… By Whatever Means Necessary

Announcement: F*$k Donald Trump! His mis-calculated actions and lack of compassion, coupled with his ignorance and narcissism are not just deplorable, but also diabolical. I can’t wait until American citizens rise up in aggressive opposition of his heartless policies, cold leadership, and show the world our efforts to be the example that we set out to be.

Viva Obama! …. 1f620

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Deep Breath) Ok friends, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me focus on the real reason for this post:

 

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After the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain (sidenote: I’m still not convinced that Anthony committed suicide and highly suspect foul play, however, I will consider the possibility for the sake of this post) sent the world into shock, the general response was: “You just never know what people are going through”. This is true. You never know what someone else is dealing with, or the state of their mental and emotional health. Unless you’ve had in-depth conversations with that person, one should be slow to judge and not assume anything.

 
But another major lesson as a result of all this is: “Just because you have money does not mean you are happy.” I think this was the realization that shocked people the most. It’s one thing to understand that you never know what someone else is dealing with. However, the general consensus is that whatever you are dealing with in your personal life can be easily resolved with an increase of funds. For the majority of people, their problems are money-related, and they would love to have a fraction of the earnings of these celebrities if it would mean lessening the weight of their financial burdens.
For the majority of people, the thought was: “Why in God’s name would you kill yourself when you have SO MUCH!

 

 

They had everything: booming careers, beautiful homes, fancy cars, designer clothes, the freedom to travel, access to any and everything, and loads of cash. For the majority of people, it simply doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense because we have been conditioned to believe that money equals happiness. Despite the countless suicides of various celebrities, their drug problems, and the public display of mental/emotional breakdowns that can come with fame, the public still believes that money is the key. However, it was something about the deaths of these two people, especially Anthony Bourdain, that seemed to strike a deeper cord with people. Reality was hitting hard. The nation was beginning to see the error of their thinking.

 

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Money is nice, but ultimately it will not give you the peace and the joy you deserve. I think what really gives peace and joy is knowing that you are loved and living out your purpose. This love includes a certain level of self-care that should be made a priority in everyone’s life. It is vital to take care of self. Maybe that means seeing a therapist, going on vacations, being with friends, going to church, engaging in your favorite hobbies, etc. We all must do what we can to keep ourselves full. Operating through this world can easily drain you and you must find a way to re-boot.

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I started thinking about how I implement self-care. One of the things I do, besides engage in favorite activities with close friends, is pray and meditate. I may not meditate on a strict schedule everyday, but I do make time during the week to get quiet and connect with myself. I also listen to music as a way to elevate my energy. Working out has become an important part of my self-care also. I’m not always excited about working out, but I can always feel a physical improvement afterwards. My body just feels better after a good workout. Keeping this blog is an additional part of my self-care. Having a platform such as this to express oneself, regardless of how many people read it, is always a great thing.

 
But the last big thing that I do for self-care is turn off the news. I know that it is important to stay informed, and I do stay abreast of the important events that have taken place. However, I’ve noticed that, especially during these past two years, my energy gets low after watching the news. Especially being African American and hearing report after horrifying report about another unarmed black person getting shot — R.I.P. Antwon Rose — or harassed by cops, and the growing outcry of bigots and racists who insist on “taking the country back” ; my emotional, and mental health must be protected. So I turn the news off. I realize that I have to keep myself full not just for me, but for the young people I teach and motivate. I refuse to pour fear and hopelessness into them. The world supplies them with enough of that. The responsibility I feel for my students can come with pressure but it also demands that I take care of myself so that I can be the best for them. This sense of responsibility has been a great incentive for me to maintain my health.

 
I urge you: Maintain your health friends. The world appears to be getting louder, and the need for introspection is getting greater. You must not allow the world to drown out your inner voice. Take a moment to get quiet and remind yourself of all that you have to be grateful for. Self-care is one of the pieces of armor you will need to maintain your sense of self in an ever changing world. Keep your peace …

… by whatever means necessary. 

 

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Honestly Speaking …

 

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Maybe it’s because I’m an Aries.
Maybe it’s because I’m a black woman.
Maybe it’s because I’ve never been one for pretense.
Maybe it’s because I was raised by Flo Jenkins — communicator extraordinaire.
Maybe it’s because this is simply how God created me.

But biting my tongue was something that didn’t come natural to me. If you ask for my thoughts, I will give them to you straight up and sometimes without a chaser — on occasion you don’t even have to ask. I’ve had this trait ever since I was a toddler. My mother has shared horror stories of how blunt I was as a child. For instance, she told me that she had taken me to the dentist for a routine check-up one day. When the dentist approached me, I looked at him and boldly asserted, “Who the hell are you??”. My mother gasped, and was stupefied. My mother and father did not curse, so she had no idea where I had heard that word from and, more alarmingly, had no idea how I had learned to use the word within the correct social context.

