31st

Recently, in protest of the injustice occurring in Jena, Louisiana, the Americans who knew about the 6 boys facing considerable jail time for a race-related fight (sparked by nooses being hung from a schoolyard tree) wore all black. The Jena 6, as they are commonly referred to, were commemorated on September 20th--the black outfits soliciting questions by observers. "What is this all about?" led to explanations, discussions, and exchanges. It was a way to inform those who had somehow missed the story.

A similar campaign has been launched, but now with a larger premise.

The blog "Document the Silence" has encouraged people to wear red on October 31st in order to bring attention to the violence committed against women of color.


From their website:

be bold be brave be red stop the violence

Recent events in the United States have moved us to action. Violence against women is sadly, not a new phenomenon in our country or in the world, however, in the last year women of color have experienced brutal forms of violence, torture, rape and injustice which have gone unnoticed, received little to no media coverage, or a limited community response. We are responding to:

  • The brutal and inhumane rape, torture, and kidnapping of Megan Williams in Logan, West Virginia who was held by six assailants for a month.
  • Rape survivors in the Dunbar Housing Projects in West Palm Beach, Florida one of whom was forced to perform sexual acts on her own child.
  • A 13 year old native American girl was beaten by two white women and has since been harassed by several men yelling “white power” outside of her home.
  • Seven black lesbian girls attempted to stop an attacker and were latter charged with aggravated assault and are facing up to 11 year prison sentences.

In a Litany of Survival, Audre Lorde writes, “When we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.” These words shape our collective organizing to break the silence surrounding women of color’s stories of violence. We are asking for community groups, grass-root organizations, college campus students and groups, communities of faith, online communities, and individuals to join us in speaking out against violence against women of color. If we speak, we cannot be invisible.

Join us and stand up to violence against women!
  • Be bold, be brave, be red. Wear red on October 31, 2007. Take a picture or video of yourself and friends wearing red. Send it to: beboldbered@gmail.com. We’ll post it!
  • Take Your Red to the Streets! Know of a location where violence occurred against a woman of color? Have a public location where you feel women of color are often ignored? Make violence against women of color visible by decorating the space in red. Be sure to send us pictures and or video of your display!
  • Rally! Gather your friends, family, and community to rally. Check out the Document the Silence website for the litany we’re asking participants to read together on October 31st. Be sure to send us pictures and/or video of the event! You could even gather where you created a display!

What's phenomenal about this campaign is that it hopes to draw attention to acts of violence toward women of color, many of which are not reported, not documented, given little coverage by the press, and sometimes even ignored by activists of color. I find that drawing attention to this issue is long overdue, especially considering that despite our having self-appointed spokespeople (two names come to mind), they sometimes fall behind on the job, seemingly seeking more publicity than actual justice.

With that said, let us come together on October 31st to call attention to problems that affect women around the world, many of whom look just like our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, our cousins, our friends, and ourselves.

----

for more information about how you can get involved, check out:

Document the Silence

- Wendi Muse

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Colored Contacts

An attractive black woman walks across the street in a cute red dress with matching wedges, flawless skin and hair that could almost pass for her own. Her movements, her motion, her intent are all so graceful that they look slightly rehearsed. Your eyes glaze about her from top to bottom. You feel a sense of pride at her presence, then envy as your eyes scan her breasts and the rings that circle her neck. Her smile is bright yet doesn’t manage to intimidate you, her manner is confident, and just when you’re about to enter a state of bursting resentment for how well this woman carries her natural beauty, you lean forward and strain your eyes in realization that she’s wearing bright colored contacts… and it messes it ALL up.

A person’s eyes are usually the first thing that you see while speaking to them. While in high school, the two women that were close to my complexion that I thought were beautiful both wore colored contacts on a regular basis. One wore a light hazel and the other rotated blue, green, gray, and brown to match her outfits. I’d always wanted to try them out, but my mother would roll her eyes at me when I mentioned them. “What’s wrong with your eyes?” she’d ask. “If you don’t like your eyes, then you don’t like me,” she’d shrug. So I would eventually drop the subject in consideration of her feelings. I made a friend however, who worked at a beauty supply store and managed to get me a pair of gray contacts by my senior year. I was ecstatic. They were temporary and could only be worn for about a week or so, but it was perfect for me because I only really wanted them for the homecoming game, where I was up for queen. I remember standing on the field with my father, and while I waited for the winner’s name to be called, while my eyes scanned the stadium of white faces, I noticed a new confidence; a rush of excitement at the new element of my physical appearance that I thought made me stand out. But it really looked a hot mess….and I wish I knew then what I know now.

In the early 1980’s shortly after the inception of contact lenses into (affordable) optical culture, colored contact lenses were made available to the masses, spreading widely through flea markets, convenience stores, and beach shops. Along with changing an individual’s eye color, the lenses mimic the eyes of cats, wolves, snakes, and became so popular that by the late 1990’s they could be found at beauty supply stores for $20 a pair.

What began as a cool way of changing an individual’s physical dynamic, or an alternative to Mardi Gras masks at Halloween costume parties, was consumed by the black community (though somewhat subconsciously) as a way to stand one inch closer to the world’s intangible and timeless standard of beauty. Light eyes were a way (commonly seen among darker shades of people) to stand out. The challenge is that it is not always viewed as just a way to stand out in newness as seen in White culture with celebrities like Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Britney Spears. In our community it is usually a way to stand out despite, and that is where the hurdles line the turf. When the contact lenses stay on, when we dwell on the attention and the assumed beauty that the blue and hazel eyes grant, we are almost crippling ourselves to the ideal that what is natural to us is unattractive; that in a world of thin lines and open interpretations, we are still always on the wrong side.

In the 2004 book, Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America by Charisse Jones, the author writes:
…..the Black men who’re making millions—the doctors, the lawyers, the athletes—are going after the White woman. And I think that’s the reason why we change our appearance.” Cheryl, who wears her hair straightened with an added weave, says that Black women try to look more European, wearing colored contact lenses, for example, in order to be more appealing to Black men: “We’re hoping a Black man will say, ‘Hey she’s just as pretty as this White woman right here.’ We’re trying to get their attention.”

