Thursday, December 26, 2013

Beyonce and Michelle Alexander: N.I.C.E. Picks for 2013, Naturally!

So, it is the Christmas/holiday season. Let me begin by saying Happy Holidays to all N.I.C.E. readers. During this season emotions are usually running high and people are excited so in the midst of all that, Beyonce dropped an album, without fanfare in terms of marketing, and shut Itunes down, literally, in the process.  So I took the time to listen to portions of her new album, because some were arguing that it is a feminist manifesto.   After listening to portions of it with my daughter, I became so intrigued that I purchased the album and watched every video, during a series of my workouts.  My analysis is below, but before heading there, another piece that is seriously worthy of consideration was also released by Bill Moyers with Michelle Alexander: http://billmoyers.com/segment/michelle-alexander-locked-out-of-the-american-dream/

If you are willing to listen to and watch Beyonce's new release, surely a moment to listen to Michelle Alexander is equally warranted. I noticed something about these two women.  Both are on fire in terms of their work, both are committed and both are passionate.  I don't think anyone can argue that.  I also have to give Michelle Alexander praise for her natural hair because there seems to be a correlation between wearing it as such and consciousness.  Her work is about caring, knowledge of the issue she is addressing, which is mass incarceration in the United States with an emphasis on Black people due to the disparity between incarceration of Blacks and Whites, for the same crimes, and doing something about it now.  She is indeed an absolute powerhouse and her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, is enlightening: http://newjimcrow.com.  So if you haven't read this book, you are simply walking around without significantly important information.  I taught a full semester class about this topic, using her book as the text, so the analysis was full and complete.  She is indeed the N.I.C.E. political and activist pick for 2013.

As for the analysis of Beyonce, there is a great deal to consider.  First, the album Beyonce is verbally and visually (the videos), sexually provocative in terms of many of the pieces.  This, for some, is very problematic because many of her fans are young, some very young, and exposure to some of what Beyonce is speaking of and presenting is definitely not for young ears or eyes.  Personally, I don't want to see or hear about Beyonce's or anyone's intimate sex life because I think it's personal.  Perhaps what happens in your bedroom or car or wherever else you want to be with your man, should stay in that venue, between you and him.  But, as I have been told, not everyone feels that way.  Some people want to know and see as much as possible, so she shared, big time, with those who want to hear and know and see.   This is the case with Haunted, Drunk in Love, Blow, No Angel, Yonce, Partition, Jealous, Rocket and somewhat in XO.  So essentially, what can be gathered from these pieces is that Beyonce's work exhibits a sexual being, exhibiting the classic Jezebel archetype (info about this archetype is here: http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/jezebel.htm), which is an unfortunate categorical stereotype of Black women.  This is not a negative critique of the work per se, but a mere indication of the archetype she has chosen to present consciously or unconsciously.

It seems, however, that Beyonce's new album has to be considered as a body of work, not as individual pieces because it  provides insight into the range of a black woman, namely Beyonce, rather than one way of looking at her.  Yes, she is provocative and sexual and objectifies herself in this album, but she has more to say than that.  Pretty Hurts is her first piece in the album and it seems to explain how she ended up as a blonde, objectified Black woman who started out as a little Black girl with her natural locks flowing and ended up, at this point, as the complicated  being that she is now.  In terms of her physical appearance, this can be somewhat confusing for individuals observing her work.  First and foremost, she is an artist so there is a great deal of room for complexity in her work that some will perhaps embrace while others are offended.  That's what art should do.  It should allow you to interpret it as you will with only the artist knowing the truth about it that you struggle to understand in viewing the work.  Flawless, speaks volumes as she tries to explain that confusion exists in this society about what girls and women should aspire to.  Some say Beyonce, the album, is a Feminist manifesto. I disagree, with that but Womanist (discussed below) perhaps would be a better description. She states "we flawless" in the rough, harsh, intense environment in which she also  states repeatedly "I woke up like this."   This is definitely a statement to reckon with.  It exudes strength and power in its simplicity and in essence a sense of power that black women often feel but often have no venue to express it without being referred to as angry or "b's."  I found it interesting that she stated "bow down b's" and appears agitated, hard and tattered in this piece while clearly indicating "we flawless."  In Superpower, she takes a revolutionary posture.  She is covered, then uncovered, camouflaged and speaking of love in a very connected, intense way, which is above and beyond any sexual provocation.  Clearly, intense hugging, glancing and the holding of hands with a man is all that is needed to express love as she walks through burning, raging chaos.  Facing the harshest of circumstances, she speaks of that bond that cannot be broken.  It is communal, it is strong, it is fierce, it is looking into each others eyes, holding hands and knowing, "we got this" together.  That, in a sense is powerful, beyond the frivolity or intensity (depending on how you look at it)  that she exhibited in the sexually provocative pieces. Heaven and Blue are purely about motherhood.  The loss of the one who left is exhibited in Heaven and the gain of another is demonstrated in Blue, a tribute to her living, breathing baby.  If only every mother had the opportunity to express the love for her first born, and all their subsequent children, in this way, the world would be a greater place. Every child could benefit from a public testament of her mother's love for her/him although the private sentiments generally serve us well.  Blue is the lucky one for the creation of this piece, even if no one else gets it.

