Monday, April 4, 2011

Doing Business While Black

Originally I was going to write a series of blog post about my trip to the NBBQA Conference and in a way this post is a result of that trip but it’s not about the people I met or the experiences I had. It’s about something that struck me when I got home. I told Neil about it and I got the “oh Lord” comment and head shake as he walked away. You already pretty much know why and if not you soon will. And so you don’t go off on a tangent before I do, let me give my disclaimer, that everything is based on my personal experience and not on generalizations or perception of the population at hand.

Quite a few of the conference attendees were competitors or soon to be on some level. For those of you who think competition barbecue is not a business then you don’t know enough about the sport. Yeah I said sport, now shut up so I can get to my point.

Okay one more thing. Don’t confuse competition barbecue with the plethora of barbecue joints spread across America and beyond. The general business of barbecue is prepared in various ways by various ethnicities. Nevertheless, the business of competition barbecue, as I’ve experienced it, is predominantly white male. Okay, with that said, I can get to my point.

The epiphany is not that I am black or female. However, being a BLACK FEMALE entrepreneur has never been more obvious to me than in the world of competition barbecue. I thought I could give a fat rat’s ass about who I dealt with on a business level as far as race is concern. That is still true for the most part. What I have realized, however, is that certain things are always in the back of your mind when your role changes from employee to entrepreneur. Moreover, if you were raised in a fashion similar to mine, then this is a completely new set of mind drama.

The sins of my aforementioned mind set have come back to bite me in the ass. I was one of the black folx that was of the mind you can’t do business with black folx because they don’t act right or do right. That’s not to say I didn’t or don’t patronize blacks (note the word was above), but whenever something would go wrong I would blame it on the criteria of blackness. To me it wasn’t about their skill set or an unfortunate circumstance. I don’t know when my paradigm shift occurred (maybe when I learned the meaning of paradigm) but it was well before we went into business for ourselves, but the shamefulness of my previous way of thinking didn’t hit me until the business.

Due to my earlier blatant stereotype of black people as a whole, I now find myself trying to live down real or imaginary perceptions that I once cast upon others on a conscience and sometimes constant basis. If it’s a time issue, I try to be early because I don’t want to be accused of operating on CP time (colored peoples time). Sometimes, not always, I try to go the extra mile because I don’t want to be accused of being lazy. I try to hire black because I don’t want to be accused of not supporting my people. I knew all these things were a part of my makeup and upbringing but again it didn’t come to the forefront of my conscience until I became an employer and not an employee.

While my mindset and attitude have changed on the matter, I do understand the old way of thinking. I know I might get a whole lot of hate for this but from my personal experience I have found black people to be the most unsupportive ethnic group I’ve come across. We are a people raised on self-preservation. Even after we’ve ‘made it’; we pass our prejudices on to the next generation whether it’s real or imagined. It surprises me to this day that some black folx still think the white man is trying to keep them down. They don’t stop to think 'well what am I doing to lift myself up'.

Now I find myself on the flip side of my own criticisms and prejudices and hope people see beyond the color of my skin. Yes, it’s a slap in the face when a black person comments, “You wouldn’t… if I were white.” I would hope that I would even if you were plaid.

I also recognize that blacks intentionally don’t patronize us because we are a black owned business. Add to that we’re loud black people. Due to the loud factor, the bourgsie (sp.) black folx stay away. Then you look at the fact that our lines our predominantly non-black, the black folx at the other end of the spectrum don’t patronize us because they figure of food is not black enough or they don’t want to be part of the stereotype of black folx and barbecue (or soul food). On more than one occasion we’ve gotten “you guys feed white folx, they don’t know nothing about food” or point to themselves indicating their skin color is why they know better. Again, this knowledge is based on firsthand knowledge and experience.

A little off topic but still applicable to the topic of black folx and business are conversations among blacks about people of Latin/Hispanic descent sticking together and empowering each other. In the same vein of conversation, they are cursed for taking a job you didn’t want in the first place. And even still you get pissed that someone won’t offer you a job you’re not qualified for or pay you more than whoever based on ”hook a brotha/sista up.” Moreover, these same people have done nothing to support your business prior to asking for a hook-up. You get “ah man, you know how it is.” Yes I do, so step.

