No.13 September 26,
GIRLZ ~ Amina Lawal
~ Having It All (Veronica Chambers, author)
ESOTERIC ~ Ovarian Cancer
CHICA TO CHICA ~ Black Love
Don't call it a comeback just a lil' break to reorganize and retool. We've
been working on our site, which we expect to re-launch sometime this fall.
So, while we are still putting the finishing touches on the redesign of
theHotness.com-- look for our new, exciting book club, message boards, interactive
Hotness columns and more-- you can get back in the know with this exciting
and informative issue of theHotness.
So much is going on and Hot Girlz are abounding everywhere! In this issue
we have a very important feature on Amina Lawal-- the Nigerian sister accused
of adultery who, until yesterday, faced death by stoning. Also we have a
review of Veronica Chambers latest book, "Having It All," and
an insightful, personal look at the state of relationships between Black
men and women by writer Angela Ards. As you can see our cup runneth over
with news, politics, entertainment and the kind of intelligent, witty, rebellious
rant that Hot Girlz need to have, and love to have, with one another!
I look forward to sharing our new look with you and getting your feedback.
creative and groundbreaking
is it they hate like this? Where is the man who made my baby? I never
believed it could go on and on like this. I was sure they would see that
I do not deserve to be murdered. But they turn their eyes away every time.
They want to see a woman die." - Amina Lawal
Amina Lawal. Does the name sound familiar? Probably not. She's not gracing
the cover of any popular women's mag (they're too busy discussing why
men cheat and why the single ones won't marry). But you may be familiar
with Amina's story, which begins in March 2002 when she was first found
guilty of adultery following the birth of her daughter, Wasila, two years
after she divorced her husband. Judges rejected Amina's first appeal in
August 2002 and she was sentenced to a most barbaric and horrific punishment--
Amina would be buried up to her neck in sand and executed by stoning.
However, YESTERDAY, in Nigeria, the 32-year-old single mother had her
sentence overturned by an Islamic appeals court in a case that has sparked
international outrage. A five-judge panel rejected the sentence against
Amina, saying she was not caught in the act of adultery and she was not
given "ample opportunity to defend herself." Amina, who was
wrapped in a light orange veil, sat on a stone bench, eyes downcast, cradling
her nearly 2-year-old daughter as the ruling was announced at the Katsina
State Shariah Court of Appeals under heavy security. The judges read their
verdict, which is final, inside a tiny blue-walled courtroom equipped
with ceiling fans to ease the sweltering heat. If the sentence had been
carried out, she would have been the first woman stoned to death since
12 northern states first began adopting strict Islamic law, or Shariah,
Amina has identified her alleged sexual partner, Yahaya Mohammed, and
said he promised to marry her. Mohammed, who would also have faced a stoning
sentence, has denied any impropriety and had been acquitted immediately
for lack of evidence.
Amina is the second Nigerian woman to be condemned to death for having
sex out of wedlock under Islamic law. The first woman, Safiya Hussaini,
had her sentence overturned in March on her first appeal in the city of
Although Amina and Safiya were both acquitted, two others-- a pair of
lovers-- are still awaiting rulings against their sentences to be stoned
to death. As many of us already know, distraction is the greatest power
play, especially in the game of politics. So as we celebrate this victory,
let us remain vigilant and continue in the fight to save the lives of
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books, film, TV and websites
Having It All: Black Women & the Question of Success (Veronica Chambers,
does a Black woman spell success? Well according to writer Veronica Chambers,
I can spell it however I please. In her new book, "Having It All:
Black Women and the Question of Success," Chambers examines the variety
of balance beam maneuvers acted out by modern day Black women. Looking
at the growing population of stay-at-home mothers to the great swans of
Eartha Kitt and Josephine Premice, it seems that many Black women still
lose sleep wondering how to give our best at work, at home and to our
extended families. The profiles of these women are poignant and brutally
revealing and the questions raised are as relevant as ever: "Am I
a Black woman or a woman who is Black; Did I sacrifice a personal life
for career and educational success, forever to languish in the too-independent-for-my-own-good
single woman category; Am I alienating men or worse, becoming undesirable
to Black men; Do I care what race my mate is/will be; And how do I negotiate
the (economic) class I was born in versus the class I've matured in?"