The N.I.C.E. pick of the album,  is Grown Woman.  Why?  Because she takes us back to the natural and evolving Beyonce...when she was a little girl.  We see her at various points and that the energy that we see in her now, was in her as a child, naturally.  Her hair tells it all, as a little girl.  In terms of her hair, it was naturally untamed and free.  The braids, she wears as a teenager in which we see African styled Beyonce, indicate the style at the time but also that she was willing to embrace it.  In I'm A Grown Woman" she tells the world with, African interpretive dance movements that hark back to the continent without a doubt, that "I'm a grown woman, I can do whatever I want."   She then sits next to her mother and then with the babies at the end, looking regal.  There is something about being grown woman that can do whatever we want, in a patriarchal society.  It's complicated and in this piece, to simplify it, she just left men out completely.  She has already let men know in many of the prior pieces that I want you, I need you, I aim to please you and more, but at the end of the day she ends with "I'm a grown woman, and I can do whatever I want."   It is this final piece that leads to the perspective that in its totality, the artistic compilation by Beyonce is a Womanist venture either consciously or unconsciously. Her choice of a feminist, to speak in her work, is therefore relevant as feminism is a component of womanism. As coined by Alice Walker, another amazing Black woman,  the definition, in part, of a womanist is:

From womanish.  (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.)  A black feminist or feminist of color.  From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “you acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman.  Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior.  Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one.  Interested in grown up doings.  Acting grown up.  Being grown up.  Interchangeable with another black folk expression: “You trying to be grown.”  Responsible.  In charge. Serious.

2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually.  Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength.  Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually.  Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female.  Not a separatist, except periodically, for health.  Traditionally a universalist, as in: “Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige and black?” Ans. “Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented.”  Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

3. Loves music.  Loves dance.  Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness.  Loves struggle. Loves the Folk.  Loves herself. Regardless. 

4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.

Beyonce and Michelle Alexander, you are the N.I.C.E. Picks for 2013, Naturally!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Natural Hair Braiding A Crime: Say It Isn't So!

When I was a young woman, I was trying to figure out how to wear my hair naturally.  I had made a firm decision that I would never put a perm in my hair again, as my mother required out of concern that not to do so would be a hindrance to me, professionally.  I was sick of the burning and the chemicals and the entire notion of looking at myself in the mirror, knowing that I had altered my hair, with products made by individuals who were profiting from telling me through advertisements and the images on their product packaging that my hair wasn't beautiful the way it grew out of my scalp.  I was not accepting of the fact that as I was becoming more educated, I was being told that if I didn't relax my hair, I wouldn't get a job.  It always seemed odd to me because I don't like being told to relax or calm down because it is a sign that the person saying it to me is believing that I am agitated and riled up.  If I am agitated and riled up, it is because I need to be and therefore, your telling me to relax most likely is not welcomed.  So telling me to relax my hair is also a problem, when it is beautifully calm and natural in a wonderful state of curliness or rightfully agitated standing out relentlessly fierce, as it grows out of my scalp.  Therefore, calling these products relaxers is a definite concern.  So the definition of relax is: to make or become less tense or anxious.   Natural hair is definitely not tense or anxious so it does not need a relaxer.  Who came up with that name anyway for hair product?  The other term is a perm, which is short for permanent and is a term used to describe breaking and reforming the bonds of the hair through the use of chemicals.  So without further ado, there is nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, that is natural or permanent about the so-called perm.  If it is permanent, then why does one have to go and pay someone money for a touch up or a new perm, very often?