Backtracking a bit to the conference, when we went to hear the main speaker at the conference I asked Diva Q was I the only ‘sprinkle’ in the room. Not only is Diva white but she’s Canadian. I had to explain to her what I meant. She found this extremely hilarious but also realized it was true. We later got on this conversation again when we were in a different group setting and now I consider her a half sprinkle and Melissa Cookston of Yazoo Delta Q and the only FEMALE World Champion Pitmaster, is Vanilla sprinkle. In our little click that developed, we became known as Bitches in Smoke. Okay, okay I’m getting back on topic.

I read an article way back when about how quickly a dollar leaves a community. I believe the article was Where is the Black Dollar going?, and it’s still true today if not more so. Even more depressing to me is that I am hard pressed to find a black community in Los Angeles where black dollars CAN be circulated. Again, my opinion, experience and this article shows the decline of the black community. Black communities have been torn down because they feel they are entitled to WHATEVER just because someone else was able to obtain it. Forget the struggle and sacrifice they may have endured (I’m speaking of legitimate endeavors) to obtain the riches they have. We as black people are like the proverbial crabs in a bucket, bite off your nose to spite your face and any other applicable cliché. You don’t know how many times I’ve seen friends and family members do dirt to each other because they wanted something the easy way. They don’t ask themselves did they earn it or deserve it.

This lack of support is even more prevalent when it comes to black people supporting black businesses. When you do well and succeed as a black business owner you are accused of acting white or kissing up to the white man. When you fail then you failed because you’re black. There is just no happy medium. The ones that really get me are pissed because you won’t let them ride your coattail of hard work and success. You’re labeled a sellout. Whatever man.

In my personal and business life, Neil and my cousin Ernae get on me for calling everyone Sweetie. That’s because everyone starts the same with me. If also diffuses some of the bad attitude you may have gotten with a somber “May I help you.” Now catch me on the flip side of that sweetheart and I can get a completely new set of names for you. Nevertheless, I don’t resort to that level unless I just let myself be caught unaware and swept up in the moment.

Doing business is just that, doing business. Respect others to get respect. Don’t fall into the trap others set for you. That just gives them the ammunition to say, “See, I told you” because s/he’s black. I do my best to own up to my mistakes I make, not because I don’t want people to see the flaws in my blackness but because I want to be thought of as a professional, ethical business woman.

Like is said in the beginning a lot of this from firsthand experience. Heck, it was ME and how I viewed the world. So don't let my opinions and experiences upset you. They are like noses, everybody has one (gotcha).

I know there is more I can say on this subject but I’m gonna hush up now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How Old Do You Feel

Nothing makes me feel so young and so old at the same time as having a 3 year old daughter at the ripe age of…41, 42, 43, 44, oh yeah 45. And no she's not adopted. I'm an old school mom in a new fangled world. And shocking to some of you, I'm old school ghetto which I keep on lock down unless I need it for a special occasion. I find that a challenge as well because my parents didn't raise no punk and I don't want my daughter to be one. At the same time I wonder if I'm doing her a disservice by not teaching her the street side and letting her learn it the hard way? I would think a person a fool if they were naive enough to think their child won't have some sort of harsh realities to deal with in this day and age.

I don't really know anyone in my same situation to share this type of stuff with. The only women I know who have children at my age are celebrities with nannies. Seeing as how none of them are close personal friends, hence the challenge. Also, to be a black mother of 45 with a 3 year old, I often get the question of if she's my granddaughter. Excuse my language, but f*** all ya'll who ever asked me that.

I was brought up on butt whoopins', call the police – I dare you, and because I said so, and that wasn't from just my parents. True to form some of that comes out in my parenting. The challenge is sending my child into a world with other children whose mothers are half my age, raise their children on time outs or allow their children to hit them. Mothers who don't teach their children manners; children who use profane language in the proper context; children being brought up as pimps, playas and hoe's, while I try to maintain my child's innocence. Prime example, Morgan was playing with a little boy and I believe they were both the same age (2) at the time. His mother was 19. Morgan went to kiss him and he hit my baby in the face. The girl said well he told her no. Do you know how much restraint I had to use not to whoop both they asses?