 

black-girl-unicorn-pullover-talking-260nw-1035980143 Another time, she told me that I was out with my father and he took an old weather beaten coat and draped it around my shoulders. I looked at my father, then directed my attention towards that old weather beaten coat and said, “What the hell is this??” Clearly, this coat did not meet my fashion standards at the time…maybe a l was a little bourgeois, lol.

 
Of course, as time went on and I matured, I developed a certain level of tact and emotional intelligence and can speak honestly without emotionally bruising someone. Especially as a motivational speaker, it’s all about being able to deliver words in a way that will uplift and not diminish or shatter a person. I know the power of words, and I understand how to wield them effectively.

 
What I also know about words is when to use them.  Growing up, people coined me as “quiet”, but they often confused “quiet” with “shy”. I have never been shy.  I simply speak when I have something to say.  If I don’t like something, I will voice it. If I feel uncomfortable, I will communicate that. If I don’t understand, I will ask for clarification. If I love something or someone, I will express it as soon as the feeling arises within me. I have grown to really love and be grateful for this personality trait — for this freedom to express myself.  

 

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I’m also grateful to have been born and raised in a country that allows and understands the importance of freedom of speech. Whether you strongly agree with someone’s opinions or not, everyone has the right to say what they think without fear of being legally penalized for it — or at least that was the case until now.

 

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Recently, the NFL and the Trump Administration have decided to penalize and fine athletes who openly kneel during the National Anthem. As an athlete, your only other option is to sit in the locker room until the national anthem is over, but you can not be seen kneeling in public.

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Now, it was one thing for Colin Kaepernik to kneel alone and ostracize him only. But when other NFL players and coaches from different teams started to kneel, and high school football teams across the nation started to kneel, and athletes who played sports other than football started to kneel, and the nation appeared to show unity against the unjust treatment towards and murder of Black Men, that’s when the Trump Administration decided to do what they could to shut down this freedom of expression. What they were really trying to do was silence the black voice specifically. To silence the black experience and the horror of its history in America. What they were trying to do was conceal the large blemish that was tarnishing the nation’s global image as the “land of the free”.

 
They wanted to appease white audiences, donors, and patrons who claimed that a football game was no time to make a political protest, and protect rich white folks from being reminded of the harsh reality of the nation’s most marginalized community — the Black Community.

The Trump administration and their supporters tried to claim that this silent protest was an attack on our country and showed disrespect towards the flag and what it stood for. This, of course, was not true. The intention behind the kneeling was intentionally clouded in untruths to cause anger and resentment.  This was not an attack, these were athletes who, despite being wealthy, could no longer operate under a pretense of indifference. They could not act as though these issues were not affecting them. Kneeling was a way of saying that they were against the senseless and un-ceasing black-endorsed brutality that has plagued this country since its founding. They had to do something, and they chose not to participate in America’s lie. They have a right to publicly disagree and protest.

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The one who really dishonors this flag and what it is SUPPOSED to represent is the NFL and The Trump Administration. What they are doing is actually illegal. They dishonor this nation and keep us in a state of regression while intensifying racial tensions. We felt we had come so far with Obama, and now the world gets to witness the hatred and the blatant contradiction that is embedded in this country and that black people have been keen to since we were brought here. I don’t know whether to appreciate the fact that America is revealing its ugly head or to fear it. 

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My fear is that this will not be the last time this administration will try to silence its citizens. Let’s not forget that before this incident, the Trump Administration tried to curtail The Freedom of The Press and denounce them for, again, revealing the ugly truth about things that were taking place in the white house. Since the beginning of time, those in fear of losing their power have always done what they could to silence truth-sayers and prevent change. This has lead to the murder or imprisonment of our most prolific social leaders: Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Ghandi, etc . We are at a defining point in our history where we get to choose how we want to show up in the world and how we want be remembered by future generations. My hope is that American citizens will fight to be on the right side of history.

 My fear is that people will never be angry enough, or tired enough to rise up and powerfully and consistently show opposition to this injustice. I’m not sure what will happen next.  All I do know is that I will continue to do what I have always done since childhood and that is to say how I feel. I am a responsible word wielder. That responsibility means that I operate with mindfulness, empathy, and compassion. That responsibility also demands that I am forthright and sincere. My intention is to always provide insight—and my speaking out with honesty is a way of doing that.

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I will speak honestly and out loud and point out the contradictions/injustices within my society for this is my duty and my right as an American citizen.