So, that brings me to the notion of trying to take what is natural and demeaning it and also criminalizing it.  To go down this road,  let's get to braiding and my initial story started above.  I wanted to learn how to take care of my hair naturally so I traveled from Queens to Harlem to a braiding shop.  In this shop were women from the continent of Africa, namely Senegal, but also other countries in West Africa, braiding hair.  It was fascinating!  When they braided my hair, there were two women on my head.  I immediately recognized that I was looking at a skill that was not unfamiliar to me.  My mother used to braid my hair when I was very little and before I was old enough for a perm (there were no Kiddie perms then).  She also used to cornrow it, which was braids very close to the scalp, in rows.  I used to love those braids so much.  So here I was seeing it again but they were adding hair to my existing hair.  Some argue that this is not natural enough because you are adding hair. But unlike straight weave, the skill of braiding is an African technique that goes back historically to the continent with validity as a natural style because of its  intricacy, relevance and meaning.  Check out links one and two below to understand the African history of cornrows and braids in general. Of course these are just glimpses but a little time researching will lead you to the same conclusions.

1. http://csdt.rpi.edu/african/cornrow_curves/culture/african.origins.htm

The  history of African braiding dates back to the continent of Africa, before colonization and before the enslavement of Black people in the U.S. at which time Black people were taught to hate their hair and it was referred to in derogatory terms and deemed unprofessional by the mainstream.  So N.I.C.E. embraces African styled braids based on a historic precedence of African history, culture and beauty.   Now again, back to my story.  I came home and told my mother that I wanted to braid hair.  She told me to go and get one of my dolls that she had in storage and try it. She got packaged hair for me and I tried braiding my dolls hair.  It came to me pretty easily. I then asked her how come I was able to do  this so easily and she said to me, "it's in your hands baby."  I knew then, that this woman of few words in explaining things, was telling me that it was part of my lineage, my history and that it came naturally to me.  I picked up braiding for awhile and did my own hair and that of others before and during my pursuit of higher education all the way to my doctorate. I have been wearing my hair natural for a substantial part of my adult life, ultimately deciding on locks having had them now for 22 years and counting. I have worn  braids or locks in entry level positions,  as a President and CEO, Vice President, Consultant and Professor...in short, my natural hair has never been a problem for me professionally. 

Now, there is a Black women in Texas whose name is Isis Brantley, who was arrested for braiding hair.  The story is here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/isis-brantley/hairbraiding-license_b_4086368.html and also here on NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=243476281.  As shocking as this may seem, she was arrested for Braiding hair and teaching others to do so and will now file a federal lawsuit to fight this situation. Her school is entitled the Institute of Ancestral Braiding. Isis, fight hard for your right to braid and to freely teach others to do so.  You represent an understanding of a great African tradition and that you have a skill that represents a possibility for entrepreneur based income for Black women. For many Black women, this skill comes naturally with the need for very little or perhaps no training at all at or maybe mere guidance. It is wonderful that you are there to assist Black women who want to pursue this.   I now say to you Isis, what my mother once said to me "It's In your hands, baby!" and to me that was her way of knowing, deep within and my way of knowing that if she were alive today she would understand that Natural Is Cool Enough and that of course, is N.I.C.E.!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Black Hair Perming/Relaxing Products Sales on the Decline: A Sign of Natural Hair Progress!

The American economy continues to suffer, as evidenced by the fact that one of America's major cities, Detroit, has gone bankrupt and is short in terms of pension money and planning to cut pensions from people who earned them and the third largest city in America, Chicago, is also experiencing pension deficits and other financial problems.  Although these are only two examples of financial woes, there are many others including high unemployment, particularly in the Black community, increasing numbers of people needing food stamps (also known as SNAP) to eat, low wages, steadily increasing percentages of children in poverty and homelessness all around us.  Hence, it makes sense that folks are counting every dime and deciding what is necessary and what is not in terms of purchases. All of this leads to a very interesting point,  which is that less money is being spent on hair relaxing/perming products by Black women.  Does this mean that more Black women are going natural in terms of their hair styles?  Honestly, it is hard to say because besides perm as an option for not wearing one's hair naturally, Black women are also wearing weave.  Unfortunately, there is no data, at least that I could find, as to whether the wearing of weave has declined, which is quite expensive.  As for relaxers/  perms and Black women,  there is an interesting story on this issue from which you will find quotes below (source: http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/beauty-and-personal-care/hairstyle-trends-hair-relaxer-sales-decline)

