Beyond Baby Bach

It didn't take long for our generation to realize that some babies have musical tastes that reach far past the classical confines of Baby Einstein. These brand new brainchildren of entrepreneurial parents are targeted towards tomorrow's (slightly more gentrified) hip hop heads:

Baby Loves Hip Hop
Baby Loves Music is about to drop their first kids hip hop album. Similar to their successful Baby Loves Jazz, Baby Loves Hip Hop will highlight the musical genre through characters. But instead of "Miles the Crocodile" and "Ella the Elephant", the new album will feature the "dino crew", including MC T-Rex and DJ Spinosaurus.Special guests artists are promised, not surprising given the creators are Philly natives who used to party with The Roots.

It's Hip Hop Baby
Televison producer Candi Carter's all new It's Hip Hop, Baby! has a suburban elementary school vibe that even edgy city mamas love – here's what Urban Baby had to say:"With an iPod full of Jay-Z and Chris Brown, you're not the kind of mom who's going to sit through slow, sappy versions of The Alphabet Song and Old MacDonald. You've updated everything else in your kid's life, from her sleek crib and high-tech stroller to her trendy toys and tees; now it's time to update her music too..."

Hip-Hop Mozart
And Children's label Hip Kiddy is planning to test the "Mozart Effect" by releasing Hip-Hop Mozart, a DVD of children performing Mozart compositions mixed with "gentle fresh" Hip-Hop beats, aimed at babies and children. As reported by All Hip Hop:"...The music DVD contains special features such as a sing-a-long section, an arts and crafts portion and a bonus soundtrack CD with 60 minutes of educational entertainment. Hip-Hop Mozart is due in stores in December."


Isn't it About Time For a Black Wiggle?

I just found out that Greg from the Wiggles will soon be leaving the group.

Although the reasons aren't specific, I believe it's mostly for health reasons. It's such a shame – he's only 34 years young and was one of the founding members of the million dollar kids phenomenon. Their tunes were frequently heard in our house when J-Jo was a young toddler. I never understood why they had the only person of color, Jeff, sleeping all the time, but I tried to be a good mommy and put my paranoia on the back burner for a change because J-Jo loved them. So we indulged in as many videos that would keep her satisfied while buying us 34 minutes of peace. As an enthusiastic new parent, I listened and even grew to enjoy the music right along with her...until it attempted to penetrate my subconscious. Absent-mindedly singing "Fruit Salad (Yummy, Yummy)" while in the shower was a startling sign that I needed to get out more.

But I still can't imagine what the quartet would be like riding in that big red car without the guy in the yellow shirt. So considering they'll probably be looking for replacements soon, here are my picks for who I think they should audition:

1. Wayne Brady. We've given him his black cred back after seeing him on Chapelle's Show. He's crazy talented and now that we know he's also a real brother, his dancing along with Dorothy the Dinosaur won't look like straight cooning.

2. Savion Glover. The grownup Tap Dance Kid is highly underrated. We know he's down with the kids shows, he's been on Sesame Street handful of times. His tapping would be a strong contrast to the Disney/meets/ska sound of the Wiggles music. And the Irish jigs they tend to bust out with from time to time.

3. Tim Meadows. I have no idea if he can sing or dance, but his wry humor would be a breath of fresh air.

Those are my suggestions for how to add a little more color to kid's tv.
Who would you pick?


Paul Mooney Says Michael Richards Should Go to Africa and Adopt a Black Baby

I've always loved this guy. Mr. J considers the man a comedic genius. If we knew him, he'd have a standing invitation to dinner at our house.


Double Their Blessing, Double Their Bling

Straight from the hairdresser's mouth: P. Diddy and his girlfriend, Kim Porter, celebrated their forthcoming twin girls at a fabulous Manhattan baby shower on November 19th. The happily unmarried couple recently had a frank discussion with writer Jeanine Amber, going public with their epic love story for the December issue of Essence.

