Friday, June 24, 2011

A Brotha's Perspective on Real Beauty

By Christopher D. Sims, Edited By Dee Thompson

"My current female friends are very instrumental in the way I look at & treat women. Those connections are sacred."

I have given a lot of thought to what makes a person beautiful, and through my poetry and my writing, I try to transmit my thoughts about real beauty. Through my work as a Writer, Poet, Activist, Open Mic host, and traveler, I continually seek to deepen my understanding of beauty, and how to nurture an appreciation of real beauty in children and young people.

I am single and I have no children, but I have had significant relationships that helped me grow as a man and taught me a lot about love and how to treat women. My current female friends and associates are very instrumental in the way I look at and treat women. Those connections are sacred.

However, when I truly think about beauty from a brotha's perspective, I must first recognize the three beautiful black women that raised me. I grew up on the west side of Rockford, Illinois. The three women who were instrumental in the person I am today are my mother and my two sisters, Della Sims, Marquetta Alexander, and Kimberly Sims.

Their presence instilled in me a light that will always glow and attract positive energy. Their warm smiles and affection helped me harness the real beauty that I possess as a man and as a human being. I took their love and held it and nurtured it inside me until I beamed just the same on the outside. It takes a conscious man to understand this, and to be able to share it with others in a positive and productive way.

When I was nine, I began to really find myself. I became a lot smarter, more social, and dug into my creative energy. I could feel real beauty from the inside. I know it made me stand out amongst my peers. This light, this internal beauty, became my guide through my life. Real beauty is internal beauty. It starts inside. I had an early start, so I shine brightly because of this. I've never recognized external beauty as the real beauty in my life.

As someone who “dresses nice”, I tell others my clothing is an extension of how I feel internally. I hope the people I share this with understand it. Materialism has never been the core of my being. It has never pushed me to compete with others or to enhance my status amongst my peers or other groups of people. Even in the era of Michael Jordan tennis shoes and jump suits, I held on to my internal beauty and let my real light shine.

I still believe real beauty is not a man's shoes, a man's wardrobe, a man's haircut, or a man's nice car. These things are not long lasting and they add no real value to one's life.

I've focused on knowledge, wisdom, education, friendships, and family to strengthen the beauty I possess. I've made many friends and have had countless enriching conversations. These experiences have empowered me and kept me focus on what is real, wholesome, and worth cherishing. I am beautiful because knowledge, wisdom, education, my friends, and my family are beautiful. This is real and can never be taken away from me.

We are pressured in a society that encourages us and pushes us to focus on external beauty. We are taught and brainwashed to believe we must show beauty from the outside and not focus on our true selves, our true beauty.

In my poetry, I am asking us to take a look at ourselves, especially when it comes to black women and men. I am asking us to remember where we came from, who we are, and what we have to offer the world. This can only be accomplished through remembering we are moons and stars. We are born to beam internally first. We are universal people who possess so much culturally. This culture is another form of light.

This  quote from one of my poems, is a constant mantra that reminds me of who we really are: "...we are forward peoples from nation after nation of achievers, believers, gold breathers, and deep thinkers..."

As a black man, as a brotha, I have a duty to shine, to be truly beautiful. I want (black) children to see their light within and use it to be the best they can be. They will rise to be powerful and beautiful adults if we help them realize real beauty starts within. The fights at school, the competition, the arguments they have with peers, these are often a result of the being taught to be very critical of others’ clothing, shoes, or hairstyles. They forget that we are beautiful inside first, and that physical appearances can separate and wreck our friendships and connections.

If young people are reading my poetry and listening to my hip-hop music, they are not hearing me speak about how I look or what I possess. They are reading and hearing about the stories I have to tell, the way I use words to elevate others, and the attention I give to simply being an artist. I won’t waste my time speaking about things I may or may not own. My inner light and beauty won’t allow me to do so. I am using my gifts, just like Maxwell, to show where real beauty can take us.

I want us to pause and consider our true light and real beauty. As a child, I did a lot of this. That knowing child has grown into a man who is respected because he is beautiful internally and it shows externally. Someone once told me “The best thing you can give someone is just being yourself.” Knowing this is a testament to real beauty.

Be you and be beautiful. ~

Christopher D. Sims is an internationally known poet, spoken word artist, collaborator, and educator. He is also a community organizer and activist. He is a leader in the spoken word and open mic circuit. He educates youth on the art of writing and performing poetry. He has a growing Facebook presence where he is actively involved in bringing artists together. He travels as a performer and is always willing to perform or speak at coffeehouses, cafes, and the like. For more info on his work visit:

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Know Who I Am

By Michelle Williams
Edited by Asst. Editor,
Dee Thompson

"I started another relationship to get away from the abusiveness of that man, only to be abused again."

My name is Michelle Williams, and I am a Gospel singer, author, wife and mother. My story is one of triumph over terror and abuse, to my present state of grace and faith.