The first quote from the article  states:

But new research from Mintel reveals that natural may be the new normal in Black haircare, as relaxers account for just 21% of Black haircare sales and the sector has declined 26% since 2008 and 15% since 2011 when sales reached $179 million—the only category not to see growth.
Mintel’s research estimates the relaxer segment will reach $152 million this year, down from $206 million in 2008. Furthermore, in the past 12 months, nearly three-fourths (70%) of Black women say they currently wear or have worn their hair natural (no relaxer or perm), more than half (53%) have worn braids, and four out of 10 (41%) have worn locks.
The article goes on to attribute this decline to Natural hairstyles per the following quote: 
The natural hair trend is driving an increase in sales of styling products such as styling moisturizers, setting lotions, curl creams, pomades, etc., but the increase has caused the relaxer segment to decline in sales,” says Tonya Roberts, multicultural analyst at Mintel. “A look at expenditures from 2008-2013 shows steady growth in the Black haircare category for all categories except relaxers/perms.”
So the question that arises is whether or not we can truly attribute this decline in sales to more women wearing their hair naturally.  It seems logical as it may be due to enthusiasm and recognition of the beauty of wearing one's hair naturally as it grows out of one's scalp.  As mentioned above, it may also be attributed to economics.  There is no doubt that Black women who wear their hair naturally tend to buy lost of products as they figure out what to do with their hair in terms of style, but once Black women get in touch with the feel of their natural hair again, start coming up with beautiful natural hair styles and getting compliments galore, the need to try all different types of products and spend massive amounts of money doing so, begins to slow down.  Black women get into the groove of their natural hair, figure out what works and many begin to make their own products from natural oils, etc. that are in their home or cheap to buy. 

In a nutshell, moving towards one's natural hair is the best way to go economically as cutting down on wasteful spending on products that are bad for your hair because they are comprised of harsh chemicals and that change the essence of who you are, is definitely not progress.  So the conclusion of N.I.C.E. is that if there is a decline in the purchase of perming/relaxing products by Black women, no matter the reason behind it, definitely that is Natural Hair Progress!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Is Natural Hair Big Business?: Black Enterprise Magazine says Yes!

In the midst of financial crises and the reality that the racial wealth gap continues, one area of business that is thriving is Natural Hair Care for Black women.  Recently while watching the Melissa Harris-Perry Show I noted that her guests had natural styles, including afros and braids galore.  Every black woman on her show had their hair styled naturally including the host. In most commercials that I have seen recently, when a Black woman was in it, her hair was natural.  The same is the case for billboards, magazines and internet ads, moreso than in the past. So what is happening?   According to Black Enterprise magazine there is an increasing popularity of natural hairstyles amongst Black women.  Consequently, there is a boom in the development of natural hair product businesses, which is enabling Black woman to cash in.  Some of the players in the natural hair care market are Hair Rules (www.hairrules.com), which is sold in Target,  Jane Carter Solutions (www.janecartersolution.com) also sold in Target and Whole Foods, Shea Moisture (www.sheamoisture.com) sold in CVS, Bed Bath and Beyond and Target, Talia Waajid's Natural Hair Products (www.naturalhair.org) and Urban Therapy Twisted Sista (twistedsista.com), as examples.

Also, there are many blogs about natural hair, including N.I.C.E, books, You Tube videos and more.  Black women are beginning to realize that the hair that grows out of their scalp is naturally beautifully and does not need to be covered up with someone else's hair, literally.   Yes, one may buy hair and hence say it is theirs but the reality is that it is not!  Wearing hair from Indian (or other) women's heads that is glued on via a lace front weave or sewn in is an option that many women choose.  Some say it is a fashion statement and others say it is a protective style. Some argue that braiding in hair is also not natural but there is some debate on that since that particular practice was historically and still is very common in Africa, so it has historical precedence.  No matter the reason, the good news is that natural hair styles are back and opportunities are arising for Black people to benefit financially from their hair rather than others who are making money through selling Black women on the belief that there natural hair is not beautiful.  Do note that businesses from outside of the Black community are beginning to recognize that natural hair has big business potential  and are developing products, selecting models, developing ads, hiring television personalities etc. who are rocking natural hairstyles. Therefore, N.I.C.E. is recognizing, along with Black Enterprise Magazine, that Natural Hair is Big Business!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

For Art Basel Miami 2013, Natural IS Cool Enough was Part of the PULSE!