I have to admit, as an African American mama of multiples, I always feel a sense of connectedness when I hear that a black woman is expecting twins. Maybe it's my conspiracy theory that we share an ancestral homeland called Igbo-Ora in Nigeria, a small town whose Yoruba people historically had an exorbitant number of twin births. I also wonder if there actually is some real correlation between our people conceiving twins, a fondness for sweet potato pie and a documented link between twin pregnancies and yams. And when the multiple-mother-to-be is a celebrity (a la Porter, Mo'nique or Holly Robinson Peete), I instantly feel like a member of a special sisterhood, taking comfort in the fact that no matter how copious their respective cash flows might be, these sisters were just as likely to experience all the same twin pregnancy symptoms as a regular girl like me.

But that's about as far as my "common-denominator" theory can go – I know full well that Ms. Porter's babies' daddy wouldn't dream of walking up to a kiosk and registering at Tarzhay. In true Bad Boy fashion, the A-List guests enjoyed Perrier Jouet champagne in pink floral bottles. A glowing Kim and proud daddy Diddy – who also have a son together – enjoyed their guests while nibbling on pink M&M's and receiving lavish baby gifts including a custom-made changing table from Jay-Z, two cream-colored cribs from LL Cool J and a sweet chandelier from Denzel Washington. Kim reportedly laughed at a friend's suggestion that she register for a couple of diamond encrusted binkies, but that didn't stop the future twin mommy from putting an $88,000 R-class Mercedes Benz on her wish list. Hopefully, she wasn't too disappointed about not receiving it.

And we shouldn't be pressed either – from the way things look now, America will certainly have a chance to see the future hip hop heiresses receive their matching Mercedes Benz's on My Super Sweet Sixteen.
The doting Diddy might even own the whole network by then.

Aren't sick to your stomach yet? Go back for more at Cake and Ice Cream.


Do You or Don't You?

I was going to post one of those corny little survey things here, but I figured why not just come out and ask:

1. Does your family celebrate Kwanzaa?

2. If so, how much (or how little) of the holiday do you participate in?

3. If you choose not to, why not?

Comments will be included in the upcoming series,

"Kwanzaa 101: For Folks Who Can't Spell Kujichagulia But Think It's Probably Time They Learn How "

Thank you!



Madonna and Children

Dear Material Girl,

Congratulations on your recent adoption of baby David Banda Mwale Ciccone Ritchie. Even though there are plenty of African American baby boys waiting to be adopted as my fingers hit this keyboard, it was still good of you to go those extra miles to Malawi. Lucky kid. I'm sure you'll do a great job at dressing him up in your love and whatever else Gucci, Fendi, or Prada currently has in a 2T.

A lot of people think you're just trying to get attention. Or that you may have misconceptions about black folks in general. I'm sure there are others who just thinking you're practicing a role for the next Hollywood great white saviour movie. And they might be right. But as the mother of three young children myself, I applaud you. Anyone who already has two kids can barely imagine the challenge of raising three without wincing. And on a really bad day, no amount of domestic help would be enough to make some women want more babies. So I personally think your decsion was quite noble. Maybe your maternal generousity will inspire many other famous Americans to take the leap and internationally adopt as well, especially now that they're aware of all the extra attention you and Angelina have received. Not that you all compete with eachother or anything.

I just heard recently that you're considering further expanding your family
by adopting a brand new baby girl from Malawi
, in an effort "to redress the balance". I'm going to ignore how weird that sounds and assume that said "balance redressing" would include gender as well as ethnicity. So bravo to you for thinking that way, a kid is bound to get kinda lonely as the only negro child on your estate. As a black person who is painfully aware of the general amount of discomfort one might feel being the only person of color in a classroom, I want to say thanks for considering that. I can only imagine that type of isolation in a family. By the way, I wrote some black hair care tips that may come in handy if you're still down with Malawi once all the current baby drama dies out.

I'm not even going to spend a minute considering the fact that you might actually just be planning to do this as a big f*$k you to all the people who didn't want you to go get a little African baby in the first place. I just wanted to say thank you for being considerate enough to think of David's needs, instead of plucking a child from any place on this earth, like you were buying a new pair of shoes.