I was brought up not to hit someone unless you expected to get hit back. Now there's a fear of guns being brought to school by children in elementary. So you better not stand up for yourself, lest you be laid to rest. I was brought up that if you didn't defend you and yours you were a punk and you got a whoopin when you got home. Now you're a punk if you don't carry a weapon. Granted I wasn't a goody two-shoes but I was raised to respect my elders and to say please & thank you. Hell at the age of 45 I STILL slap my hand over my mouth when I accidentally curse in front of my parents. When I was grown and living away from home I wasn't allowed to smoke in my own self house when my parents visited.

And even with all that, what really pisses me the hell off is some 20-something mother with a 10 year old giving me parenting advice. And don't take that to mean that young mothers are not knowledgeable in child rearing; just consider the source in some situations. "Oh you just wait until she turns 5." "Oh you just wait until she becomes a teenager." To me, that kind of bullshit advice comes from parents who either don't want to be the bad parent and want to be their child's friend, or they rather give in to "keep the peace". I can get just as mean, loud and surly as ANY child of ANY age. I find it sad when people are amazed at Morgan's politeness. She better be polite (but sometimes I wonder what the hell for). Yeah, yeah she's allowed to express herself but as my momma and aunts would say "Don't get beside yaself."

When she asks me am I still mad, I explain to her that my anger is with what she did, not her. I explain that I don't want her to get hurt physically or figuratively. On her own level she gets this. While she was taking a bath the other day she asked me to come in and told me I had to make her a promise to keep her safe, warm and blow bubbles. I told her she had to make the same promise. Her response was alright, alright, alright. Smart ass. I tell my parents I can't tell if I have a normal child because she's being raised by old ass parents. Yes, I feel I have the same values as I did when I stopped being stupid but does that mean she would have gotten away with more if I were younger.

Another things is, as much as I hate when folx talk about letting me do me or I'm just keeping it real, to me they're either using it as a way to justify some whacked out crap they want to get away with or want to say something hurtful in the vein of "keeping it real". Now I said that because I feel like I'm somewhat (a little bit) of a hypocrite because while it does irritate me, I feel the same way when it comes to certain issues in raising my daughter. Even before Morgan was born I decided I wasn't doing the Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, or whatever other holiday character there may be. I get so much flack for that. I got into a conversation about my daughter and her Christmas this year just last week. The woman was appalled that I wanted to teach my daughter about the birth of Christ rather than Santa Clause. She acted as if she was STILL emotionally scarred because she wasn't raised to believe in Santa. Every year you have broke parents trying to give their kids the world all in the name of Santa. If Santa forgets something the parent have to explain the shortfall or even worse the sorry butt parents blackmail their kids in the name of Santa. Well hell be mad at me cause I was broke and couldn't buy it. You had to eat is better then because Santa thought you were naughty. And don't get the impression I'm going to dash my child's innocence on the rocks by giving her cold hard reality. Some mean ass kid will do that soon enough just for the sake of being mean.

Anyway, why wait for some day on a calendar to show your loved ones you care. And don't give for the sake of receiving. How often do folx get their face broke because they bought someone an expensive gift and gotten something cheap in return. If you want something expensive buy it ya damn self and give them the cheap gift. I want Morgan to give for the sake of giving. Also what if you don't make it to that day, then you never get to experience the joy of that moment. Life is too short to wait for a holiday

Tonight Morgan is putting up the tree at Granny's house with Pawpaw. She called me earlier to tell me she was snuggling up with granny. I don't know if she's coming home or not but those are the memories of Christmas I want her to have. But before Christmas she'll remember the tents her daddy erected in his office and her bedroom, that mommy danced with her to the Fresh Beats on Nick Jr., daddy played hide and seek in the house on rainy days, mommy laid in the floor and colored or built Lego towers and whatever other childhood memories we manage to make. Also she'll remember dang, mommy and daddy always talk about going to bed early.