Today, with some hesitation, as I was very interested in experiencing a lazy Sunday, I headed out with my husband to experience the new museum in Miami entitled the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and then the Contemporary Art Fair, PULSE, both part of Art Basel Miami 2013.  They were wonderful!  I had no expectations for either as I am a New Yorker and have been exposed to such a substantial level of art that often times, I am let down only to have had my expectations met, besides New York City, in Paris and some museums in China.  But, I must say that PAMM holds its own. The exhibits at PAMM were interesting, entertaining and compelling.

PULSE Miami was equally enjoyable.  This event was curated beautifully with wonderful pieces and truly exhibited that Natural Is Cool Enough based on a number of the pieces, which are below. I enjoyed these exhibits and so many others immensely knowing that within the midst of all of the fantastic pieces shown, there were artists who recognize the beauty of natural hair and that is indeed N.I.C.E.!

Although Art Basel ended today and PULSE will be heading to other cities, PAMM is in Miami to stay.  You may want to check it out if you're in or visit Miami.  I will be keeping a close eye on it to determine if pieces will be displayed in the future exemplifying that Natural Is Cool Enough.
That would be N.I.C.E.!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Jay-Z, Beyonce, Natural Is Cool Enough and Vegan: What is the Connection?

In my last post, prior to the piece that I wrote about Nelson Mandela, I promised to share the experience that I had when I decided to go vegan for a week with my husband.  It all started when we watched a film about the vegan lifestyle and why some make this choice.  I'm not going to get into that detail but suffice it to say that we considered all of the various reasons and decided that as homage to animals that have sacrificed their lives for us to eat them, we would, for one week, not eat any meat, eggs, fish, etc.  This decision was made by me and my husband so I headed to Whole Foods and purchased only vegetables, fruits and food designated for vegans.  I'm kind of a cheese-a-holic so what I really struggled with was not going to the gourmet cheese section to grab some gouda, lambchopper, or manchego, which are all my favorites. Instead, I focused on grapes, avocados, kale, veggie burgers, tofu and other foods, which fall into the vegan genre.

Surprisingly, yesterday, in the morning, I saw a short piece on television indicating that Jay Z and Beyonce are going on a vegan diet for 22 days (http://entertainment.time.com/2013/12/04/beyonce-and-jay-z-going-vegan/).  I think this is fantastic as I must say that being vegan was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  It was definitely easy to acquire vegan foods and everything was absolutely delicious.  I didn't miss anything terribly that I would normally eat but I did feel, at times, that I was placing a limitation on myself.  For example, if I wanted a piece of fish or meat, as a vegan, I would have to deny myself something I desired.  I do this all of the time because there are certain foods that I want but just will not eat because I have decided that my body deserves better.  I eat, in my home, absolutely organic. I am very conscious about every piece of food that I buy and I am aware of what is good for my body and what is not.  It is not about weight or meeting some kind of social norm but the idea that I love my body and appreciate it and under no circumstances do I want to do harm to it.  This love for my body guides my food choices. I never put anything in my car but what it needs to run optimally, so why would I do otherwise with my body? So I try to refrain from less than optimal food as much as possible in my life, which is most of the time, but I definitely have my moments otherwise.

As I went through the experience of being a vegan, albeit briefly, I also became more in tune with how I am caring for my natural hair.  I took a good hard look, again, at the products that I use and I felt and continue to feel proud about my choices.  Shea butter, henna, 100% natural oils and natural shampoos and conditioners are what I use, for the most part.  I realized that during the time that I was experiencing being a vegan I had a heightened awareness of my body.  I purchased a wonderful salt scrub with a natural oil base and used that for the entire vegan week.  I used this scrub on my face as well as several times a week and on alternate days I used either black soap from Africa or lemon juice for my face. I continued to drink a cup of hot lemon water, as I always do, every morning, before putting a morsel of food into my mouth.  All of these things led to my truly feeling good on the inside and the outside during our vegan week.  I even used flouride-free all natural toothpaste, which started well before our vegan adventure. All of these items will continue to be a part of my life, indefinitely.