Veronica begins by looking at Aunt Jemima-- who, by the way, she considers
to be the first Black woman celebrity. Throughout, she consistently interrelates
psychological studies and other analyses of the subject to present a well-rounded
perspective of the dilemma. The former New York Times editor writes in
the introduction: "What I set out to do is write something between
the great scholarly canon about Black women's lives and the fluffy sister-girl-friend-honey-Chile-please
advice books." This tandem allows the reader enough room to judge
As if peeking into Veronica's diary during this journey into self-awareness,
I read with anticipation, curiosity and with some familiarity. "Today's
young Black women don't feel a need to choose allegiance between race
or gender," declares the Panamanian intellectual. Suddenly I'm not
a voyeur, but a co-author of this hope journal. Veronica addresses so
many of the issues that I face now as a 30-something and have grappled
with since my 20's. Nodding with each page I turn, I recognized pieces
of myself in most of the profiles. "Having It All" is a very
large mirror that, in the end, only flatters despite our flaws. She spends
enough time with each of the women she profiles so that they gradually
feel like friends. Thelma Golden, a museum curator, Susan Fales-Hill,
the creator of Linc's, Cheli Figaro, a stay-at-home mom, and Amina Thomas,
a former member of a militant black revolutionary party are just some
of the women she interviews.
From the beginning, Ms. Chambers clearly states her intent is to look
primarily at the lives of middle and upper class African-American women.
She does not waste ink to apologize for her segmentation, but instead
she celebrates the accomplishments of these women by giving us permission
to spell success in big, bold capital letters and with no regrets.
Veronica Speaks to theHotness:
theHotness: Why just discuss the lives
of Black women? Aren't lower class sisters having similar experiences?
And what about Latina and Asian women?
Veronica Chambers: (Writer) Lorraine Hansberry once said that
to achieve the Universal, you have to pay very close attention to the
specific. That's basically the mantra of my entire writing career.
tH: The media, Newsweek specifically,
would have us believe that educated Black women are in such a pitiful
state-- having a huge glass ceiling to try and break, not having any well-educated,
financially stable brothers to marry, not having the time to support and
maintain meaningful relationships with our family and our girls, and the
list goes on. How much of this scenario affected the type of story YOU
wanted to tell?
VC: I very much wanted my book to
be a book about black women who are in transition, who are struggling
with some issues, but also who are living in joy. I think there are a
lot of (genuinely) happy women in my book.
tH: What was the most significant
discovery you made as a result of writing this book?
VC: I think the big discovery for
me was that really there are so many paths to happiness. What stays the
same, among women who lead fulfilling lives, personally and professionally,
is having the vision, patience and fortitude to stay on your road, once
you choose it.
~ AI is a documentary writer/producer living in Washington
DC. She is loving her 30's and all her blessings, even when they come
in unsolicited packages.
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bits and news bytes
is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. How much do you know about this form
of cancer? Here are some stats about the disease and how it has affected
women of color in the last 5 10 years. The key to beating ovarian
cancer is early detection, so make sure to see your physician at least
once a year!
- National statistics show that from 1990 to 1996, African-American women
had a lower incidence of ovarian cancer than either Latina women or Asian/Pacific
Islanders, but had higher death rates from ovarian cancer than either
of these two groups.
- African-American, Hawaiian, and Alaskan native women have overall cancer
mortality rates that are at least 40% higher than other minority populations.
- From 1991 through 1998 in our nation's capital, African-American women
represented two-thirds of all deaths from ovarian cancer, while far more
cases were diagnosed in Caucasian women.
