Monday, March 8, 2010

Women of Color: Are You Loosing Your Hair To Get “Good Hair”?

This weekend; my wife and I watched “Good Hair” starring Chris Rock. In the movie Rock visits beauty salons, hairstyling competitions, science labs and India to get various perspectives on the hair weave industry. He also interviews a bevy of celebrities, salon owners and their clients.

At first I thought this was just another low budget “let’s watch this because nothing else is good out” movie but I was wrong—the movie was actually entertaining and enlightening. It also got me to thinking. Here are just a couple of tidbits I picked up from the movie:

  • Black hair care is a $9 billion industry.
  • 30% to 34% of all hair products in the U.S. are purchased by black women. And weaves, worn by women of all ethnicities but especially by black women, account for 65% of hair-care revenue!
  • The hair comes from a variety of sources: India, Asia, Russia, Brazil, Mongolia and Malaysia.
  • There are only a handful of black hair care product manufacturers—most are international conglomerates.
  • Korean vendors have cornered the market on the sale and distribution of hair weave through their beauty shops.

But I bet there’s something you didn’t know… and it wasn’t discussed in the movie. Did you know that your quest for good hair could be contributing to a rising health problem among African American women? Well it is and it’s called traction alopecia.

What is Traction Alopecia?

Traction alopecia is loss of hair—most commonly in the outer regions of the forehead and face—caused by excessive pulling of the hair. Has your beautician ever mentioned this risk?

What Causes Traction Alopecia?

Traction alopecia is caused by damage done to the hair follicle by continual pulling and tight tension for very long periods to the hair. It occurs in people who wear tight braids, especially dreadlocks that lead to pulling, tension and breaking of hair. Of note, many men suffer from this problem too. In addition chemical processing of your hair can cause traction alopecia that can be irreversible if prolonged damage has occurred.

This type of hair loss has been on the rise among black women and children. Yes kids, the movie “Good Hair” asked several women how young were their children when they first braided their hair—one woman said her child was three! I believe on of the beauticians said a mother asked her to add extensions to and braid the hair of a two-year-old! How young was your child when you first had his or her hair braided?

What Are The Treatment Options?

Much of that depends on how long the problem has been going on. If you’ve had this problem for a long period of time your only option may be a hair transplant. Your Dermatologist may also try Minoxidil (Rogaine) or Finesteride. But I believe the best option is to opt out of this hairstyle. I mean, is it really worth you loosing your natural hair?

This issue has really hit home in my family—my wife has just been diagnosed with this disease.

“A women’s hair is her glory” or so the old saying goes. This is a disturbing trend that’s perfectly preventable—just wear your own hair. After all, do you want to look like this?

traction alopecia

How about it; are you suffering from this disease?

How are you dealing with it?

What treatment option(s) have you tried?

Have you had success with any particular dermatologist?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Long Can The Black Middle Class Last?

Americans, and I mean all Americans, are in the midst of some of the worst economic times since The Great Depression. We are all struggling in some form. That's why I think it is so intriguing to find conversations taking place about the black middle class. Usually, all most Americans hear about when the media does cover African-American economic issues is their supposed use of entitlement programs. But, many of us are not receiving any type of government assistance--not yet anyway. It is also important to note that CNN is not the only media outlet taking African-American economic issues head on. Penn State has a great dialogue going on entitled, "Conversations: The Black Middle Class."

Which begs the question, just how are you doing? Are you doing better under an Obama administration? Have you benefited from any of the Stimulus funds? Will the black middle class fade with the manufacturing industry, particularly the big three auto makers (even though Ford just posted a profit for the second quarter).

And while you're figuring out what you're going to say, and please say something, here are a few facts for 'ya. Hey, you know I couldn't let you read without learning something!

  • A new study of 401(k) plans has revealed that black and Hispanic workers save significantly less for retirement and tap into their accounts more frequently than white and Asian employees.
  • data collected by the Federal Reserve shows that minorities are most at risk of damaging their financial futures due to poor credit card management. African American households, in particular were shown to spend larger percentages of their incomes paying credit card and other high interest rate debt, heading closer to foreclosure bankruptcy while enriching lenders.
  • Because of their dependence on non-standard loan agreements, African-Americans are still the most vulnerable ethnic group to foreclosures.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Free Eric Frimpong!

eric frimprong playing soccer Brothers, sisters and all those who hunger for justice; I would like to take a moment to fill you in on a tragic court case that took place in Santa Barbara California—the case of Eric Frimpong.

A rising soccer star at California’s UC Santa Barbara; a year later he became a campus hero while leading the Gauchos to their first-ever national championship. But in 2007, just weeks after being selected by the Kansas City Wizards in the MLS draft, he was accused of raping another student on the beach near his house. Now he's a convicted felon serving a six year sentence in the State Prison. I urge you to read Sam Alipour’s (ESPN Magazine) excellent coverage of the case .


And, if like me you feel justice was not served, write Santa Barbara District Attorney Christie Stanley and let her know you are aware and that you care! Click the following link.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Memorialized Today @ Issue: What Did We Learn From Michael Jackson?

