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A letter to my son….

November 2, 2011

The Teenage Twitter sex scandal is still on my mind.  While I appreciate (most of) the men who have taken time to speak to the young woman about life and love.  Who’s talking you the young men?  As the mother of a boy, I wonder what I would say if my child was a willing participant in that kind of activity…..

Dear Son,

I always imagined your name would be on the lips of millions; although I hoped it would be to sing your praises, to celebrate your accomplishments, to extol you as a leader of men.  What I dared not imagine is that you would be best known as an accomplice in the humiliation and degradation of a young woman.

Son, I cry.

I have failed you.  Your father has failed you.  Society has failed you.

Despite my best attempts to provide you with what you need to survive: food, clothing and shelter, I could not provide you with an example of what real a man looks like.  While I have always been careful not to speak ill of your father, times like this call for the truth.  Your father knows not what he does.  His role models were the lowest of men.  Me who believed the number of women they conquered was the only measure of their value as human beings.  This false sense of worth, which is really worthlessness disguised, was passed on to your father, and clearly has been passed down to you.    Only God knows if there’s hope for him, but I know there is hope for you and I believe that you still have a chance to buck the stereotypes and prove to the world that a black man’s value should be determined by the size of his intellect, his heart and his contributions to the world.  But, it’s going to take work, and if no one else is interested in showing you how, I will.  My dear son, this is a matter of life and death.

First, You must apologize to that young lady, publicly.  Then apologize to your sisters, your grandmother, aunts, and to me.  And even apologize to your future daughters.  It is promised that your children will one day feel the burden of your actions.  I know you’re young and raising children is the furthest thing from your mind, but one day you’ll see.  One way or another, a real man has to take responsibility for his actions.

Get new friends.  Anyone who would encourage you to risk your reputation and possibly your freedom is not your friend.  Don’t fall victim to other people’s opinions of you.  A real man is a leader

Respect yourself.  Despite what your (former) friends may say, allowing yourself to be associated with this kind of activity shows you have absolutely no respect for yourself as an intelligent, decent human being. Real men respect themselves so they can respect others.

You’re lucky my dear, you still have time to repent.  You have time to prove everyone who assumes you’re nothing but a hyper sexual, irresponsible, stupid, monster of a future black man wrong.  You have a chance to prove that despite your mistakes, you can rise above them and right your wrongs.  You have people who believe in you and will continue to teach you, but only for so long.  At some point you will be out there on your own, forced to fend for yourself.   Unfortunately, you won’t always get a second chance, so don’t waste this one.  He who knows better does better – so do better my love, do better.

I love you.


Shawna Renee is the host of Cocoa Mode on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a health and wellness coach.  Twitter: @cocoamode       Facebook:

Cocoa’s Out and About….

October 18, 2011

This is turning out to be a CRAZY (in a great way!!) week for me.  I’ll be running around town connecting with my fellow Howard University Alum (H.UUUU.) and kicking it with some of the best and brightest  bloggers at Blogalicious 2011.

Cocoa Mode w/ Shawna Renee

SirusXM Satellite Radio Channel 129

Every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

If you’re not in DC, make sure you connect with me via your satellite radio this Thursday at 9am for Cocoa Mode. Negropedia author Patrice Evans will be with me to discuss his book as well as provide tips for becoming a good assimilated negro.  :)

Wednesday, Oct. 19th @ 6pm

If you knew then…

I’ll share the two most important lessons I learned as a student and professional.

CB Powell Building 211

Friday, Oct. 21 @ 1:45pm

Creating Kick A$$ Content

Washington Gaylord Hotel/Potomac Ballroom.  If you’ve ever thought about adding audio content to your blog or hosting your own podcast/blogtalk show, make sure you check us out.

Check it out….

Black Is?

September 28, 2011


This week on Cocoa Mode author and cultural critic Toure discusses his new book, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness. On page 15 you’ll find many of the questions he asked the 105 people he interviewed for the book. In preparation for my interview with Toure, I took
ten of his questions and presented them to a group of friends. Three hours and as many bottles of wine later we
discovered there were as many definitions of blackness as
there were people in the room, but what we could agree
on was in America there is one thing we all have in common,
our “otherness”.
If you’re ever at a loss for things to talk about at one of your get-togethers I encourage you to take out this list and
have your guests answer these questions. You may be
surprised to discover how alike, or different, you really

From Who’s Afraid Of Post-Blackness?

1. What does being Black mean to you?
2. Is there an authentic Black experience?
3. Is Blackness the center of your persona?
4. Are there particular, necessary characteristics of
5. What do you think of the word nigger and nigga?

To read the entire list of questions, pick up a copy of the book at your local (black) bookstore or order online at any one of the popular online books sellers.

Also on this week’s show, Steve Stoute talks about his book, The Tanning of America. Should we take the B out of BET or the N out of UNCF? He thinks so. Tune in to the interview at Thursday at 9:00am ET on SiriusXM128

How’s the weather?

September 2, 2011

“We’ve seen computers play chess and beat grand masters. We’ve seen computers drive a car across a desert. But interestingly, playing chess is easy, but having a conversation about nothing is really difficult for a computer. And that seems to be the ultimate test of intelligence” – Hod Lipson, engineer.

Intelligence = being able to talk about nothing.

Well now it’s official, I am one of the most intelligent people on earth.  As is my 5-year-old who can have a 3 hour conversation (with himself) about absolutely nothing.  (Genetics are a beast.)

Jokes aside, after hearing the story about an engineer in New York who is attempting to develop a robot that can engage in spontaneous conversation with human beings and other robots, I began to wonder, is the ability to participate in meaningless conversation a sign of intelligence?

