Banned: Freedom to Read

Free Stock Photo: An stack of old books isolated on a white background

Every year the college where I teach celebrate Banned Books week.  Students and faculty are encouraged to participate by reading a passage from a book that has been banned or challenged.  Although I have never participated,I reviewed a few of the books that were banned years ago and noted that some of them were still on the banned list today.  To me it was amusing that the Bible is one of those books, because of its religious content.  Yet we have a religious theme on the one dollar bill.  How about the swearing in of the President?

Then I wondered about the banning of religious books of other religions.  Yet we have freedom of speech.  We can say whatever  we want within certain limits.  Why then are we banning certain books, based on what a particular group may think or feel about their content?  We should also have the freedom to choose what we want to read.


Daily Prompt: Transformation

Last Friday began like any other day, without a hint of what was to come.  My routine of bible reading, prayer, posting a daily bible verse and playing my praise choruses on the piano went off without a hitch.  Later in the day, my brother called me, and I got an instant headache.  A young, beloved cousin had been transformed from this environment to the next.

I wondered about his transition and the fact that I had no idea that he had moved on.  Each morning I prayed for him because he had a  health challenge and was hoping for an intervention to add years to his life.  He had his plans, to meet with his friend that Sunday, and was also preparing to travel for a vacation.

The movement from this existence to another can happen suddenly, with no awareness on the part of the one who is transforming.  Why? we ask ourselves over and over, but there are no answers to our question.  We just know that someone we love and care for is no longer available to us.  We experience tears, sorrow, heartbreak, laughter and finally joy , as we think about our own transforming.

The Silent Treatment – Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN

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Domestic violence is often subtle and hard to detect.  It consists of a wide range of behaviors, which may be physical, emotional, financial and sexual.  Most attention is paid to physical abuse because evidence such as bruises, cuts, scratches and in a worst-case scenario, even death may occur.

Emotional abuse is subtle and is seldom reported.  Very few women or men would call 911 if their partner is talking down to or ignoring them.  Going into a shelter seems trivial because for many people emotional abuse is not the same as physical abuse.  There are no scars.  However, shelters do accept victims of emotional abuse.

Although an emotionally abusive relationship lacks physical scars, it damages the person’s psychological health, resulting in depression, anxiety, diminished self-esteem and self-worth.  Many victims do not know when they are being emotionally abused.  Some signs of emotional abuse are:  silent treatment, Jekyll and Hyde behavior, false accusations, sexual manipulation, constant conflict, emotional coldness, unsupportive, controlling behaviors, humiliation, isolation, encouraging dependency, lying and jealousy.

The Silent Treatment (cold shoulder) is a form of emotional abuse.  Although they may share the same living space, one partner ignores the other for days, weeks, months or even years.  He /she is excluded from any social interaction.  Life becomes an internal hell while a public pretense of normality is maintained.  The perpetrator of this controlling behavior is demonstrating his/her power to humiliate and attack his/her partner’s self-esteem and self-worth.

The Silent Treatment is a form of punishment.  Approval is withdrawn, and anger, resentment, hostility and fear may be generated.  Emotional distancing is designed to give your partner the message that he/she is not deserving of your love, companionship, intimacy, sharing or caring.

The cold shoulder has been described as the worst form of emotional abuse.  This passive-aggressive behavior is designed to hurt the other person by making him/her invisible.  It is It is disrespectful humiliating, stressful and devaluating in nature.  It may result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and issues with low self-esteem.   This treatment often comes out of the blue, the partner has no idea what will trigger this type of response.  One minute there is light and laughter the next cold, harsh, grating silence.

The Silent Treatment is not the best way to handle any kind of disagreements in a relationship.  One partner should not be trying to punish the other.  Initially, the person may try very hard to please and keep the relationship on stable ground.  However, repeated cycles of this treatment result in the relationship becoming toxic and disintegrating over time.   The victim becomes tired of the constant manipulation and stress that he/she experiences.

Reactions to this behavior vary.  The victim may respond with soul searching, feelings of loneliness, guilt, abandonment, headaches, fear, anger and resentment.  When this happens, it means that you are allowing the perpetrator to have control over you. The silent treatment is working.  But you can resist this by loving yourself.  Do not make excuses for your partner’s behavior.

How do you cope with this form of emotional abuse?

  • Do not become frustrated, angry or depressed.
  • Do not blame yourself.
  • Do not accept responsibility for your partner’s behavior.
  • Try to respond positively.
  • Express your concerns about the situation.
  • Encourage your partner to discuss the problem.
  • If there is resistance, try to focus on your needs.
  • Consider professional counseling individually or with your partner if he/she is willing.
  • Finally, you may have to save yourself by terminating the relationship if the behavior is repetitive.


October is Domestic Violence month.  If you or someone you know is being abused, encouraged him/her to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

The Art of Saying No

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Sometimes we find ourselves agreeing to do something, only to spend days worrying about our decision.  Are their times when the “nooooo” word is on the tip of your tongue but you cannot release it?  Why do we have difficulty with this simple word? Could it be that this word projects us as being selfish, uncooperative, unloving, or uncaring?

Boomers were taught that their word is their bond.  Once you have agreed to do something wriggling out of it is not easy.  There are many slogans for “NO,” that warns our children and young people of actions that are dangerous or unsociable.

Some people believe that lack of self-confidence may be the underlying cause of our inability to say no.  I agree that this may be true in some cases, but there are exceptions.  Sometimes we are not listening well and respond to a request before processing it properly.

I am a very confident person, but a few days ago I was caught in a position where I hastily agreed to do something.  On reflection, I realized that just saying no was the perfect answer, but it slipped me.

