ESSENCE 2014 ‘Black Women in Hollywood’ Photo Booth

Despite what we’ll see at the Oscar’s this weekend. Black women are very present in Hollywood despite the limitations that mainstream Hollywood attempts to put on their career. So this made me smile…

As Hollywood’s best and brightest sisters streamed into the Beverly Hills Hotel on Thursday for our unforgettable annual industry lovefest, many of them stopped by our ESSENCE.com photo booth to have a little fun.

 

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Language… “Committed Suicide”

As a journalist… I’m always conscious of our ever-evolving language, and how I use those words to tell a story. I recently came across a piece that discusses the phrase, “committed suicide” until reading this piece I never once considered the phrase to be hurtful or loaded. But, I like to think that awareness brings about change. I’m now aware and will now consciously make an effort to revise my word choice when dealing with a suicide situation.

Take a look at the following piece…

“Before my brother Jeff died by suicide, I never thought about the language used to talk about suicide.   Immediately following his death and for a long time after, I was so shocked that the terms used to describe how he died mattered little.  But as time passes, and the shock subsides, I’ve discovered that I bristle each time I hear the expression “committed” suicide.   Historically, in the United States and beyond, the act of suicide was deemed a crime.  Until as recently as 1963, six states still considered attempted suicide a criminal act. This is so insanely absurd to me that I’m not going to expend any more energy on the history of the topic but if you’re interested, here’s a link.

Thankfully laws have changed, but our language has not.   And the residue of shame associated with the committal of a genuine crime, remains attached to suicide.  My brother did NOT commit a crime.   He resorted to suicide, which he perceived, in his unwell mind, to be the only possible solution to his tremendous suffering.  If I was telling you about a friend or loved one who actually did commit a crime, chances are that I’d feel at least a little embarrassment or shame on behalf of that person.  But I don’t feel even the tiniest bit of shame about how Jeff died.  Of course, I wish with every fiber of my being that we had been able to successfully help Jeff and that he was alive today.   But shame, nope, I don’t feel that about my brother.  I focus on how proud I am of who he was in his life – passionate, thoughtful beyond words, brilliant, determined, and braver than most people I know, for enduring his pain as long as he did. Yes, Jeff Freeman was a brave, brave man.   As is any person who grapples with deep emotional distress day after day, year after year.

So to say that someone “committed” suicide feels offensive to me and I’m not easily offended.  The offense is in the inaccuracy. With that said, I don’t judge people for using this expression – until August 17, 2007, I did the same.  But now I don’t.  And I humbly ask that you consider the same.  When you have occasion to talk about suicide, please try to refer to someone dying by suicide.

By shifting our language around suicide, we have the power to reduce some of the massive shame carried by survivors of suicide. If you feel scared or helpless about what to say to someone you know who’s lost someone to suicide, take comfort in knowing that, by changing your language about suicide, you’re offering a countercultural act of kindness. It might seem small but the interpersonal and political impact is nothing but huge.”

(Repost from 18miles.com)

The Paula Deen Effect-“Yellow Journalism” at its finest

The news industry is not perfect, and working in the newsroom I understand and witness firsthand the shortcomings of the media. This week, I was reminded why its important for the media to not just focus on the sensationalized aspect of a story, but to instead be sure to develop all sides of the story so that our viewers will receive a complete view and then use that information to make a judgement.

By now, you’ve all heard that big named corporations such as, Wal-Mart, Smithfield, Home Depot, and Target have dropped Paula Deen, thee southern, white- haired, blue eyed, woman who will fry up butter so good you don’t even know it until your arteries are clogged! Swirling around media outlets are reports that claim Paula Deen commonly used to the “N-word” to reference her employees, and even wished to see the black employees in a “slave like” setting where black men and women dressed in black and white would serve her dinner party.

Yet, many media outlets are only choosing to report the use of the N-word as the main reason why Paula Deen has come under fire. This incomplete story does nothing except give people the idea that her corporation has taken a loss because of her use of racial slurs. When indeed it is more than that. She is being accused of unfairly treating black employees by discriminating with lower wages, and non promotion vs their white counterparts. This case is about discrimination based on the color of their skin. Although you might be “insensitive” to the use of the “N-word” imagine going to work in those conditions where not only does your boss hurls racial insults at you but also treats you as a second class employee not equal to those who instead happen to be different only based on the color of their skin. I’ve looked at literally hundreds of post where sympathizers are comparing Deen’s use of the word to a rapper, or saying, “well she’s from the deep south that’s how it is there”. While these comments make me want to completely jump out of my skin I know primarily its due to ignorance, many people don’t know the truth behind Paula’s actions, and need to understand that this goes far beyond a word that is still hurtful and inflicts pain when used in certain circumstances. I will not debate the use of “N-word”, but I am frustrated at the media’s refusal to tell the complete story leaving viewers with a limited view of the truth.

So please journalist! Lets do our part and not just focus on the most “sensationalized” position of the story. We are reducing alleged racial employment practices to the use of the word “nigger”. Let’s tell the entire story, so that everyone can then make an informed decision with all the facts in hand.

Take a look at a piece that got it right!

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/dining/paula-deens-words-ripple-among-southern-chefs.html?pagewanted=all

Pay It Forward

My first “Notes From The Newsroom” surprisingly did not take place in the newsroom per se. However, it is centered around the journalists so that counts right?

[Note: All names and workplaces, and schools have been excluded to protect the privacy of all parties involved.]

A friend recently sent me a text saying:

“Do you want to hear something funny?….This girl emailed me at my work email and she says dear Ms.Williams…and she is asking me for freelance work or if she can shadow and says she’s attached her resume. So I’m looking at this email mind you this girl is 21 now and about to be a senior this year at [ college ]. She wants to be a journalist. So this girl sends me an email with a billion typos, not capitalizing the city of Atlanta and spelling stuff all wrong and not sending me the resume she said she attached. I’m like is she for real?! ”

My immediate response after laughing at how dramatic my friend was in her text message was, “You should give her some advice.”

And to that suggestion I received a very interesting response which I think not only journalists but everyone in the workforce struggle with at some point in their career.

My friend said she would indeed give her advice, but at the same time, this industry is so competitive should she do anything at all?

I took this question to imply that since we are in this competitive industry if she does not help this young girl isn’t that just one less person she has to worry about competing with? In all honesty that is a fair question, you do have to be on your A game at all times, and especially at 21, a college senior you should be able to format an email in a way acceptable manner. So is it really up to her to teach this girl what it is assumed she should already know?

My response read as such:

“Honestly. That’s up to you. I personally never had that mind set. If a job is for me then I’ll have it. I don’t worry about other people competing with me. Somewhere along the line someone offered you help. Pay it forward.”

I believe this wholeheartedly. There have been times when I did not necessarily bring my “A-game” or perhaps was not prepared for certain circumstances due to my own ignorance or lacking of knowledge on how to handle the situation. Yet, there was someone to pull me to the side, and be frank and honest with me to let me know what I can do to improve. Of course this doesn’t always happen, I’m sure a few of my resumes have been tossed in the trash or I was immediately dismissed for an error. Yet, I’ve been blessed to have a number of people take an interest in me and wish to see me go further, that they took the time out to discuss with me steps to become better. I cherish those moments, and can only hope that if I was able to help someone in the same manner, they would do the same for the next in need.

Pay it forward.