Thursday, June 27, 2013

Create Love Reacts to SCOTUS Decisions: Supporting Atlanta's Black LGBT Coalition

When SharRon and I started this movement of empowerment for women who love women, we understood our very existence to be a political statement. The decisions handed down from SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) this week are the most profound evidence of this truth. We have been experiencing the gamut of emotions as we grapple with the disappointment of the Voting Rights Act decision, while acknowledging the progress of the ban on DOMA and Prop 8. We encourage our supporters to stand in solidarity with the demand for equal and civil rights for all.

SharRon and I are longstanding activists and advocates in Atlanta's LGBT community, as well as In addition to the Create Love vision, I serve as a founding member of Atlanta's Black LGBT Coalition. To that end, we support the Coalition's public statement about the recent SCOTUS decisions (see below). We implore you to act: spread the word and stay engaged, politically, socially and spiritually.

We must not become so complacent with our progress that we forget what we deserve, not just as gays, not just as Black people, not just as women--but as human beings.  

In the spirit of commUNITY...METTA!
Imani Evans, MA

Darlene Hudson,
Craig Washington:

Lessons for the Beloved Community:
On The Matter of Rights and Which Rights Matter

Statement from The Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition

Atlanta, GA- We, the members of the Atlanta Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Coalition are comprised of a group of community organizers, cultural workers, nonprofit professionals, artists, faith leaders, healers, researchers, and activists engaged in social justice work in the U.S. South. We were formed because of the necessity to ensure that an intersectional lens is brought to bear in the movements we work in and the issues we champion.  

We are deeply disappointed with the ruling yesterday by the Supreme Court on the issue of the Voting Rights Act, which will diminish the federal government’s ability to oversee and ensure the possibility of democracy in places where there has been very little. We are also intrigued and even encouraged by the possibilities opened up by the Supreme Court’s rulings today making the ban on federal recognition of same-sex marriages unconstitutional and clearing the path for the continuation of same-sex marriages in California. 

The movement for racial justice and the movement for LGBT equality are not counter or competing, though this week one might be led to believe they are. We have been utterly confused and dissatisfied by responses that celebrate the progress signaled by the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ignore or minimize the threat posed by the Voting Rights Act ruling. Such perspectives, particularly from LGBTQ communities, that fail to appreciate the impact of the Voting Rights Act decision are narrow, divisive and antithetical to progressive community values.

We see those battles, in our lives and in our work, as inherently intersectional and we know that a setback for one is a setback for us all. We who believe in “justice everywhere” should not celebrate the victory against DOMA, without acknowledging the damage done by the Voting Rights Act decision. We know as intimately as we know intuitively the structural violence that can be unleashed if rights are not protected. There are no victories as long as injustice persists in other areas. Progress is not a linear march through history but a series of battles that must constantly be fought, and victories that must be protected and preserved at every turn.

Members of the LGBT community in general and the black LGBT community particular, should remain vigilant in advocating and voicing our dissatisfaction of the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding the Voting Rights Act even as we affirm the ruling on DOMA.

We want to offer the following as actions that we can all take to navigate our current political environment:

1.     Remain resilient- As individuals and groups working on behalf of social justice, we know all too well the intensity and force of the organizations working against our interests. We must however, support each other, care for each other, so we can remain resilient.
2.     Join and/or stay engaged in the movement- Support organizations that are committed to intersectional politics and social justice.
3.     Engage key decision makers- Voice your opinions. Tell them what you think.  Write letters, send emails, make calls, hold them accountable. And remember, its critical that we all turn out to vote in 2014.
4.     Keep the conversation going- Host discussions, townhalls, forums, to keep the momentum alive.

The Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition was formed in November 2008 by Black LGBT organizers in Atlanta, GA to assist with mobilizing more effectively in local, statewide, and national progressive advocacy.

Darlene Hudson/Imani Evans/Mary Anne Adams/Rev. Maressa Pendermon/Elder Tony Jones/Cheryl Courtney-Evans /Craig Washington/Charles Stephens/ Rev. Dr. Kathi Martin

Friday, June 21, 2013

Let's Talk About Sex!

Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex is a hot topic – no pun intended. We all have different names for sex, we all have different views about sex and we all have different comfort levels talking about sex.  But no matter how much we talk, examine and study sex and sexual practices, sex remains one subject that enlightens some and eludes others.  And because of its ability to confuse and confound, amuse and amaze, soothe and satisfy, sex is a topic that will be discussed until the end of time. With so much more to learn and understand about sex, that’s good a thingJ.

Whether you are having sex with a partner, or just having sex with yourself, it is a natural part of life. But even though sex is a natural part of life there are many ways to do it, enjoy it and experience it. So let’s be clear about one thing: there is no such thing as “normal sex”.  When it comes to good ole sex, everybody has his/her own definition of “normal “.  Even though variability and variety are good things, too much difference in sexual beliefs, practices and/or needs can affect relationships. So much so that sex continues to be one of the primary reasons why couples consider counseling.

So what are the main complaints/issues? I am happy that you asked. Couples complain about the lack of sex, the frequency of sex, the lack of variety of sex, the lack of pleasure of sex, the timing of sex, the function of sex, the importance of sex, the need for sex, changes in sex, toys used while having sex, the physical positions involved in sex, the balance of power in sex, what to do during sex, what is considered taboo in sex and the lists goes on.

The reality is that sex is one topic that every couple will address at some point during their relationship.  The failure to effectively address the issue of sex and/or sexual performance can and will affect the overall health of your union.  

Although sex may not be the easiest subject to discuss, it is a topic that must be addressed with honesty, vulnerability, compassion and courage.  In other words, sex is not a topic for wimps. So let’s have a grown up women’s discussion about sex.

First, despite your sexual prowess and your sexual experience, you are STILL a sexual student. Why? Because every new sexual partner requires that you learn new sexual skills, movements, tips, tricks and meanings because no two women are the same. No two women reach climax the same, no two women experience sex the same, no two women’s bodies are the same, no two women’s sexual appetite is the same, and no two women’s needs are the same. Women are wonderfully different; and that’s a plus. If you are honest with yourself, you will admit that you are not always the same sexually either. Your body craves different things, different ways, at different times and for different reasons. And because we all change and our needs change, we are all students, sexual students.

The concept of being a sexual student is difficult for some couples to grasp and accept. Many times during couples counseling one partner will say “I am a good lover. All of the women that I have been with said that I was an attentive lover”. And I gently respond by saying, “I understand that other women have said that, but we are not talking about what other women think, we are talking about this woman, your partner and/or your wife”.

My comment may seem insensitive, but it isn’t.  Why? If you really love a woman or if you really want to make love to a woman in a way that satisfies her, you must be open to learning what makes her sexually happy and what makes her tick. Yes, technically you already know how to lick, rub, touch, twist, kiss, knead, suck, pull and push body parts. That’s the easy part. But what you must learn is how to do those things or what combinations/sequences of those things bring pleasure to your current partner.

If you really want to be a good lover, you have to be a sexual student. You have to be open to discovery, exploration, experimentation and demonstration. You have to be open to learning and unlearning at the same time. If not, you will do things sexually that you are good at, but not those things that please her.

Secondly, having great sex requires that you set aside judgment. Unfortunately, many partners use their own sexual history and their sexual appetites as benchmarks to determine and define “good” sex and the parameters of sex. But let’s consider this: if you enjoy something and you share that information with your partner, and your partner classifies you as “too freaky”, “too nasty”, or “too anything”, that’s a problem. Remember that the moment judgment enters the bedroom, trust and vulnerability go out the window.

Let’s be clear -I am not advocating that you do something sexually that does not work for you. Absolutely Not! I am advocating that you have an open, honest and label free conversation that allows both of you to freely share your sexual desires and needs. Maybe during that conversation you both discover that your sexual needs are too divergent. Or, maybe you discover that your sexual experiences have never exposed you to additional ways to receive or give pleasure.

