Just a Thought. A Week of Politics and Emotion.

This week has been quite memorable in terms of the news. One minute we seem to be moving forward (electing-reelecting a President who happens to be black) backwards (Supreme Court striking down a major portion of The Voting Rights Act from 1965), forward (Supreme Court ruling on Defense of Marriage Act, allowing same sex adult couples to marry who they choose). I learned as well via my Twitter feed that the President had declined meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus for over 700 days (read here); which definitely thought provoking. I’m still perplexed by his signing of the Monsanto Protection Act protecting from lawsuits or any judicial action (read here).

Add historic abortion rights filibuster in Texas by Wendy Davis lasting 11 hours, and subsequent vow by Governor Rick Perry for another session to see the bill through that would close the majority of planned parenthood and abortion clinics in the state – another potential blow for women’s rights, which are under attack.  Then you have a Congress, approving the bill to double student loans (read here) – rather they approving to keep the loans low. This act of course will send children and families seeking higher learning in hopes of a better life – into debt. Currently, student loan debt has out-paced credit card debt in this country. The rich get richer, while the rest seem to get challenged more each day. Of course – these elected officials can write a full check for their children to attend universities of their choice. Once again, the poor and middle class are being pushed further into a cycle of debt, simply for wanting to go to college in the first place – when did college education become a privilege? Are everyday working class people and young people being penalized by striving for a better life? Then vilified when nor educated enough?  Public schools are closing in urban areas at record numbers, more prisons are being built … “I IS who I Is”, Paula Deen..I never saw any tears just a contorted crying ‘face’ from the snippet I saw of her mea culpa interview. Own your behavior – grow, change and evolve. Create a better work environment – respectful, just and fair. Apples and oranges, however, I’m just as appalled by commercial use of the ‘n’ and other offensive language and behavior in rap music.

It’s going to take me a minute to give my thoughts on Rachael Jeantel in the Zimmerman case, however it did make me think of our responsibility as parents to make certain our children learn to speak clearly (and I can recall the ‘you sound like you have a mouth full of marbles – speak up”) with my own children when they were young; however I grew up with parents who were conscious of diction. Additionally, looking people in the eye and all of that. As a Mom, and not to place myself on a pedestal of parenting, but it is the most important role and job we have as parents; to be teachers and role models. However, I will say that simply because a person doesn’t fit the box of ‘polished’ doesn’t reflect a lack of character, truth – especially with many of today’s youth, many of whom don’t have teachers in life when being raised. Some can’t teach or pass along what they don’t know themselves. I felt for Rachel Jeantel from some of the moments I saw. Admittedly, I was agitated and wanted her to pull it together as well, however Jeantel was authentic – no filter. It also crossed my mind that as a society we don’t need to mock, rather uplift, mentor, reach out – whatever one can do. Watching how she was dissected it almost felt like now there were two black victims in this case. She was a teen girl (and still a teen) on the phone with a friend just before he was murdered as the last person to hear his voice. Being on that witness stand under those circumstances, being picked apart couldn’t have been easy – no matter whose side you’re on. I was agitated with the defense as well for the way in which she was cross examined from what I saw – though understanding they have a job to do as well. I wept when I heard the screams for “help.”

Life and the internet is a harsh place at times.

Life Musings. New York State of Mind and My Children.

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I’ve been coming to New York since I was a little girl when coming to Harlem in the summer – my Mom is a native New Yorker.

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A bit of retail therapy – these came back to LA with me.

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Putting my iPhone to use while wearing a turban – college trip biz break.

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Both of my children are young adults now. I’m protective and respect their desire to not be in the spotlight. This portrait reluctantly had their permission from 1998.

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From Ebony Magazine and USA Today 1996 with one of our poodles.

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“Taxi!” – The intro sounds of my first #1 solo single “Looking For A New Love” were recorded while in NYC. I’m in a cab with my son two decades later for a different reason!

Photo: Kate Garner. Rockin’ Doc Martens in 1992 pregnant with my son.

Checking out the new shipment of Doc Martens in Soho 2012 with my son – classic funky punk style.

At ‘The Fashion Cafe’, New York, 1995 (NY Post).

My son and I enjoyed you New York (heat, humidity and all!). We had a fab time a few of weeks ago. My daughter also chose to come to NYC for college years ago, she’s back in college now as well (though not in NYC), another field of study working toward a Master’s Degree; time flies. This is my second time around with the process – though with no less parental anxiety. My daughter, the first intellect of the brood, located a summer program at Oxford University in London in her Junior Year of High School – I panicked as she’d only traveled with me. My friends said, this will prepare you for when she goes away to college. They were right and I didn’t want to be overprotective.  My daughter is petite, quiet and a potent combination of beauty and brains.  It all worked out  – she survived and so did I.

Having a son brings its own unique set of anxieties and sit down talks of a different nature. “Stop and Frisk” is one for NYC as well as police brutality anywhere as well as potential predators with preconceived notions of young black males like the George Zimmerman’s of the world..

My son and I actually witnessed a ‘Stop and Frisk’ while there; we talked about it. We also saw another situation with a young white teen on a bike get stopped in some sort of roadside check-point near our hotel. I was glad I was there with him to see a couple of these teachable moments. We all want our children to be safe and happy.

Wrapped around the enthusiasm a person feels when spreading their wings with your children is the knowing that a good foundation has been laid. We can’t keep them locked up tucked safely away from the world. Everyone is entitled to grow from caterpillar to butterfly especially our children. Our parental roles continue to evolve as well.

Making it a priority to be ‘present’ for that foundation to produce good, grounded, smart, solid and responsible young people going into the world has always been key for me. Keeping balance while having a career and pursuing personal goals has not been easy. Anyone who works or has a career with children knows what I mean. It’s the most complex job in the world to raise and parent a child especially if you’d like to be a positive influence and get it right as best as one can. This is especially true if one’s own childhood lacked stability, included turmoil and inconsistency. I’ve sacrificed a lot to be more of a stay at home Mom all of these years; in the midst of achieving some pretty great things. In the midst of it all, I have scheduled working trips to coincide with their academic years; and taken them with me to many places in the world and in America. Remembering what’s most important in ‘my’ life; blocking out the chatter, desires and expectations of other people has always been at the fore. This summer I’ve reflected on that frequently. It’s also not easy to be the child of someone recognizable and famous. “Watley — are you related to THE Jody Watley by any chance?”, is a question they get a lot. With that comes expectations, judgements questions and assumptions from total strangers. To them, I’m just their Mom – a ‘Goddess’, as they say. On any melancholy or difficult day I’ve had in this business or in life, mending a broken heart or whatever; nothing lifts me more than when they have told me with hugs “You’re the best Mom in the whole wide world.” If you don’t have children but have people in your life that love you unconditionally, you’ll also understand. My children inspire me in so many ways and I let them know it all the time.

A young working Mom with my princess from a British Magazine, in 1984.

With my daughter in 1984 British Magazine session. Love! She’s working toward her Master’s Degree now.

My son and I at Disney’s daytime premiere of “The Emperor’s New Groove” in 2000 at El Capitan in Hollywood.

Balance and happiness are always key. The music industry can ruin the best most vulnerable people. Choosing to make a ‘life’ and not just a living are core for me. I wrote a song about it for my next album ‘Chameleon’ called ‘Sanctuary’; it’s about creating an environment and atmosphere of love – a safe place to fall. I could be richer and more famous but probably wouldn’t be the Mom I wanted to be. I didn’t want to look back when my children grew up and reflect on what I missed with them. We’ve shared great moments with more to come as we all continue to grow and evolve. Being in NYC with my son finishing up his college stuff before he returns this month made me reflect and feel grateful for my choices as a Mom…

My son found a great pizza place for us the last night in town. I held onto his arm trying to navigate the cobblestone streets of Soho in 6 inch heels and we laughed. He jokingly chided me, “Mom, why did you wear those heels, you should have worn your sandals.” I’m Mom, but I’m still Jody Watley!  It’s difficult to fully express how special this moment was in its simplicity as I held onto his arm with the warm summer evening breeze sweeping around us.

It’s days away now that he’ll be leaving and between his own social life and work, we’ve spent more time together watching classic movies; one of his recent passions (The Deer Hunter being the most recent), going to the movies, lunch and hanging out clowning around the house. He’s also taken an interest in reading literary classics and always has cool things to show me on Tumblr. I could be traveling the world, but there’s no place I’d rather be than home.

Leading led by example since both were little and being an avid reader myself, this has no doubt worn off on both. Education and a good work ethic have also been encouraged since before they were in school. Our last movie date for now will be seeing The Bourne Legacy on Tuesday.  I’m excited that he’s excited to be moving to New York. Loving is also about letting go a bit.  I’ve always been one to say never look back and wonder what might have been – just go toward your dreams and make them come true.

My children are the most special people, precious in all that they are and working toward being in their own lives. They are the core of my existence –  my everything. I’m so proud of them both. This blog is my way of sharing a bit of what I’m feeling right now.

I’ll have to create a new normal for myself, as a rookie empty nester. I’ll finally finish some projects I’ve placed on the back burner knowing this day was coming like ‘Chameleon’, my book and so on..but that’s another blog!

Travel Note:

I want to add that we loved staying small boutique hotel The James in Soho. The staff was great (shout out to Crystal), always cheerful, comfy clean and sophisticated accommodations (loved the zen like garden spaces as well), the bed felt like floating on a cloud, and many perks including free coffee and pastry’s in the morning, free Wi-Fi (really appreciated this), roof top pool with panoramic city views and more. 5 Stars!

http://www.jameshotels.com/New-York.aspx

Photo’s: Jody Watley