No.3 November 7, 2000
The Body Politic
GIRLZ ~ Mfon Essien
ESOTERIC ~ Email and Women
CHICA TO CHICA ~ Creating A Spiritual Life &
My body may look like a lean, mean fighting machine,
but in reality I cant even touch my toes without bending my knees.
When I tell people that I need to start working-out again to get back in
shape, I rarely get any love or sympathy. Folks just naturally assume that
because I rock a size 6 dress that I must have Janet Jackson abs, good cholesterol
levels and can breeze through my Tae Bo video without breaking-out in a
sweat. And these folks would, naturally, be wrong. Im about to be
outta the twenty-something age bracket and realize now more than ever that
being fit is more than a notion. It is a lifestyle discipline that requires
me to not only work my body, but to exercise my mind and spirit as well.
Like my Latina and Indian sisters, and most other women of color, I never
really got twisted over my body image. Growing-up as a black female, having
a big booty and being thick was a sign of beauty and good health.
Ironically its probably that mind-set which has made me so laxed about
developing healthy habits around exercise now as a young woman.
Our bodies have also become a part of this very politically charged season
where we cannot escape the reality to be proactive or be unheard. We cannot
simply say we want the best for ourselves and not vote. Too much is riding
on this election including the right to choose, affirmative action and quality
healthcare, particularly for women. Lets examine the issues at stake
and begin our mental and physical revival by making all the right choices.
As successful, young urban women we owe it to ourselves and to the future
of our well being.
creative and groundbreaking
by Nicole Moore
Essiens Harlem apartment building is actually an old public school
buildingreinvested and renovated. Situated across the street from
a dilapidated public housing project and up the block from Magic Johnsons
fully-loaded, ultra deluxe movie theatre, her neighborhood reflects both
the promise and awkwardness of urban renewal.
Mfon, however, is no stranger to weird juxtapositions or to incongruent
developments. Born in Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria and raised in Baltimore, Maryland,
Mfons genius as a photographer is the way in which she blends edgy
shapes with soft gestures and delicate props (or vice versa). Having shot
scores of models and friends here and in her native Nigeria, Mfons
favorite photographic discipline has always been nudes. Her first portraits
usually featured men-- boyfriends who would always oblige Mfons
request to disrobe. Although Mfon thought the female body was more interesting,
she often found it difficult to find models: I always wanted to
shoot women, but I would run into women who were uncomfortable with their
bodies and I dont have time for that. When Im shooting its
already a test because I never know what Im going to get. So I dont
feel like being someones therapist-- telling them why I think they
have a great body. By her own admission, Mfon never really considered
her body very fascinating even though it was easier to manipulate and
a lot less stressful. But Mfon short for Mmekutmfon, which means, I
have seen the goodness of God, would experience an event that would
transform her life and the way she thought about her body and how she
In 1998 at the tender of age of 28, Mfon was diagnosed with terminal breast
cancer. She underwent a major mastectomy to remover the cancer. Considering
that women are not even told to get their first mammogram until they are
35, the shock of having breast cancer was enough to leave even the usually
tough spirit crippled. But Mfon knew that learning to live without her
left breast was going to be an experience she needed to accept. And like
many artists that find themselves at the crossroads of life, Mfon used
her art to make that important first step. I (photographed myself)
specifically to heal immediately and to get over the mourning. I was like
you dont have a breast and youre not having plastic
surgery anytime soon. So get it together and feel sexy today. Take these
pictures now! The process of shooting herself became her lie-on-the-couch-therapy-sessions:
Shooting my body made me so much more comfortable with my body.
I have way more confidence now.
In a weird twist of circumstances the resulting series of self-portraits
entitled, The Amazons New Clothes, have become what
many friends and critics believe to be Mfons best work. And according
to some, they believe it is also her most erotic. She is definitely
sexier now than before and you can see that in the photographs,
says her friend Suede whose work has appeared in a number of publications
including The Source and Trace.
Amazons New Clothes is a reference to the Hans Christian Andersen
tale, The Emperors New Clothes, and to the mythic Amazon Women Warriors.
The Amazon women were a community of strong, statuesque sisters that were
amazing marksmen. They were thought to be such precise archers because
they shaved off their left breast to have better leverage when they held
their bow and arrow. In fact these warriors were so satisfied with the
look and feel of their own skin that they were not even aware of their
Like these Amazonians, Mfons photos showcase her body as a wondrous
work of artsingle breast, scar and all. In what she refers to as
still lifes, Mfon leaves her taut, sinewy body exposed with
only a flower or garters for added depth or design. Whether she is wearing
a mask or her back is turned we never see Mfons face. In America
many people have a limited view of what they consider attractive and a
lot of this begins with whether they think the face is attractive. So
even if the gesture is beautiful, someone can deny that based on the models
face, she explains almost defiantly. Besides the scar there is very
little evidence of the ravages of chemotherapy. As a matter of fact the
last thing you think about is suffering or that this woman has had a mastectomy.
Mfon received an Honorable mention in this years very competitive
American Photography Magazine contest and her work was on exhibition this
past May at the Senegalese Bieenale in Dakar, Senegal . In February 2001,
The Amazons New Clothes will be featured in Committed to the
Image: A Half Century of Black Photography in America, at the Brooklyn
Museum of Art. She admits that she is more productive now and spiritually
feels better than ever. Im nothing like I was before I found
out I had breast cancer. Its wild because now its my second
year and I have come full circle. I have more reverence for life than
I ever have. I completely exist in the here and now. Im constantly
shooting myself so I can continue to appreciate what I have and where
I am. Maybe Ill get breast implants tomorrow and maybe I wont.