So are colored contacts, like blonde weaves, just subconscious emulations of what we are taught and bred to believe is truly beautiful? Perhaps. Apparently colored contacts are a huge trend in Japan and Korea, recently headlining countries for nose jobs and eye-lid surgeries that make men and women look more like the “Westerners” that they see on television.

Although there are Rx (prescription) lenses widely manufactured by Freshlook, Acuvue, and Durasoft, the majorities of colored lens users (within our community) do not have a prescription, and consume the products at flea markets and second hand shops.

In October of 2002, the FDA warned that the extended use of decorative, non-corrective lenses could result in serious eye injury. Robert Longley of usgovinfo.com wrote:

Cases of corneal ulcer associated with wear of decorative contact lenses in excess of the recommended period have been reported to the FDA. Corneal ulcer can progress rapidly and lead to internal ocular infection if left untreated. Uncontrolled infection can lead to corneal scarring and vision impairment. In extreme cases, this condition can result in blindness and eye loss, according to the FDA.

FDA also warns of other eye risks associated with use of decorative contact lenses, including:

  • conjunctivitis (an infection of the eye);
  • corneal edema (swelling);
  • allergic reaction;
  • corneal abrasion from poor lens fit; and
  • reduction in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and other visual functions, resulting in interference with driving and other activities.

According to FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Lester M. Crawford, the FDA has approved the prescription-only sale of some contact lenses for cosmetic use, such as colored lenses. FDA's approval guarantees these lenses were made under sterile conditions, and requires that consumers be told how to insert and care for the lenses in a way that minimizes chances of such side effects as infections or abrasions.”

However, most health hazards that result in the extended wear of these lenses can be prevented if an optometrist is visited for proper fitting.

-Wayetu Moore

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Friday, October 26, 2007

NYC and Hip Hop Harry

As I exited the Williamsburg Bridge last night I spotted a billboard for Carnival Cruise Lines which read "The Caribbean, NYC's newest borough." I smiled to myself, savoring the irony. A quick trip through any of the boroughs would make it clear that the connection between the Caribbean and NYC is strong and long standing.


When it comes to anything about ethnicity and/or culture I suffer from a kind of hyper-sensitivity which is probably the result of being a graduate of a college steeped in the Socratic method, having Trinidadian and Black American heritage (yes, both part of the African Diaspora but a combination that results in a kind of double, triple, quadruple consciousness...more on that later), and just my nature in general. Drawing connections is just something I do, not to say that all of my connections are accurate, but it's the way I understand the things around me.

It's important to me that when I tell people about my Trinidadian heritage that I stress there's more to the cultures in the Caribbean than good music and a willingness to party. The islands of the Caribbean are home to people of both the African and Asian diaspora. In my mind--and this assumption grows as I learn more--the Caribbean is a lynchpin, connecting the cultures of the various continents that surround it. Look at it this way, on the Monopoly board of dispersed cultures, the Caribbean is often the "GO" when it comes to tracing immigration paths, and in NYC Caribbean cultures have contributed more than a fair share of what defines the city. I mean, let's be real, we all know hip hop's roots are firmly planted in Jamaican soil.

So, I'd like to take this time to thank Carnival for their subtle, though maybe unintentional, reminder of the connection between Caribbean culture and NYC.

And speaking of hip hop, two nights ago after falling asleep to a TLC documentary on obesity (which is a growing concern of time as I continue to work with children and constantly fret over their mass consumption of things like Tropical Fantasy soda) I was awoken by this mess.



Just thought I'd share. My friend says he'd like to meet the group of soccer moms who put that together. It's like programming for the "urban" ADD community. Blech.

This, on the other hand, made me giggle out loud.



-Ashleigh Rae

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Monday, October 22, 2007

A Colossal Case of Amnesia

Apologies seem to be the most frequently issued public statement as of late, especially considering that people haven’t come up with a cure for an outbreak of racism plaguing world leaders, radio personalities, and academic leaders. One might assume that science would hold the answer, some vaccine to cure important people of these absent minded utterances that end up being P.R. agency nightmares. Mais non, mes amis. Unfortunately, it looks like science is the LAST place we should consider a beacon of hope…as least in the department of social progress.

Over the past few months, we’ve been hit left and right with information that reads more like propaganda from the Third Reich than a community of people with PhDs, but James D. Watson’s assertion that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites was the last straw. It made me want to burn all my science books and never look back. James Watson of Watson & Crick, the adorably dorky British scientists gleaming with pride with their 3-dimensional DNA model at hand in my 9th grade text, was now a man I reviled. If only Watson knew I, and surely other black students across the nation, had gotten an A in biology that year…

Following in the footsteps of many other racists who had gone before him, Watson issued an apology. But in an unlikely twist, Watson faked a sudden case of amnesia. In a New York Times piece, Watson is noted to have said the following:

“I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. There is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

Interesting. . . especially considering that just Sunday, he noted that while “there are many people of color who are very talented,” he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa,” and added that “All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.”

Shocking, no?

Fortunately, at the end of the day, I am able to recall a sense of amnesia with which I am sure many people of color are personally familiar. I was able to forget to take anything men like him, who have inferiority complexes to the degree that they have to put others down in order to make themselves appear to be more intelligent, more beautiful, and more worth the air time and text spacing to hear and see their complete wastes of breath, have to say with any seriousness.

It’s grown old, much like the scientific theories that people hide behind as a means of bolstering themselves due to a lack of confidence. People of color, in all their accomplishments, pose a threat to a social and systematic disease to which many others have, over time, fallen prey.

We, as women of color, must take these moments to remind ourselves that we must be strong. We must exist somewhere above the base need to assert superiority by way of degrading those we consider our “competition’—whether it be in the workforce, in our personal lives, or in the classroom. Let's have our actions speak for themselves.

-Wendi Muse
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Contraceptives


School officials in Portland, Maine have decided to allow middle-school students to obtain birth control pills at the school health centers to promote safe sexual activity among students.

This comes just as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a piece of legislation that would make the state support condom distribution in jails through The Inmate Community Public Health Act.

Both stories typically have two reactions: “good!” or a disturbed expression on the face. If the disturbed look emanates from the thought of either two 11-year-olds or two inmates having sex, then maybe the “good!” emanates from the same thought but with a placating vision of them wearing a condom or a girl on birth control.