 Whatever the case, it is important to have the sex conversation, and if possible, have the conversation before you have sex.  If you have already had sex, I recommend having another dialogue and, if possible, have it outside of the bedroom and in an environment of trust. Sex conversations should be ongoing and as Imani Evans likes to say, continue to “talk and touch” and “touch and talk”.

Thirdly, good sex is inextricably linked to emotional health. If you have low self-esteem, poor body image, feel unworthy, racked with shame, don’t feel safe, struggle with demons from your past, lack confidence or suffer from anything else that affects your spirit, your sex life will suffer. Why? Because anything that affects you outside of the bedroom, will somehow creep into the bedroom.  Believe or not, good sex doesn’t just happen between your legs (body). Good sex also happens between your ears (mind) and behind your ribs (heart). And, if one of those 3 is not healthy, your ability and/or desire to have sex may be affected.

So if that is the case, what should you do? I am glad that you asked. 1) Be honest with yourself and your partner. Your partner can only be an ally and an advocate if you share. 2) Seek a counselor to travel with you on your healing journey.  And, know that finding the right counselor/therapist/life coach may take time. You and your counselor must click, and only you can define what “click” means to you. 3) Commit to your own health. Make your physical, spiritual and emotional health top priorities in your life.

Lastly, never make orgasms your ultimate goal. Yes, I know that orgasms are wonderful things to have. They relax you, soothe you, and act as nature’s sleeping aid. However, an orgasm should never be what defines good sex. In fact, sex should never be a goal-oriented activity because it brings undue pressure in the bedroom. Just think about it. If you are trying to time your climax, coordinate your climax, delay your climax, determine if your partner is faking a climax or judge if your partner has had a climax, how can you really enjoy sex? How can you really let yourself go if you are judging, monitoring and assessing sexual performance? How can you free your mind enough so that your body can speak and think for you?

Sex is something to be enjoyed, not graded. And sex is more rewarding and satisfying when it involves passion, touching, openness and escape. Let’s face it – if sex was all about achieving orgasms, many of us would be happy with our vibrators alone. We would not need or crave physical touch or emotional connections. The only things we would need are some good Duracell batteries right?

Remember, sex is about the journey, not the destination. And the journey may or may not involve a physical orgasm. So try to shift the focus from orgasm to the overall act of intimacy. Try to be present emotionally, spiritually and physically with your partner in a way that allows your souls to connect. Try to celebrate her body and allow her to celebrate yours. If you have an orgasm, consider it a wonderful bonus/blessing of a great sexual encounter and/or experience.

As I stated before, sex is not a subject for wimps. It is topic that demands a willingness to be physically, emotionally and spiritually vulnerable and engaged. It is a subject that requires you to unload your emotional baggage and challenge your spiritual assumptions. It is a topic that requires you to learn your body and honor your own spirit. It is a subject that demands that you fully show up as a woman, a powerful woman.

As Imani stated in one of her articles, sex softens you.  It helps you connect and communicate with your partner in ways that words cannot convey. Safe sex is a gift. So enjoy it, relish it, appreciate it and honor it. You deserve it and your partner does too.

I look forward to exploring the connection of sexuality and spirituality in the coming months. So stay tuned. Blessings as you continue to CREATE Love!

SharRon Jamison
Author, I Can Depend on Me


Monday, June 17, 2013

HAPPY COUPLE HIGHLIGHT: Tononiya D. & Rashida Dixon

Tononiya D. & Rashida Dixon
Coral Springs, Florida

How long have you been together?  Rashida: Tononiya would say 16 years, but I say 15 years and 10 months. Tononiya: We met on a Saturday, and we moved in together the next Friday. We have only been apart 4 days since we have been together. We fall in love with each other more every day.