Maybe I will not even live past tomorrow. I just want to make sure that
wherever I am, I am totally diggin where I amnot mourning
or wishing I had a bigger ass. I just dont have time for that anymore.
I feel sexy now. And I never felt like that before.
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books, film, tv and websites
ten years of private practice, radiologist Larry Chespak, M.D., has accumulated
a great deal of insight into patients concerns and patient services,
including issues regarding quality and access that are prevalent in medical
environments heavily influenced by the financial constraints of managed
care. In December 1999 Dr. Chespak decided to put his money where his
heart was and he created iMammogram.com.
iMammogram.com is a website that provides secure, confidential and affordable
Computer Aided Detection (CAD) for the early detection of breast cancer
and related medical services to imaging centers and their patients.
Award-winning actress and breast cancer activist Whoopi Goldberg, the
sites most popular spokesperson has been on The View and Oprah stressing
the need for early detection. Putting her comedic side on the back burner,
Whoopi took a stand this past OctoberBreast Cancer Awareness Month,
to urge women of all ages to get a mammogram: "Why take the chance?
Spend the half hour, get the mammogram, double check it (with computer
technology) and live well."
Currently up to 21 percent of early stage breast cancers are undetected
through routine screening mammography. iMammogram.com offers a unique
service called the CloserLook that can help radiologists lower that percentage
rate. The CloserLook analysis acts as a second pair of "eyes"
on mammograms, identifying and marking any "regions of interest"
for your radiologist to (re-)check.
In addition to this service, the site also offers several other tools
and community based resources such as iNews, which features
the latest in breast cancer articles, news and information. My Health,
a new health records management section provides help in organizing personal
and/or family medical history in one convenient place, right from the
privacy of your home or office.
Check out Ask The Doctor, which connects women with prominent radiologists
and other physicians. Pose any question and they will try to reply via
email and/or through a post on the site, while iMammogram Resources provides
you with the latest information and tools in the fight against breast
~ Todd Wilson redefines our concepts of what makes for a sensitive
man as he is not only concerned with a womans physique, but also
with her physiology.
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bits and news bytes
is Changing Womens Lives
the past six
months, 9 million women have gone online for the first time. That is nearly
10% of adult women in the United States. Fully a fifth of all the women
who have Internet access (21%) have gotten it in the past half year.
The new arrivals have a different profile from longtime Internet users,
who more often are well-educated, well-paid men. Some 47% of the women
who recently got access to the Internet have no education past high school;
54% of them are between the ages of 30 and 50; 53% of them are mothers
of a child under 18; 54% of them have incomes of $50,000 or less.
Women are more likely than men, to seek health information and play online
games. They are also a bit more likely than men to seek religious or spiritual
information and hunt for material about new jobs.
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For Creating A Spiritual Life:
Doing It Yourself, For the Good of Self
by Angel Kyodo Williams
excerpt from the book Being Black:
Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace
True to the warrior-spirit, you have to honor your own intrinsic value
and protect yourself. Practicing good for yourself is both allowed and
encouraged. Your own healthfulness and well-being is critical in your
effort to master life. You have to tend to all aspects of your well-being--
physical, mental, psychic, emotional, and of course, spiritual. There
is no point in going out into the world broken and unbalanced. Everything
begins at home. This is not selfishness, it's common sense. Does it mean
that you have to be perfect before you step out the door? No. But it does
mean that looking into and tending to yourself is a necessary place to
start practicing good. Our responsibility towards others and ourselves
reminds us that any true personal transformation is an act of revolution.
Explore yourself and find the things that nourish you:
- Make art. Express your creativity regardless of whether or not you feel
you are an "artist."
- Nourish and protect your body. Choose healthful foods that have been
grown and produced in the best way possible.
- Stimulate your mind. Find new music that moves you.
- Pay attention to yourself. Go away for a weekend alone, or spend a day
- Wake your body up, exercise your lungs. Lift light weights, run, jog,
walk, or play any sport that requires you to get a little out of breath.
- Lighten your burden. Seek and ask for help when you need it or just
talk out your problems with a friend, family member, or therapist.
- Foster intimacy. Sit face-to-face with a person you care about for at
least five minutes. Without speaking, simply look into each other's eyes,
trace every line of their face. Let self-consciousness melt away.
- Honor what you love. Create an appreciation altar and adorn it with
pictures of people you love, mementos and trinkets from your life, flowers,
art, and objects you think are beautiful.
- Light candles and incense for no special reason. Reflect on where you
are going and how you are feeling.
- Invoke the power of sound and rhythm. Repeat special sayings, poems,
or sounds that feel good to you. Let these be your mantras or personal
Angel Kyodo Williams is the first Black female ordained Zen priest
(her given Buddhist name means way of teaching). The self-described
web diva is the publisher of eDharma.com and the founder of
the Urban Peace Project, a virtual non-profit initiative dedicated to
fostering peace in urban environments. For more info go to:
I still woman, with one breast gone?
Hanging around one man too long
Legs give into knees I cant locate
Was it my spirit you ate when I cooked you dinner?
I try-angles still the mirror is always square
Stare cross-eyed so sometimes I can see 2 of me
Laughing at myself
Crying for no one else
I am looking for the man in me
Trying to figure out why that second syllable
Was attached to my
Today my body has no room for visitors, freeloaders or lovers.
~ jessica Care moore is the owner of Moore Black Press, which she
established to publish her work and the work of other young Black poets.
She is the author of The Words Dont Fit in My Mouth
and the upcoming book, The Alphabet Verses the Ghetto.
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