Of Morgan Freeman, gods and monsters: Men are human, not either saintly or irredeemable

I’m proud to share my first byline for the New York Daily News! While I’m really proud of the piece and where it landed, my joy is lacking some of its oomph. I recently realized it’s because I can’t share this win with my grandma, who passed away last October. I’ll have to imagine her tears of joy instead of calling her up to hear them.

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“Morgan Freeman recently found himself on the #MeToo list, accused of sexual misconduct. As expected, responses generally landed in two categories: horrified belief and staunch disbelief. While puns abound when we decry public figures for bad behavior, the most popular in reference to Freeman speaks to the danger of binary thinking when it comes to toxic masculinity; if Freeman can play God, can he be a devil?”

Read the full article here.

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My Switch to CurlyChics Haircare

I’m going to tell you a little story.

When I first went natural, back in 2005, I used Biolage conditioning balm as my leave-in conditioner. At the time and for many years after, it felt just right.

But recently, I noticed that while the conditioner did a good job of maintaining my curl pattern, the curls were sort of stiff, and my style lacked volume. Like Goldilocks, I realized that my “bed” wasn’t quite right after all.

On a recent flight, I wanted to pack a smaller conditioner and didn’t have much time to look, so I chose Mizani Thermasmooth. I love Mizani for my wash days, and at first it seemed like a much better choice than Biolage for a leave-in. My curls were bouncier and looser.

But, I soon realized that my hair got really dry. I noticed it especially when I did my nightly twists. I use Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie about once a week with the twists, but the smoothie had stopped being enough moisture. Mizani was also not the right daily choice for this “bed” of hair.

So, I tried CurlyChic “Your Mane Moisturizer” in place of Mizani for my everyday styling. The third bed was perfect. My curls are defined and moisturized while still maintaining that airy bounce.

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I’m excited to try their other products too, like “Moisture in a Minute” and “Coconut for Curls.” In fact, I could have used that moisture in a minute today when I decided to hop in the shower after styling my hair. (What was I thinking?) And the coconut… My hairdresser recently commented on my hair’s proper moisture but said my scalp was dry. I bet this will do the trick.

I get stuck in my ways, and stuck in routines. But with the booming industry of natural hair care, it’s nice to be able to adjust that perfect fit.

What the Mixed Remixed Festival, CMRS, and MASC Mean to Me

I’ve been part of the Mixed Remixed Festival since I was a featured writer in 2014. I was also a chair at the 2012 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference (CMRS). I’ve participated in three events for the Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC) and have promoted them through blogs. Suffice it to say, I have my hands in three of the biggest mixed race / multiracial organizations. And you know what? I love them all.

Each of these organizations brings something unique, valuable, and necessary for the mixed race community. I can’t speak as someone in a multiracial relationship, or as one who has mixed race kids, because neither is true for me. However, even when there’s an event that I don’t think fits my personal experience, I recognize its importance for others.

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Presenting my thesis at the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference 2012

This year at the Mixed Remixed Festival, I saw parents and children of all different ages and hues, which has been true for all of its past four years. While the festival is for everyone, I think there is no denying that it plays a special role for those of us who are mixed race ourselves. Each year, people break down crying, including the founder, Heidi Durrow, who works tirelessly year round to see this event come to fruition.

We cry because we finally have a space where our very existence is the norm. Instead of being a zebra in an otherwise black or white space, we’re in a room filled with zebras, and with those who brought us into this world. In fact, for the past two years, the recipient of the Storyteller’s Prize has been a black male in an interracial relationship who works to bridge the color divide. The festival also makes us feel validated as artists, chosen to share our personal experiences through film, music, and the written word. In this space, our voices matter, and everyone in the audience nods their head in understanding — something we don’t get on the mean streets.

In order for the festival to run, it needs sponsors. This year, no one was allowed to film, and no one did. Sure, people took little videos on their phones and were encouraged to do so, but anything else would violate the contract between the board and the sponsors. And the festival needs those sponsors in order to exist. Does this take the limelight away from others? Maybe. But it doesn’t take away one’s ability to be present at the festival itself.

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At an event for the Multiracial Americans of Southern California 2016

I would hate to see those who attend Mixed Remixed, CMRS, and MASC to do anything other than support each other fully and without reservation. Mixed Remixed supports the arts, CMRS supports scholarship, and MASC supports families. Within these foci, there are of course necessary and important overlaps. And we’re strong because we’ve become strong together.

The Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference valued my scholarship on the “tragic mulatta genre” by accepting my master’s thesis about this topic for a panel. I felt recognized, understood, and in a community of peers. The same has been true for the MASC events I’ve attended, and the same is true when I walk through the doors for Mixed Remixed. I don’t know what the future holds for any of these organizations, but they each hold a special place in my heart, and I wouldn’t be who I am professionally or personally if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of those involved.

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With Heidi Durrow at Mixed Remixed 2017

I stand by Heidi Durrow 1,000%, just as I stand by Laura Kina, et al. of CMRS and Delia Douglas and Sonia Smith-Kang of MASC. It’s because of these organizations that I’ve moved to Los Angeles, made amazing friendships, written a book and countless articles, and have been steadily working on a memoir to discuss my life with my black father. Parents: we see you. We know you’re there. And we’re grateful for these communities that have popped up over the past few years that see us, too.