As James Baldwin put it, “ I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

To love someone/something does not mean you turn a blind eye when they do something wrong, it means that you continue to hold them accountable to their actions and force them to rise to the bar that was set because you see the potential in them. It’s about fostering growth, and not enabling poor behavior, or seeing the person you care about hamper their own advancement.

 That is love.

That is true patriotism. 

 

 

I Miss The Old Kanye …

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I miss the old Kanye…

… and apparently, I am not the only one. The level of disappointment that has been expressed from the black community in response to the inconsiderate statements that he has recently made has been considerable.

It feels like it was just yesterday when Kanye’s College Drop Out album came out. I was in high-school and it was the first rap album that I actually purchased with the limited teenage money that I had saved. Up until that point, it was my older brother who provided with rap music from artists like The Fugees, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Busta Rhymes, etc. I enjoyed his music and I enjoyed him as a artist. Kanye felt like a breath of fresh air — someone who was connected with and invested in the black community.

I don’t recognize this new person. The reality of the matter is that people change. The hope, however, is that we evolve into an improved and more self-aware person. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Kanye. He appears more self-conflicted than ever. But instead of taking the time to resolve this confliction, he is spitting out concepts and opinions that are ignorant and un-resolved. Instead of sitting down and figuring out what he wants to express, he uses interviews to rant out thoughts that have not been fleshed out. To have a platform such as his and make declarations that are not based in logic can be dangerous.

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These past two interviews have been the most hurtful and damaging. The TMZ interview where he made his “slavery is a choice” comment was the one that set social media and the news cycles on fire. Whether it’s what he “meant” or not, whether he “mis-spoke” or not, is irrelevant. The point is that he said what he said. No one cares about what he “meant” to say. In all honesty, it didn’t feel like he misspoke at all, but that it had been a thought that he had been chewing on for a while and finally had the opportunity to hawk. Little did he know how much his comment would spark a flame. I am just so glad that TMZ member Van Lathan was there to speak honestly and passionately. I am so glad that he was able to articulate what a lot of black people were feeling in that moment.

Kanye, contrary to his claims, did not demonstrate free thought, but rather idiotic rhetoric.  

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Listen here, Kanye, to be a “slave” literally means that you have NO CHOICE! What you are implying is that black people made a conscious choice to hop onto those slave ships chained and bound, to be stripped of our names, language, culture, and history, to be ripped from our family, to be raped by our massa’s, to have our children sold into slavery, to be beaten, lynched, killed, and then forced to live out the next 400yrs. in un-resloved trauma and fear, while trying to survive in a country that systemically structured society in a way that would blatantly benefit white people and keep black folks in generational poverty. 

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It was a slap in the face to our ancestors who were strong enough and DARED to live long enough to fight and die for the liberties that we don’t appreciate today. I wish Harriet Tubman would rise up and beat you silly. How dare you!

Maybe you should go to Ghana and visit the “Door of No Return” and acknowledge the horror that our ancestors endured.

Not to mention, young kids, who have no idea about the horrors of slavery and the struggle for freedom, will listen to him and believe him. As a teacher, and speaker I have to be the one to go in and further de-program these young minds and speak truth to power. Thank you, Kanye, for making my job that much more difficult.

Boy, Shut up! 

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In addition to that, during his interview with Charlemagne Tha God, he says, “Why we gotta keep bringing up slavery though??”

Nothing pisses me off more than hearing black people tell other black people that we need to “get over slavery” and that it “happened such a long time ago and has no barring on what is going on today.” Sit your Uncle Ruckus butt DOWN! It’s clear to me, that those black people are speaking from some place of privilege, ego, or ignorance. To make such statements lets me know how disconnected they are to the reality of the black experience and that they have no understanding of history and how history impacts the present moment.  
I refuse to “get over” something that I am still feeling the effects of. I refuse to “get over” something that our own government has yet to acknowledge or even apologize for! I refuse to “get over” slavery when I seeing how intentionally disenfranchised my community has been for centuries. I refuse to “get over” slavery, when we have to march and protest and create countless hashtags for my fellow brothers and sisters who were mercilessly shot and killed like animals. I don’t have to get over shit!
If the jews don’t have to get over the holocaust, then I’ll be damned if I have to get over something that effects me everyday.

Boy, Shut up!

It’s interesting how he is implying that we move on from slavery but admits during his interview that “we’re still dealing with racism”. Where do you think racism stems from, Kanye? That’s right — slavery. It’s interesting how he talks about being marginalized as a black rapper in the fashion industry and wants our sympathy, but can not seem to correlate what he’s experiencing as a result of slavery and being intentionally kept out of certain spaces of power or influence. But in all honesty, he’s probably being ostracized in the fashion industry because he’s a little cray-cray and because his fashion ideas are boo-boo. He is not a fashion designer. His clothes look like post apocalyptic-chic. It’s not cute — point, blank, period. 

