Food for Thought

Oh No She Didn’t

“Time to heal our women, be real to our women. And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies that will hate the ladies that make the babies.” – Tupac Shakur

One of my favorite songs is “Bag Lady” by Erykah Badu. It is a song that behooves women (young and old) to release the mental and emotional baggage that they have acquired throughout life. With the simple vamp of: “Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.” the tune is a declaration of the freedom that comes with releasing old life luggage.

downloadThough I absolutely enjoy the song- I have come to personally overstand that not all bags are easy to let go, but it is much needed. Experiences such as molestation or sexual assault can leave one with a plethora of feelings ranging from hate to little or no self-worth. Most women, especially those in the black community, are taught to keep such sordid things in the closet and move on. From my own personal experiences I have found that what’s not dealt with ( be it emotionally or physically) can and will leave one paralyzed in pain.

Damaged women do destructive things.

Although women are trailblazers in the business world and have made great strides in the scientific and political community, they are still subject to being seen as merely sexual objects. Little girls are still molested, raped or sold into sex trafficking rings. In many countries women are not allowed to attend school or practice the right to vote. Yet, when it is all said and done, these aforementioned girls and women are told to get over traumatic experiences, raise babies and have dinner on the table ( because we all know that that is what women were placed on this planet to do, right?)

Yet, I ponder, what happens to the little girl who is molested and/or raped? What type of woman does she grow up to be? Will she grow to hate the male species? Will she become promiscuous? Will she even make it to womanhood or end up committing suicide?

“A nation can rise no higher than its woman.” – The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

Although we are taught much differently, a woman is a powerful source of influence in bag ladythe home, her community and the world abroad. As soon as a woman is impregnated, she becomes the world to the life force developing within her. What the woman eats, thinks and feels has a major impact on her child before it takes its first breath of oxygen. Once the baby is born, he/she is nursed, pampered and cared for by the mother. The mother teaches the child the skills needed in life. The mother comforts the child when they are hurt. But, these things are negated if the mother cannot move beyond the hurts that were inflicted upon her in her formative or adult stages. Instead of pouring into the child with love, temperance, joy and peace, the mother gives the child hate, fear limitations and defeat. The latter fills the child with the poison of life instead of a passion for life, causing the child to go into the world ready to destroy and defile- and the cycle continues.

It is time out for the “Get over it.” rhetoric. It is time that we take the time to examine our wounds and realize that even if it didn’t happen to you personally there is someone close to you that has. Once we begin to not only talk about our pain but listen to another person’s agony- we will effectuate that pain can be triumphed by love.

Let us begin to open our ears, hearts and minds to one another instead of disregarding or overlooking them because of one’s outward appearance. When this is done, we will be to declare: “I’m not only my sister’s keeper, I AM my sister.”

Images found on http://www.google.com

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Only For A Limited Time

For one month out of a 12-month calendar year, the African American Community comes together to celebrate more than bhm400 years of achievements and strides made by our ancestors. In my youth, since I was so disconnected from my history, I felt like it was fitting for my people to learn of our rich and sordid pasts. I can remember being in the 9th grade getting upset that we no longer celebrated Black History month like we did in elementary and middle school. My friends and I would cause a ruckus when we did not hear of the great contributions of the people that fought for our civil liberties as African- Americans to be in desegregated classrooms and diners.

As I grew and began to learn of my ancestors, I began to question my motives.

My first question was: How can we fit 400+ years of achievements into a 28-day month without missing some great details?

My second inquiry was: Why is this one month the only month that my culture comes together to celebrate each other?

The second inquiry was the most pressing. For one month, there is minimal fights, thefts and deaths that take place in the urban community but the other eleven are  saturated with hate and fatalities. For one month my community is more loving and gracious for each other but as soon as March 1st arrives we are back to our same shenanigans of self-hate and more thancommunity degradation.

Why can’t we celebrate our ancestors all year round?  If our pride and love is only offered for a limited time, how will we move forward to accomplish more goals? Do we celebrate Black History month because we need to be reminded that we were more in unison with each other when we were enslaved?

I think that it would behoove us as a society to begin to embrace each other every day of the year to create a  new foundation of honor and respect for one another.  Until we begin the process of daily encouragement and education we will continue to be forced to look upon our former glory as we forfeit the potential of having a brilliant latter that our children and grandchildren can  look upon and embrace.