Think about it, what if we committed ourselves to engaging in only  meaningful conversations?  Is that even possible?  Would the elimination of “small talk” improve the way we communicate with each other or would we somehow lose our ability to connect on a human level?  How much time would we save if we decided to just “get to the point”?  Or, is small talk a necessary part of our social interaction, is it what makes us intelligent beyond anything man can create? 

According to a study by Timothy Bickmore, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the College of Computer and information science at Northeastern University, small talk is a bonding ritual and a strategy for managing interpersonal distance.  In other words, we use small talk to keep people we don’t know well or don’t trust out of our business. 

My late grandfather was a man of few words, and when he chose to speak I remember his words were always meaningful.  Rarely would he share something personal, but his conversations were always thought-provoking.  If someone asked him about the weather he might go into a discussion about an article he read on global warming.  Or, if someone asked him about his family, he’d answer with a story about something significant (a professional accomplishment, marriage, etc) that had recently taken place in our lives.  What he would never do was talk just for the sake of talking. 

As I child growing up I completely ignored his example and ran my mouth incessantly.  My mother has a story that proves I was born with this trait.  Apparently one day, we were riding in the car with her friend in the front seat and me in the back, and for some reason there was a lag in the conversation.  Out of nowhere I just started making these odd, random noises.  Her friend asked what was wrong with her crazy child in the back seat, and my mother replied she must talk – even though she can’t form a word to save her little 10 month old life.

Now that I’m older, I’ve come to appreciate and accept that fact that I’m a blabber mouth, but as I work toward becoming a better, more enlightened version of myself, I would like for my words to carry purpose and meaning.  I want to ask the right questions to inspire answers that will help me on my journey.  I want to speak words that inspire others along their journey.  I want to use my gift of gab for something more than just filling awkward spaces of silence. 

So, for the next 30 days I am going to commit to engaging in only meaningful conversation.  No small talk, just honest, thoughtful, intelligent (as possible) discussions about things that matter.  Inquiries about the weather will be met with information I’ve gathered about the frequency of earthquakes and the naming of hurricanes.  Questions about my family will be answered with stories about Kindergarten homework and trips to foreign lands.  Innocent inquisitions about my beloved will get you an earful (so I’d skip that question if I were you).  And if I get to you first, I’ll be asking questions about those events in your life that I have a genuine interest in knowing more about.  And if I can’t think of anything to say, I’ll just smile and say “Hello”.    

No matter how the exchange plays out, I promise not to get all up in your business too much.  But be warned, it is  likely we will both walk away changed as a result of our meeting.

Beyonce = Baby Mama?

August 29, 2011

…that’s what Your Black World would have you think. In their story about Beyonce’s announcement on last night’s VMA’s, the writer writes,

Most speculators assume that rapper Jay-Z, also Beyonce’s husband, is the father of the child.

Why and what for?  Are we so conditioned to believe that (married) Black women have children with just any ol’ body that we must be careful not to state what should be the obvious?    Beyonce is pregnant, she and her husband Jay-Z are expecting their first child sometime soon.  There  I said it.  No need to speculate, assume, wonder or anything else.  To state otherwise is disrespectful and an insult to Beyonce, Jay-Z and married couples everywhere who do exactly what we’ve been begging black folks to do for the last few decades.  Fall in love, get married, have a baby and be happy.

Dr. Boyce, come get your people.

In the meantime, check out her kick ass performance from this year’s VMA’s

Cocoa Mode Music: Jill Scott

August 26, 2011

There’s little more I can say about this video other than….beautiful.

Happy Friday my friends. If you are in the path of Irene please stay safe and PRAYED UP. Sending tons of positive energy your way!!

Will & Jada – My two cents

August 24, 2011

I’ll admit I’m a day late on the Will & Jada scoop.  I live and work in DC and I was busy sweeping up the shatterd dishes from yesterday’s earthquake (!!!).  From what I can gather, someone reported that Will & Jada were seperating, all hell broke loose, women everywhere lost all faith in love and relationships. Later that day it was announced the story was false and peace on earth was restored.

The next wave of articles came from bloggers, reporters and cultural critics who questioned why anyone would care enough to get upset about the news of yet another celebrity couple separating.  After all, isn’t that what celebrities do? They get married, get divorced, get married again, get caught cheating, get a reality show and die.  Is there a reason why we should expect any different from “Ja-Dill-a” or “Wil-da” or….(nevermind).

Hell yes!!  These two represent an image of African-American marriage that we rarely see.  Even if things aren’t perfect (and they’ve both been very honest about that) they’ve managed to stay together for all these years and never once have I heard either one of them utter a negative word about marriage.  The Smiths are an example of a mixed family that works.  The Smiths are an example of a hard-working couple that still manages to find time for romance.   Mr. Smith is an example of a man who supports his woman when it’s time for her to break out and do her thing.  Mrs. Smith is an example of a woman who holds it DOWN when her man is off doing his thing.  How do we know?  Because they told us so, and in a world where Black men and women are inundated with images of husbands throwing drinks at wives, crazy baby mama drama and other negative examples of Black marriage and family, saying so is enough for me.

Now, let me be clear, if it happens that Will & Jada do break up, I will not, nor do I expect you to jump off the “happily ever after” bridge.  Instead, we must keep moving forward toward our destiny, use what we’ve learned from Will & Jada, Ossie & Ruby, Bill & Camille, Cliff & Claire to fortify our relationships so that one day we can become the real life-up close examples to our family and friends that many of us have never known.


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