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During the Charlemagne interview, a Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. comparison was made. Now, I don’t know who in the hell tried to compare Kanye to either one of these instrumental leaders but they were clearly out of their minds. Kanye is no Malcolm X or MLK. But Kanye’s response to this comparison was that was some historical “figures are out-dated”. Really!!! Are you kidding me??!! Meanwhile, he compares himself to Walt Disney and Mark Zuckerberg and other white billionaires. However, these white billionaires aren’t “outdated” but Malcolm X and MLK are? The things that MLK and Malcolm X fought for like justice, equality, safety, and dignity for their people is somehow outdated?! Really, Kanye??!! 

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Guess what, Kanye, you’re the one who is out-dated. You ideas are old and tired, and your concepts are stupid. Sit Down, Sir. You wish your concepts and theories could come close to the brilliance and passion of Malcom X. Malcolm X was no sell- out.

Lastly, during his Charlemagne interview, he talks about “free thought” and being a creator that doesn’t care about and rebels against the status quo. But in the same breath he talks about how he seeks validation from society. Charlemagne asks him why must we seek validation from white people, to which Kanye had no clear answer because he knew he was contradicting himself. Listen, dude, do you want to be mainstream or do you want to rebel against it? Because, right now, you are going back and forth. I will need you make a stance and be consistent.

 
Kanye then talks about how when he sees people sporting brands he sees people who are not free thinkers. Kanye says, “When I see branding, I see insecurity”.
Ummmm correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the same man who is creating a clothing BRAND and shoe BRAND that he wants people to buy and support?! During this same interview, didn’t he talk about how he looked up to Gucci and Tom Ford? WTF Kanye?! Which is it?
So I guess people who rock brands other than yours are the “insecure people?”

Boy, Shut up!

The only insecure person I see here is you, Kanye. Your desperate need for love and validation from the same people that you criticize — like former President Barack Obama — is incredibly clear.

I don’t know if Kanye is truly suffering from mental illness, or if he is actually being calculated in his efforts to create controversy. Either way he needs to sit down. And Kanye being a “musical genius” does not erase the damaging statements he has made. I think Kanye knows better and that is why he is conflicted.
He knows!
He knows that he is not being honest and speaking truth to power like he did with former President George Bush. He knows that he is being hypocritical. He knows that he is not walking his talk. He knows that he has evolved into the same disconnected, fame hungry, attention grabbing celebrity that he often criticized. He’s fake. The black community recognizes this and is serving as his conscious. We are throwing his hypocrisy and lies back in his face and loudly denounce his ideas. We are the therapy that he is trying to avoid. His craziness is a result of the lies he’s told himself , and unless he stops, he will never be at peace.

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No matter how much we miss the old Kanye, I think it’s safe to say that the old Kanye is gone. He will not advocate for us. He will not affirm our plight. He along with every other artist should not be placed on any pedestal. They are human just like us and are subject error. Kanye West is narcissistic, and is drowning in his own delusions of grandeur. He is dying for our attention, and after this stunt he deserves no more of it.

I will not buy what he sells.
My prayers are for his children. How will they ever know who they are if he has lost all understanding of who he is? We can’t count on their mom — Kim Kardashian — to teach them about black life or history. We can’t count on her to expose them to that part of who they are — that was Kanye’s job. Instead, you have two shallow people who lack any depth and can’t see anything past the next shocking headline that they concoct. God Bless their kids, they have my deepest sympathy.

Kanye is in the sunken place and we tried to build a ladder of support to help him free himself, but it looks like Kanye has lost the will to climb any higher and is there to stay. 

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Dirty-Thirty Blues

 

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Sooo, I entered a new decade and turned thirty this year.

I wish I could say that I was excited about it, but I honestly wasn’t. There were a few reasons for my lack of enthusiasm:

1). I think, generally, in our society, to age and to be a woman is often seen as a bad thing. In Our country, a woman aging is the worst thing that could happen. As a woman ages she depreciates in value — for some. Therefore, as women, we do what we can to “stay young”. We exercise, eat certain health foods, we douse ourselves in make-up, get surgery, buy tons of anti-aging creams and anti-wrinkle creams — we do what we can. And to be honest, I felt that turning thirty was the jumping off point where I would start to depreciate in value, and the things that were once vibrant about me would begin to fade in the eyes of others — myself included.

2). I think I would’ve been more enthusiastic if I felt like I had accomplished certain things before I turned 30. I felt like I was not where I wanted to be professionally and financially, and that was a little disheartening. 