*Images found on http://www.google.com

In The Name Of

“The tendency to turn human judgement into divine commands makes religion one of the most dangerous forces in the world.” – George Harkness

I was in the 10th grade when the September 11th attacks took place. I was on my way to World History class where we were learning about The Crusades. When I entered the classroom I heard a reporter on the television, “Oh great!” I thought. “We’re watching a movie, NAP TIME!” I ran over to my desk to place my book bag on the floor, I looked up and saw an airplane crash into the side of the World Trade Center. For the days that followed I learned that the attack was crusadescaused by terrorists declaring war in the name of Allah and they were ready and willing to do more damage.

In the second semester of the  year that I attended college I took an Intro to Communications class and really enjoyed it (on the days that I decided to go). For a group assignment we were split into groups of five and were given a country to research and deliver an oral presentation. The group was to give each person a sub-topic that would describe the culture of the given province.

My group was given India and I was to research the religions that were practiced. I was truly overwhelmed with mixed emotions. On one hand, I was given an opportunity to learn something new and to talk about it. On the other, I had to present without any biases or judgement.  As I began to research, I discovered that the three major religions were all striving for “peace”. This took me aback because growing up in a Christian American home I had come to think that anything else outside of the name of Jesus was rebellion and anarchy.I remember going to church and denouncing anyone 2 is the loneliestthat worshiped anyone but Jesus Christ.

As I delved deeper into my research I realized that each religion had more things in common than they differentiated on. Just like Christianity- Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism encourages  peace and love through prayer and self-examination by submitting one’s self to the higher Divine Power. This finding caused me to ponder the reason for war in the world; so many wars have began in the name of God and the right religion.

“We’re all a part of the same One God” -Russell Simmons

That assignment awakened a thirst of spiritual knowledge for me and for the past couple of years I have found myself pinching a few practices of each religion and incorporating it into my daily quiet time.The more I learned of each religion, there were  less  reservations I held towards them. I have benefited from taking two 15-minutes breaks to be still and would like to practice Yoga in the near future. I have not gotten up to praying five times a day, but I do make a conscious decision to do so at least three. I have gleaned so much from all religions that I have gained a healthy eye and eyerespect for them all.

Religion forces us to fight for what’s right and destroy anything that is wrong while spirituality encourages us to see the Divine in all. With religion, we tend to focus on what we believe instead of the things that we should  know that are essential to have to be a positive force in our society.  When we release religion and embrace spirituality, we begin to realize that our Creator  is the Father of many. Like a good Father he wants all of His children to be healthy, productive  and happy.

 

*Images found on http://www.google.com

Salt

“The end did not forget the beginning, nor did the beginning remain sterile to the end.” – James V. Schall

 

“You were born a nigger, you gone be a nigger and you gone die a nigger.”  he  proclaimed smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

It pierced through my body, sending a shock that knocked  the breath out of me, awakening a quiet rage that swirled like kuntacreamer in coffee. In disbelief, I stood there hoping to wake up and it would all had been a dream. I felt my expression change as the blood began to rise to my face. The lump that always comes to my throat when I want to fight back my tears rose like a dam that was about to gush through the seams of my cheeks.

That phrase pulled me back into a past hurt that my ancestors bore. The more I tried to move past that pain, something inside of me kept me looking back at the shackles that my predecessors were forced to wear around their hands and feet. As I continued to reflect on all of the horrid depictions of the former, I became frozen in the thoughts of history and how it continued to repeat itself.

“Is that what you think of me?” I asked slanting my head hoping that through my glasses he saw more. More than the girl who had tried so hard to win the affections and respect that he rendered. More than a government dependent junkie waiting for her food stamps to come in. More than an affirmative action charity case from the bad side of the tracks. More than a “wannabe like him so I wouldn’t have to deal with remarks rendered by a society that had labeled me since birth” type of person

I don’t remember ever crying as much as I did that day. It was an angry cry. A cry that wanted to burn the building down and light a cigarette from the inferno. This was 2014 man! This was the present. We don’t say that word in this part of Georgia without  somebody getting cussed out or sent on to glory and here I was doing nothing but crying and regretting all of the things that I did not do.

afro loveI did not set the place on fire (Glory be), but I began to think about what made me so angry? For obvious reasons of course, you know the whole being black thing, but there was something beyond the surface that penetrated my makeshift  armor of being color blind  and liberal.