Anne Squires is a family nurse practitioner at Eastern Senior High School, in Washington D.C., where she said at least 30 girls get pregnant every year. Over the six years that she has been at the school she has noticed that STDs and other reproductive concerns are one of the top reasons why students visit the clinic, which is only one of two in health clinics in the District located inside of a school.

"I think we have to be realistic," Squires said. "If [students] have made that choice then I feel it's my responsibility to help them make safe choices."

And according to the city of Portland, students as young as 11-years-old are making the choice to have sex. The Washington Post reported that Portland’s three middle schools had seven pregnancies in the last five years (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/18/AR2007101800358_2.html).

The government could actually prevent that, according to Richard Urban says. Urban is the co-founder and executive director of Ultra Teen Choice, (http://www.ultrateenchoice.org/Index.html) a Washington D.C. teen peer-counseling program.

He believes that abstinence should be the standard for the youth and questions why the government doesn't fund more "serious" tracks to help youth stay abstinent. He disagrees with the promotion of condoms to encourage safe sex.

Urban said that according to statistics, the majority, 52 percent, of youth in D.C. have never had sex.

“That's down 16 percent in two years and that's not because they're handing out condoms. These are kids who are saying, 'I've never had sex.'"

Students in his program, as young as 12, have pledged chastity vows and every year they hold Abstinence Awareness Week where they charge the city to promote abstinence as a way to curb HIV/AIDS, STDs and other health dangers to D.C.'s youth.

With African-American women being the most common victim in the U.S. to be infected with HIV/AIDS, the Congressional Black Caucus is pushing for legislation to supply condoms in jails as their way of quelling health dangers in the African-American community. The Stop AIDS in Prison Act is spearheaded by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca). This goes against certain laws in most jails that ban sexual activity among inmates.

According to a 2003 study released last year by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1.8 percent of men and 2.6 percent of women in federal and state prisons have been diagnosed with HIV. The rate of AIDS infection in federal and state prisons is .51 percent versus .15 percent in the overall population.

-Vanessa Mizell

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Skewed Priorities or Short Attention Spans?

Just a few weeks ago, the mainstream American media caught onto the Jena 6 controversy in Louisiana. Thousands of Americans followed suit, finally paying attention to what many consider just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to racial tension in the United States. Somehow, the Jena 6 situation ended up at the right place at the right time, a phrase I use here with caution as I am referring to the increase intensity of media attention and the controversy surrounding more than the personal experiences of the boys involved. They were "lucky" for a moment, the exposure yielding a formal protest for racial justice to be served by way of charge dropping or jail release.


But at the end of all the increased attention, little has changed. Mychal Bell found himself back in prison for violating parole, and, surprise!, people are still racist. It makes me wonder whether the 15 minutes of fame, just enough time to the cameras to click and move on, was really worth it? Even more so, I wonder what did we miss in the time that the Jena 6 case broke beyond the blogs and into American homes? For what other stories that led to 5 minute media darlings were we receiving little to no follow-up coverage?

Does anyone remember Stepha Henry, the black student gone missing in Florida?

What about Genarlow Wilson, the black teenager charged with rape simply for receiving oral sex from a fellow high school student?

Do they names seem remotely familiar? How much information can you recall about either story? More importantly, part of me wonders what has happened with regard to those two people since the media deserted them for another hot topic?

In a wonderful cnn.com piece about the role of race, class, and gender in the media attention given to missing persons reports, the Miami Herald police reporter set to give an interview about the Stepha Henry disappearance notes the following:


"Ovalle says his interview was canceled because of breaking news about socialite Paris Hilton.'I think the people I write about are important. I take my job seriously,' he says. 'I know people watch that stuff [celebrity news]. But you have a responsibility as a serious news-gathering organization, with all the things going on in the world, with all the tragedies there are; our priorities are a little skewed.'"


I wholeheartedly agree with Ovalle here. Our priorities are dramatically skewed. I'm sure more people can tell you what color Britney Spears' panties are today than the name of the new President of France or locate Iran on a map. I am even more sure, however, that this problem is linked not only to poor prioritization, but also a desire to be constantly entertained. For the general public, the nightly news rarely fulfills this need, unless, of course, the coverage evokes fear, incites xenophobia, or is chock full of lies. All such stories have high ratings, I'm sure. But for the most part, the news is the same every night: one group is being oppressed somewhere far away, that's tomorrow's weather, someone was elected into office who will be just like the last guy. . . and the list goes on. Thanks to the monotony of REAL news, tv networks have made the attempt to make the news more like an E! Entertainment Network show, equipped with bright colors and even brighter smiles, but with very little news, beyond the content that fills the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen every now and then.

Unfortunately, the "underground" press suffers from a similar syndrome: a reliance upon the same stories for as long as their respective audiences can be entertained and leave the aftermath empty for us to fill in the blanks. The blog coverage about the Genarlow Wilson case ceased to exist when the Jena Six issue garnered more attention. And um, whatever happened to that big community discussion blacks were supposed to engage in about rap after the Imus debacle? The hottest mainstream hip hop song on the charts right now is about performing sexual acts with a woman sans her consent. Just look up what it means to "superman" someone and you'll quickly realize that the discussion might need some refreshing. Why did we know more about Megan William's writing bad checks than we did about her kidnapping and assault? Did anyone hear about the brutal gang rape and assault that occurred in West Palm Beach, Florida's Dunbar Village community?

Of course, that is not to say that we should discuss the same topics to death, not at all. But give an update here and there. Remind your readership or viewing audience that as overwhelming as it may be to take in, there are far more things going on beyond what's reported around the clock for 3 days straight and that they can access that information at any time. Try starting now.

For more information about Genarlow Wilson, go here: The Wilson Appeal

For more information about Stepha Henry as well as other black women whose disappearances receive little media attention, go here: Black & Missing, but not forgotten.

- Wendi Muse READ MORE

Monday, September 24, 2007

Taking Gold-Digging to a New Level

Women in India are being tortured and even killed as a result of spousal abuse resulting from a highly gendered topic in the West: gold digging.