 

I felt myself sinking into an emotional and mental slump as I began to re-play self-critiscm, fear, and disappointment like a record in my brain. I knew that I had to change my self-talk fast before I ended up in tears, buried underneath my comforter. 

“Bethanee, stop. This is crazy!”, is what I told myself.

And it was crazy. I had to remind myself that I do have value and that aging is a privilege. There are plenty of people who did not live long enough to even make it to thirty. Especially to age while being a Black person is a great thing, seeing as how our lives are often tragically and unfairly cut short at the hands of someone else. To simply be Black, healthy and alive is a tremendous feat on its own. I think our society has to re-frame the horror story we have attached to “age” and look at it as part of our personal evolution that is beautiful and exciting. 

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And the beautiful thing is that I get to choose. I get to choose how I am going to perceive my age and aging altogether. I get to choose how I am going to feel about it. And I refuse to feel bad and fearful about getting older. I refuse to feel disheartened by something that is out of my control. Instead, I choose to remain excited for all the good that is to come. I choose to remind myself of my worth and my value and that, if anything, my value will be recognized because overtime I have attained skills and nurtured talents that others will appreciate. I am seasoned and have acquired a certain flavor that I didn’t have before… a flavor that only comes with time.
I choose to love and celebrate my body and my beauty at every stage, even when the rest of the world says that I shouldn’t.

I will celebrate.

I choose to be dope and fly up until my final days. I choose to take care of my body and my mind so that I can live my journey with good energy and vitality. I choose to look at aging as a blessing because there is only one other option — death. I am not ready to die any time soon, so my only other option is to live. And to live means to constantly evolve into another year. 

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In regards to being disappointed that I am not in a “certain place” by now, my response to that is, “Who said that I was supposed to be at a ‘certain place’ and where and what exactly is this place?” I think it’s great to have a vision for your future, but it’s also imperative to be flexible with your timeline. I was reminded that not everything goes according to our very strict and sometimes unrealistic, immature, and unforgiving timelines. I had to ask myself, “Is this timeline something that I wanted and designed, or is this timeline something that society (social media) said I should want and have by now?” I had to make sure that I was charting my course according to what was best for me and not anyone else. You must listen to your inner voice—the Higher Voice of God— and get clear.

Sometimes the things that you want for your future are subject to change as you grow. The things you thought you wanted prior, may not be what you want now. Give yourself the freedom to allow your vision to change and or expand. This is what I had to do. What I wanted in my 20’s is different from what I want now. Time has given me clarity.

 
Adjusting your timeline and your expectations can be challenging considering the societal pressure we all feel to succeed, but it has to be at the right time for me. And sometimes what I thought was the best time for me, was, in fact, not the best time for me. I have to be patient with myself. I am my worst critic at times, and I need to be more complimentary. Instead of being ashamed of what I feel has been a lack of progression, I must stop, look back, and remind myself of what I have accomplished thus far and be proud. I need to have faith that I am being guided wisely and that the work I have put in will pay off. 

 
God doesn’t introduce you to something until it’s your season — until you are ready. I can honestly say that I wasn’t as ready then as I am now. I have acquired more wisdom and knowledge. I have grown in self-awareness. I will forever be a work in progress, but I am better now than I was in my 20’s, and I can proclaim this, knowing it’s 100% true.

I’m simply better now than I was then.
And this is how I will look at aging.
I am wine. Time is on my side. 

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I Am Not From Wakanda

 

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I absolutely loved black panther. The thoughtful and beautiful showcase of black people, black beauty, black strength, black ingenuity, unity, and power were real things that few writers and directors prioritized showcasing before. I applaud Marvel, director Ryan Coogler, and all those involved to bring such a project together. This movie made history, but more importantly, it allowed black people, black children to see their image exalted on a major platform. They saw their image reflected back at them in a way that highlighted black people and black culture — african culture — in a positive light.
With that said, I would absolutely love it if Wakanda were a real place, even more so, I would love it if I were ACTUALLY from this amazing country. But here’s the truth —
I am not from Wakanda.
I don’t know what’s been going on, but lately men — black men — have been making comments jokingly suggesting that I am from Wakanda. 

It’s story time.

Story#1: About a week ago, My girlfriend and I decided to go out to this club/lounge in downtown L.A. The lounge was real cool and the crowd there was very diverse. There were latino people, asian people, black people, white people — it was cool. We were all there to get our groove on to some 90’s R&B/Hip-Hop. So there we were — me and my friend — getting our lives on the dance floor, when suddenly I was approached by this white guy who wanted to dance with me — let’s call him Eric. Eric had a really positive vibe about him and he was interested in just having fun and dancing. I welcomed Eric as my dance partner and we had a good time, we danced to, like, five songs which is unusual for me.