I had connected that word to the struggle that my ancestors fought. My great-grandmother was born into slavery and had endured  some of the most horrific things that even she did not want to speak about nor remember.But, it was there. Like a big pink elephant in a cramped room that no one wanted to address, the pain of the past. I associated the word with depictions of Kunta Kinte being whipped or Sethe being raped by School Teacher and his boys.

  “The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.” – Mary Pickford

Though slavery was a pain to my ancestors it does not have to be my pain today. That does not mean that it did not happen. Nor does it mean that I will forget it. It means that I will not allow that pain to keep me stuck in an uncontrollable rage that leaves me battered and wounded. It means that I have been given an opportunity to show my ancestors  that I appreciate the hardships that they endured yesterday to accommodate my dreams for today. It means that the next time that someone of any race-including my own, uses that word I will inform them that their ignorance will be the death of our society.

We cannot change what happened in our history nor can we open the minds that refuse to be opened. We can only strive the worldtoday to make our latter better than our former. If we continue to look back on what was we will be left  paralyzed and unable to make the necessary changes that our community needs today.Let us embrace the past as a point of reference  that teaches us to be grateful for the strides that we continue to make as a society, not as a pillar that leaves us powerless and pathetic.

* Images found on http://www.google.com

Too School For Cool (Journal Entry)

One of my super powers is learning. I love learning new things that others may deem trivial. In my skole, I watch documentaries or read books;a vitophilia that brings me great pleasure. For a long time I would hide this pleasure to be like others so I could be accepted. I thought that if I fit in for a while others would loosen up and allow me to finally be myself,  but the more I made alterations to myself, the more others seemed to find fault in me.

bookwormIn retrospect, I chose to neglect my zeal of learning because I didn’t want to be viewed as a phony  who was trying to be a “white girl”. I wanted to stay true to my race and be “hood”, because that was what being black was all about. I risked and forfeited many great opportunities because I was trying to “keep it real” with everyone but myself.

It took me a while to realize that the things that make me weird distinguishes me from others, and that’s not a bad thing at all. There is nothing wrong with intelligence because intelligence does not discriminate between race  or religion; intelligence is available  to those that are in constant pursuit of knowledge.  In fact,  our greatest leaders sought after intelligence with a color blindness that allowed them to speak and  reach groups of people who were once biased and calloused towards minorities.

When we put limits on our education we limit our potential to reach others from diverse  walks of life.smart girl

I am no longer afraid to admit that I enjoy reading, writing, museums, and most importantly thinking. I enjoy being optimistic and accentuating the positive. I watch Jeopardy every night and guess what, both of my parents are B-L-A-C-K! I am grateful for all of the things that make me who I am. I may not live up to the standards of the hood and that is just fine, truth be told, I think that the standards of the hood should be raised a couple of notches any way.

Our race does not determine our intelligence, our willingness to learn does.

 

* Images found on http://www.google.com

On a Role

” You have the power to say no.” -Sidney Portier

 

I can get so caught up on what people say about me sometimes, so much to the point that I begin to change things about myself to be accepted by them. I’ve always considered my self a plain Jane. I’ve never been interested in make-up, hair salons or nail salons, I’m more the Monday Night RAW type of girl or maybe a nice PBS documentary. Though some guys would enjoy watching RAW with me, most of them were not interested in the documentary, they were more prone to be with girls who were walking My-Size Barbie dolls that had interchangeable wigs.

At a young age, I realized that if I wanted to be accepted and have a boyfriend, I had to learn to keep up with the competition. I began to hang out with girls that I thought were prettier and began to let them mold me. This method worked for a while, until I discovered that now,everyone was fooling around- and if I wanted to stay in the crowd I had better get with the program.

Just because people may talk about it doesn’t really mean that they will do  it.brothas

In Hollywood Shuffle, Robert Townsend plays Bobby Taylor, a young man that aspires to be a renowned actor. During the movie, you are allowed into the vivid imagination of an inner-city male who wants to leave his surroundings by pursuing his dreams. He has a set mind that he will accomplish his goals and has taken every precaution as an actor to ensure success;he acquired an agent, took acting classes and has even been on television.

Though he is an “professional’ actor, he only gets cast for stereotypical roles such as butlers, slaves and gang members.  Bobby knows that these roles demean him, but it is the only option that he seems to have so he decides to take what he can get. During an audition, Bobby sits next to another aspiring actor that tells him that these roles are beneath the both of them and that no one should be subjected to such degradation. Though the actor spoke poignantly he ultimately decided to be a part of the production.

After quitting his job and a long talk with a family member, he decides to put all of his attention into his acting career and receives a leading role in a movie playing a pimp. Though he is excited about the role,he still has a longing for a better part  that depicts him as a hero instead of scum. On the morning of the first day of filming, the matriarch of Bobby’s family, his grandmother spoke out against the life that Bobby was choosing to live.  Bobby’s mother tries to explain that this is bitchesBobby’s dream and that he needs the work.His grandmother combated with a single phrase:

“There is always work at the post office.”

During the filming of his first major role, Bobby Taylor began to think about the example that he was setting for his brother and the mockery that he was making of himself. He decided to give up the role and to go and work for the post office. Though his dream seemed deferred, he still had his integrity and his acting career was still secure. he even landed a role in a post office commercial.

At the age of thirteen I became an unwed teenage mother because I wanted to follow the crowd. I thought that having a boyfriend and a nice  outer appearance would make people want to be around  me, but it had the opposite effect on my life. I lost friends and the people who were once all gung ho  about me having sex began to whisper and make fun of my condition. By compromising myself and my true feelings towards those situations, I created a world of chaos for not only for myself-but for my child and my family also.

When we forfeit our identities to assume a role that was not meant for us we lose the focus of why we were created. We are not meant to fit inside the confines of boxes that people place on our lives. When we are brave enough to look naysayers square in the eyes and refuse to submit to their criticism, we take our power to be individuals.

We must be willing to say no to conformity and yes to creativity.

* Images found on http://www.google.com

Mouth to Mouth ( A Poem)

Living with death

But afraid to die

Old ghetto apartments

They subsidize

Until then

we fail to realize

That others’ dreams and aspirations

are based upon on our untimely demise

Or perhaps

It is fitting

Because it is the lust of another life

that keeps us forgetting

That one man’s trash

is thousands of men’s treasure

What could be the difference?

Skin colorgentrified

Money

Status

Or pleasure

We can say  all of these things

But they are all man made

Creating boxes and boundaries

eliminating a path to be paved

Or we could  just

Simply

Take responsibility

As absurd as it may

Sound

* Images found on http://www.google.com

Subject to Change

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” ― Leo Tolstoy

There are a lot of opportunities  that I have missed out on  because things were not perfect. I missed out on truly changeembracing motherhood because I was single and too young to be a “good” parent. I ignored my zeal of writing because I would never be considered one of the “greats” because of my lack of formal education.  I eliminated myself from being a successful person because of my sordid past. I counted my self out for true happiness because that never  happened to black girls like me.

Perfection is the second cousin to procrastination. If we wait until something is perfect to make an action, we would never get anything done because our situations are constantly changing.

Just last year, I was getting ready for Christmas with a smile on my face because my mentor decided to sponsor my family’s Christmas. She not only took me shopping, but she made a loaf of pumpkin bread from scratch and equipped me with a gingerbread house kit. My children and I gathered at my mother’s house and decorated the gingerbread house while eating most of the candy in the process. It was a great Christmas and a very promising New Year.

Then, the seasons changed…..

Since June of this year I have been unemployed after being ‘separated’ from my former employer. As months passed, I dedicated myself to helping at my daughter’s school, blogging and my newest venture- I.N.S.P.I.R.E .Though these embraceactivities bring me joy, they are not very lucrative as of now and I had no clue of how I was going to keep my light bill paid to even think about Christmas.

Things are far from perfect for me at this moment in my life right now, but I have never been more joyful. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, just last month I was bugging out about the aforementioned  things and more. But, this month has been a grand experience of the joys of love and family for me;  there are so many things that I can and will be thankful for. If I wait for things to get better or be perfect, I will miss  some of the most wonderful things that are taking place right now for myself as well as my loved ones.

In her Tedtalk, The Power of Believing that You Can Improve, Professor Carol Dweck motivates us all to relish in The Power of Yet– where we are in a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.  She encourages us to stand firm in the face of adversity and to put more effort in the things that we do.  She persuades us to engage with our errors so that we learn from them and correct them. She rallies us all to praise the process of improvement instead of allowing ourselves to be beaten down by life’s circumstances.

banksyThough last year was better for me economically, I seem to be so much happier with the direction that my life is taking. Yes, I miss being able to indulge in some yummy pumpkin bread and build a gingerbread house,  but I would not trade my freedom to create and be myself at all times for anything in this world.  Though I have less financial independence, I am not excluded from being productive in my household and community. My separation empowered me to breathe life into situations that I did not have time to nurture because I worked. I have the ability to be more involved in my daughter’s life and the luxury of writing all day if I so desired. I have been presented with the best opportunities to bring change in my neighborhood, and honey I am seizing each and every moment.

Basing our happiness on temporal things will always keep us in a rut. When we decide to be content no matter our situations we thrive! Shine on urbanites! 

* Images found on http://www.google.com

 

 

 

Free Yo Mind

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” – Beverly Sills

Disclaimer: Jonesitis is a terrible disease. In most cases, people  suffer from envy, low self-esteem, comparing themselves to others and procrastination. Many people are troubled from this ailment daily, but have been undiagnosed for many years. The only known cure for Jonesitis is to become more self aware of the individual beauty that one possess. flo jo

If procrastination was an Olympic game, I would have won the gold medal. I cannot begin to count how many late papers I’ve turned in only to hear the same response: “Great paper, you would have gotten an A if you would have turned it in on time!” 

There are many factors that hinder  us from reaching our fullest potential; for me it is the fear of failing. My own negative thoughts have prevented me from truly going for the gusto. My most pressing concern is: “What if nobody likes what I have to say?” But truly, with the way that I speak to myself sometimes even my worse critic would give me a hug.

Procrastination is just a sweet way of  saying, “Welp, I’m already a failure, I might as well take my time getting to the next epic disappointment.”

Negative mind chatter places us in a prison where the warden constantly beats on the bars to remind us of our past mishaps. But, the best part of being a prisoner in our minds is: we hold the keys to our liberation. We all have hang-ups that society has pointed out. We’re either too skinny, too fat, too black, not black enough, too poor, too uneducated, or too educated to meet the requirements for the world to deem us as qualified. Sometimes, our past experiences also create our poor thinking patterns; we look at our past failures as a road map to be a predicting compass of how our lives will ultimately end.

like a birdInstead of allowing the past to imprison and taunt us, let us think of our past failures as stepping-stones to our success.  When we take on the attitude of gratitude and begin to use our past experiences as learning tools, we transform our minds from a cold prison cell to a lush landscape of new opportunities.

And let us remember what mother used to say: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! That goes for conversations with ourselves too.

 

* Pictures found on http://www.google.com

What About Today

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.” – Paulo Coelho

 

In case we did not realize it, black people are still upset about slavery. We are so upset that for the past 148 years we have marched, boycotted, picketed,  protested, sung, danced, cried and died. We have been bitten by dogs, terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan, raped and killed. We have gone to separate schools, unauthorized to vote and stripped of our inalienable rights.

basquait originalThere was a time that this anger created beauty and pride. This emotion resounded in our art, music, prose and photography by igniting thought and consciousness. We created businesses and programs that enriched our impoverished communities and awareness to our children. In the height of this change and unity, our positive leaders were killed, leaving our communities in shambles and distrust by the latter part of the 1970’s.By the 1980’s our environments were saturated with drugs, sex and violence. By the 1990’s teenage pregnancy, gang violence and police brutality ran rampant erupting looting and more violence.

Though we could go on for hours about the plight of Black America, one can only ponder what Black America is doing to change the situation. What are we truly doing today to create a more positive atmosphere tomorrow?

Our culture has been depicted as a failure waiting to happen and we feed into that image by supporting negative actions paper planeswith negative actions. Today, the community is enraged by the  verdict in the Michael Brown case but when will we support each other’s businesses. When will we come together and keep our communities clean? When will we stop supporting “hate” music? When will stop forming cliques in our churches? When will we realize that our today is totally different from our yesterday? Yes, we have been subjected to cruelties like racism and segregation, but what are we doing to keep it from happening today?

Today, we can make a choice to be more united and supportive of one another. Today we can stop supporting arts and entertainment that represent us in a negative light. Today we can become more involved in our local schools and grass-roots organizations. Today we can stop longing to leave our hoods, become famous, never come back but paint it in a negative light because you don’t live there anymore. Today we can stop putting down people who view things differently and voice their opinions.

If we do this today, tomorrow will be better for the future generation that follow.

*Images found on http://www.google.com