I am blessed to be a mother to 6 girls and 1 boy, and a grandmother of 2. My husband is my manager and biggest supporter. We travel the country singing and telling the goodness of Jesus. I have endured very difficult times in my life, but I have come through the storms and learned to value myself and love the God-given talents I have.

For the first twenty years of my life, though, I could not see beyond the darkness of despair and abuse.

I was born and raised in Kingston, NY.  At the tender age of 5 I was sexually molested. When I was 14 I was punched in the face by my very abusive alcoholic father. I watched a young man get beaten to death when I was 15. I had a nervous breakdown at the age of 20. I had 3 children by the time I was 21. My first three children were fathered by a crack head that sold everything in the house except for the ice trays. I left that relationship, and 8 months later he came back and raped me at knife point. I lived in constant fear after that, unable to sleep in the house without first looking under every bed, locking every door, and peeking behind shower curtains to make sure that we were safe.

I started another relationship to get away from the abusiveness of that man, only to be abused again. I felt so lost. I tried to commit suicide because I thought, ‘it’s got to be better than this.’
After nine long years, I finally got out of that second abusive relationship and I said No More. I committed my life to Christ and I started working on myself. I had very low self esteem. With my new faith in Christ, I began to see that I was worthy of love, worthy of a decent life.

I finally took charge of my life. Once I started to realize my value and reclaim my life, I became a better parent. I knew I didn’t want my children to be raised in an abusive home. I was determined that they would live in peace, and not suffer as I had. I wanted my children to be raised with love, strength of character, and confidence. I wanted them to know the love of Christ, and to value themselves and love themselves.

I also prayed and asked God for the precious gift of a loving husband, and he sent him to me. God’s abundant blessings exceeded all I could ever ask. Now I am the proud wife of a man who respects and loves me.

I am also now the author of the book No Body Ever Told Me, which deals with the hurt of those early years, and the healing I found. It also illuminates how to break free of the cycle of abuse. The key is forgiveness. It releases you so you, too, can overcome whatever obstacles stand in your way.

I now live my life singing to the glory of God. I have a new hit Single called “I Know Who I Am.” I had to learn that I am a victor, not a victim. I’m a winner and I’m a champion. I walk in favor and in the release of an open heaven. I was just blessed to sing on Bobby Jones Gospel Show in March of 2011 and it aired on the Word Network. My husband is my manager, and my biggest supporter. We travel the country singing and telling everyone about the goodness of Jesus. I know who I am.

I don’t let negative people stop me. When they try, I work harder. When they laugh, I push more, until they see clearly the evidence, right in front of their face. Even if I fail at helping people to feel the amazing power of Christ’s love, at least I tried. I don’t try to make people happy that are not followers. I make the people that follow happy. When the curious onlookers peek in, they get a life changing experience that speaks to their spirit.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned:

·         Love yourself!
·         Love your body - it’s yours and yours alone, and no matter what size you are, you are blessed by God as a beautiful being.
·         By all means, love and release the gifts that flow in you. Let the world see how God has blessed you and given you gifts. He has blessed everyone with a gift.

I love the Lord and I am so grateful for all the many talents he has entrusted to me. He has truly taken me from a past of darkness and despair, to a present of light and triumph. If he can do that for me, he can do it for you, too.

If you are interested in any of Michelle's products, she can be reached at or To purchase her New CD single, and the album that will be released in June 2011, please go to If you would like to book her as a singer or as a speaker to teens or women’s groups, please contact Jay Williams 518-238-5280.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Body Outlaw

An Interview with Author & Body Activist, Ophira Edut --By Editor, Xina Sy

"I believe in radical self-acceptance... accepting what IS & what ISN'T about your body & self in the moment."

She is one in a set of identical twins, but she seems to have carved out a unique identity for herself as author, speaker, body-activist, astrologist, & creative-free-spirit. Ophira Edut, author of several bestselling books including, Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image, & Adios Barbie: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity, is a leading expert & radical change agent when it comes to women's issues & challenging mainstream concepts about women & beauty. Speaking around the world & sharing her views with millions of women, Ophira has become widely known as a voice that women can trust & identify with in a real way, as her message is genuinely personal & making an impact on the way women view & define themselves. Here are some of the thoughts she shared with The BBB--->

XS: You have done a lot in the field of body image...what has been the project that has really stood out & meant a lot to you personally?
OE: I love speaking at universities, because the students are so engaged in questioning everything, and open to becoming activists (if they aren't already). Their passion is so inspiring. The website I co-founded,, also has a special place. We started it in 1999, and it's still going strong. My co-editor Pia Guerrero and our new editor Sharon Haywood have been awesome with updating the site and tweeting daily, so we're really able to spread the message in a fun way. What I love is that we're one of the few sites to address body image from a multicultural and multi-identity perspective. We're interested in how body image "intersects" with all the other facets of peoples's lives, be it their race, sexual orientation, economic class, ability, age, and so on. That can sound very serious--and it is--but we also try to inject humor and irreverence into the tone and design. 
XS: Body Outlaws? Why? What did it mean to create that particular project? Was it rebellion against mainstream media?
OE: I came up with the idea when I decided to wear a bikini at size 14/16. I knew I would feel self-conscious, so I decided to do it for a greater cause of changing the world (in that very small way) by example. I realized that I had to walk my talk--I couldn't preach self-acceptance unless I was willing to sit in the hotseat myself. Baring my cellulite and stomach for the first time was scary, but I also felt empowered by the notion that maybe people would see a woman walking proudly in her swimsuit (fake it 'til you make it) and think, "If she can do it, maybe I can, too."

In the old West, outlaws were willing to break society's rules in order to change the culture and set people free. They were sometimes harassed, ridiculed and misunderstood, but they did it for a higher purpose. The average person sees 400-600 ads a day (and that's an older statistic -- it's probably more now). So, the world needs a few brave souls to take that chance. I love Glee for that reason; I feel like it's packed with body outlaws, but done in a very funny and palatable way.
XS: What does loving & accepting your whole self REALLY mean to YOU?
OE: I believe in "radical self-acceptance." In other words, accepting what IS and what ISN'T about your body and self in that moment. For example, when I gain weight and my clothes feel tight, I might try to squeeze into the uncomfortable ones or wear the baggy "schmattes," as my mom calls them. After all, why buy something new if it's not going to fit, right? Wrong. Radical self-acceptance means I get to look and feel great at the high, low and middle size of my range, because all there is is right now. It's about living in the present, settling INTO my skin. Not easy or automatic, but it's do-able. Even if I want to change something about myself, it has to come from a place of loving what is, rather than hating or rejecting it. That way, change stems from a self-affirming place.
Identical Twins, Tali & Ophira Edut
XS:  You are an identical twin? How do you define your OWN self image?
OE: Oh man, my sister and I have been compared our whole lives. It's normal to want to distinguish between twins, but we've both gone through phases where people have actually identified one of us as "the bigger twin." It used to trigger body image stuff a lot more for us, and when we were younger, we'd police each other's diet and exercise habits. What if--gasp--someone thought I had HER flaws?
XS: And, what of your Jewish culture? How does that affect your self image?
OE: To me, being Jewish has always been aligned with women’s empowerment and multiculturalism. As the daughter of an Israeli landscaper (dad) and an American rabbi (mom), I grew up believing that cultures could coexist, and women could be whatever we wanted. 

XS: How Does your work as an astrologist play into identity & self image?
OE:'ve pondered that for years. I think it all comes down to my commitment that people know and accept themselves, "flaws" and all. Understanding your chart and your sign can actually give you tools to work with, information that helps you play to your strengths. I definitely put empowering advice into my horoscopes (please check 'em out at

XS: What tips do you have for women learning to truly love themselves? Some simple steps?

OE: Catch yourself. Catch your mind when it's about to spiral into the depressing, self-hating tunnel to nowhere. All we can do is cultivate that consciousness, learn what sets us off, catch it and affirm our worth before we tumble down that rabbit hole. Is it a TV show? A fashion spread? The way a relative looks disapprovingly at you or comments on your body? We can't necessarily change those outside influences. But we CAN change how we respond to them.
XS: How do you define real beauty for your SELF?
OE: Being of service and knowing that I've made a difference for someone is what makes me feel completely beautiful. Our light comes from what we have to contribute to others, not from getting the perfect face to stare back in the mirror. Make your life meaningful. What are you here for? How can you serve the world? Connect to life, and the feeling of beauty flows from a divine source.

XS: What's in the future for you?
OE: More media projects that empower women. I'm working on an e-book series for my astrology biz, and we plan to create some cool materials for Adios Barbie, too. I just became a mom in October 2010, so I'm inspired by my daughter Cybele even more to create a world where little girls aren't sexualized and taught that their appearance is what's most important about them. 
XS: Side note? What does your name, Ophira, mean?
OE: My name means "goldmine," which I kind of love. In the Bible, it was a goldmine belonging to the wise Queen of Sheba. (Thanks for picking that one out, Israeli Dad!)

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In 1992, Ophira co-founded HUES, a national, multicultural women’s magazine, which was published until 1999. Ophira is also the editor of Body Outlaws (Seal Press, 2000), and its "outlawed" first edition, Adios, Barbie. Her website has been a resource for women since 1998. She has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Ms., the New York Times, and Entertainment Weekly. Ophira also lectures at colleges and conferences nationwide about body image and the media. For More info on Ophira & her work, visit: Ophira Dot Com and on twitter @adiosbarbie.