According to the LA Times piece "Wedded to Greed in India" by Staff Writer Henry Chu, ever 77 minutes, a woman is murdered in India for failure to meet the demands of her spouse and his family, demands directly linked to her dowry. While we have our own form of dowry practice in the United States with the family of the bride customarily footing the wedding bill, the bride and her family are expected to give far less after the marriage has begun, our gender roles dictating that the woman rely primarily on her husband for financial security and, in pop culture, making men look more like small business loan officers than spouses to love, honor, and cherish. In India, however, as Chu reports, the roles are reversed. While the man is still considered to be the head of the household, the bride and her family were to provide a dowry for reasons that were once quite feminist:

The practice of dowry in India goes back thousands of years. Its original intent,
scholars say, was to protect women, who by bringing property and belongings to the marriage could enjoy some creature comforts and not have to depend entirely on their husbands.
But somewhere along the line, what was supposed to be security for the bride came to be seen as a boon to the groom and his family, a way for them to augment their wealth.

Chu goes on to describe the increasing correlation between India's economic growth and the unrealistic dowry expectations women from all walks of life are expected to meet upon marriage.
A few years ago, the Times of India listed the expected price tag on grooms from different professions; the more prestigious or lucrative the job, the bigger the dowry a man's family could demand. A businessman with an MBA could fetch 1.5 million rupees (about $37,500 at today's exchange rate), and a member of India's storied civil service could ask for 2 million rupees ($50,000).


And what used to be simple dowries of livestock and everyday household furnishings have given way to packages of cash, jewelry and big-ticket items, often just to help the groom and his relatives keep up with the neighbors. In many cases, the bride is hounded for more well past the wedding day."Whatever the latest consumer goods are in the market is what gets demanded," said Neelu, a women's rights advocate here in Patna, the capital of Bihar state, who goes by only one name.

"Cars, refrigerators -- now there's a demand for computers, too."


And while made illegal in 1961, the practice of demanding dowries continues, the law widely unenforced, and overlooked despite the continued abuse of women linked to the custom. Experts have also suggested that a high incidence of abortion of female fetuses may also result from the fear of pending abuse if their girl children were to marry as adults.

This alarming information seems ironic considering India's recent election of its first female president, Prathiba Patil and rising rates of women continuing their education beyond high school and even holding more positions in the workplace. It's possible that just as things are looking up for women in India, their rising status comes as a threat in a rapidly changing society, proving that despite progress, social norms, no matter how archaic, often outweigh reason. Unfortunately, India is not alone. Citizens in countless other countries, including many in the West, frequently make decisions marred by their own inability to see beyond "tradition."

-Wendi Muse READ MORE

Friday, September 21, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Does Rezoning Mean Resegregation?




This may be the case in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a racially mixed city where some say segregation is alive and well.

As a result of the recent public school overcrowding, city authorities decided on a rezoning plan to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, this left hundreds of students to the mercy of "virtually all-black, low performing schools" reads a New York Times piece by Sam Dillon, and many black parents calling foul, especially considering that the school's superintendent and board president are white, yet 75% of the public school system is black.

Tuscoloosa's rezoning project, while raceless on paper, is being administered via the same justification found in the recent reversal of the Brown v. Board of Education decision (which I covered here in July) and the somewhat faulty No Child Left Behind program, both of which are considered to be essential in what is fast becoming a race-blind America. Yet for some parents and local black leaders, the situation is a haunting flashback:

All the issues we dealt with in the 60s, we're having to deal with again in 2007," said Earnestine Tucker, one of the black members [of the Board of Education]. We're back to separate but equal - but separate isn't equal."
Some of the students feel it too:

Telissa Graham, 17, was a sophomore last year at Northridge High. She learned of the plan last May by reading a notice on her school’s bulletin board listing her name along with about 70 other students required to move. “They said Northridge was too crowded,” Telissa said. “But I think they just wanted to separate some of the blacks and Hispanics from the whites.”

Ironically, as the article notes, the parents of Tuscaloosa have co-opted the No Child Left Behind Act, which its critics consider to be detrimental to the process of improving the health of public schools as it, in fewer words, places more importance on a student's selective school re-assignment on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to focusing on the poor schools themselves. The parents have argued that they have no other choice than using the act a means of securing a better future for their children, many of whom, as a result of the residential rezoning, have limited access to the educational opportunity they once experienced via busing. Thus far, 180 students have requested to transfer from schools that have received poor scores in the evaluation system used by No Child Left Behind, but their present status is pending, much like their hopes for a better future in the highly racially divided Tuscaloosa.

Critics could easily say, however, that parental involvement for black student came a little too late. White parents beat them to the punch, helping to initiate the program with which they are at odds:


At a meeting in February 2005, scores of parents from the two majority white elementary schools complained of overcrowding and discipline problems in the middle school their children were sent to outside of the northern enclave.

Ms. Tucker said she, another board member and a teacher were the only blacks present. The white parents clamored for a new middle school closer to their homes. They also urged Dr. Levey to consider sending some students being bused into northern cluster schools back to their own neighborhood, Ms. Tucker said. Dr. Levey did not dispute the broad outlines of Ms. Tucker’s account.

“That was the origin of this whole rezoning,” Ms. Tucker said.

Months later, the school board commissioned a demographic study to draft the rezoning plan. J. Russell Gibson III, the board’s lawyer, said the plan drawn up used school buildings more efficiently, freeing classroom space equivalent to an entire elementary school and saving potential construction costs of $10 million to $14 million. “That’s a significant savings,” Mr. Gibson said, “and we relieved overcrowding and placed most students in a school near their home. That’s been lost in all the rhetoric.”

Could re-segregation have been avoided by way of parental involvement?

Possibly. But without the tax money to back up the words, very little can be done to change a public education system on the brink of ruin. As socialist as it may sound, we, as a nation, will continue to segregate it's young people until one's income bracket no longer corresponds to the availability of local, high-quality, public schools. Due to the very obvious links between color and class, some children will inevitably always be left behind.

-Wendi Muse
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hate Crime


CNN.com reported yesterday that a 23-year-old black woman was held for at least a week in the West Virginia home of Frankie Brewster, a 49-year-old white woman. The police are treating this as a hate crime and have arrested six of the suspected kidnappers; which include Frankie Brewster, 49; her son Bobby, 24; Danny J. Combs, 20, of Harts, West Virginia; and George A. Messer, 27, Karen Burton, 46, and Alisha Burton, 23, all of Chapmanville, West Virginia. All are being held in lieu of $100,000 bond each, and all have asked for court-appointed public defenders, according to AP.