How did you get together/meet? Rashida: We met through mutual acquaintances. I was told that I was the third wheel company keeper and she was told the same thing. Tononiya was the last person to be picked up, so I was able to sneak a glimpse of her. When she opened the car door and our eyes met briefly, the air suddenly shifted. I know that may sound corny or cliché but that’s really what happened. She sat in the car and I being coy, said hello and gave her a little wave. It was like I knew her already. It was like we had met before and she was familiar to me in some way. There were no more words until we got to the club. But once we got there, it was like we had known each other forever. It was definitely a “where have you been all of my life” moment.

What was the initial attraction? Rashida: Her eyes. She has beautiful passionate eyes. But once we started conversing & hanging out, I was attracted to her core, her soul.

What was it about her soul that was attracted? Rashida: She was upfront, blunt and passionate about every and anything. She was sure, strong and confident since the day we first met. She allowed me to speak my mind without feeling guilty. She was a great inspiration for me. Tononiya: I’m not sure if attraction is an emotion that defines the connection that I felt when I looked in her eyes for the 1st time. That moment was so surreal for me that time stood still.

What captured you? Her eyes…I felt immediately connected to her soul. It felt as if I saw my reflection in her eyes. I saw her pain, but saw that she still wanted to love. I was gone; it was a connection of our souls. It felt like that spiritual warmth that comes over your body; it was breath-taking.

What would you say is the key to the success of your relationship? Rashida: Communication first & foremost, trust, complete honesty, and a mutual respect for each other. And we genuinely LIKE each other.

What do you like most about each other?  Rashida: There are so many things. I like that she makes me laugh and that I can genuinely be me. I like everything about her- even those things that drive me crazy. Tononiya: It is hard to pinpoint one thing that I like about her. I love her nature, her genuine core that loves everything and everybody. Despite her pain and her past, she still loves.

Tononiya, what do you attribute your success to: (being able) to Love, in all of its forms.
Love in all of its forms. That concept resonates with me. What does that mean and how do you distinguish between the types of love?  Tononiya: Most people don’t understand love. I love her as a friend, a sister, a lover, a woman, etc. All of those parts are connected and we make sure that we nurture, respect and love all of these parts. We make sure that we nurture all of those parts by first identifying those parts. You have to get to know your partner to nurture her. You have to listen so that you know how she feels. Rashida: My nature is to nurture. I feel like I am connected to everything. If I don’t nurture, I don’t feel as if I have done my job. In our relationship, I had to do some growing. I had to learn to listen and if I didn’t understand, I would ask. I am constantly checking in with her.

Discuss how you deal with and face challenges that might come up in your relationship? Rashida: We definitely put God first. Then we have a conversation, a real dialogue between us. We discuss how we feel, what steps to take next, and regardless if whoever said go right when we should’ve gone left, we stick together through every difficulty. We don’t blame each other if/when things in life go awry. Because at the end of the day, it’s just us and we still have to fix whatever is messed up. Tononiya: We don’t argue. We both come from broken homes and we didn’t know how to love so we did the opposite of what we learned. I believe that you nurture by letting go of what you have been taught and you develop/create a new way. Because no matter how much you heal, breaking the patterns of what you grew up with is a challenge.

Blame is such a toxic emotion in relationships. How do you talk about issues without blaming?  Rashida: We just talk. If I made a decision and it doesn’t turn out well, I hold myself accountable. We also don’t ridicule each other. We really know that we only have each other.  Tononiya: Honestly in all the years we have been together we never really had challenges in the relationship. We have had challenges of life that we have had to deal with and we dealt with them together. For us, there is no other way. We don’t allow things outside of our relationship dictate the way we interact with each other in it. Rashida: We don’t let anyone or anything penetrate what we have built.

16 years is such a blessing. What Relationship Rules, spoken or unspoken, did you develop and/or follow that support your union? Tononiya:  1) Always be honest. I don’t care what it is. If I can’t trust you, then I have an issue. 2) There are no secrets. We tell each other everything. Rashida: 3) We don’t disagree in front of people. She can be blunt sometimes but I will still back her up. Whatever happens, we address it when we get home. In public, that’s still my baby. I have her back.