Then Eric’s black friend comes up to us and starts dancing with us — let’s call him Michael. After introducing himself, Michael begins to brag about Eric, “Yea my boy here is about to graduate from UCLA Medical School!” I respond, “Wow, that’s awesome, Eric, Congratulations.” Then another R&B jam comes on and Eric and I start dancing again —with Michael standing by. Michael keeps urging me to dance with Eric. However, keep in mind that I’ve been dancing with Eric for the past FIVE SONGS. What Michael really wanted me to do was “back my ass up”. He wanted me to twerk, to break it down on Eric. But I was not about to do that.

Then, gesturing with his arms, Michael says to me, “Come on Wakanda! Come on Wakanda!”
I stopped in disbelief.
Did he … did he just say, “Come on Wakanda!” to me??!! As if that were the motivation I needed to back my ass up on his friend?! Oh, hell naw!
Meanwhile, Eric was so busy getting his life on the dance floor that he didn’t even hear what Michael said. I had two options at this point. 1st option: I could set Michael straight and give him ALL the words he had coming to him. 2nd Option: Ignore Michael and dance with Eric like I had been doing all along. I chose the latter. First of all, it was way too loud in there, and If I were going to read Michael and set him straight, then I needed for him to hear EVERY SINGLE word. Second of all, addressing Michael meant that I would have to disengage with Eric who I was having a good time with, and I didn’t want to kill my own vibe.
But I have time today. So I will address Michael and all the other “Michaels” out there:

1). I would expect that comment to come from an ignorant white person, but not by a black man — someone from my community who shares the same culture, history, and plight as I do in this country. Someone who I would assume would not make a statement like that because they know how dumb that would be.

2). The Black Panther is an awesome project , and the women in the movie are bad asses. So DO NOT associate me with Wakanda unless you are referring to the intelligence, beauty, and strength of black women, which the movie showcased. Do Not associate me with Wakanda in a mocking tone as to suggest that I am some type of caricature from the movie. I am not a caricature. I am not an exaggeration, nor were the women in the film.

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3). As a man — especially a black man — don’t you EVER push me up onto your white friend as if I am some type of black exotic that he should sample or partake of. I am not a sample. I am not some black fetish to promote. I am not here to fulfill some type of black stereotype that would have me twerk or gyrate for your buddy. I am not here to perform or dance for you. I am not on some auction block to be examined. I am no Hottentot Venus. You have me all the way twisted!

4). As my black brother, the hope and the expectation is that you would protect me and stand up for me the way black women have always done for black men. Instead, you subject me to being nothing more than a piece of ass, a body that has less value in the eyes of society and, therefore, gets no respect, no protection, and no love.

5). You are an embarrassment.

Now I don’t want to make it sound like there are no black men out there who wouldn’t protect and value me and other black women. However, there are also men like Michael who simply don’t value us and this read is for them.

This was not the first time a black man used a Wakanda reference with me. Prior to the first story I just mentioned, I had another encounter.

Story #2: It was All-Star weekend here in Los Angeles and I decided to attend a day party that had an Afro-beat theme. I was excited because I really enjoy dancing to Afro-beat music and I knew the DJ well enough to know that the music would be good. Given the theme of the party, there was a large African attendance — Nigerians, Ghanaians, Cameroon, Senegalese, etc. I was walking towards the bar and I was stopped by a Nigerian guy named Uche. Uche stops me and with a pretty thick Nigerian accent he says, “Excuse me, excuse me … but are you from … Wakanda? Me and my friends have been wondering.”

His question caught me off guard and I chuckled a little bit. I told him that I was not from Wakanda and then Uche says, “Me and my friends, we are intimidated, I don’t know why.” I kindly tell Uche that I didn’t know why he was intimidated either, and that it appeared to be a personal problem that he had to reconcile. Uche seemed pleasantly surprised by my answer. He then proceeded to ask for my number. I kindly told him no. He persisted. So I told him I would take his number. We chatted for a bit, he told me he was a doctor, I told him what I did and then after a few minutes of idle talk, I excused myself.

Now the interaction I had with Uche was different than my interaction with Michael. The interaction was different because the energy and the implication behind their comments were different. Michael’s comment associated me with a black female stereotype which prompted that I dance and back my ass up on his friend. Uche’s comment associated me with black womanhood which had to do with beauty and strength. They both connected me to Wakanda, but the consciousness by which they did it was different.

I need my black men to remain conscious of how they interact with black women and to understand that their actions and their words actually MEAN SOMETHING to us. We need their support and love. We need them to have our back. We need them to see us for who we really are: Black Queens.

Stay woke my brothas. 