So,  the bottom line is that I enjoyed being a vegan for a week.  It was refreshing and cleansing and created a greater sense of awareness regarding eating healthy and being natural inside and out. My locs received special attention during that week and that was definitely a bonus.   After the week, we decided not to remain as vegans but we definitely eat less meat and poultry. We eat a lot of green leafy vegetables, fish and tons of fruit and I went back to cheese, but minimally. We developed a greater appreciation and respect for the vegan lifestyle and of course, I keep it totally natural in terms of the products used on my hair and the rest of my body, for the most part. What the vegan experience taught me is that,  I think,  sometimes we have to stop, reflect and try something new.  I also felt that it was definitely cool to seriously take note of and reflect on the experience of animals that we consume.  I asked a lot more questions at Whole Foods about the rating system they use for the meat they sell in terms of how animals are cared for before they are prepared for consumption and when I do choose to eat meat or eggs, particularly when I buy it for my home, I pay attention to this because I believe it matters. At some point, I may become a vegan although I am not ready yet.  What I am ready for is an openness to the possibility and to learn more before and if I make this big leap.

Ultimately,  what we learned at the end of our vegan for a week adventure is that when it comes to food, your hair, your body, your teeth etc. there is no doubt that Natural Is Cool Enough, which is N.I.C.E.! So Jay-Z, Beyonce, Natural Is Cool Enough and Vegan equals, for a brief period in time, a connection around the notion that Natural Is Cool Enough.  I hope they too will share their experience.

Below are photos of some of our delicious food choices during that week, which we continue to love!
Quinoa:  Delicious!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A N.I.C.E. Tribute to Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013

Madiba, Nelson Mandela:  A True Champion For Freedom!

Nelson Mandela was a great man.  Clearly, this is a statement that can be made without a shred of hesitation. He languished in prison for 27 years, where he suffered for the reason of wanting equality for African people in South Africa during the time of apartheid. He was an anti-apartheid warrior and will always be remembered as such. The strength and courage that he exhibited provides one with a sense of marvel. He lived during a time in which such courage in the face of hatred and animosity was not commonplace. We know who he is because he stood out among men.  He did not stand out  because of his grandiose stature, as he was a very tall African man, but because of his  leadership. He exhibited leadership in ways that we no longer see even though grave injustices continue.  He also did so, ultimately, in peace and won the Nobel Peace Prize, which he surely deserved, and many other prestigious awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He is of the Xosa Clan and is often referred to by his clan name which is Madiba. Others refer to him as Tata which means "the Father" referring to him as the "father of the nation." He was born in 1918 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and ultimately became a Lawyer.  What many do not know is that he was also a boxer.  Maybe this helped to define him as a fighter although "the good fight" that he handled with grace and style was not with his hands but with his mind.  He spoke vehemently of the need for  political independence as a necessary goal for African people in South Africa, but his fight transcended that location and touched the hearts and minds of people all over the world.  I visited South Africa many years ago, with my family, and during that time we visited the Mandela House in Soweto, which is a historical site. We also visited Robben Island and stood in front of the cell where he was imprisoned and then we passed by his home in Johannesburg where he resided during present times.  It was an honor to travel throughout South Africa, always knowing that this is where Nelson Mandela along with Winnie and many others, fought for the freedom of African people .  I am so grateful that I  had that experience with my family.  The recall of it all now feels wonderful because we understood then who he was and we understand it now. I also recall being in Harlem when Mandela came there after he was released from prison.  It was in 1990.  It was amazing.  The streets of Harlem were filled with excitement.  It was a fantastic day of celebration and another moment where I can say, I am so grateful that I was in the right place at the right time with my family.

So in closing, it is my perspective that his legacy is that of a man who struggled for freedom, not just for himself but for his people.  He became the first Black President of South Africa which was an incredible feat.  He was loved and respected and now what we have left is the legacy of a great African Ancestor.  Let's remember him fondly as the African man, the human being that he was.  Let's remember his struggle but also his colorful shirts, the way he danced, the way he smiled, the way he fought and the way he showed us what an African leader looks like when he is at his worst and at his best and what an African leader IS in our lifetime.  N.I.C.E. salutes Nelson Mandela on this day knowing that he is going home.  December 5, 2013 will always be a day that we remember with sadness but also with pride.
Mandela's Home in Johannesburg

With my family at Mandela House in Soweto

Mandela's Cell on Robben Island

On Robben Island with my husband

A picture on Robben Island