What role does spirituality play in your relationship? Rashida: Spirituality is the core of our union. We both believe strongly in God, the existence of a higher power. We do not follow any particular religion. We are spiritual people and believe that we are all connected through the breath that God blew into us.
Tononiya: Being that we are spiritual people, spirituality is in everything we do.

How do you practice your spirituality? Rashida: We pray, we mediate, we invoke positivity, and we do yoga. We take a minute to appreciate love and life. We make sure that we connect to God, ourselves and to each other. Tononiya: Sometimes we practice with our physical self through massage. Massage is calming and soothing. We turn everything off, we clean the house, clean ourselves, I cut my hair and we connect with each other. It is very empowering.

What role does sensuality play in your relationship? Rashida: Sensuality absolutely plays a keen role in our relationship. I think that we breathe & speak it every time we connect with each other, either through a conversation or through intimacy or through our shared interests of the arts. Tononiya: Sensuality is ever present from the curve of her smile, to the tone of her laugh. And that’s giving the short version…lol.

What advice would you give to other couples? Rashida: One thing I would share is that you have to actually like one another. Be each other’s best friend.  When you genuinely like your partner, most issues that plague relationships won’t happen. Second piece of advice is don’t start something that you are not willing to finish. If you started cooking, cleaning and dressing sexy in the beginning to get her, don’t stop doing those things once you have her. Complacency can kill a relationship.  Tononiya: You can’t live a single life and have a committed relationship. So be honest with yourself about what you want, need, desire, and expect from each other. Then completely share those things with each other. Compromise means to come to a middle ground… it does not mean surrender.

What has your relationship taught you most about yourself? Rashida: My relationship has taught me how to work at things you really want in your life and to never take the people that truly love you and are for you for granted. I have also learned that I have the power to change, to change anything that is no longer serving my purpose. Tononiya: I have learned that the love that I have inside of me is greater than the fear, shame, and pain put together.

What one word describes or characterizes your relationship? Rashida: Extraordinary. We are the minority among black women relationships and I know that our love is extraordinary. Tononiya:  Liberating. Our love is freeing. It inspires and encourages. We don’t hold each other back from growth; we don’t limit each other. We are examples of pure love and acceptance.

If you could thank her for 1 thing, what would that be? Tononiya: I would thank her for choosing to be on this journey with me. People who are in relationships chose to be. Rashida: I would thank her for being my best friend. I never knew someone who gave so willingly. I would not be where and who I am today without her.

You can also find Tononiya and Rashida at:
Tononiya: (“like” page) (official website)

(Interviewed by SharRon Jamison)

We thank you for sharing your love with us at Create Love! Your story will encourage, inspire and uplift other couples.  We wish you continued success and happiness.

Create Love -- Founders

Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SURVIVING INFIDELITY: How do we move on?

Stepping out, having an affair, or straight-up cheating...By whatever phrase you call it the pain of infidelity cuts deep. The question is this: Is it a deal breaker? There is no easy answer.  For some women, it is most certainly the key to losing your key to the house. You are out--not just now, but right now! Yet for others the emotional, financial and spiritual investment exceed the cost of separating.  If you are convicted that cheating is cause to head for the exit doors, no one would blame you. I truly don't have a judgement either way.  However, this article is dedicated to giving those couples who want to stay together a map for surviving infidelity--Yes, it is possible.

I have been counseling couples for many years and the only sure thing that I have seen is that there are no guarantees.  However I would like to offer some survival guidelines for the individual committing the violation, the unsuspecting partner on the receiving end, and the couple as a unit.

Now before I delve into the infidelity survival guide, I want to spend a brief moment on the question that is always at the top of the list for the unknowing mate, "Why did she do this?" I must admit--if I were a cartoon character there would be a thought balloon over my head with a dog chasing its tail in it, every time I heard this question. It is never ending...And the truth is that there is no satisfactory answer as to why your mate would choose to share intimacy with someone else.  Rest assured there is always an answer, but it will never be "good enough". So my advice is to not spend too much time pontificating the "why".  Nevertheless, for the sake of due diligence, I will say there are lots of reasons that affairs happen.  Here are a few:
  • Escape--There are many ways to check out of a relationship, including sleep, busyness, food, anger, and cheating.  Sometimes people are unable to confront the emotional truth of being unhappy, so instead they check out.
  • Lack of sex--Sex is an essential element of a healthy relationship.  If your relationship is void of  intimacy and sex it will not negate your mate's need for it.
  • Attention and insecurity--When a person doesn't feel validated or desired, real or imagined, they will seek that basic human need elsewhere (remember, perception is reality).
  • Choice--The bottom line is that whatever the "reason" for the indiscretion, the only real reason that people have affairs is because they choose to do so--Plain and simple.  They may have felt at a loss for other possibilities to get their needs met, but it is still a choice.  The good news is that when we understand the power of choice, then we are empowered.  We are empowered because we can always make a different choice.
So now that we have covered the inevitable question of "why", let's get to the 7 tips for saving your relationship.  We know that more than 50% of committed couples cheat, according to even the most modest statistics.  Therefore you are not alone in facing this dilemma and recovering to something even better than before the dreaded violation of infidelity.  With the investment of kids, a house, memories, extended family and valuable time, sometimes staying is worth the effort. SharRon and I are wholly committed to sharing tools to empower couples to flourish.  To that end, here are 7 tips as a guide for SURVIVING INFIDELITY:
  1. It is not your fault that she cheated: That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach soon turns to guilt, resentment and self-blame for many unsuspecting partners.  That is an affect of our egos. We think it has something to do with us--what we did or didn't do...Not so! As I stated earlier, an affair has accountability but you are not responsible for the poor choices your mate makes. We are each only responsible for our own actions.  It is not your fault!
  2. Get honest with yourself: If you are the one who committed the deed, then you are responsible for exploring what is missing in your own heart and mind that led you to this choice.  You are further responsible for sharing that truth with your partner.  Not confronting your truth is what got you in this predicament.  Don't let it destroy everything. And be ready to completely let the object of your misguided affection go. Your mate deserves your loyalty and undivided attention as you heal.
  3. Forgiveness must be at the end of the road: I know there is a part of some women that just wants revenge.  I promise you it doesn't work.  It only complicates things beyond what is already complex.  It is also a selfish act that doesn't consider the other hearts that will get tangled up in your mess. Revenge is ineffective, but forgiveness is sustaining.  It takes time but it pays off in emotional dividends.  It is a gift you will give each other because if you are going to move on together, you cannot revisit this pain forever.  
  4. You will need support: This is one time that I highly recommend counseling.  If you all could do it on your own--well, you wouldn't be here. A trained professional can help you see beyond the pain.
  5. Be very careful about sharing your situation outside of your relationship: Look, everyone needs someone with whom they can share their feelings.  However those who love you may have a difficult time accepting your decision to stay and certainly forgiving your partner.  It is important not to isolate yourself from loved ones, but it is equally important to only share with those willing to respect your decision--even if they don't agree.
  6. Replenish the Love Bank: Infidelity takes a substantial withdrawal from the emotional love bank.  It must be replenished with accountability of time, no secrets, talking and sharing without being prompted and quality time. Don't let the affair steal more than it already has.
  7. Honest communication is paramount: Now is not the time to hold back. At the same time don't ask questions to which you really don't want the answers.  Questions like, "Was she better than me?", are fruitless and will not ever garner the right answer.  Don't stay there. Getting beyond this situation is not a one-time conversation.  It is not a sprint...It is a journey.  You can give yourself time to be angry and hurt but don't make yourself a victim. Be empowered by your decision to choose LOVE.
Hopefully you never need this article for your personal life.  However if you do, I hope it offers you some support and solace. There is so much meat on this bone, so stay tuned as SharRon and I continue to explore the topics of Recovery and Reconciliation.  We look forward to seeing you on July 20th at Unveiling The Stud Mystique. In the meantime, I wish you all great success as you embark on your journey to CREATE LOVE.

Nya Akoma (Take Heart),
Imani Evans, MA