Sincerely Yours,

A Random Black Person Who Hasn't Bought Your Albums Since '86


Sometimes Nursing Really Sucks

I never imagined that becoming a mom would hinder my ability to enjoy life as I knew it BK (before kids). So when my oldest daughter was about four months old, I bundled her up, popped her in the Baby Bjorn and headed to the Upper East Side for her first trip to the Whitney Biennial. It was an incredible day, lunching with my girls from college and checking out a couple of fabulous baby boutiques en route to the museum. After waiting in a line that curled around the block, my friends and I finally gained entry to the museum and were free to explore just like old times. The only difference was that unlike old times, I now had a sleeping baby strapped snuggly to my chest. No big thing, I figured.

But she was a tiny and powerful thing indeed. And when she woke up and attempted to devour her entire fist (in between frustrated squeals of hunger), my fantasy of freedom came crashing down. Within minutes, my long-awaited trip to the museum had turned into a quest for a quiet place to breastfeed. I knew how to feed J-Jo in a way that didn't allow others to see even a centimeter of skin, so everything seemed fine once I found a bench that was somewhat out of the way – I was relieved, the gallery goers were obliviously swirling around me and J-Jo could finally have lunch. But that still didn't stop my friends from asking "don't you think you should, uh, do that in the bathroom?" All I could think was: I know you didn't just say the bathroom. You want me to get up and go feed my child in a public hotbed of e. coli and possibly even chlamydia? Oh hell no. Rosa would have been proud.

I felt sympathy towards the nursing mother who was recently forced to leave a Delta Freedom Airlines flight because she refused to cover her child with a blanket while nursing discreetly. The flight attendant might have thought she was just doing her job, but she was preventing a mother from doing hers. I know the challenges a parent faces when stuck in public with a nursing baby who happens to be hungry. J-Jo was the type of baby who figured: why should my parents buy Similac when I can get breastmilk for free? She hated bottles and spit out plastic nipples as if we were trying to poison her. It didn't matter if I had pumped first, she wasn't trying to hear it. Her screams sounded so tortured, strangers glared at me with fingers positioned on their cell phones – two seconds away from calling C.P.S. But these glares weren't nearly as piercing as the looks I'd been shot on the random occasions I gave into those cries and begrudgingly began breastfeeding in public.

Considering the amount of flesh flashed in advertisements and music videos, the social stigma attached to breastfeeding just doesn't make sense to me. Not when the average American has been exposed to more of of Mariah Carey's boobs than a random nursing mother's. But despite scientific evidence that breastfeeding has a host of health benefits for a baby the stigma still persists. We live in a culture that sets aside an entire month and designates a color for the fight against breast cancer, but ignores evidence that women who breastfeed beyond thirty-six months can significantly lessen their risk for the disease. I'm not exactly an attachment parent but the statistics – plus the evidence that breastmilk boosts a baby's IQ – was enough to make me a believer.

What do you think: Should breastfeeding mamas get the boot? Or does this society have a warped view of womanhood?


What A Man

A true legend in television journalism, Ed Bradley was exemplary.

The Philadelphia native and graduate of historically black Cheyney University began a career in local radio (for $1.50 per hour, mind you) where he honed his burgeoning passion for news. This unflappable drive led him to become the first African American television news correspondent to the White House and one of the most respected news journalists of the 21st century.

From his early days days covering the Philadelphia riots of 1965, to the Paris Peace talks, to interviewing Michael Jackson, to recently covering the Duke rape trial, Ed Bradley held fast to an ethical standard that many of today's journalists unfortunately remain without.

And I'd be remiss not to acknowledge that the man was smooth. He was the first male news anchor to wear an earring. Let alone shoot a fashion feature, as he did for Code: The Style Magazine for Men of Color back in 2000. I'll never forget that night in '99 when my best friend and I caught a glimpse of the hella foine fifty-something Bradley leaving a New York art opening as we had just arrived. Yes, I know he was old enough to be our dad, but that only barely stopped us from screaming like two candy girls at a New Edition concert.

More than anything, I will always remember Ed Bradley as a a man of dignity, truth and overwhelming integrity. Traits we can strive to instill in our children and exemplify for them in our daily lives as well.

If I ever had a chance to actually meet him, I would have told him that.

Finally, Dora's Not the Only Child of Color In Her Classroom Anymore

Even as a preschooler in the seventies, I was painfully aware of the lack of images of color on children's television. Aside from Franklin – Charlie Brown's boy, the sister in Josie and the Pussycats, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and the brief stint that was the cartoon version of the Jackson Five, black animated kids tv characters were basically absent back in the day. I wanted to walk up to that tv with a burnt sienna crayon and color the rest of the Peanuts in.

And I wasn't so sure things were different today, until I spent after a few months of paying closer attention to exactly who was popping into our tv room each day. Much to my surprise, I was delighted find these new friends (who my four-year-old claims to have known for years):

Name: Quincy
Program: Little Einsteins
Network: The Disney Channel
This boy would make DuBois proud. It's too bad his mommy and daddy had to make a fuss so they'd let their baby into the gifted program when child has at least a 200 IQ.
But it was well worth it so rest of us could see the first animated African American intellectual on TV. The program introduces culture and high art to preschoolers at a level they'll understand. Still waiting for some jazz music and a Bearden or two...something (please!). But when my four year old walked into the Philadelphia Museum of Art and correctly identified a Van Gogh, I knew they were on the right track.

Name: Shanna
Shanna's Show
My friend's husband complains about it because he thinks Disney's too racist to give Shanna her own full length show (right now it's an interstitial.) But I'm not mad at it. Shanna's Show is adorable. Along with little brother Shane, Shanna takes viewers with her on a journey through their colorful imagination. I love the way she's so ambitious, often dressing up as a doctor, teacher or ballerina. And just recently, I picked up several adorable Shanna's Show story books (on sale for a buck each at Michael's for some reason, but you'll never hear me complain about that).

Name: Clementine
Program: Caillou
Network: PBS Kids
Clementine is a lot like her best friend Caillou. But with a lot more hometraining.

Name: Tasha, Uniqua, Austin, Pablo and Tyrone
Program: The Backyardigans
Network: Nick Jr.
Okay, now come on. They might not look it, but with names like these, you can't tell me those Backyardigans aren't black. At least three of them. This brilliant program takes children from allbackgrounds on a journey into the kind of fantasy play that happens in every little kid’s mind. They’re epic, musical fantasy adventures, preschool-style, fresh from the minds of three kids whose imagination reaches far beyond their backyards. And the best part is the music, which includes everything from jazz to claypso to hip hop. It's sad when as a parent the only song playing in your head sometimes is the themesong from one of your kid's shows. But it's not nearly as bad when it's this. You can visit with Janice Burgess, sister genius behind The Backyardigans right here.

If your kids are anything like mine, you've known most of these characters for quite some time already. But if anyone was going to give them the props they deserve, it would have to be OKP.

Let me know if I missed anybody!


Skin Deep

This short film, A Girl Like Me, is a must-see for anyone who has influence in the life of an African American child. In less than ten minutes, the telling documentary illustrates how far we still have to go in regards to our self-image. Seventeen-year-old director, Kiri Davis should be commended. And given a free-ride to Spelman.

I cried watching this as I considered how each of my beautiful daughters – who differ from each other in both skin tone and hair texture – might internalize similar feelings to the ones expressed in this piece. I hate to think that they will, but what black woman hasn't...at least to some degree?

It's past time for this chain to be broken. But where do we even begin?

Bill Cosby Is a Brother and Your Father Is Too

I'm always tickled when my daughter laughs at The Cosby Show. Not that it's odd that a four-year-old is able to get the humor (it's pretty straightforward, and she has a great comedic sense anyway). I'm tickled because if the Cos' knew my J-Jo, he'd love her. Had she been born in the 80's, Raven Symone would still be handing out demo tapes today. To say my child is precocious would not descibe her accurately enough. To say she's a sparkle-butt would.

