How to Be More Beautiful in 2015

I just thought I would share some beauty tips for the year ahead. These are things that I really hope to do more of myself! Here goes:

  1. Smile more. Even if you don’t really feel like it, you will probably make yourself feel better and make other people around you feel better too.
  2. Do something kind every day. If you make it an aim to do at least one kind thing, you’ll have less time to worry about negative things in life.
  3. See the best in people. We all know nobody is perfect, but what if instead of focusing on what we don’t like about a person, we focused on the good things about that person?
  4. Think of yourself less. Being humble does not mean thinking less of yourself, it means thinking of yourself less. Think more about of other people, what they might be going through, what support they might need, etc
  5. Be content. Stop looking at what other people have, and wishing you had it (perhaps stop looking so much at Instagram? I’m speaking to myself here). The grass always appears to be greener on the other side, but just water your own grass if you want it to grow.
  6. Be thankful. The quickest way out of a bad/sad mood is to count your blessings. Stop and think about all the things you are thankful for.
  7. Start living… As opposed to performing a series of acts for the sole purpose of documenting your actions on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube etc to garner “likes” and comments of approval and adoration.

Was this list not what you were expecting? Sorry if you came here looking for make up brand endorsements, or a tutorial on how to draw on eyebrows. It’s just that we seem to be so obsessed with outward beauty, as though that is all that matters. Being beautiful has very little to do with what lipstick you wear, but everything to do with character. I just hope this year more young women will being to realise that, and break free from the tentacles of mass media merchandising machines.

Happy New Year?

The reason for the question mark in my title is, hasn’t January 2015 just been a little bit depressing? I do not mean to sound negative here, but I really do hope things improve from here on out. The following (in no particular order) are a list of reasons why in my opinion, this year so far has not been so “happy”:

  • It is very cold, windy and rainy.
  • Trains everywhere seem to be running an appalling service, constantly running late, and are extremely over packed. Oh and fares have gone up too.
  • I’m fatter than usual following Christmas 2014. Usually after Christmas, I go up just one dress size, but this year it’s two.
  • Hospitals everywhere cannot cope with the number of patients being admitted. I’m scared that should I need urgent medical attention, an ambulance may reach me by January 2016.
  • The general election has not happened yet, and David Cameron is still the prime minister.
  • Over 2000 people, according to Amnesty figures, were massacred in Nigeria. As bad as that is, the tragedy was made worse by the lack of media coverage it received.
  • It’s 2015 and instead of there being greater understanding of different cultures etc, racism, it appears, is more acceptable than ever under the guises of “an honest debate about immigration”, “promoting British/Western values” and “the freedom/right to offend”.
  • Black lives still don’t matter
  • The rich continue to get richer, and the poor get poorer
  • Celebrity Big Brother has returned again. (When will this trash die?)
  • I can’t even comfort eat away some of my woes because I now have to be on a stupid diet

Despite all of these things, I live in hope. Not every year can be entirely wonderful, and anyway, this is just the beginning. After all at this time last year I was unaware that I was going to be proposed to a few days later, and then married by the end of the year (more about that later).

The best comfort really, is to continue to remind myself that this life is temporary, and to think of things eternal.

The Death of Michael Brown: Who is to Blame?

When the story first broke, of an unarmed black teenager shot by a white police officer, it was tempting to immediately take to social media to vent outrage. But something told me to hold back and wait until all of the facts came out. Since then, CCTV footage of Brown appearing to rob a convenience store, stealing a packet of Cigarillos has been released, there have been conflicting witness accounts, and now we have the decision from the Grand Jury, having reviewed the evidence that Darren Wilson, the officer responsible for the killing, will not face charges.

 

This decision has set the internet (and in the literal sense, Ferguson) ablaze and having read various blogs, and commentaries, I feel like I can finally piece my thoughts together to throw in my opinion, worth little as it is.

