Eat In This Order…

By Tequila Cheatham McCray

With Juneteenth in June, and Independence Day in July, it’s a great time to free ourselves of certain things and have dialogue about issues that are happening secretly.

This year, I had the opportunity to connect with some amazing women in business. One of them by the name of Carleeka Basnight-Menendez who is the founder of an organization called INSO Inc., who made me realize something about myself when I was a teenager, and even once I became an adult. It’s difficult to admit but, it’s time to release.

Let’s just say it how it is… I had an eating disorder. Now, there are different types of eating disorders but, we normally associate it with one type. I, on the other hand, had a binge eating disorder. You see, I had been slim my entire life. There was nothing I could do to gain weight. I had a high metabolism, and I was very active. I became self-conscious when people started making certain remarks about my body size. Up until that point, I had no idea that something was “wrong” with me. First, they would call me names. Second, they’d tell me to eat more. as if I was starving mself. Third, I would sometimes eat until my belly ached. I would “eat a whole pizza and three plates of food knowing I was already full” (line taken from my poem called, Flaca) simply to not be looked upon as “too thin.” It was as if they were saying I was unacceptable, unwanted. Me? Unacceptable? Has anyone ever made you feel like that?

Well, I’ve partnered with the fabulous Carleeka to talk about our personal journeys with this issue of “eating disorders” and how it plays a role specifically in the African American communities because it’s not viewed upon as a “black thing.” It’s time to change the trajectory of these perspectives because it’s toxic and it doesn’t help us grow as individuals, a community, society, nor as a world. Check out the interview!

Tequila: Hey Carleeka! How are you?

Carleeka: Hey Tequila! I am doing great, and you?

Tequila: Great, thanks. I want to talk about things that are taboo, and that people are afraid to discuss.

Carleeka:  That is awesome! Yes, we need to stop being silent. This year, I plan on going to diferent cities to do an empowerment session on eating disorders.

Tequila: That’s awesome man. I’ve never had that issue or know anyone who did except you. I don’t think people are knowledgeable about it. I think most of us assume people just want to starve themselves. Obviously, there’s more to it.

Carleeka: It is a journey girl. Even statistically, there is not enough reported data for African American women. There is way more [to it] and other forms such as binge eating.

Tequila: Wow. I’m really in awe about this subject because we really don’t think about African American women with eating disorders.

Carleeka: It’s that part right there girl. For so long in our communities, it’s been said that’s not a “black thing” not realizing that many binge due to the lack thereof, emotions, etc. which leads to health problems we can’t afford.

Tequila: Whew! GIRL. School me…The main thing I’d like to know is: How does it impact you being an entrepreneur, if at all?

Carleeka: As an entrepreneur, it impacts everything I do because it’s all about perception. The image we see, and realizing everything we say or do is a result of what we think and perceive. I had to change my perception in order to change my life. It wasn’t easy…the mental battle of being fat…

Tequila: Right. What’s even more taboo is whether AA[African American] men do the same. We NEVER talk about that….I’m actually working on a novel that deals with physical body image. It’s a very touchy subject for me and I think you’re making me realize something about myself Carleeka…Growing up thin, I would sometimes binge eat to gain weight, to not be called names…wow…I forget about it because I had to have a mental talk with myself to never think like that again and to just be happy with who I was…

Carleeka: Wow…I could not get skinny enough. It began in 10th grade until I was 28. I weighed in at age 22, pregnant with my daughter at 85lbs, and I thought I was fat. The thing is I was always small but, I could control my weight. I became an ADDICT to losing weight.

Tequila: Wow. This is interesting and really deep. After I had my son, I hurried up and lost the weight because I thought I was fat. Not only that, the weight wasn’t doing well on my knees.

Carleeka: Some people don’t realize that every thin person is not happy being skinny. They want some meat!

Tequila: Right. I think I wanted meat for all of the wrong reasons though…To be more attractive, to appear more “womanly,” to be more wanted…That self -love is serious man..

Carleeka: Girl, you are so right about self -love…I am INTENTIONAL on not going back there. Now I had some moments after I was on steroids for medical reasons but I quickly dismissed those thoughts. It was about control and the fact that a lot of my family members were obese, so I vowed to myselfthat I would never be fat. I had “Fear of Fat.”

Tequila: Man, I definitely get it.

Carleeka: So that’s why I felt led this year to go to different cities and bring more awareness and share my story to AAs[African Americans].

Tequila: Wow, that’s great hun. Thank you for this conversation. If you could tell anyone out there who has experienced, or going through any type of eating disorder, what would you say?

Carleeka: I would tell them: Don’t be ashamed, and you will overcome!

For more information on Carleeka’s organization, INSO, Inc. visit, www.insoinc.org.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, please call the National Eating Disorder Association, or NEDA hotline at 1-800-931-2237.


Carleeka Basnight-Menendez
Founder of INSO, Inc.

Tye Tribett & Liturgical Dancing Saved My Life

By Tequila Cheatham


At some point, we all experience depression. The way we channel that depression determines our outlook on life during those challenging moments. Upon moving to Washington D.C. to attend Howard University, I was depressed for many reasons. I tried different outlets, and nothing worked. I joined a sorority, I worked full time, and even attended church on campus, but nothing worked. I was deep into my depression, and no one knew because I masked the unhappiness. I was SINKING. I was involved in activities that I cared nothing about; started hanging with people for organizational purposes, and threw myself into school only to find myself discouraged by my major and some of the classes I could not pass. I was not eating or drinking water like I should have been to the point I became dehydrated. Had it not been for my buddies who took me to the hospital, and force fed me soup while in the waiting room, I would not have been able to walk out of the emergency room with the strength that I had.

I knew it was time to do something new. It was time to reset my spirit. For the first time in my life, I went to an audition. As a child, I was always amazed by the liturgical dancers in church, and even when I had watched some perform in Howard’s auditorium; so, I decided to try out my skills as a dancer and a spiritualist. I’ll never forget the nervousness I felt on the first day. Some of the girls were experienced, while I was just a self-taught amateur. Despite the fact I learned most of my dance moves by watching music videos by singers Aaliyah and Usher, I did not let anything intimidate me. It was my moment to do something for my spirit. This became about survival.

We were instructed to create a dance for the gospel song of our choice from Tye Tribett’s album, “Victory Live.”. Lucky for me, my roommate was the true Christian and had physical copies of gospel CD’s for me to copy. The first time I heard his album “Victory Live,” I became hooked by the energy and passion. One song that stood out to me in particular was “1-2 Victory Check” because when I first heard it, my soul danced, then followed my body. I knew it would be the perfect song for redemption. Not only was I moved by the beat, but the lyrics gave me life! It was the feeling that I had been searching for. I came up with a dance immediately, and when it was time to perform for the audition, I killed it and was asked to dance throughout the semester.

Not only did I have the opportunity to perform as a liturgical dancer in Howard University’s auditorium, church, and for a special on campus event, with every rehearsal, I took that as an opportunity to stomp out all negative emotion that surfaced, so much so that at one point, one of the head dancers just thought I was mimicking her moves when in actuality I was catching the holy ghost.

Joining the Beacon Liturgical Dance Ministry and dancing to Tye Tribbett for those few performances saved my spirit. I was hanging on by a string and closed myself off to my real friends. Finally, I had been restored, and as time went on, I would jog to my audition song and do the steps for fun. To this day, “Victory Live” remains one of my favorite albums, and I still remember some of the moves from our performances.

“Remember, no matter how your situation starts, it has to end in victory! You’ve got victory! You’ve got victory!” –Tye Tribett, Victory Live