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Valentine’s Day Special: “I’m Still Here”

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Well, folks, it’s Valentine’s Day. And instead of talking about more pressing issues like police brutality, global warming, the wage gap, or the incessant news coverage of Donald Trump’s stupidity, I have decided — for the sake of my sanity and the desire to unplug from worldly drama — to dedicate this post to Valentine’s Day.

Now, I’ve never paid much attention to Valentine’s Day. Although I appreciate the concept behind it, Valentine’s Day was just another day for me. I mostly looked at it as a commercial holiday and nothing more. Perhaps, it’s because I’ve never celebrated the occasion with anyone I was romantically involved with. This year won’t be any different. I am single, therefore, it will be just me and my single girlfriends choosing to acknowledge the love we have for ourselves and our friendship, rather than anything romantic. 

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For some, it might sound sad. The idea of single women on Valentine’s Day sounds much sadder than the idea of single men on Valentine’s Day. Lord knows how much pressure our global society places on women to have and keep a man. Women are sent daily signals about how our worth is dependent on a man choosing us and publicly claiming us, which, of course, is complete bullshit. Despite the bullshit, it’s hard to ignore the impact this conditioning has on women and our self-esteem. So when Valentine’s Day comes around, and we are still without a “bae”, it can lead to women feeling sorry for themselves and worrying about their romantic futures. I understand, I’ve had those same worries, not because of Valentine’s Day, but just as a result of running into guys that I never fully connected with.

However, don’t cry for me Argentina, because I am not sad about being single on Valentine’s Day. Not having a “boo” has been the least of my concerns. This past year has been such a learning experience for me. Stepping out on faith to lay the foundation for my own business has revealed both my strengths and my weaknesses. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve made great strides, I’ve cried, I’ve doubted myself and the gift God has given me, I’ve met some great people, I’ve considered quitting and going back to a stable job, I’ve cried, and I’ve ugly cried, I’ve considered securing a sugar daddy, and I’ve cried some more. But I’m still here. Granted, I’m not where I want to be, but I’m still here, and I am entering a new level of self-acceptance. I love who I am and that is something worth celebrating.

Growing up, I never had an issue loving myself, but this past year sent my self-love into question. Walking my path as a motivational speaker and dealing with adversity along the way made me question the love I had for myself and my talents. But I have chosen to not only embrace my growing pains, but to also embrace all of who I am: the parts of me that are great and the parts of me that are still in development. I have chosen to see myself in my entirety, proclaim my beauty, understand my perfect imperfections, and love myself again. I choose to love myself unapologetically, and during moments of insecurity, and with more passion than any man professes he can.e88cbf0e412471bc844088ac9b9b5efd--black-women-art-black-girls

I choose me.

I now know that when I thought I was breaking, I was actually shedding the pieces of me that I outgrew. I was having a break-through, not a break-down. I will acknowledge Valentine’s Day and every day henceforth as a day of triumph for self-love, instead of self-loathing. I will toast to this journey, how far I’ve come, and how many times I chose to stand back up after crumbling down. I’m still here.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Cheers! 

 

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A Reputation Scorned

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Ya’ll, I Love Netflix. From binge watching episodes of my favorite shows while eating talenti ice-cream from the container, to catching up on thought-provoking documentaries in the wee hours of the night…Netflix is “bomb”. With that said, I was tuned in to the conversation surrounding comedian Monique and her very public conflict with Netflix regarding the deal they offered her for a comedy special. They presented Monique with a pretty low, insulting deal, and she refused it. In the court of public opinion, everyone has various thoughts on how Monique should’ve handled the situation. Some were on her side while others were not. She was either respected for what she did or heavily criticized — which tends to be how the court of public opinion works. Whether or not you agree with what Monique did is not the focus of this blog post. The focus is, instead, on the importance of one’s reputation.

 

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Monique is a comedy legend with many accolades attached to her name, however, her public beef with members of Hollywood (i.e. Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Lee Daniels, Lions Gate) has tarnished her image in the public eye and to those who would consider working with her. This slander has impacted her livelihood and has made people think twice about doing business with her. Whether or not her tainted reputation is embedded with truth, I see her fighting against this negative image, but to no real avail — and I feel bad for Monique. Not to mention, simply being black and being a woman can be seen as two strikes against you. Sometimes it can be harder for a woman — especially a black woman — to re-claim her image in the public eye than it would be for a man.