The victim was found with week-old bruises on her face and legs, part of her hair had been pulled out and with lacerations on her neck. She had been stabbed repeatedly in the left leg and her ankle had also been cut.

The motives of the six perpetrators will most likely take center stage in the proceedings that undoubtedly follow. The center of this crime is the victim. Her suffering as a human being and the acts perpetrated against her are sickening, not only because of the obvious racial motivation, but because she is a person who has been grievously wronged. Let the outrage begin there.

However, it is a relief that the crime is being considered a hate crime from the beginning. The lives of minorities are too often treated with little worth, our suffering dismissed with terms used in judicial and political process.

Hate crimes do not, however, always occur so neatly, the injustice not so easily pointed out, and the victim and the perpetrator do not always fit uniformly into our preconceptions.

It is interesting to me to hear politicians discuss the founding principles of America; the good Christian values, etc. It is important that when we consider hate crimes that we remember that many of the roots of the systems on which we depend to dispense justice are founded in the soil of discrimination and malfeasance. We are working against a long history. Sometimes the crime exists not as a direct action but in legislation, the status quo and sometimes, even in simple perception.

With that in mind...for your (re)consideration.

Jena Six

-Ashleigh Rae READ MORE

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Mark Your Calendars

Congress is to hold a hearing on misogyny in hip hop on September 25, 2007. Though the hearing has yet to be officially announced, a bit of information has been leaked to the press. The reason being? My guess is that they wanted to keep the whole gig in line with the industry they're talking about. Get some of your work out to the public before someone else does it without your permission, a smart move considering how the mainstream press tends to greatly distort academic and activist-led response to hip hop..

The hearing will be sponsored by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and led by Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL), the subcommittee chairman, who ". . . want[s] to engage not just the music industry but the entertainment industry at large to be part of a solution" His approach is admirable because he admits that despite what we are often led to believe about hip hop, the artist is not necessarily the primary culprit, bearing in mind that lyrical content goes through several channels for approval:

The intent is to examine commercial practices behind the music's most controversial content. "I want to talk to executives at these conglomerates who've never taken a public position on what they produce," Rush said. "But it's been surprisingly very difficult to get them to commit to appearing." Rush had planned the hearing twice before and had to postpone both times to accommodate execs' schedules. "But after a series of long conversations and other communications, they know this hearing is going to go forward, and they will be coming -- reluctantly, if I might add." Witnesses include toppers Philippe Dauman of Viacom, Doug Morris of Universal Music Group and Edgar Bronfman Jr. of Warner Music Group.
As expected, record labels are less than eager to take the fall:
A music industry exec said the delay [for agreeing to a set date for the hearing] was more an issue of getting the right people to appear. "Not everyone agrees that the top people are the same as the right people," the exec said, noting that decisions to sign particular artists or distribute their CDs are often made at lower levels.
It sounds a lot like the same level play we hear when it comes to military mess-ups. Like a bad case of he said/she said, the higher-ups defer responsibility to those below and vice versa. One thing is for sure, however, Bobby Rush seems to have a handle on where the problem starts and has clearly been pro-active about finding a possible solution, or at least discussing one. He has entitled the hearing "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degradation," alluding to the prevalence of misogyny beyond the hip hop industry, something its critics sometimes disregard. He has also expanded the scope of the hearing by seeking to include African-American women's groups, noting that he wants "to look at not only the problem caused by misogynistic content in some hip-hop music but also some of the pain that emanates from this degradation."

I am not sure how productive the hearing will be, especially considering that similar hearings on violence and sex on television (which Rush has referenced in order to bolster the legitimacy of the hearing on hip hop) have yielded few results with regard to changing sexism and violence in this country. The hearing also begs the question of how much government involvement is necessary in the arts, if at all? Rush notes that he is not using the hearing to potentially act in opposition to freedom of speech, but I can't help but consider the significance that such government-level activism may have on artists' rights. Could the war being waged on hip hop become a neo-McCarthy movement?

On the other hand, however, I admire Rush's commitment to making an attempt to do something about what many consider a large problem not only within hip hop, but also outside its boundaries. As a woman who is adamantly opposed to misogyny in music, media, and daily life, I am relieved that someone in the government is attempting to hold at least *some* of the people who continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about women responsible for their actions.

We'll see what happens in two weeks . . .

h/t to dnA for the article!

- Wendi Muse


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article originally posted at Too Sense

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Let's Not Lose Focus

For a while now, we have been bombarded with the 2008 Presidential elections. With the many nights of watching the debate of the Democrats and Republicans to Senators making the headline news, it has almost become too much!


What about other news? Have we forgotten that we’re still fighting a war? That people are still suffering from Hurricane Katrina? What about these tragic events? Better yet, do you know the latest on these tragic events? I bet you don’t.

Well, as you know the war in Iraq continues. After researching the latest on Iraq and the victims of Hurricane Katrina, it made me realize that we are (and have) done nothing! Yes, we had to react to the tragic event on 9/11/2001. But war for six years was not the answer. And as for Hurricane Katrina victims, the government still has not done enough for the communities or the people.

What is going on my people?

With the war, “we” (yes you and me) have bitten off more than we can chew. We have caused more turmoil than peace and have not gained anything positive since the war started. Gas prices alone were enough to hurt my feelings, yet alone my wallet. (I know it has hit some of you where it hurts too). Hurricane Katrina has affected us too. The hurricane has caused victims to move into other cities and states, making it hard for businesses like hospitals and schools, to operate at full capacity. Texas alone has become overcrowded and crime rates have tripled.

So what is the government doing about it? Or what are “we” doing about it?

Below are links that will take you to the latest news on the war in Iraq and the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I pray that after you read the following articles that you will be inspired to do more for the next person and your community. It is time out for thinking about ourselves, we need one another. We cannot wait on the government forever!

The latest Political News…

War in Iraq

Hurricane Katrina

Republicans views for Iraq

Democrat views for Iraq

(Note: There was hardly any news about the political parties and their actions towards Hurricane Katrina)


~ Briana Henderson
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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fluffer Nutter returns...