People make fun of Neil and I that we'll be in our 60's when Morgan graduates high school. That's fine with us because we're selling the house and traveling so we don't have to worry about her trying to move back home.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Changing Our Ways

Hey All,

Bigmista's Barbecue has been evolving for some years now. We learn as we grow and we grow as we learn. Because we created our business on a learn as we grow type of plan, we take advice, corrective criticism and learn from our mistakes. Yeah formal education is in the plan but right now we need to pay our mortgage and feed our family.

I'm not an outspoken advocate for environmental change but I try where I can and hopefully teach my daughter to be more aware then her parents. I do my best to recycle. I hate throwing plastic in the trash and fuss at Neil all the time when he does it but sometimes I can't find an alternative for disposal. I've kept cans and plastic in my car until I remember to put them in the recycle can at home. It gives me an even better feeling to give them to folx I see collecting for the sake of survival.

Anyway I digress. I said all that to say we're changing our ways. Our change serves two purposes for us. Not only are we doing our small part environmental but we're also trying to bring some Texas charm to your lives by doing away with so many plastic containers and instead wrap meat in paper. Believe it or not we had this discussion almost at the beginning of doing our first market, we just never implemented it. We haven't made it to the butcher paper stage yet but that is what we're aspiring to.

We'll still package meals in the 3-compartment containers but meat by the pound our rack will be in paper. We also want to do away with all the fly away plastic bags so we're moving back to paper. We know a lot of you prefer the plastic for easier carrying but personally Neil and I like paper a whole lot better. And what better advertising for a food joint then a greasy paper bag. I will however try and sale Neil on the paper bags with handles for larger orders.

So just know if we say paper or plastic that's what we're talking about. And if you opt for plastic it's gonna cost you a quarter.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why We Don’t Celebrate Valentine

Neil claims our wedding vows stated we wouldn't celebrate Valentine and we wouldn't have to remember so called "important dates". We had two ceremonies and I don't remember that being in either of them. That's not to say it isn't true though. If I haven't already, I'll tell you about how Neil and I evolved into the couple before you today at a later date.

Anywho, no we don't celebrate Valentines and I for one am not disappointed about it. It's not that I'm not romantic, I just refuse to have my romantic dates dictated by someone or something who knows nothing about how I'm feeling on any given day. What if I'm pms-ing or heaven forbid, I'm having a woman's day (crude version – period) on February 14, then I'm kinda assed out if I had any plans for after dinner.

Another reason is because I have a great husband who spoils me or let's me spoil myself anyone of the 365 (366 leap year) days of the year. Mind you Neil has only bought me flowers twice in the soon to be six years we've been married, our first wedding ceremony and I can't remember what the second one was for. But although I don't remember the second occasion it surprised the hell out of me both times. He's one of the guys that if you buy him a card for ANY reason he'll look at it and say "oh that's nice" and you'll see it on the floor before the days end. For all of you who send Neil cards, now you know.

Neil shows me almost on a daily basis his feelings for me, whether it's running from 7-eleven to 7-eleven to find me some peanut butter cookies, massaging the back of my head while we both read, or the first cheap gift he got me for Christmas. It was a small backpack purse from the swap meet or something that may have cost about $5. But because I know how out of character that purchase was for him and he was unemployed at the time I still have, use and cherish that little black bag. Did I mention he gave it to me in the little, black, plastic bag FROM the store. Some of you may think dang that's sad, but that memory brings a smile to my face and a mist to my eyes. We met at the movies with Ashton (my stepson). When we were leaving he brought it to my car saying it just felt like getting me something for Christmas. He'll blow it off as nothing but it was something. Don't need no stickin' Valentine.