 

There is a clear dividing line when it comes to views about Brown’s death. There are those who believe that Brown was a violent thug, and Wilson was the hero who put a stop to his tyranny, and those who argue that Brown was unarmed, and therefore should not have been shot at and killed. The latter feel that, the only reason he was killed is because he was black, and in America, black lives do not matter. It seems to me that there is some truth in both opinions. But it seems that not many people are willing to accept that. Not those who have immediately started burning down buildings and looting in Ferguson, nor those who sit comfortably behind their computer screens hastily posting insensitive comments suggesting that Brown deserved to die.

 

I should mention a third camp. Those who are sympathetic to the anger that surrounds Brown’s death, but question why there is not the same anger expressed when a black person is killed by another black person. There are problems I have with each of these views.

 

To those saying that Michael Brown was a violent thug who deserved to die, I say this: when one views the CCTV footage, it is hard to argue otherwise. But a person is often more than one thing – he was also a high school graduate for example. Furthermore, it’s important to put things into perspective. His violence, as far as I’m aware, did not involve killing anybody. To say Brown deserved to die because he was violent, sends out a message that any kind of unlawful or undesirable behaviour is punishable by death, administered by the gun of whichever law enforcement officer happens to feel threatened by person who has misbehaved. The last time I checked the death penalty in the America is the most serious of punishments, only meted out to cold blooded murderers. Had Brown had the chance to live, who knows whether he would have changed his ways, and developed the more positive aspects of his character.

 

A key feature of the argument above, is that colour played no part in Brown’s death nor in the police and media response. It’s difficult for me to accept that. Many black men in America speak of how they are perceived by whites as being threatening, in situations where they are innocently going about their business. At the point Brown received the fatal bullets, he was already wounded from the earlier scuffle, and had run away from Wilson. Some witnesses say he was surrendering. But did Wilson nevertheless perceive Brown as a threat because he was black?

 

Was the media colour blind in its reporting? Why was the CCTV footage released, when it later transpired that the robbery was unconnected to the shooting?  The Huffington Post have an interesting article called “When the media treats white suspects and killers better than black victims”( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/media-black-victims_n_5673291.html), which makes the point better than I can. To put it gently, it is quite naïve to say that colour has nothing to do with Brown’s death and its aftermath.

 

To those that say Brown was unarmed and therefore should not have been killed, I admit I have much less to say. I largely agree with that, but find that there tends to be a blindness to the anger connected with this view. Too much of a blind eye is turned to Brown’s violence and thuggery. It has to be asked, why did Brown not simply hop on to the sidewalk when asked? According to Wilson’s first account (which later conveniently changed), he did not even know about the convenience store robbery, and just wanted Brown to stop walking in the middle of the road. And though some part of Wilson’s account seem incredible, it’s probably true that Brown gave him some attitude. Again, why?

 

Brown good and bad

Turning to the third argument, which I find particularly irksome, why are people not angry when a black person dies at the hand of another black person? This is my answer: that is simply beside the point. Firstly, it does not sit well with me to suggest that people should only get angry when somebody of their colour dies or is killed. Secondly, the real issue here it seems, is anger against the system. Wilson was not just a white man. He was a police officer. An officer charged with the duty of protecting citizens, yet he killed one. Imagine if there was no anger about this situation? We’re talking about holding a powerful institution accountable for the way it treats black citizens. It is just too simplistic to say “oh but black people get killed by blacks all the time”.

 

When a black person kills another black, they usually end up in prison. How many times in such a situation, do you hear of a cover up? Does it ever appear that the system tries to protect the black murderer from facing justice? Not that I have ever seen. But it does sort of look like system is trying to protect Darren Wilson. Even Piers Morgan has written a piece (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2849133/PIERS-MORGAN-farce-Ferguson-Darren-Wilson-6ft-4in-210lb-five-year-old-history.html) about the holes in the investigation into Brown’s death, and even though I thought I already knew all there was to know about the case, the new information I learned, I found disturbing.