Sorry for the hiatus but I was on vaca for a week and it was quite lovely if I must say so myself. I went to a Javier concert (if you don’t know who he is you need to go here), road trip Maryland to hang with the man’s fam, back to NY to see the Tyra show, got one last bit of tan by the pool, and watched the “Kill Point” marathon and finale (you know I loves me some TV). But now I’m back to the old grind…and as you can see the Manifesto. Moving right along…


In response to the outrage over Michael Vick’s dog fighting charges he has not only been dropped by Nike from all endorsements but has also been suspended indefinitely from the NFL.


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On Monday he plead guilty to federal dog fighting charges and faces up to 5 years in jail. He’ll be sentenced in December. Before the hearing he held a press conference where he apologized to the children and let us know that this ordeal helped him find Jesus.

Ok, I’ve had just about enough of all of this nonsense! I love lil puppy dogs just as much as the next girl but seriously I honestly DO NOT CARE…and neither would you if he wasn’t famous. Oh! And another thing! Why do people always seem to find Jesus when they do something stupid? 1. I didn’t know he was hiding and 2. if he is hiding he probably doesn’t want to be found by the likes of you!



Feeling like you need a dose of God in your life? Wanna feel like a celebrity? Or simply need a work break? Go here and find Jesus! I did and it changed my life!



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I recently watched a trailer for Tyler Perry’s new movie “Why Did I Get Married?” and I must say it looks pretty darn good (thanks for the clip Paula). The cast includes Tyler Perry (Madea isn’t in this one), Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Jill Scott, Michael Jai White, and a bunch of other black folk who I’m sure you’ve seen before but have absolutely no idea what their names are. Check out the link below and give me your opinion on whether or not we should go see it.


This Just In…

We’ve got the new cast of “Dancing With the Stars”


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Jennie Garth - Actress (Beverly Hills 90210)

Marie Osmond – Singer, Talk Show Host, Maker of scary dolls

Albert Reed - Model

Melenie Brown– Spice Girl and Baby Mama

Helio Castronetes - Race car driver

Jane Seymour – Actress (Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Wedding Crashers, etc.)

Jose Maran - Model

Sabrina Bryan - Member of the Cheetah Girls

Mark Cuban - Billionaire

Cameron Mathison – Actor (All My Children)

Floyd Maywather - Boxer

Wayne Newton – Las Vegas phenom! Or just creepy lookin old dude



Random Pics…


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Excuse me new cast of “America’s Next Top Model”, but Cher just called and she’d like her silver lame back…thanks!



Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


Its kinda like when you went to the picture place in the mall with your girlfriends and got glamour shots together…except not so much.



Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


I don’t know if this is Tamar or Towanda Braxton but one of dem hoes done lost their damn mind. Toni! Get your sister!



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Sweet mother of God!!! What happened to you Maxwell!?!? I think I’m going to be sick. Excuse me while I go lie down for a moment.



-Lo




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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Do Copycat Complaints Fall on Deaf Ears?



For New Yorkers, it's that time of year that most of the beauty and body-conscious look forward to during the sweltering hot months that involve beyond tropical subway platforms and scant clothing to deal with soaring temperatures: Fall Fashion Week.

Every year, there is a gossip-column worthy scandal: models weigh less than 90 pounds despite their 5'8" plus frames, there was a fall on the catwalk, a designer lost his temper backstage. This year, however, the battle against counterfeit designer goods is in the top spot for fashion controversy. For years, designers have been considering applying for patents and copyrights for their wares, and with the fierce competition of stores like H&M, Forever 21, and almost any street shop in Chinatown, the fashion district is feeling the pressure. According to the New York Times article "Before Models Can Turn Around, Knock-Offs Fly," the number one priority of the Council of Fashion Designers of America is the reproduction of their clothing for sale at much cheaper prices, and even the U.S. Senate has gotten involved.

Though I myself identify as a fashionista of sorts, I'm certainly one on a budget. I understand the desire to look good without breaking the bank. With that said, it's difficult for me to feel intense sympathy for designers who make clothing only in a few sizes and for prices that make even my monthly rent in NYC look measly. Sure, the quality may be worth the price, but at the end of the day, we're paying for the label, a designer's name in the back of a garment that was made for much less than for what it is being sold.

Another reason I found it really difficult to sympathize is, plain and simple, the copying issue seems small compared to other problems in the fashion world. I can think of two, for example, that affect me the most as a woman of color:

1. Why are there so few models of color on the runway and in print ads? Models of Middle Eastern, South Asian, African, and East Asian descent are missing in action on the catwalk, and while Latin-American, mainly Brazilian-born, models are en vogue for now, it's hard to ignore that they exhibit mainly European features. It's rare that you'd see a woman from Salvador, a city in northern Brazil with a considerably large population of African descendants, walking for Michael Kors. You'd also be hard-pressed to find a woman with very dark skin in an ad for Lancome.

And secondly:

2. The fashion industry has painted the counterfeit industry as one guilty of horrendous labor practices, including sweatshop and/or child labor, yet designers for both low end and high end merchandise are accused on a daily basis for exploiting the lower class of countries within the global south. Adults and children from Turkey, Southeast Asia, China, and throughout Latin America make clothes for Sean John in the same conditions they do for H&M. There is no denying that the people most greatly affected by such occupational abuse in countries that are not faring well economically just so happen to be of color and usually women.

The industry would also like you to believe that counterfeit goods fund terrorism. There have been several ad campaigns geared toward discouraging consumers from buying counterfeit goods, but very few commercials and print ads about the ends designers may go to acquire jewels, animal skins and fur for their products. The poaching and warfare that continue in countries rich in natural resources are undeniably linked to our hunger to look good by dressing well.

So while I don't agree with the downright copying of designer clothes and fully understand the need to protect patterns, I think we all have to take a moment to step back and look at the whole picture in order to see the truth.

For more information about the fashion industry's war on counterfeiting, please check out: The Council of Fashion Designers of America's site

To learn more about sweatshop labor in the fashion industry and how you can take action against it, click here.


-Wendi Muse READ MORE

Monday, September 3, 2007

A girl like me: Disney's first black princess



"The Frog Princess", a film set for release in 2009, and Walt Disney's first film since their pledge to return to animated films will feature the Studio's first black princess. Though little has been uncovered about the plot, the film will be scored by Randy Newman, set in New Orleans, and will star a girl named Maddy.

When I heard the news, I was ecstatic!

As a child I sat obsessed with Disney animated films whenever I was given the chance to watch television. I am and have always been a dreamer, and Walt and company consistently explored and shaped my imagination with their beautiful characters and charming storylines.