We were in J-Jo's room picking up some toys when she started in about something she found funny on a Cosby rerun. Something or other about Rudy getting lost at the mall and Cliff saying she should stay lost. I didn't remember the episode, but she had seen it recently and couldn't stop laughing.

"Bill Cosby is a funny daddy," she chirped.

"Just like your daddy." I handed her a stuffed animal to put away.

"Except Bill Cosby's black."

What?! I thought we'd been through this already. "Um, daddy is black, honey. You know your daddy's black."

"I mean skin mommy, black skin. Not like daddy's. Black!"

"Bill Cosby's skin is brown, sweetheart. So is daddy's, just lighter."

To her credit, the difference between my husband's skin tone and that of Dr. Cosby is comparable to the contrast between Adam Clayton Powell and Kweisi Mfume. But that's part of the beauty of who we are as a people. Our one, unchanging, major similarity despite our many differences in appearance, class, etc . I had no idea how to convey this, but I felt I must at least try. "Both daddy and Bill Cosby are black, honey. They're both African American. And black people who live in our country are called African Americans."

"I know that." She looked about as puzzled as she would have if I had just told her that Santa and the Easter Bunny were actually the same person.

We changed the subject and finished cleaning up, but I still had to wonder if the whole skin color thing seemed completely bizarre to a child. "White" looking people who are black. No black people who are actually white, but isn't the first part confusing enough? I thought we explained it to her pretty well when our fraternal twins were born different shades, eye colors and hair textures, but apparently it still perplexes (more on the twins in an upcoming post). But bigger than the skin-color stuff, I was mostly hung up on question of terminology. "Black" vs. "African American" seemed to be the part of the conversation that gave J-Jo the most confusion.

Why and whether or not we should still be called "Black" vs. "African American" is a subject that is bound to enter popular debate in the near future. Especially with the great brown hope Barack Obama rapidly coming to the forefront of American politics. He's an example of an "African American" who genetically is very different from the textbook definition of African American. A man with a white, mid-western mother and a Kenyan father. Genetically, most African Americans are only similar to him by the fact that we all have a little euro blood as well (shhh...don't tell nobody). The majority of our folks hailed from West Africa, not Kenya. But is Obama black? Yes. His wife Michelle is a testament to that. And just recently, African Americans in Queens, New York were identified as outgrossing whites in yearly income for the first time in history. But upon closer inspection, the majority of the big earners off the F line were actually West Indian and some of them were truly adamant about not wanting to be considered African Americans. But are they black? Negro, please.

Maybe I'm just becoming an old head by not wanting to change with the times. But I want my kids to have a world view and identify as b-l-a-c-k people. I want them to be proud to be called black in addition to being called African American because it is a term inclusive of not only those of us in America, but throughout the diaspora as well. To feel a connectedness with Black Americans, Black Brits, Black Cubans, Black South Africans and beyond. Personally, the term evokes a sense of pride, on a global level. A pride reminiscent of a time we weren't afraid to "Say it loud!"

How to explain this on a pre-K level I have yet to figure out. So I'm curious – how do you define yourselves at home? Black or African American? How do you expect and (if applicable) teach your children to identify themselves and define others as people of African descent?

Why I Refuse to Buy a Bunch of Bratz (or Raise Any, Either)

Good parents love to see their kids happy. It's difficult not to get lost in the joy in their eyes when they get something they "always wanted". And it's hard not to get them "what they always wanted" without it morphing into more than one thing. Repeatedly. It's a tough balancing act between not wanting them to end up in therapy in twenty years versus not wanting to witness them rot to the core.

It took many a trip to ToysRUs before MJ and I decided it was time to stop the madness. We were reluctant to admit that our daughter was incapable of watching tv or taking a family trip to Target without clammoring for more plastic crap, and that something needed to be done.

Finally, I understood why my parents only bought toys for Christmas and birthdays. They weren't cheap, they just didn't want their kids to be spoiled.