 

So back to my question; who is to blame? I still do not have a straight answer. I can’t say it’s all Brown’s fault, as appalling as his behaviour was, we are all sinners, but by the grace of God, not all of us get gunned down and left dead in the street for hours. In this fallen world there remain many injustices. Perhaps it is too much to ask that at the very least, Darren Wilson be taken to trial, his actions put under scrutiny, so it can be properly decided whether he is truly free of blame.

Flop of the Month: Busaba Eatai Store Street

Busaba Eatai seemed like an excellent choice for my meet up with my university friends for an overdue catch up recently. I remember going to the branch near Selfridges some years ago, and enjoying the red curry dish with whatever meat it came with. I recalled that the food comes out relatively quickly, and the place tends to have a buzzing atmosphere… Surely one can’t go wrong. Wrong.

Despite it being a Friday evening, there was no queue to get inside the Store Street Branch. That perhaps should have been clue. At The branch near Selfridges, I remembered having to wait about half an hour for a table. A number of factors could bear responsibility for that to be fair. But the experience that followed makes me think blaming the restaurant, is being entirely fair.

Once seated, the four of us (who had miraculously arrived all within half an hour of each other) were approached by the manager.

“Can we order please?”

“No!” He barked. Awkward pause. Then he burst out laughing. Oh it was supposed to be a JOKE. Funny.

Then turning to my friend who was the first to arrive he said “You can order as you were here first, but not the rest if you”.

Another awkward silence. Then more crazy laughter from him, and wearied expressions from us. Once the jokes were over we got to ordering some drinks. Within a minute a confused looking waiter brought a tray of glasses of water. That was quick, I thought. Before realising that we hadn’t actually ordered any tap water. Well still not bad, perhaps he was anticipating our needs; it was very hot inside and we were already parched. We then waited a while for the drinks we did actually order, during which time every other minute, the same confused waiter approached our table with a different drink that we had not ordered.

“You order this?”

 

The poor guy clearly could not speak very good English at all. He looked so terrified it was hard to not to feel for him. But then it did start to become a little comical when he would appear with another tray, the same question mark written all over of his face, and we would stop mid conversation to tell him the drinks do not belong to us.

When it came to ordering the food, one of my friends and I opted to share a plate of chicken stir fry. When a small plate of what looked like fried chicken wings with a tablespoon sized heap of plain vermicilli noodles was set in front of us, we were a little confused. This wasn’t the chicken stir fry we had ordered. Wrong again, yes it was, we were told by the manager. I was just hungry by this point and generously offered to eat the whole thing. Perhaps I should I tasted it first. It tasted like it had been drenched in vinegar, it was so sour. Nevertheless, hunger will make you do strange things (such as eat it all anyway).

From what I could see from the other orders, the portions were fairly small, and did not look very appetising. It is highly unusual for me to not be enticed by what is on someone else’s plate when eating out, but I must say, this was a first.

Halfway through our evening we were asked to move. Okay fair enough, a bigger group needed the table, and we were being moved to a quieter more private section. No complaints made there. We were then served by a different waitress who also had very poor English. We asked for a jug of tap water. She brought a glass. We repeated our request for a jug, but were met with a confusing message along the lines of her needing to ask the manager. We never saw her again. How I wished we had cherished more the water we didn’t actually order, brought to us earlier by the confused waiter.

Despite the challenges of the evening, we had an enjoyable catch up, but when it came time to pay the bill, it did not feel right, after all that has described above, to pay service charge. We explained this to yet another waitress who did not speak English well, and after the 5th attempt of trying to explain, the manager was summoned by the waitress.

Although we had not wished to pay service charge, by each paying a little more than was on the bill, it turned out we had effectively paid most of the service charge already. That meant that there was actually only £2 outstanding. It seemed trivial now, but we had to stick to our guns out of principle. Still I had my wallet ready in a very English, wanting to avoid further confrontation manner. Then the manager arrived.

 

“You don’t want to pay service charge?” he asked indignant.

 

“No” (a bit sheepishly)

 

“Fine! It’s only £2 anyway!” he snapped, snatching up the bill and trouncing off.