I was disillusioned, however, towards the end of elementary school at a sleepover with some of my closest friends. The girls were all white with the exception of my friend Kay, who is Mexican-American. Towards the end of the night we began to play with the hostess' dolls, which were all Disney collectibles. I remember wanting to be Belle since I related most to her love for her father. "She doesn't look like you," the hostess said, and took the doll for herself. One by one, the girls chose dolls that "looked like them". The blond girls snatched Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, the brunette girls reached for Snow White and Ariel, and me and Kay just sat dumbfounded and confused at the commotion.

We held hands while the other girls quickly claimed and grabbed the princesses, young but still aware of what was happening, and discovering by the second what we were destined to face our entire lives. Finally, when the room quieted and the commotion died down, Kay and I looked at the playroom floor. Princess Jasmine lay lifeless, hair rumpled and almost teary eyed that she too was the last to be chosen. The hostess and the other girls stared at Kay and I as they all sat in a circle with their princesses in their laps. They looked back and forth from Jasmine, to Kay and I. "Kay, you should take Jasmine," one of the girls finally said. My heart dropped. Kay squeezed my hand. "She's not Mexican," Kay said. I laughed. "No, but she looks like you," the hostess said.

We ended up watching television instead.

Needless to say the experience stayed with me.

Kudos to Disney! Let's hope the film is worth waiting for. Let's hope Disney knows how to tell the story of a girl like me.



-Wayetu Moore READ MORE

Friday, August 31, 2007

"Excuse Me; Did I Bump Your Shoe?": Restroom Etiquette 101


In the early part of June Senator Larry Craig, a 62 year-old Republican senator from Idaho was accused of engaging in lewd behavior in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport. Now two months later, the media as well as Republicans are coming down on Sen. Craig and pressuring him to resign for his actions.

Sen. Craig was arrested for moving his foot close to an officer’s foot in a nearby stall as he used the restroom, then rubbing the bottom on his neighbor's stall with his left hand. What has stirred the masses is Sen. Craig's recent denial of the act, and regret for a guilty plea he gave for the "solicitation" just two months ago.

“I sit down to go to the bathroom, and you said our feet bumped,” Craig told an officer. “I believe they did…because I reached down and scooted over and the next thing I knew, under the bathroom divider comes a card that says ‘police’.”

Sen. Craig claims he was in the bathroom to fulfill its intended purpose and nothing more. He suggests that he was entrapped by the arresting officer and told police he had “overreacted and made a poor decision” in pleading guilty to the misdemeanor. “I am not gay. I don’t do these kinds of things” stated Sen. Craig in his arrest interview. The Republicans and the people of Idaho have given Sen. Craig the cold shoulder though there was no evidence of any sexual contact.

Therefore, is Sen. Craig really guilty? And if so, for what? The solicitation, or being a gay republican?

I asked a few male friends for their opinion and all of them stated that they never experienced anything close to Sen. Craig’s situation. In fact, they made it clear that it was unlikely for a man to extend his legs that far when using the men’s restroom.

Indeed his foot bumped the person’s foot in the next stall, but maybe that was it. Say “excuse me” and keep it moving. So far, three key Republicans in Congress (including John McCain), the Idaho Statesman newspaper, and more than half of Idaho’s respondents is calling for Craig to resign. So are they mad at what he did, or the fact that what he did is progressing the eight year "humbling" of the nation's republican party?

“The voters of Idaho elected Sen. Craig to represent their state, and will decide his future in 2008 should he fail to resign,” the Michigan congressman said in a statement issued by his office. “However, he also represents the Republican Party, and I believe that he should step down, as his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a U.S. senator.”

Sen. Craig has repeatedly declined resignation and stands by his story.


Listen to Sen. Craig’s Interview: http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/08/30/craig.arrest/index.html#cnnSTCOther1


~ Briana Henderson
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Booty Clappin'

It's Labor Day...soon! Three day weekends are always a source of joy. Everyone smiles on a Monday they have off. Celebrations all around.

Speaking of celebrating, it's time once again for the annual West Indian Day Parade in good 'ol, not so slowly being gentrified Brooklyn. I'm down for change but not complete dismissal. I often feel like the attitude of new residents in "up and coming" neighborhoods is focused around just putting up with the discomfort of having the locals present. The approach is similar to steeping tea; you just have to wait until the herb has completely disseminated into the water, then it's aaaall chamomile.

Anywho, that's not even my point.

The Parade holds a lot of fond memories for me. Jumping the barricades to join the dancing with friends and family (note: please only try this if you're resilient and wearing the right shoes), strolls with my parents along the route and, of course, watching people and being a part of a celebration of self are all moments that bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

However, I recently had a discussion with one of my co-workers about the fine line between the celebration and the exploitation of the female body in music and dance. It's something I struggle with often being, at times, a kind of booty-shaker myself and well aware of the issues that can often arise from said behavior.

Growing up with one side of my family from Trinidad and the other African-American there's an amount of gyrating and shaking that just comes naturally. You hear the music and often your lower half is the first part to move. I would argue, though, that there is a difference between that kind of movement and the booty clapping I've seen on un-cut music videos. But, with that judgment arises the question of "What has the right to be classified as culture?"

There's also the question of security. Being female, and specifically, being a female and a minority, there's a constant feeling of having to protect your body as well as assert your right not to be exploited. So, when it comes to expressing yourself in public there is, often, a feeling of not being able to do so freely.

As you can see, I'm still working through it. Regardless, the parade is this weekend in Brooklyn. If you're able, come and celebrate. No worries, joining in the parade is not a requirement. Unfortunately, I would no longer recommend it. The police aren't too fond of the "just jump in" practice anyway. Although the police, and this is just from my own observations and that of friends and associates, don't seem too fond of large groups of minorities gathering in general. Last year at the parade there were a number of unexplainable arrests and detainments...hmmm. Stay positive though and come out to support.

-Ashleigh Rae READ MORE

Jena Six

Here's something for us all to consider. The Jena Six. Yet another reminder that ignorance and hatred never have and never will exist solely in a time period; that there is a lot of work to be done and battles to be fought. So, to all the "soldiers" out there, keep your head up and your eyes open. And remember, discussion is the first step to action. Share your response, make your voice heard.