Today the world witnessed the memorial of Michael Jackson, one of the greatest entertainers of all time. I wonder; what did we learn?

Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." All his life, all Michael wanted was to be loved as a person and respected as an artist. What did we learn from Michael's example? His Life? His Success? His Failures?

Did we learn to love each other, even in our differences?

Did we learn that all the money in the world doesn't matter if you don't surround yourself with positive people?

Did we learn about the awesome responsibility of being a parent?

Did it change your thoughts or cause you to think more about child abuse and its prevention?

Did we learn about human nature and those who would enable us to do what we want--even if its bad for us?

Did we learn to take care of ourselves?

What did you learn? What would you like to say to the family? What do you think about his life, his issues, and yours?

I hope you learned to share--your testimony just might save a life.

“Ebonic” Transformers — Offensive or Oft Realistic?


I've been waiting to talk about this one until I was sure most of you had a chance to see the movie “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Apparently, some folks find two of the characters, Skids and Mudflap, tow twin robots disguised as compact cars offensive. Why? Because they speak Ebonics and one of them has a gold tooth—one can’t read.

Racial stereotypes have been a part of the media since its inception. Starting in the 1915 with “The Birth of a Nation” where blacks were depicted as thieves, coons, untrustworthy, decadent, servants with dominant mammies. Even back then, concerns over black stereotypes existed: The Independent Black Filmmakers were formed and produced “The Birth of a Race” as a counter to the film. The 1930s continued to see the popularity of Blackface in movies. The period of Sixties through the Seventies marked the era of "blaxploitation” films showing black characters as overly macho, overly violent, overly sex crazed, hood heroes fighting each other, the man, and just about everything in between. And even to date, movies, television, and radio are marked by the stereotypical rendition of black folk as neurotics, religious zealots, criminals, gang members, gangster rappers or athletes. And in 2005 who could forget Ja-Ja Binks of Star wars? Point is the media has always had a fascination with and disdain for African American culture, then and now. And, this love hate relationship will probably continue. So is there an issue here?

Fact is these folk exist in our community (as in all others by the way). So should we, as African Americans, get upset when these behaviors are shown? After all, I didn’t hear of anyone getting upset with any African American comics portrayal of black folk. Do any of you out there not think that Fat Albert, Mudbone, Sheneneh, Jerome, Professor Clump, and Wanda are some of the funniest and true to life characters in history?

So here’s what I think. Wouldn’t it just be better for more African Americans to do better (eat right, attend school, marry, work, save, and own businesses)? When more of us do that fewer of us will be offended and these characters will have less relevance.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Should You Fear Drug Dealers? Perhaps. But Did You Know You May Be Your Child’s Pusher?

The recent death of Michael Jackson has served to highlight many things that should be addressed in American society: child abuse, mental illness and drug abuse to name a few.  This is not to say that Jackson suffered from any of these maladies, but some of the circumstances in his life and death served as a catalyst to allow discussion of these critical issues.  For instance, Jackson’s family and close friends speculate that his death was caused by possible prescription drug abuse of painkillers, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. 

According to a recent article by Jill Harris, Managing Director of Public Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance,’…deaths from drug overdoses have been rising and have reached crisis levels in our country. A newly-released report by the Drug Policy Alliance documents the extent of the problem: drug overdose is now the second-leading cause of accidental death in America, surpassing firearms-related deaths. And it's not just young people who are dying of overdoses: overdose is the number-one injury-related killer among adults aged 35-54.”

Also of note, this crisis isn't only about illegal drugs, the greatest number of people dying from accidental overdose are those who use legal prescription drugs (typically painkillers called opioids) which can include both opium-derived drugs like morphine and codeine, and synthetics like Percodan, Percoset, Oxycontin and Vicodin.  These drugs are also those most often used by young people to get high.  According to the U.S. government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription painkillers rank second behind marijuana as the nation’s most common illegal drug problem.  And in 2005, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that 48 million Americans aged 12 and older (or 20 percent of the U.S. population) have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in their lifetimes.

Now, where do you fit into this equation?  By not taking drugs as prescribed by your doctor, not monitoring the whereabouts of these drugs in your home, not storing them properly, and not disposing of them properly and in a timely manner.  Following are a few things you can do.

  • Safeguard all prescription medications in the
    household. Remove them from the medicine
    cabinet and place them out of reach of children
    and teens.
  • When a family member receives a prescription,
    ask the doctor or pharmacist if the medication
    has the potential for abuse. Keep control of
    all medications.
  • If your child must take a prescription during
    school hours, arrange for them to receive it from
    the school nurse. Make sure that all unused
    medication is returned to you.
  • Ask the pharmacist how to safely dispose
    of unused medications.  Do not flush them down the toilet! The US EPA has deemed flushing expired medications-otherwise known as PPCPs (pharmaceuticals and personal care products) in domestic sewage systems as the "least desirable way to dispose of any drug." According to the EPA, "If you throw your PPCPs down the drain or flush them down the toilet, and if your home is connected to a municipal sewage system, some of the PPCPs would typically be discharged into lakes, rivers, or oceans, because most waste water treatment plants are not designed to remove or destroy PPCPs from wastewater." Several studies by various municipalities have confirmed that domestic septic systems (water treatment plants) do not destroy or remove PPCPs.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why Today’s Supreme Court Ruling In Favor of “The New Haven 19” Could Turn The Clock Back On Minority Economic Gains

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of 19 white fire fighters and one Latino fire fighter in their lawsuit against the city of New Haven Connecticut. The case stems from a 2004 lawsuit filed by white firefighters who passed an exam for a job promotion only to have the test results thrown out because no African-American candidate received a high enough score to also be considered for promotion.