*That moment when you’re glad that you stuck to your guns*

 

And that was that. Busaba Eatai Store Street congratulations for making me utter the words that I rarely utter: “I am never coming here again”.

My Hair Evolution: Routines and Techniques

The natural hair journey is certainly one of learning! Over the past 3 or 4 years since I stopped wearing my hair straightened by heat ALL the time, I have had to learn how to manage, maintain and style my curly mane.
As I said in my first post about natural hair, I have made many mistakes along the way! I hope this post will be useful especially for other thinned haired ladies like myself, in things you MAY want to avoid. Of course no to heads of hair are the same so do play around a bit to see what works for you. First I’ll detail the evolution of the techniques/processes I’ve used on my hair, and in the next post I’ll talk more specifically about the products.

Washing routine 
In the beginning… I would just wash my hair without putting it into sections first. I would try and just keep my head either facing down of leaning right back so that all my hair fell the same direction. That was my only precaution against tangles. Of course this led to extreme knotting and breakage. Then I stumbled across YouTube, and in particular the naptural85 channel, where Whitney taught me about dividing my hair into chunky twist sections before washing. This was a MASSIVE help in reducing tangling.

Then… I added a few other things in such as a hot oil treatment before washing, and then after washing, a deep conditioner followed by twisting my hair in readiness for the twist out hairstyle to be worn the next day. Basically the whole routine would take me the whole day! I could not live that way, and I was beginning to hate my natural hair for taking up so much of my time. So I started to wash my hair in large sections and where possible, cut down on deep conditioning time.

Now… I clarify and wash my hair whilst it is in my new favourite styling option; mini twists! I also condition my hair whilst still in mini-twists, wash out the conditioner and then when the hair is still wet, redo each twist one at a time, adding a little leave-in conditioner and half a drop of oil to each mini section. But more on that below.

 

Detangling

In the beginning… this did not even feature in my vocabulary! It brings a picture to mind of when your head phones get into a knot and you have to carefully unwind them, and tease the straps apart to remove the tangle. What I would do with my hair, was far from that! Initially I would simply rake a comb through my hair, in fact, it was the afro pik attachment to a hair dryer that I would use while blowing it out and getting it ready for the straighteners (flat iron for you American ladies). I would pick out the knots that had been ripped from my hair from between the prongs of the comb, and then stare helplessly at my now even thinner hair, in the mirror.

 

Then… I started to use my fingers more and more to try and detangle knots in my hair and afterwards use a comb followed by a Denman brush when I became too frustrated/tired/lazy to continue finger detangling. I would only do this when my hair was wet though. And I quickly learned the importance of using a conditioner “with SLIP”. However tiredness and laziness would often get the better of me and I would find myself reaching for the Denman far too quickly.

 

Now... I do about 90% finger detangling. Because I’m trying out doing mini twists repeatedly, I found that by using the method described above after washing, I can easily finger detangle each section before I twist it to remove any shed hair. Another benefit is hardly any knots form, except the ones formed by shed hair becoming tangled.

 

Styling routine

In the beginning… as I mentioned earlier, I was straightening/flat ironing my hair all the time. I wasn’t even using a heat protectant! It was only when my hair became excessively thin that I thought that something had to give.

Then… that’s when I decided to wear my hair curly. It was wonderfully liberating, and I quickly became addicted to the likes of Naptural85 and the Care For Your Hair blog to educate me on how to maintain and style my hair in its curly state. I quickly noticed the difference in texture with the hair near my roots, and the ends of my hair. I now know that this is what’s called heat damage. The roots were curly, but the ends stayed straight and limp. The more I experimented with styles the more I realised I did not like the limp ends. So I took the plunge and chopped them all off. This was about 4 years ago. That would make me 4 years heat free right? Wrong! Soon after, I itched to see how long my hair had gotten, and succumbed to the heat again. This time I told myself it would be different, as I had learned to use a good heat protectant. But sadly I ended up with severe heat damage again, which I am still in the process of growing out (I last used heat on my hair in February 2013).