-Ashleigh Rae READ MORE

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ACTION ALERT: 5 minutes for just recovery

Katrina Information Network
http://www.katrinaaction.org

Look below the surface.

On the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina many are documenting the continued struggle of residents in the Gulf as they return to the corporate and government mismanagement that has stood in the way.

There is much to be done.

The Katrina Information Network (KIN) is a family of groups in the Gulf and across the country using e-advocacy, grassroots pressure, local actions and resolutions to turn the tide toward fast, equitable rebuilding.

Our network is hundreds of thousands strong, but we need more people to stand with us to building public pressure for a just recovery.

This anniversary, will you join us by asking your supporters to take stand for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast?

The 5 minute Campaign
Give us 5 - five minutes a week that is - to make your voice heard for just recovery. Look out for the weekly email and in a few clicks, you will have helped local efforts move national policy.
Join Us Now
(http://www.katrinaaction.org/signup)

Wave a Banner for Just Recovery.
Visit KIN and download one of our banners. Add it to your website or blog and give your readers a chance to join up and learn more about the rebuilding effort.
Get a Banner Here
(http://www.katrinaaction.org/banners)

Local resolution campaign.
Turn up the heat on policymakers and those profiting unfairly from Katrina. A resolution passed this summer in Milwaukee will cost a wasteful company $30 million. Tell your elected official to block corporations from doing business in your city who mismanaged or wasted recovery funds.
Find out how to Hit Them Where It Hurts.
(http://www.katrinaaction.org/localresolutions)

It's Time to Draw the Line.

We need to raise our voices, our votes and our wallets to make a change in one part of our nation that can be a model for others communities we come from and care about.

Join Us!

-Kenyon Farrow for The Coup Magazine 2007 READ MORE

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stress and Your Immune System


You have a lot to do, at home and at work. There are several deadlines to be met, and projects to be completed. In a valiant effort to get it all done you work late into the night, sometimes getting only three to four hours of sleep before the next morning. Perhaps you are suffering from the emotional stress associated with the death or illness of a loved one. Being in bed for a week is the last thing you need. Then it happens… you get sick. A pre-existing condition flares up, your allergies seem more severe, you catch the ‘flu, or worse! Is there a connection with the sudden increase in stress and your illness? Some researchers think that the evidence points to a definite link between severe physical or emotional stress and a malfunctioning immune system.

Our immune system protects us from disease through a series of complex interactions between specialized cells, tissues and chemicals in the body. These interactions enable the human body to fight infection and destroy cancer cells and other foreign invaders. When the immune mechanism breaks down you become more susceptible to tumors and to infectious organisms such as the influenza virus. Several studies have examined the effects of “life stress”, emotional stress, and chronic stress on different aspects of the immune response.

Stress and Immunity

The field of study that examines the link between stress and the immune system is known as psychoneuroimmunology. Several studies in this area indicate that physical and emotional stress can have either good or bad effects on the immune system’s response. There is considerable evidence that mild or moderate physical or emotional stress benefits the immune system; some researchers suggest that mild infections are limited during stressful conditions, however as soon as the stress is alleviated the individual succumbs to the infection. This theory explains the occurrence of weekend colds and other health related problems after stressful week. There is evidence also, that in addition to promoting a feeling of well-being, mild to moderate physical exercise is beneficial to the immune system. Several studies show that after moderate exercise, such as a forty-five minute walk, the cells of the immune system are redistributed, the number of N-K cells in the circulation increase, and the T-cells become more responsive to stimuli. Scientists suggest that the reason for this is in the initial stages of a stressful event, the immune system receives signals that it will be needed for wound healing or to fight infection, and becomes activated in response.

Conversely, research as well as anecdotal evidence indicates that athletes who engage in excessive endurance type activities such as marathons, distance swimming, skiing and professional ballet dancing have a higher incidence of colds and allergies, and decreased wound healing. The results are similar in cases of emotional stress. Medical students have been shown to become more prone to colds and flares of Herpes virus infections (cold sores) during stressful examination periods. Individuals appear more likely to develop type I diabetes mellitus when they have been exposed to stressors either associated with illness or emotional stress, and asthma sufferers and patients with type II diabetes mellitus experience more severe symptoms when they experience stressful situations.

In some individuals the immune system becomes abnormal and instead of performing its protective role against attack from external or abnormal agents, begins to attack and destroy the cells and tissues of the body. The diseases that result from this attack are known as autoimmune diseases; the more commonly occurring examples include systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), Grave’s disease of the thyroid, and rheumatoid arthritis. There are several reports that indicate that individuals who develop these diseases oftentimes experience chronic stress prior to the onset of these conditions. There is also considerable evidence that, in individuals with autoimmune diseases, symptoms are worse during times of stress. Although there are many theories about the causes of autoimmunity, stress appears to play a role. It is also interesting to note that many autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and Grave’s disease, occur more commonly in women than in men.

Other disease conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases also appear to be related to chronic stress. It is an accepted fact that a person’s outlook on life or their psychological state affects recovery from heart attacks and cancer. Studies on breast cancer patients indicate that a positive outlook and active stress reduction practices result in a better response to treatment, a shorter recovery period, and a better long-term outcome. In heart disease it is recognized that constant release of the catecholamine stress hormones affect the diameter of the blood vessels, damage the cells lining the vessels, increase blood pressure and the demand of the tissues for oxygen, and predispose the individual to heart attacks.

Life is stressful! Everyone faces situations on a daily basis that trigger the stress reaction and cause release of the “stress hormones”. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared that workplace stress has reached epidemic proportions with a significant economic cost due to lost workdays and stress related disability. In addition there is stress at home, in our relationships with spouses, children, parents, and significant others. In the face of all of this how can we protect our health? Remember that some stress is beneficial. It improves our productivity and temporarily boosts our immune system in the initial response to the stress. However, as we can see, chronic, unremitting stress is harmful. To protect our immune system and other body systems we need to alter our response to these stressful situations. A calmer approach to stressful events, the use of relaxation techniques, moderate exercise and good nutrition all go a long way in reducing chronic stress and preventing the associated diseases.

-Marguerite E. Neita, PhD., MT(ASCP) for The Coup Magazine 2007
*Art provided by Kula Moore for
The Coup Magazine 2007
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