But it's not an easy battle (just ask anyone who's ever taken a kid to FAO Schwarz). So for folks who still struggle against parental corporate consumerism, but don't know where to draw the line, see if this following example pertains to you:

Day One:
Child sees loud, crappy tv commercial on tv touting the virtues on some toy child doesn't already have. Child demands parent to watch commercial, claiming "See, mommy/daddy, that's it! That's (insert random toy's name here)! Can I get it? Can I get that...please?!

Day Two:
Parent remembers name of forementioned toy, and for whatever reason (love usually), buys it. Child is delighted to receive toy, takes it out of its packaging and immediately begins playing with it.

Day Three:
Child integrates toy into collection. Parents feel like good parents.

Day Four:
Random crap begins collecting dust.

Day Five:
Crap continues to collect dust as child watches tv, looking for new commercial selling another piece of random crap for parents to buy.

Is it just me, or is there a pattern forming here?

I want to raise children who that don't take things for granted not only because I want them to grow into kind, thoughtful people, but also for the good of the world (yes, it really is that deep to me). Because spoiled little kids who get everything they ask for run a severe risk of growing into selfish jackasses. They're the type of people who become corporate ceos, loan officers and grocery store managers who make folks go home and vent to their partners about some idiot who ruined their day. The type of people who make life hard for everybody else.

Because everything came to them just a little too easy.

How do you feel about the plethora of tv commercial aimed at our children and our wallets? How do you cope?


I've Gotta Be Me

Thirty years ago, my grandfather was walking on a sandy beach in Acapulco when he was accosted by a group of adoring fans. They wanted to see him up close and maybe even get an autograph. No, grandpop wasn't anyone famous. He was just a retired postal worker from Philly who retired to Mexico in search of the good life. The man had no idea that part of that "good life" would include being mistaken for Sammy Davis Jr. more times than the Candy Man was probably recognized himself.

Grandpop barely resembled the Black Rat Packer, but it still didn't keep folks from asking. African Americans in foreign lands are often confused for famous people. I once had a friend whose aunt was stalked in Japan because everyone thought she was Sheila E. Another friend of mine had a boyfriend who, despite being about seven shades lighter and four inches shorter, was dubbed Michael Jordan while abroad. Ask any black person who's traveled further than the Bahamas – this type of mistaken identity happens quite often.

But for some reason, it's much easier for me to understand this happening in other countries than when it happens in my own backyard. Here, most Americans are see a variety of African Americans everyday, if not in real life, at least on tv. Regardless, many of us are still have the occasional experience of being mistaken for someone we only vaguely resemble. A victim of this type of false identification system suffers from TOB – The Other Black.

I had my first experience with TOB in the seventh grade, when my art teached accidentally called me "Henrietta". Henrietta was a girl who was about half my height and twice my width. She thought it was kinda funny that Mr. O'Reilly confused us, but I didn't see the humor in it at all. I thought it meant that I needed to go on a diet. It wasn't until much later that I realized that the only reason Mr. O'Reilly called me Henrietta was because Henrietta was black like me.

TOB starts as early as nursery school, something I was made painfully aware of this as I was dropping my four-year-old off yesterday. The mix up went something like this:

We were entering J-Jo's classroom as the head teacher was coming out.
J-Jo looked up and as usual, greeted the woman by name.

Head Teacher looked J-Jo square in the face, smiled and responded. "Hi Mia."

This was problematic on a number of levels:

1. J-Jo's name is not Mia.
2. Her real name sounds nothing like Mia.
3. Mia is the name of the only other little black girl in the entire school.
4. Although they're both tall for their age, Mia's hair is a finer texture than J-Jo's, her skin is darker than J. Jo's and her mother is white.
5. I am very clearly not white.

Still, somehow, Head Teacher had lumped the two girls into the same caste system within her mind.

She tried to make up for it by quickly catching herself and readdressing J-Jo by her true name. I forced a smile and cut her some slack for acknowledging the slip up. But I'd be lying if I claimed not to have given further thought to the faux pas. Not because there is anything about Mia that I would not want my daughter to be associated with, the two are actually good friends, but they look absolutely nothing alike.

At least not to us.