Now... I am heat free. I’m not saying all thinned haired ladies should be heat free, but that’s kind of what I’m saying. Or at least turn the temperature down! Don’t you use less heat when ironing delicate fabric? Your hair is even more delicate! So what do I do? I’ve had twist outs, braid outs, wash and gos (which I don’t do anymore because they give me crazy single strands knots), and I am now settled with my mini twists. As you may be able to tell, I can’t get enough of my mini-twists. The style is so versatile, it allows me to exercise and sweat buckets without changing much in appearance, it takes about two minutes to style in the morning, and two minutes to put into 4 chunky braids for night time (which is great for keeping the twists stretched). The only downside is installing the mini-twists takes TIME. Go back and read what I have to do at the end of my wash routine – I have to literally set aside a day to this. But when I used to install my own box braids, it would take me two days, and cost me far more breakage (and around £5.00 for the Expressions). But with mini twists, the time is worth it!

This is what my heat damage looks like. Sad

This is what my heat damage looks like. Sad

 

Trimming

In the beginning… I never had a problem with this as I think I am addicted to cutting my hair. Perhaps the reality is that I have made so many hair mistakes, that I always had a reason to cut my hair and start again.

 

Then… I thought I would regulate how often I “trim” (if cutting off two inches a time falls under that category) my hair, and decided to do it only 4 times a year.

Now… I constantly trim my hair because I am trying to get rid of all the heat damage. Once that is done, I suspect I will trim as and when I need to, which in my opinion, is the best way to do it.

 

Useful links:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9Zl_UOLc2F5Aq45G6DxEaQ

http://www.cfyh.co.uk/

https://adressrehearsal.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/10-things-you-ought-to-know-before-you-decide-to-go-natural/

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @adressrehearsal

Cursed Culture? Why Laissez-faire does not Fare Well

The spotlight is on Nigeria once again. I cannot discuss aspects of African culture that could do with change, without mentioning the casual, nonchalant, and often too relaxed outlook seen in parts of Nigerian society. Nowhere is it seen more, than amongst the Nigerian Government. The utterly pathetic search “effort” for the 274 girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok a few weeks ago, is just one recent example of this. Thank God, 50 managed to escape. And now another blow; today, it has been reported that Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group responsible for the kidnapping, have kidnapped a further 8 girls from another school in Borno.

 

When atrocities such as these happen, it becomes so apparent why the laissez-faire attitude of the Nigerian Government is so disastrous. The plight of the missing girls, and their families is heart wrenching, and has sparked a global outcry. The hash tag “BringBackOurGirls” is currently trending on twitter. America and the UK have now offered assistance in trying to find the girls. Kind offers they are, but isn’t it a little embarrassing that these Western nations have had to offer help to a seemingly incapable Nigeria? I sincerely hope the Nigerian government will learn from some of the mistakes made in connection with the Chibok girls, and act with much more zeal in searching for the 8 girls kidnapped in Borno. It is little hope.

 

It could be said that it is easy for me to sit here in London and criticise Nigerian leaders, so I will pause with a link to a well written article on the same subject, written by one who lives in Nigeria:

 

http://www.postcardfromlagos.com/2014/04/remembering-chibok-200.html

 

And now to draw this mini-series about culture to a close; one could be forgiven for thinking that I have nothing positive to say about African culture. That isn’t the case. For example, I love the warmth, the resilience, the ingenuity, and ability to deal with hardship with a smile, present in so many Africans. But there is no harm in fine-tuning the culture, and when it comes to certain aspects of it, such as the subject of the post, in my opinion, it is positively harmful not to.

 

 

For more commentary, follow me on Twitter @adressrehearsal

Cursed Culture? Spiritual vs Superstitious

It is rare to meet an African atheist. Africans generally believe in something. A lot of Nigerians I know are “Christians”. I would included myself in that number, but I am a little unusual in that I don’t attend a church pastored by a megalomaniac, who struts up and down a stage shouting and sweating in front of a congregation who sway, swoon, and ultimately empty out their pockets to fund the profligate lifestyle of the said megalomaniac. In other words I don’t attend the ever popular charismatic church.

 

At times I find it mystifying that so many Africans do attend such churches. In the days I used to attend, the pastors would have the cheek to declare that theirs is the spirit filled church, and the more conservative and traditional churches are “dead” churches. It was a similar story at home, after I left the charismatic church. Whenever my mother would be watching Supernatural on the God channel, and I would decline to join, informing her that I do not believe in such things (as people being transported to Heaven and back), she would declare that I have no faith. On the contrary I do not need to witness lying signs and wonders in order believe that God exists.

 

In the end I’ve concluded that the reason there is so much delusion in African churches, is that African people are just too superstitious. I know Africans that don’t like it if a black cat passes by in front of them. Or apparently if you’re pregnant you should not look at something scary or unpleasant, otherwise your child will be born ugly, to cite but a few examples.

 

In many parts of Africa herbal doctors, or “witch doctors” still operate and are heavily relied upon. I’m almost convinced that many African pastors are nothing more than “Christianized” witch doctors. Witch doctors will tell you to bring personal items to be prayed over; so do the African pastors. Witch doctors tell people that if they do something, or neglect to do something, a curse will fall upon them; so do African pastors. Witch doctors profess to possess special powers, and command respect and authority; so do African pastors.

 

It is just so annoying that so many African pastors are able do all these things in name of Christ, with no biblical precedent or authority. It is just so frustrating to see people in their thousands being sucked in. When African churches are caught up in a particularly peculiar folly, the secular media have a field day. I wonder if the members of those churches are aware of just how… for lack of a better word… utterly idiotic they look. Did any of the Rabboni Centre Ministries members who obeyed instructions to eat grass feel a little embarrassed when they saw pictures of themselves sprawled out on a field like goats, printed in international press?

 

What aggravates me the most is when superstition has destructive impact upon peoples’ lives. It can range from a person marrying the wrong spouse because a pastor “had a vision” that it was meant to be, to a sick person throwing away vital medication because they’ve been told that God doesn’t want anybody to ever be sick, and they should there “receive their healing”. Church goers can see their life savings depleted by believing the lie of the pastor, that as they sow (financially) they will reap blessings.

 

But perhaps one of the cruellest results of blindly following people who claim to men or women of God, is the suffering of children. Just today I read in the Evening Standard of a woman named Helen Ukpabio, who is currently in the UK, from Nigeria. Campaigners want her to be deported because she accuses children of being witches. She has been quoted as saying that any child who cries at night or is feverish is “a servant of Satan”. Her preaching has led to many children in Nigeria being abandoned, starved and abused. It is appalling that this disgusting practice of labelling children and babies witches still continues. Lessons still have not been learned since the Victoria Climbie case that shocked the media all the way back in the year 2000.

 

An excerpt from the book "Prayer Bullets for Winners" (War against Haman 8). I guess there were previous books waging war against Haman 1-7

An excerpt from the book “Prayer Bullets for Winners” (War against Haman 8). I guess there were previous books waging war against Haman 1-7

One of things that I can’t help but find slightly amusing though, is different names given to various “spirits” or “kingdoms”. Ms Ukpabio or “Lady Apostle” claims to deliver people of “ancestral spirits” and “mermaid spirit”. Many will also be familiar with the terms “enemy of progress”, “spirit husband/wife”, and “household wickedness”. A more sobering thought is of the endless prayers, or rather energetic chanting, uttered within superstitious churches. With so much time and energy dedicated to these supposed dark forces, do those prayer warriors realise that they are actually idolising those dark forces, and so in effect worshipping them? Wouldn’t it be a miracle if those worshippers in their thousands, devoted the hours they currently spend chanting, into to actually studying the bible and finding out what it really says. Maybe that would help to avert the problems mentioned above, and perhaps avert the greatest tragedy of all; false conversions.