I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Michael Brown and The Politics of Respectability #Ferguson

If we are honest, many African- Americans waited with baited breath hoping that Mike Brown was not killed while committing a crime. For many of us it's our worst nightmare. That is, giving white America the fuel to say that our senseless death is justified. The Politics of Respectability has long been an issue for Black America. We have had to prove over and again that we are American too, in so many ways and so many times, that calling the role would be endless.

There has also been a duality in regards to the issues of respectability in the black community. While respectability has been used against us, it has also been one of the things we have believed would make America accept us. At the end of slavery, we sat out to prove that we could be American by how we dressed, our education, how hard we worked, how we worshipped and especially through moral dignity, i. e. what came out of our mouths, fowl language was frowned upon, as was drinking. Many of the Black baptist women were strong supporters of the prohibitionist movement.

By the late 1800's, uplift of the black community through morality was deeply rooted within the black community. I highlight this in my book The Politics of Respectability.  Respectability influenced our daily living and how we did politics. All of our organizations that were formed during this period were rooted in respectability and many of those social/service organizations remain today.

Yet by 1896 equality in American was dealt a harsh blow with the Supreme Court  ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that declared separate but equal legal. That ruling would last until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Plessy sent a strong message that black people in American had no rights that a white person had to respect. Even the dissent in Plessy first argued that Black people were unequal humanly to whites, but that we should be given rights because the disenfranchisement of one group of people, even humanly unequal people, can create a slippery slope for the disenfranchisement of other segments of society.

We have seen this fundamental belief of human inequality play its self out in the legal system and in the media over and again through the ream of  respectability. Respectability has been the litmus test rather then justice for blacks in American over and again. There is an assumption that he must be flawed in someway and that is what caused his death rather than injustice.

Most recently, we can look to the Trayvon Martin's case.  The underlined assessment of White America was that he must have been a criminal or going to engage in criminal activity because he was wearing a hoodie! George Zimmerman's argument was that Trayvon, "looked suspicious" because of how he was dressed. A child on his way home from a grocery store carrying juice and a bag of candy was killed because of how he was dressed and his murderer acquitted because reasonable doubt was given based on the character of that child.

Time and time again we have watched the criminalization of  the victim at the hands of the actual criminal, the legal system and the media. In the case of Michael Brown after a week of silence from the Ferguson police we were told that minutes before his death, that Michael had been involved in a "stronghold robbery." Mind you, this was a press conference to release the name of the police officer that killed Michael, but instead became an assassination on his character.  Blindsided, many in Black America retreated. How do you argue for this child in the face of his behavior became one school of thought. I believe that this is  driving the  lack of voice among celebrities and public figures around this case.  The video released was embarrassing, but within an hour Black Twitter had taken up Michael's defense. Murder is murder. No matter how you spin it, Michael was unarmed and shot multiple times. Ferguson residence increased their in protest and have stayed in the streets.

Tweets came hard and heavy dissecting Chief James Thompson statement.  By the afternoon the police chief held another press conference and admitted that police officer Darren Wilson  did not know that Michael was involved in any crime when he stopped him.  The robbery had nothing to do with the incident, Michael was stopped simply because he was jay walking.

The Department of Justice asked the Ferguson police department not to release the tape because it was inflammatory and would create more tension in Ferguson, which it did. Attorney Crump, the attorney for the Brown family didn't know that the tape existed and Chief Ron Johnson of the State Trooper, who was brought in to handle security after the first night of riots said he had no idea that Brown was involved in a crime prior to his death. The Ferguson police had never mentioned that fact to one of their team members. He also condemned the release of the tape.

Later that day, the police chief was cornered by Don Lemon from CNN and said that he released the information about the robbery because it was requested in the freedom of information act from the press. Chief Thompson seems to be standing on shaky ground. At the end of the day,  how can the media request something they never knew happened? Even the owner of the store admitted to CNN  that they never filed a police report, never even called 911. 

We saw media outlets run with the story like a pack of wild dogs. Even after the chief's second press conference clarifying that Michael was NOT a suspect when he was stopped, the media  still continued to call Michael a robbery suspect. Why is it that African-Americans always have to prove that we deserve justice in the face of injustice? Many in Black America believe without a doubt if Michael Brown had been a white child the media's angle would have been different from day one. There is a twitter campaign called #iftheygunnedmedown which suggest unfairness in the media with black victims. With a display of side by side pictures of a person being a "good citizen" and the other "joking around and being mischievous" the question is, if they gunned me down what picture would the media use? The media should be embarrassed that a segment of society have no faith in being portrayed in any sort of positive light, or with fairness. There have been mass protest at CNN headquarters in Atlanta on the Ferguson coverage. 

We are now faced with a eye witness testimony that says they witnessed Michael Brown in some sort of scuffle with the police officer. Also the coroner's office leaked that Michael had marijuana in his system, but still have yet to produce an autopsy. Just two more things that murky the water in the face of justice. The assassination of Michael's character is in full force and Darren Wilson is on paid leave hiding. As they head to the Grand Jury we have media outlets like the New York Times pointing out that there are different eyewitness accounts but nothing about the police chief changing his story.  Yet witness Dorian Johnson has never changed his story and all the witness agree that Darren Wilson shot unarmed Michael Brown down in the middle of the street. 

As we try to make sense of the autopsy, ballistics  and eyewitness accounts, I challenge Black America to stand on the moral ground that this unarmed young man was murdered and not wavier in the face of respectability. I challenge White America to see black people as human deserving protection under the law without some type of litmus test of our moral fiber.

I would rather stand on the moral ground of what's right any day over and above denying justice in the face of wrong because a person doesn't live by your standards. 

Protest at CNN of Ferguson Coverage
I believe we can help set the tone on this issue of respectability, by not making this  case an issue about mortality,, but about justice. There are no perfect people but there is a standard of justice. We must demand justice for Michael Brown. No matter how you spin it, this young man had no gun or any form of weapon. He was shot at least 6 times and laid in his own blood for four hours in the middle of the street.  The police are given a duty to protect it's citizens. Darren Wilson not only fell to protect Michael Brown, he violated his Civil Rights.

Injustice in a Civil Society should be the litmus test by which we stand not respectability. If respectability was the standard, every American would have fallen short at least once in their life-time. 

FootnoteThe term Politics of Respectability was first coin by Evelyn Higginbotham a scholar at Harvard who researched Black Baptists Women's and their engagement in  politics during the late 1800's. She coin this term in  her book "Righteous Discontent" The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880--1920. 

Also see Plessy v. Ferguson, A Brief History with Documents ed. Brook Thomas

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Case of Mike Brown #Ferguson #MikeBrown

I have to admit, when I first saw the picture of Michael Brown laying in the middle of a Ferguson street, my first reaction was, 'Here we go again." Then my impulse was to say, "But what about black on black crime?" and I said as much in a Facebook post that I have since deleted. I'm the first to admit when I am wrong no matter the context. For sure my frustration with Chicago's violence is not an excuse for insensitivity of anyone's death, no matter the circumstance.

Then I turned to Twitter and everything changed. The tweets on Michael Brown's death and the police standoff was all consuming. I got sucked into the hashtags #Ferguson and #MikeBrown. Black Twitter had taken up the case of Mike Brown and was demanding  justice. The  images coming out of Ferguson from tweets were powerful. The "RT" re-tweets were massive and have been non-stop since Mike's death. Mainstream media are now admitting that Twitter broke the real story and brought worldwide attention to the murder of this young man. Can you image Palestinians tweeting residents of Ferguson on how to handle tear gas? Twitter has that power.

To catch you up to date based on the information that I have today. An 18 year old, unarmed young man by the name of Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson, who has been a member of the mostly white (50 of 53) police department of Ferguson for 4 years.

Michael and his friend Dorian Johnson where walking down the middle of the street when Officer Wilson asked the boys to get out of the middle of the street. According to Dorian, they had a few words, Officer Wilson pulled off, then backed up. After trying unsuccessfully to pull Mike Brown into the car through the window, Officer Wilson then got out of the car and started shooting. They started running after the first shot.  Two additional eye witness confirms the story of Dorain that Mike Brown, eventually stopped put his hands in the air and Officer Wilson continued to shoot. A preliminary autopsy was released today, indicating that there were at least 6 shots to the front of the body with 2 being to the head.

Tensions rose to an all time high after the police let Mike Brown's body lay in the streets for 4 hours and a good portion of that Mike seemed to have been uncovered. His mother, father and family looked on in horror. This video says it all. (warning, the language is graphic)

Tensions rose and eventually led to a stand off with black members of the community and the Ferguson police draped in military gear before any outside intervention. There was a standoff for four days that erupted into a riot, tear gas, rubber bullets and arrest. The press had given Michael Brown's death almost no coverage until two reporters were arrested. Most of the news was coming from Twitter. In fact, through Twitter news outlets learned of the journalist arrest.

Ferguson is in turmoil and adding to the fuel was the police departments handling of the case. In addition to the blatant disregard for the protesters, it took nearly a week to disclose the name of the officer  and then from a Freedom of Information request.

Officer Wilson Picture was released by Yahoo News
Wilson's name but not his picture was released on Friday in the back drop of information about Mike Brown that had no bearing on his murder. This created even more tension on the ground in #Ferguson and Twitter exploded dissecting Chief's Thomas Jackson statement and calling out the hypocrisy, forcing him to have another press conference that afternoon clarifying the press conference that morning.

All eyes are on Ferguson as the protest and clashes with law enforcement continues. As I write this blog post, the National Guard is rolling into Ferguson to restore order, peace on the other hand, can only be restored when the murderer of Michael Brown is brought to justice.