~ From www.drdonnica.com
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I've noticed in myself, and among my peers, this growing desire, both
primal and political, to protest the destruction of our families. We feel
we've paid too high a price for an earlier generation's free love. "Family
time" has become our mantra as we see that the Reverend Jesse "It's
nation time!" Jackson is just somebody's babydaddy. Love is not all
that matters. But as bell hooks writes in "Salvation," her book
on black love, "Without an organized, mass-based, progressive, anti-racist
political movement, which we also need, it is all the more crucial that
our homes become sites of resistance." Revolution begins at home.
One weekend my man and I spend hugged up, reading to each other, raiding
the fridge, and talk-talk-talking until words are beside the point and
sex an afterthought. As a benediction to our weekend, we share a shower
and emerge late Sunday evening in search of food. For a hot minute we
fret this whiling away of days has been stereotypically lazy, of the eat-and-sleep
variety. It takes no time to realize that, in this era of black communities
beset by so much self-hate, black love is rare and radical. Giddy as we
are, we imagine Black Love Day-- a national holiday to celebrate black
families. Instead of boycotts, marches, mass-transportation shutdowns
so that white folks can see how much they need us, black people would
stay home and make love, as a reminder of how much we need each other.
Those just "kicking it," just "messing around," just
"trying to hit it" could use the day to consider something more
serious. The defacto polygamy that is so dangerously rampant (can we all
say HIV? HPV? STD?) would be urged to become more honest, consensual,
and safe; there are men and women who are down with open arrangements,
and they should hook up. Singles still waiting for that prince or princess
could practice self-care to develop the capacity to love and recognize
its arrival. Everybody would read Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes
Were Watching God," the consummate black love novel of a man and
a woman striving to live as equals, even as they sometimes falter in that
quest. So far, it's a private rather than a national agenda that we observe.
During one impromptu celebration, the talk-talk-talking reveals that my
love and I have the same wild fantasy: to share 50 years of marriage with
one person. Both of us just past 30, we're getting kind of old for this
to be a possibility, but it's not our age that makes us hesitant. With
healthy living, modern medicine, and lots of luck, it could happen. What
holds us back is that the evidence all around suggests that the odds are
against us. We fear that we've been so damaged by abandoning fathers,
abrasive mothers, that it's naïve to try for something lasting. We
don't want to mold our relationship to mirror traditions that don't serve
our realities. We rack our brains to name couples whose unions we admire.
The lack of viable paradigms and role models humbles us. Can we be so
arrogant to think that we can make love between black men and women work
when, besides Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, the couples around us largely
have not? Will we look the fool for trying? I guess time will tell.
It requires patience and undoing some damage. I don't want to be another
bitter black woman haunted by my father's absence or that man who opened
my heart only to leave scars. He doesn't want to be another bitter black
man still smarting from his mother's shortcomings or that woman who used
him. Nobly trying to be above it all means that the hostilities appear
as stories of friends who are struggling with no-count brothers and evil-ass
sisters. The misogynist rap lyrics he shares supposedly so we can both
concur that they're hateful feel like sly ways to vent anger toward women.
When he winces at my rants about the boys in the park who follow me around,
sharing unimaginative musings about the uses of my "fat black ass,"
I suspect I'm doing the same. We endure and embrace these eruptions of
unresolved history like labor pains, knowing that we are creating something
new, from scratch. There are no set roles. We play to our strengths and
pick up the slack. I cook the most, because it's relaxing and I enjoy
feeding friends, but he burns in the kitchen most regularly. He also washes
dishes, the chore I avoid like the plague, and takes the heavy lifting.
At times what looks like tradition is more personal sensibility. Like,
I have this drill that I bought myself and learned to use with passable
skill, but I'd rather not, and so still feel like a good feminist as he
installs the bookshelves. We say thanks a lot, which sounds kind of formal
but is actually very nice because it's a reminder that we're choosing
to love. Nothing is certain except change. But if any one should have
cause to ask, "Where is the love?" I feel, like black feminist
June Jordan, that I can respond with faith: "It is here, between
us, and growing stronger and growing stronger."
~ Angela Ards is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Black Love is
an excerpt from a previously published story which can be found in its
entirety at: Alternet.Org
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