I have two wedding ring sets. The first one Neil got me. The engagement ring is white gold while the eternity band is silver. Man thing. When I told him I wanted a new set he just said okay and kept it pushing. Most men would have bitched and moan or said wait. Not my man. I didn't even bother him with the details I found rings I liked and I bought them. Why make him do something he doesn't want to do or doesn't mean anything to him. The only thing that matters to HIM about my rings is that it symbolizes our union and that I'm happy. Yet again don't need no stickin' Valentine.

I feel bad for women who have to wait for that one day a year to feel special and appreciated. While I love flowers and like having them around the house just because, I don't want them as a symbol of love. The way I see it, if your feelings are represented by something with such a short life span, in Morgan's words "I'm good." I also feel bad for those who use Valentines as a means for a date. Men, if you couldn't get a date before Valentine's then chances are your game will be just as dry when Valentine is over and she's had a free meal. Women, if you're going out on Valentine just so you can say you had a date, hell hang out with your girls or treat your own-self well. It's better than suffering through an evening you wouldn't have tolerated otherwise.

The worse part is using Valentine or any holiday to gauge how much someone loves you. Money or grand gestures once a year truly makes it a LABOR of love. He's trying to figure out what to buy or how to outdo last year and she's trying to put a new spin on an old trick. Because no day is promised don't wait for ANY holiday to show someone you love and care about them. Like Nike says "Just Do It™."

Neil took me and Morgan to lunch yesterday. In the middle of eating he asked me "how do you think our relationship is." I told him, then asked him the same question. I think it was a 5-minute conversation. Both being on our second marriage and in our 40's I think kind of moves us beyond the bullshit and drama. Thank God for small favors.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Happily Partnered

This post is for the benefit of my mother-in-law who I love dearly. Seeing as how she feels we're airing our dirty laundry she may not appreciate this post. She felt my last post was inappropriate and in poor taste. Hopefully this post will help to put her mind at rest and help her understand why I post the things I do.

Just so the world knows Neil and I ARE happily married and partnered. One of the reasons this is so is because we can TALK and VENT and MOVE ON. This was not always so with me. It's something Neil taught me. My former self would have left long before we even got to the married stage. That's not to say I've totally given up my stubborn streak (as my loving husband reminds me) but it has been a long time since I've wasted energy not speaking to those I want to keep in my life for any extended period of time.

One of the things I love and admire about my husband is his ability to get passed things. Sometimes I think he should vent more but oh well that's a blog post for him. One of the good qualities about our marriage is we know each other's strengths even if others do not. And although there is occasional breakdown in our communication I love the fact that we have enough love and respect for each other to argue/disagree and still be friends.

The point of my post is not to demean or hurt me, Neil, our business or our marriage. It's just to illustrate the struggles we face while trying to build the Bigmista empire. Hopefully it shows that while we disagree we continue to move forward TOGETHER in our journey. The only thing that would ever separate us is that I would want my own clean bathroom I don't have to share with Neil. We'll be neighbors so that I will be in time for dinner (HA HA HA HA HA).

Mind you I started this post before I went in the hospital on Wednesday so don't think I've been holding this in my head all this time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is It A Man Thing

I started this entry so long ago I'm not even angry about it anymore but that won't stop me from venting.

It started out as me being angry and resentful of Neil. While I don't really want to be in the lime light (I'm not a trophy wife in the PHYSICAL sense being the reason) but everyone, and by everyone I mean men (most brethren excluded), seems to think Neil is the only one running this business.

When Neil was approached about doing the article for The District Weekly it was inferred as being about interesting Long Beach residents. When my husband and the writer made the meeting for the interview it was on a Monday early afternoon when I would be at work. Granted I could have taken off to be there but neither my husband nor the interviewer asked for my presence. Neil came home expressing how he spoke about me (as if I couldn't have spoken for myself), and Glenn as if that earned him some points or something. Neil and I started a conversation about my resentment behind this and his stock answer "well baby what do you want me to do." Not a damn thing now. We never got around to revisiting the conversation but I'm sure another opportunity will present itself.

While I'm not implying that Neil is only the cook and face of Bigmista's Barbecue, but anytime there are new ideas I usually have to badger Neil until he sees the value in it. If I didn't think it all the way through and he points out the flaws then we drop it. I never make any decisions without discussing them with him even if I already know he's going to agree with me. I don't always get that courtesy. Neil if you say I do consider yourself cyber slapped.