Me, well I have lots more to say about my life  and HIV/AIDS for sure, but right now I have lots  to say about the micro topics surrounding the death of Mike Brown and the situation in Ferguson. More blog posts are forthcoming. On Friday I wanted to tweet my usual #FuckinFriday hashtag focusing on HIV prevention, but was virtually paralyzed. What could I say to young people about safe sex in a society where their life is not valued and right wing, racist trolls are seeking out the hashtag #Ferguson and tweeting that Mike was just another koon?

Friday, August 8, 2014

HairFinity!! Putting It to the Test!

My New Weave Look!
It is no secret that I wear weave. I've had a lot of hair drama over the years. My hair had been long. Then I cut it off and wore it short for many years. Then it just wouldn't grow back to my original length. Then I weaved it for a year, going back and fourth to Ellen Lavar in New York and hanging out with Luke in the meantime. In that year, it grew back to my original long length but it also grew gray. Listening to the choir, I colored the gray. With the relaxer and color, it was just to much for my hair. Over months, I painfully watched, my hair fall out in the sink, in my hand and in my comb.

Then two years ago, I got my hair weaved by Trayce Madre and it has grown, surpassing my original length. Today, for the most part, I have pretty healthy hair and all of my relaxer is gone. Yep, I'm natural under my weave. Weave has been a protecter to allow my hair to grow without all the heat from blow drying and curling.

Me and Tymeka creator of HairFinity at BlogHer

While at BlogHer I met the owner of Hairfinity. Now I have to be honest. I have seen their Intsagram testimonies and I didn't believe the hype. Tiara and I have had a few conversations about this hair vitamin that claims to help your hair become healthy and grow. So when I saw their booth at BlogHer I stopped and told them what I thought. You know I'm never short of opinions and they met me word for word. LOL! But no, they were really nice about it. You can read about how Hairfinity works here.

I had a couple of conversations with the women working the booth at Hairfinity. One who is a breast cancer survivor. She cut her hair when she started chemotherapy. She told me that  she wanted to have control, rather than surrender it to chemotherapy.  She has been taking Hairfinity for a month and I was honestly impressed. She had more hair then I would have thought.

Another woman working the booth lost all of her hair in a car accident. The accident disfigured most of her face. She not only lost her hair, but also her hair line was virtually gone. I saw the pictures for myself. You talking about her life as a miracle, just the facial reconstruction alone was remarkable. Honestly, I just couldn't see how any of her hair would grow back after her cousin showed me the pictures and pointed to the woman in the picture standing a few feet away from me. "She's been on Hairfinity for two years," her cousin said. I was impressed again.

Now, you all know I'm not easily impressed but they had me eating putty out of their hands the next day when I met the owner. I thought this product was straight out of China. Wrong!! If Hairfinity wasn't impressive, Tymeka Lawrence the creator and owner of HairFinity certainly is . This soft spoken chemist is a very gracious hand-full of dynamite! At fifteen she became pregnant with her daughter, but didn't let it stop her. She not only finished high school and college, but went on to receive her masters degree.

Kloe Kardashians at BlogHer14
O. K. they had my attention, and not because celebrities like the Kardashians use the product but because of the testimonies and the ingenuity of Tymeka. Since 2006 she and her husband has ran Brock Beauty from Slidell, Louisiana.

Sooooo, I'm putting HairFinity to the test for a year. Now my hair does grow when I'm wearing weave and I have no intention of stopping. Love weave, it's just far easier to manage than my natural hair. Prior to HairFinity, I've been marking my hair growth every three months when I get my weave redone. That's what I intend to do with HairFinity. I started taking the hair vitamin last Monday. In full disclosure, they did give me a three months supply at BlogHer so that made it easy for me to get started. I gave one month to Tiara to get her started. I felt like I had nothing to lose, but I will be purchasing the rest for the remainder of the year.

I am particularly concerned about my edges and the part of my hair at the very top that I leave out each time I weave so that I  have a natural look. Those parts of my hair tend to grow a lot less then the hair braided under the weave.

I will have three markers in this one year. 1) Overall growth, compared to last year with weave 2) Growth of my edges and the very top that is not weaved  and 3) The overall health of my hair.

I will check in every 3 months. I hope it works because I'm really rooting for Tymeka Lawrence and Brock Beauty. I'm so glad that they came to BlogHer or else I would have never put the product to the test.

Now in fairness, I do take a lot of medication and medication can impact the growth of your hair. My side kick, Tiara also started it last Monday and she will be my other marker. She also has some tough to grow areas in her hair, especially her edges. I can't wait to see her results. We are both giving Hairfinity a year. At the end of the day, the ingredients in HairFinity are a mixture of vitamins so I feel that its safe, but as always a person with health issues and on a any medicine regime should consult their physician before venturing off. The bottom picture is my natural hair one month before I got my current weave. Now let's watch it grow.

Natural Hair Diva!

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