City officials said they wanted to add diversity to the management ranks within the fire department. But when no blacks and only two Hispanic applicants qualified for consideration for the management jobs, the city decided to scrap the entire test. So the white firefighters sued charging that the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against them solely because they were not black—the court agreed.

While the Supreme Court’s ruling might help fuel conservatives´ opposition to supreme court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (as today's decision in Ricci v. DeStefano ruled against an earlier ruling Sotomayor upheld as an appellate judge) I fear this case will have a wide-ranging negative impact on anti-discrimination employment—especially in Government which has traditionally been a bastion for minority economic development. Think about the “good jobs” of the past: teachers, postal workers, city workers, county workers, and Federal workers. The only equal for minorities were factories and the mills. Now look at today, those factory and mill jobs have all but dried up, making Government employment all the more important for minority economic parity. If affirmative action programs are abandoned and Government goes the way of cooperate America, fewer minorities will be hired or promoted to high-level Government positions—regardless of how well they do on some “objective” test or process. How could I say this? More on why later, but first, some background.

The first reverse discrimination law suit reached the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970s when a white student named Allan Bakke accused the University of California medical school of twice denying him admission because he was white. In their decision, the Supreme Court ruled that strict racial quotas were unconstitutional but affirmative action was not. In the years to follow, the cases continued to mount, especially as minorities and women began to get climb the economic ladder.

In April of this year in South Carolina, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued a historically black college on behalf of three white faculty members who complained they were forced from or denied jobs because of their race.

Simultaneously, federal officials reached a settlement agreement with Benedict College paying $55,000 to each instructor, including an art teacher who said she was denied promotion in favor of a black professor.

And there have been other Governmental cases:

Michael C. Ryan v. Norman Y. Mineta (FAA). On October 6, 2004 -- after nine years of litigation and hearings, Federal Judge John W. Bissell found that the FAA had, in fact, illegally discriminated against white employee Ryan via the agency's zealous racial-quota hiring and promotion policies.

Larry Price v. HUD. The HUD St. Louis office denied promotions to Larry Price because he is white and male. Mr. Price won in Jan. 2002.

Joseph Ray Terry vs. EEOC. EEOC found guilty of reverse discrimination! White EEOC employee wins lawsuit.

Diersen vs. U.S. GAO. U.S. General Accounting Office discriminates against its older employees, especially those who are white and male! Lawsuit pending for discrimination and retaliation. Agency downsizing disproportionately affects older, white males. (UPDATED 12/17/04)

IRS found guilty of reverse discrimination and retaliation against employees! (Updated 04/22/99)

FAA -- Air agency rejects highly qualified, disabled, white veteran DeWayne Currier. FAA says air safety is less Important than skin color. (Updated 12/30/98)

INS Fires Disabled Jewish Woman. In Caryl Leventhal v. Janet Reno; Caryl B. Leventhal worked for the Immigration and Naturalization service (INS). Caryl is white, she is Jewish, and she has multiple sclerosis. Black INS employees insulted and discriminated against Ms. Leventhal for her race, religion, and medical condition.

Yet, there were no major rulings to Governmental affirmative action programs—until today. Why is this so important? I would dare to say that the Government (County, State, and Federal) is by far the principle provider of higher paying jobs and advancement opportunities for minorities. According to the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Government’s rate of employment of all minorities ranged between 29 percent in 2001 to 32 percent in 2006—far above minority population levels. If these opportunities are lost due to a “fairness issue,” it could set minorities back 100 years. Many conservatives argue to the contrary.

Whites, especially white males, say that affirmation action is no longer necessary and that instead of leveling the playing field for minorities, it unfairly punishes whites. Let’s examine this argument. First, I challenge the idea that affirmative action unfairly punishes whites and does not level the playing field. I would agree if it weren’t for one simple fact: the “old boy” network and “white privilege” still exists. Are whites being unfairly punished? Some…maybe. The majority of CEO’s are white, the majority of business owners are white. Time and time again studies have revealed that whites receive better treatment from everything to loans to catching a cab. So, while some whites may not get the job they think they deserve, this is not the norm for them—for minorities, it is.

And here’s something to think about. Could it be that the election of the nations first African American President will only strengthen the dismantling of affirmative action? My answer, could be. It’s exactly because you now have an African American President and Republican Party Chairman—both firsts the history of this nation. You also have a good number of African American professionals. Because of this, some would argue that affirmative action is obsolete. You also have a President who’s big a advocate of personal responsibility and has called loudly for the same saying Government can not and should not do it all. How will he be balance these proclamations with the needs of minorities in a still racially divided America? and still be the President for all the people?