Neil thinks I magically create money because I usually work our finances so that we can make things happen. I do this when it's something we've discussed. But at this very minute Neil has gone shopping for something. Do you think he checked any of our finances or considered if it will interfere with any pending purchases, no. But if it has a negative impact in some way he'll say "well baby why didn't you tell me." I have alerts from our bank go to his email. Out of the last 8, he's opened 1. He says I always tell him we don't have money for this or that but he conveniently forgets the reason we don't have the money for one thing is because we spent it on something else. Until we are financially well off we have to choose what will and won't get purchased. Or in my case I have to remind him that he spent money on X so he can't have Y.

Guys are always asking Neil about the business side of things that he doesn't even take care of. Neil will give them half ass answers that they eat up because of our current success. The Brethren are a great resource for a lot of information but I even they are only so forthcoming with information. It's like asking them their bbq secrets. Because friend or no friend you are still competition to a certain extent and everyone wants to consider themselves the best. And along the same lines, some things I don't mind sharing but when I bust my ass to get something done I'm not so free and easy with the information. To me it's like copying my homework after I've studied all week and you played. The little I know about this business I've learned as we go. We have some bbq friends that have been doing this far longer and successfully then we have but none within proximity that I can sit down and pick their brains about the business side. And then if it's out of state information I have to find out the California laws, regs and the like to make sure we're in compliance. Neil glazes over when it comes to these types of conversations just like I get glossy eyed after too much barbecue talk.

This was a lot angrier when I originally had it in my head.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BBQ Is Not My Life

I'm having a bbq widow moment. My husband is in the bathroom listening to the BBQ Central Show. I know you're thinking TMI. It would be if he were using the facilities as intended. It's more like office time for him. He claims it's the only time he has any peace. But that's only if Morgan is occupied. She's not at the modesty stage yet.

They are talking about the new BBQ Pitmaster show that's coming to TLC. You would think after being in business (on paper) for over a year now I would have developed more of an interest in BBQ. Sadly, I still don't care. I do care about supporting my husband and eating good que but beyond that "miss me."

What makes most of this bearable is the satisfaction my husband gets for putting out a good product and hearing others rave about his food.

He received an email from a guy that came to the Torrance Farmer's Market today that made my chest swell with pride. Please allow me to share:


We met today at the Torrance Farmer's market. I was the guy that said he'd been looking for a good pork sandwich since Russ Wright's Pit BBQ in Orlando Fl went out of business in 1974 and you said "It's hard to compete with a memory." Well, you did and ... if you're not AS good .... you're AS CLOSE as it's been in 35 years of searching across 22 states. And when I say 22 states, I mean it -- let me tell you, when you're in Mississippi and you tell some guy that his pork isn't as good as you've had in Florida, you have to be serious about finding good food. Congratulations.

Russ and I became friends enough for him to tell me that he smoked his port over oak and hickory, to show me that you can't cut pork into slices unless it's raw, cold or very badly cooked ... and that his sauce was the key and he claimed that what made the difference was that he used actual hog lard as the base. Sadly, not friends enough to get the recipe which dies with him in 1974.

Anyway, you're at the top of my list for good BBQ and I'm not at all about chasing farmer's markets throughout the southland to be able to bring home a meal!


It is stuff like this that allows me to let him live his dream. That coupled with the fact that we beat out the big boys for Best BBQ in L.A. on MyFoxLA. Granted it would be much easier if he went back to a 9-5 but hell who wants easy.

My mom asked about our finances and I told her the truth. No I'm not sharing the details with ya'll (Paula Deen moment). She told my aunt I walk around like nothing's wrong. To me it isn't. Why worry about something I wouldn't change. Not that I want to, but if we have to tear our lives down to build it back up, so be it. As long as I'm the wife with benefits, I got this

I know, I know. The line between bbq widow and loving/supportive wife shifts, grays, fades, whatever. I need a drink.