My White Childhood Best Friend Was Forbidden to See Me — Until She Found Me 29 Years Later

For those who remember my blog post about my friend Brandy, we’ve met now! I wrote about it for Ravishly:

In sixth grade, my best friend Brandy had the haphazard look of someone whose parents paid as little attention to their children as possible. I, in a similar fashion, had a bushy afro that didn’t know where it belonged.

Our school, which had just begun bussing, reflected the tense racial reality that would soon infiltrate our friendship. Lockers were removed after a series of bomb threats. Eighth-grade boys harassed me daily for being “white.” But inside our bubble, Brandy and I felt safe.

Read the rest here!

My New York Times Essay

I’ve been meaning to post this for what seems like forever! On March 10, I got an article published in the New York Times, called “My Grandmother’s Story Is Ending as Mine Begins.”

My grandmother knew she’d succumb to dementia long before she began to lose her memory, as her two older sisters had shared the same fate before they died. She fought against time to write her life story, but she will never see her dream realized.

Read the rest here.

While you’re here, I recently got another article published, this time in Ravishly, called “‘This Is Us’ Mirrors Watching My Absent Black Father Die of Cancer.”

I have a penchant for multigenerational family dramas. Brothers and Sisters, Parenthood, Six Feet Under — they all make me feel connected to my own family, which is more like Full House than The Brady Bunch. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and a strong matriarch make up the fabric of my day-to-day life. So when This Is Us debuted, I was all in. What I didn’t expect is that it would touch my heartstrings in a way I hadn’t prepared for.

Read the rest here.

Life is heartbreaking, but also beautiful.

That’s all for now, folks!

Doctors Told Me I Was ‘Too Highly Educated’ to Be Sick, and other stories

I’ve been very remiss with sharing my new bylines here! So without further ado, here are my most recent articles. I’ll also probably be starting a newsletter soon.

Doctors Told Me I Was ‘Too Highly Educated’ to Be Sick, published in SheKnows:

Beginning in 2006, I slept 12 hours most nights and often took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. I wasn’t lazy — I was exhausted. I talked slowly, moved slowly and had difficulty driving because my brain couldn’t keep up…

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If 19th Century Novels had Clickbait Titles, published on Buzzfeed:

Ever wonder what classic authors’ titles would have been if they had to rely on clicks?

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The Historical Need for Black Colleges, published in JSTOR Daily:

Historically black Talladega College was widely criticized for its decision to have its marching band participate in President-elect Trump’s inauguration parade. Much of the uproar has to do with black colleges’ roots in combating unequal education, a feat that many argue will deteriorate under Trump’s presidency…

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More Hidden Figures of NASA History, published in JSTOR Daily:

By now, just about everyone has heard of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, who portray of a group of black female “computers” at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The film, which has already garnered a number of awards, cast these once unsung pioneers into the public eye…

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Rory Gilmore Will Not Get Rich From Her Memoir, And Neither Will You, published in The Financial Diet:

As I binge-watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, every so often, I checked my email to see if my article about the original series had been accepted for publication. This constant tug at my attention felt surreal, as the protagonist Rory was going through the same anxiety throughout much of the revival…

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Does the Multiracial Community Like The Loving Movie?, published in Multiracial Media:

I didn’t want to cry. I had seen the trailer for Loving, and honestly, I was afraid it was going to be a subpar movie. Partly because I thought the trailer sentimental in a Hallmark-y sort of way, and partly because I wasn’t sure Hollywood could do an interracial story justice…

That’s about it for now! You can see more of my articles by clicking on the “Portfolio” tab at the top of this page.

Love to all,

Shannon

2016 Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought…

Like most people, I’ve been thinking a lot about 2016. While there have been tremendously heartbreaking setbacks, like Trump’s election, celebrity deaths, more personal sick days than I would have preferred, and not enough money in the bank, last night I began listing meaningful achievements and moments from the past year, and I was surprised by just how much 2016 has brought me.

  1. I interviewed Olympic swimmer Lynne Cox in my role as content coordinator for a neighborhood magazine.
  2. I got my first byline in Essence.com for an interview with teen filmmaker Gabrielle Gorman.
  3. I got a book published as a writer for hire and now have an Amazon page!
  4. I got an article accepted at The New York Times that I’m hoping pans out (I’m still holding my breath because I can’t quite believe it).
  5. I attended my first premiere in Beverly Hills, for the movie Loving.
  6. I got to hang out with Grey’s Anatomy actor Jason George.
  7. I shadowed writer and performer J. Ivy at a social media conference.
  8. A writer friend published a chapbook for me, and used it for three readings in L.A.
  9. My highest paying article rate increased by 800%.
  10. I was miraculously reconnected with my best friend from 6th grade.

This list isn’t meant to position myself as some sort of success story (and I haven’t included links for that reason). Rather, I often make myself list what I’ve been able to achieve because I’m usually too focused on what I haven’t accomplished.

It’s easy to get down on ourselves we compare our lives to others’. There will always be someone with a better resume, a better job, better health… you name it. But if we’re always focused on the carrot just out of reach, sometimes we forget those that have already come into our lives–even those carrots we never expected. One of those unexpected carrots was seeing my 2-year-old niece squeal for joy in the Santa Monica ocean. That was perhaps the best moment of the whole year.

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Take some time to look back at your 2016… What from the year brings you joy? What meaningful experiences have you had? How has your heart soared? I’d love to hear your list in the comments!