Boomer women may find that saying no to family, friends, neighbors or coworkers is hard.  Some people expect that we become sweeter, kinder, more loving.with age.  Saying no is not easy, it is not a part of our nature.

Church women often find it hard to say no.  Think about the groups, committees, and auxiliaries that we join.  If you check on all of these, there is a small group of women who are a member of everything.  How many tickets for different events are you selling?  How many of these activities are you roped into because you are unable to say no?

How about good things?  We do not want to say no when it is a good thing.  It may never come again.  We need to use this opportunity to prove our worth, but in doing so, we become overwhelmed, overstressed and yes, burnt out.

Here are a few Tips to help you say NO:

  • Be firm, be polite, and be direct.
  • Be clear in your refusal.  Do not give the impression that you will give in at a later date.
  • Look for a compromise – make sure that the request is something that you might want to acknowledge at a later date.
  • Never feel guilty – even with your kids do not become overwhelm with guilt when you have to say no.  They have to learn that they cannot have everything.
  • Make sure that your refusal is not mistaken as rejection.
  • Self-honesty is still the best policy.





Laughter: Your Free Medicine


Laughter is important, not only because it makes us happy.  It also has actual health benefits.  And that’s because laughter completely engages the body and releases the mind.  It connects us to others, and that in itself has a healing effect.”

Marlo Thomas
Do you know that laughter is good therapy?  Can you remember the last time that you had a good laugh?  The kind that made you roll over on the floor holding your stomach with tears running down your face?  Just last week I experienced a few moments like these during the presidential debate.  I felt good but wondered if my neighbors thought that I was going crazy, laughing at that time of night.

According to health experts, laughing relieves stress, depression, anxiety, pain, illness and improves relationships.  Laughing is associated with being happy, responding to funny situations, or relieving tension. Laughter therapy is now becoming a healthcare specialty.

Many years ago one of our Caribbean Calypsonians (Calypso is social commentary) described the different types of laughter according to our social status.  It was a funny and witty song and made you laugh, but seriously this is one form of therapy that is healthy for you, and it is free.  Some people may need the help of a therapist to help them laugh, but I think that the majority of us would be able to do this on our own.

However, as our lives become more stressful as we rush around trying to complete our daily tasks, many of us forget to laugh, even to smile.  Sometimes you meet someone on the street or train, you smile and say hello, and the response is a frown.

At Christmas time laughter is plentiful and smiles are everywhere.  The day after Christmas we are back to our unsmiling faces.  One of the songs in the Broadway musical Mame reminds us that we need a little Christmas spirit in July and throughout the year.

Laughter as “medicine” is being used to help patients manage chronic health conditions such as cancer.   Norman Cousins described how laughter helped him to recover from a painful illness.  Sometimes as we grow older,  the stresses of lif.e overwhelm us.  The disappointments, failures, struggles, helpless or hopeless situations, losses, and put downs.  Years of racism, discrimination and stereotyping may also take their toll.

In the midst of all that is going on, we must remember that laughter is a powerful tool.  It can help us to overcome these difficulties.  One of the best and easiest ways to get more laughter into our lives is to revisit some of the TV comedies from the sixties and seventies.  They don’t make them like that anymore.

Remember Laughter is available free of cost.  Try it.


Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Breast cancer ribbons patterns

Last Friday, I received the sad news that my friends’ thirty-two-year-old daughter had died from breast cancer.  She was battling this disease for the past ten years.

Breast cancer rates in black/African-American women have increased by 20% when compared to those of white women.  The rate of disability and death is 42% higher for this group.  However, the number of diagnosed cases is lower.

There are different subtypes of breast cancers.  One subtype that is problematic for black women is called Triple Negative Breast Cancer.


Understanding Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Estrogen and progesterone are female hormones.  The her-2 gene helps in the growth of healthy cells in the breast. Triple Negative Breast Cancer is diagnosed when these hormones and gene are absent in a breast biopsy (hormone negative).

Many breast cancers are hormone positive and respond well to drugs such as Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors (hormone therapy). Triple negative breast cancer may not respond to hormone therapy, is more aggressive, difficult to treat, may recur and has a poor prognosis.  However, in the early stages, it may respond much better to chemotherapy.

Facts about Triple Negative Breast Cancer

  • Black/African American women are more likely to be diagnosed with this type of cancer than white or Hispanic women.
  • Death rate is higher than other groups of women
  • Tend to be diagnosed at a late stage
  • Have lower survival rates
  • Approximately 30%of breast cancers are Triple Negative
  • Many women are not regularly screened
  • Follow-up may be lacking
  • Limited access to quality treatment




Risks for Triple Negative Breast Cancer:

Persons at risk for Triple Negative Breast Cancer are

  • Younger people – women and men
  • African Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Women with a BRAC 1 mutation BRACA 1& 2
  • Men with a BRCA 2 gene mutation
  • Using birth control pills for one year or more

Important factors that influence outcomes:

  • Early detection and treatment
  • Early prevention strategies
  • Quality and resources of the facility


  • Lumpectomy – removal of the lump
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy


  • Poor during 3-5 year period
  • Does not respond well to treatment
  • Likely to recur

Prevention Strategies:

Black women can make sure that breast cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage by:

  • Getting a yearly mammogram if you are forty years and over and have risk factors
  • Genetic testing for BRCA if there is a family history of breast cancer
  • If your risks factors are high screening should begin earlier
  • Performing monthly breast self-examination
  • Regular breast examinations by a healthcare provider
  • Reporting any concerns to your doctor


National Breast Cancer Awareness Month  -October 2016

Metastatic Breast Cancer Day (MBC) October 17

Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN