New Works

Silver & Gold

” Winners forget that they are in a race, they just love to run.”  – Fortune Cookie

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. 

My former employer was a community based organization that was always involved in different outings. One of my favorite ventures was a big cookout that featured local bands. The goal of the cookout was to raise money and donate it to trackthe organization that would come out and sell raffle tickets during the event. It was like the Woodstock for non-profit organizations and I loved the scene.

One year, the Executive Director and I had this crazy notion that we would make tie-dye shirts ( but that’s another story for another day).

The following year, we decided that it would be best to pick a color that everyone could wear orange. I was sent to the Goodwill to find shirts for everyone. As I scanned the racks, I found what seemed to be a baseball jersey with the number 2 on it- I fell in love with it. Since I was the Administrative Assistant, I had the advantage of claiming ‘ grabbies’ when our company received clothing donations- and I used this perk every chance I got.  Like this memory, I still have this shirt and I wear it often.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

The year I picked this shirt I had an answer for why I initially became smitten with the 2nd hand jersey that bore the number 2. I said that aiming for 2nd place was easier than going for the gold and I was perfectly fine with being known as the other girl. I even posed the question: If the number 2 pencil was the most commonly used pencil, why was it number 2?

Though I seemed perfectly fine with being 2nd best, I was not perfectly fine with being 2nd best- and my actions and reactions resounded louder than my words. I needed the praise and admiration of my peers and I was willing to gain it by any means necessary. I constantly  found myself competing with not only others, but myself as well- always trying to ricky bobbyprove my relevance  to the company.  This struggle spilled over into my social media profiles with many rants about how intellectually superior I am compared to others and the blocking of anyone who disagreed. I was an attention tyrant who could not be stopped…

Then, I found myself unemployed.

I was lower than number 2, I wasn’t even in the race. For two years, I had considered myself one of the pillars of an establishment but now found myself alone in a desolate place. I was forced to examine the thoughts, actions and deeds that had gotten me to this place. I began with the jersey situation.

Why was I trying to convince myself that I was willing to be overlooked?

Was I really okay with playing second fiddle?

These questions plagued my thoughts causing me to take an inventory of myself.  My tyrannical reign did not begin at my former employer, it began when I became an older sister-I willingly confess that I do suffer from Middle Child Syndrome. The birth of my sister evoked my need for competition. For about three years I was the only girl and had the adoration of my family. It was not hard for me to claim the spotlight because I was the center of the universe-or so it seemed. Then one morning, my brother and I were riding in the back of a truck that had a U-Haul connected to it. I fell asleep talking with my brother. I woke up and had a baby sister.

To my understanding, there were other instances that had transpired but I can only remember these glimpses of the past.

Overnight, I went from being the adorable little baby to the older sister- a position that I was unready to fill at the time. I being-mary-jane-speechwent from tea parties with my brother to coloring by myself in my room. I immediately started to act out for my well deserved attention, but unfortunately those attempts did not turn out so well for myself (or my rear-end). After a while, I had gotten immune to the whippings and punishments,  I began to do more life altering things. I had a daughter at the age of 14; barely graduated high school; married and divorced by 21 – the list goes on. I was willing to pay a high price for my attention fix and no one was going to come between me and my high.

Since the birth of my sister I made destructive decisions to prove my worth among both my family and other peers. This behavior has brought a strain between me and my sister, but throughout this tumultuous time, she has been my voice of reason and best friend throughout my life. She has taught me the power of self-discipline and determination and has always been proud to call me big sister. Her birth was only placing me in second by birth order, not in my worth.

Competition forces us to compare ourselves to others. When we decide to compare ourselves, we lose out on the opportunity to learn a new trait or gain a different perspective of life.

Society teaches us that there is only room for one winner so we fight our way to the top. We do whatever it takes to be number one. We do things, most times unconsciously, that could detour our fellow-man from reaching their goals and dreams. When we realize that everyone that enters our lives  helps us to grow as individuals, we begin to see people for what they are- Divine teachers.

* All images found on http://www.google.com

Paint It Black (A Poem)

You never know

who loves you

Until you paint it black

A big black

heart

Full of black love

The block won’t be right

Not til you paint it

Black

The struggle will go unnoticed

until you paint it

Black

Though white washed

and placed in this

Unrealistic world

with

Unrealistic goals

Forced to become an animal

Constantly in and out the

Cage

Paint it

Black

We will remember the color

No one will forget

The sidewalkthe futre

that was painted

Black

Humiliated

Degraded

The one’s you

Loved

You protected and

that’s why I take my

Pen

and paint my paper

With the colors of my neighborhood

Praying that the reader is

Saturated

with the

Thought

Feel and

Taste of

Black

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

What I Saw ( A Poem)

I saw her

sitting in McDonald’s

without a care

Just sitting there

saying a prayer

Everyone else

was ordering

and taking orders

She sat

eyes closed tightlytranquil

Secretly calling on

His name

Praying

maybe asking

that her steps be ordered

Praying

Believing

Hoping

Knowing

Something had to change

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

Reflection ( A Poem)

You look too much like me

for me to hate you

With a smile like that

you don’t need eyes

I take pride

That you are my relative

And that we can relate on things

that others find

Commonreflection

But the ground that we stand on

Is oh so familiar

Rolled up in

Zigzags

or Swisher Sweets

Illuminated

exuberance

Aroma

released

Let us cease to be extinguished

Allow clouds to leave a trail

of humanity

Forming an environment

that brings

Clarity

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

Rope-A-Dope

“A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.” – Mae West

 

Every year, the last days leading up to a new year is always filled with cleaning house, washing clothes and clearing closets to assure that my new course in life is smooth and organized. I read books that encourage me to do the aforementioned activities consistently so I can be more successful in my new and improved life. I make promises or resolutions in my life ropesthat will make me more efficient and less slothful in my endeavors.

By January 1st, I am ready to step into the ring and knock every opposing force on its face without breaking a sweat. I am valiant and willing to keep my goals and promises that I have made, cause ain’t nobody got time for giving up, this is my year and I am here to claim all of my benefits.

By March 30th, I have forgotten all of my training and now I’m just bobbing and weaving into my old habits from years past. By June 30th, I am on the floor of the ring watching the ref count me out. I am discombobulated and my eyes are so bruised that I can barely see.  I begin to crawl for the ropes to pull myself up trying to escape defeat just before I am counted completely out. I make it to my respectable corner and begin to hear my coach yell at me,  imploring me to call the fight and train harder.

I have always had this crazy notion that things will somehow change for me with the coming of a New Year, that things won’t be as hard as they were because I have been given a fresh start. Somehow, I failed to realize that it is not the year that needs to change-  it is myself that needs to change. Though I may read books about success and how to attain it does not mean that I will transform overnight.

like a butterflyIt’s cool to have a vision for ourselves, but if we refuse to follow through we are merely dreaming.

If I  know that by March I will grow tired of sticking to my plans for my life, I need to have a plan to help me refocus. Maybe I need to commit to a three month check-up with myself to ensure that I am still on track to maintain my endurance. Instead of living in a fairy tale world and hoping that I don’t get hit by opposition, I must be courageous enough to take the hits and willing to stay in the fight.

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammad Ali

When we begin to use our knock outs as learning utensils we are given the opportunity to become better fighters. We learn when to stay on the ropes and when to start jabbing. When we realize that our biggest opponent is ourselves, we begin to examine our thinking patterns and our strategies of approaching every situation.

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” – Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa 

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

These Crows Ain’t Loyal

“The battle you are going through is not fueled by the words or actions of others; it is fueled by the mind that gives it importance.”  ― Shannon L. Alder

 

One of my favorite movies is The Wiz, an adaptation of the 1974 stage play written by Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown, that is a soulful rendition of the book The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. One of my most favorite scenes takes place in the corn field where the Scarecrow, played by  Michael Jackson, resides. Though he is supposed to scare the crows away, the Scarecrow befriends the crows and allows them to eat his corn with the hopes that the crows will help him down off his pole so he can walk around his garden.

crowsThough the Scarecrow is holding up his end of the bargain by permitting the crows to indulge, the crows have yet to take into consideration the wishes of the Scarecrow. Every  time the Scarecrow asked for assistance the crows tell him all of the reasons that he can’t get down and enjoy the garden. They remind him that he is only a scarecrow and a bad one at that, how could he possibly succeed in walking around. They remind him that he is made of trash and that even if he did get down it would not be worth his time and effort.

Since Scarecrow views the crows as his friends he believes their thoughts towards him. He allows the crows way of thinking to become the rules that he lived by daily and even pledges allegiance to those rules by singing The Crow Anthem:

You can’t win

You can’t break even

and you can’t get out of the game.

After singing this song, Scarecrow decides to stay on his post feeling defeated and hopeless, asking would anyone help him down off of his pedestal.  He is offered assistance by Dorothy, played by Diana Ross, and falls flat on his face. He is laughed at  and mocked by the crows,  which makes him believe that their thoughts of him being a failure were true.

Dorothy reassures the Scarecrow that he is not a failure, but  just a product of negative thinking. She takes the initiative to shoo away the crows, helps the Scarecrow practice walking and encourages him  to come with her to find the Wizard of Oz.

In past experiences I have ignored my desires and dreams because of negative things that people have said to me. I have changed the way that I dressed, acted and even whom I’ve dated because of the opinions of others. What others thought of me took precedence over  how I viewed myself and my abilities,  that I would be too fearful to truly be myself among my peers.  As others were out living their lives to the fullest, I found myself trapped inside the boxes that I had allowed others to place me in.

Our minds are the gardens of our souls, if we are not mindful of who we allow to frolic in our fields,  our minds  can become a landfill of trash and rotten fruit. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but that doesn’t mean that their opinions are bricksfacts. We cannot let negative comments keep us from fulfilling our goals and dreams. When we believe the cynical remarks of others we limit ourselves and begin to embody their pessimistic view of life. It is ultimately our beliefs that will push us towards greatness or usher us into defeat.

Though there may be times

that you wish you wasn’t born

and you rose one morning 

just to find your hope is gone

Just know that feeling only lasts  a little while

You just stick with us and we’ll show you how to smile

C’mon and ease on down the road!

*Pictures 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

Before She Leaves Series: Nikki Giovanni

“I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.” -Nikki Giovanni

I know how to throw a pity party. On my worse days, I can sit around and think of all of the reasons why I am not who I want to be. For a while, these parties were my time to place blame on others for my current situations that had led me nikki gdown the path of failure. I played the victim role as if I was auditioning for an episode of CSI: Miami and Horatio was going to find my assailant within the next 45-minutes so I could move on with the life that was intended for me.

If someone asked me why hadn’t I reached my goals that I had set for myself, I could rattle a long list of excuses of why I hadn’t attained the things that I wanted out of life. I could justify every one of my short comings with so much ease and conviction that people would begin to actually feel sorry for me and pardon my actions.  I was worse than the captured bad guys on Scooby-Doo- “My life would have been better if it wasn’t for those meddling people.”

Playing victim only gets us so far in life. After a while, people are looking for us to overcome these obstacles and actually do something with our lives.

One of my favorite excuses was that I couldn’t be a writer because I was a single parent trying to make ends meet. Another was that I was just a black girl from a small town and that no one could possibly relate to me. I used these excuses to somehow protect me from failure and embarrassment.

Though writing was something that I loved to do, I couldn’t imagine being anything more than what I was at that moment in time. It was not until I began to read The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni that I began to realize that my nikki bookexcuses, not my conditions,  were the only things keeping me from success.

Ms. Giovanni was a black girl from a small town that became a single mother at the age of 26 years old. Though odds were against her, Ms. Giovanni decided to follow her passion of writing and decided to speak out on inequality and injustice. She refused to allow  her circumstances to hold her back from helping others  and following her vision of success. She took those things that may have been valid excuses and turned them into beautiful poems and words of encouragement to inspire others that faced similar situations.

Before she leaves this world, I am taking this time to thank her for being a beacon of hope and inspiration to myself and other writers.

Thank you Ms. Giovanni for making it safe to make fudge and pick my nose. Thank you for showing me that my situations will only remain the same if I allow them to. Thank you for all of your many works of poetry and prose that cause me to not only think, but to act upon my dreams and goals. Thank you for being a true muse of encouragement and creativity.

When we begin to view our failures  as objects to cultivate our growth, we realize that we have the ability to improve and transform into something wonderful.

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

TOYS & Heaven Spots

“I would rather be a little nobody, then to be a evil somebody.” ― Abraham Lincoln

I always thought of myself as an ugly kid, not because I was born ugly, but that I was told that I was ugly. When I was in school I was always picked on about things that I could not help. I have a high waist, so I had to wear my pants above my navel for my pants to fit appropriately. I would dread going to school because I knew that I was going to be called Urkel or high-jacked booty.

I also have big lips, I remember being taunted about them- this was a time before collagen enhancement was all the rage in urban America. When I would get around my peers I would tuck my bottom lip in to make it look normal, but I had no banskyrelief. I would be called awful things like big lip potato chip or someone would poke their lips out to mock mine.

Boy, did I hate school and all of the children in it.

I remember coming home in tears, crying to my mother about the relentless jokes that were said about me. I never wanted to go back to school because I knew that I would be teased and talked about. But, no matter how hard I cried, my mother would say something like “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” Well, they did then and they still do now. But back then, you were just supposed to deal with it, it was a part of life- something to make you ‘stronger’.

I refused to go to my high school reunion because of the teasing that I endured in school. Though ten years has passed, the words still have a sting to them. I can remember who said what and on my worse days it feels like I’m that kid again. But, the worse thing about the whole ordeal is that  I became very judgmental in the long run.

After being criticized we have the potential to  become the critic.

Life is a wall that we put our graffiti on. We tag ourselves and others as we scribble trying to  make a mark in this world, but sometimes the fumes of our cannons impair us  as we unconsciously cap a fellow artist. The more followers we acquire, the more relevant we become, which can be a Catch 22- though we have a voice and speak loudly doesn’t mean that the one we may offend isn’t trying their best. We tend to forget that life is big enough for everyone to express themselvessick freely, without offense or criticism. Yes, we can speak our opinion and give our reasoning but there is a way to do that without intimidation by bombing and burning others’ works.

The right way is only the right way for you.

When we learn to accept ourselves, we are too busy to criticize others. We begin to realize that no one has it all together and everyone has to find their own form and style. We must allow ourselves to soak up other techniques so we can create a beautiful mural for our future generations to view and enjoy.

Our society has grown weary of self-proclaimed kings and queens that tear one another down. Let us consider this a  time for us to become builders of one another.

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

Oh The Joy

“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.” Og Mandino

One thing that I’ve always been interested in doing is photography. I visualize myself behind a lens, capturing everyday life life Gordon Parks or Cary Mae Weems. Though I’ve always daydreamed about the thrill of being a photographer I never followed through on my desires.

parks original

Parks orginal

It wasn’t until I became employed with my previous employer that I came close to acting out my dream. Though my job title was administrative assistant, I had the opportunity to wear many hats. One of my favorite duties was to take pictures of visitors and speakers and come up with stories to accompany the pictures for the company’s blog and Facebook page. The director of the organization taught me how to download pictures and I would e-mail the finish work to the editor. This experience paved the way for me to start my own blog, but I still had the desire to have my own catalog of pictures, instead of finding all of my images online.

Today during morning worship, the pastor began to compliment the worship leader on her photography skills. This praise of her works sparked an interest within me; I decided that after service I would ask her for some advice on getting started.  I am happy that I made that decision!  Not only did she advise me on a great starter camera, she gave me her contact information to share insight in the future.

weems art

Weems original

If I had not been willing to be a student, I would have missed out on valuable information to help me advance  towards a part of my vision.

In life it is easy to feel let down by people; when we are faced with these difficulties our hearts can become calloused.With each let down, we have the tendency to  become more for self, trying to shield our hearts from pain. This defense mechanism makes us more secluded and less willing to reach out for information in fear of vulnerability.

Instead of allowing that fear to chase us into the corners of ignorance, let us embrace the light of learning something new. As Confucius says, “He who asks a question is only a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool  forever.”

 

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