 

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But all of this got me nervous about my own reputation and how others perceive me. I am an author, motivational speaker, a new entrepreneur and, of course, the concept of “branding” has been brought to my attention on a few occasions. In my eyes, your brand is your reputation and I started thinking about how I wanted people to view me. Granted, no matter what one does, everyone will not always have the best opinion of you. This is fine because you can’t please everyone at the risk of losing who you are. However, I started thinking about how a lie, a misunderstanding, or someone simply disliking you can have an impact on your reputation — if you allow it.
I feel like the best way to counter a negative opinion is to operate past it. You can’t always stop unfavorable chatter, but you can continue to showcase yourself in a way that best represents who you are. Eventually, the consistent image that you portray of yourself, coupled with consistent action, will strongly oppose all the non-sense that is said about you until it completely over-shadows the gossip. Your good reputation has to be stronger than the negativity, and only you are in control of that. I have to keep in mind that as I continue down this journey of entrepreneurship and motivation, the best thing I can do to thwart any potential slander is to remain true to who I am and be myself. I believe my inner light is equipped with enough brilliance to chase away any darkness.

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All Counsel is not Good Counsel: My review of “The Last Black Unicorn” by Tiffany Haddish

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Like many people, I have come to love and adore Tiffany Haddish. Her authenticity, her simple joy in being herself is what makes her captivating, and it’s why we cheer for her and want her to win. She is real. She is one of us…a reflection of “everyday people”.
As a new fan, I was excited when her book came out and I readily went to Barnes and Noble to purchase my copy. I enjoyed learning about Tiffany’s story and how she ultimately triumphs and overcomes her hardships.
However, there was one part of the book that I found somewhat surprising and troubling. In this segment of her book, Tiffany shares a dialogue that she has with Jada Pinkett-Smith. Jada offers Tiffany advice on how to acclimate to her new fame — it was Jada’s advice that I found surprising and troubling.

Some of the dialogue goes as follows:

 

” When I was in LA, I posted a picture of myself on Instagram in a dress I thought was nice. Jada hit me up on text:

Jada: Get a better dress.

She sent me all these links to these designer dresses, but they’re like $500.

Tiffany: Jada I feel fly in my $85 dress.

Jada: Who made it Tiffany?

Tiffany: Who cares it looks good

…. She gave me three more Givenchys and a wallet…she left the price tags on everything.

Tiffany: Why are you leaving the prices on if you got it free?

Jada: So you know the value of what you’re carrying around. You got to carry yourself like you’re valuable, and you need to have valuable things. When this movie comes out, you’re going to be an A-list person. This is what I was talking about in that text I sent you.

Tiffany: What do you mean? I like my $85 dress.

Jada: Tiffany, you want to wear designer clothes, because people are going to be seeing you, you’re gonna be in the eye of the public and they’re gonna be like, What are you wearing? If you say Chico or Ann Taylor, that’s not going to work. You need to be wearing designers. It sets you apart from everyone else and puts you in a certain class level. If you want to be considered top-notch, you need to wear top-notch things.

Tiffany: But Jada, this stuff costs money. I appreciate your gifts, I really do, but I can’t buy this myself. I have to be smart with my money, and save it. I gotta stack my chips, not spend’em.

Jada: You absolutely should be smart with your money! If it makes you feel safe to stack your chips, and stack’em. Most people in Hollywood don’t do that, that’s smart…I’ll introduce you to some people, but really, all it boils down to using your fame to get the stuff…most places will give it to you for free, or very cheap.

…I definitely have a very rough mentality, a broke person’s mentality…I can’t be living that poor life anymore, I can’t be thinking that way…I want my money to make me money, but what Jada is teaching me is that how you look in Hollywood can often make you money. Opportunities in Hollywood will open up if you are sending the right signals about yourself. Fashion is part of how to send the right messages…By wearing cheap, low-class, knock-off stuff, I’m telling people that they can treat me low-class. That maybe I don’t belong on that higher level. I have to value myself properly.” 

 

I was disappointed after reading all of this. I believe Jada genuinely wanted to help and offer her advice, but I whole-heartedly disagree. Now, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with buying expensive clothing in addition to other items that you want and can afford. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with valuing yourself and knowing your worth. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with change and growing into your best self. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with wanting to look nice. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with shedding a “broke” mentality.
However, what you wear does NOT dictate your value. You don’t need a designer label to let the world know you are valuable. This is the mindset that is hurting our society: placing more value on what you can acquire rather than the person you are evolving into. This is why you have kids and people out here stealing and killing each other over meaningless expensive items because they feel like it adds value to them. It’s why you see people on Instagram holding stacks of money to their ear and showcasing expensive watches and cars, etc. thinking that these “top-notch” things somehow validates them. It’s completely backwards.

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Listen, Tiffany wearing an $85 dress never made you less valuable than someone wearing a $2,000 dress. It doesn’t mean that you are not “top notch”. Wearing a “cheap”/affordable dress does not translate as “low class”, unless you carry the mentality that you are somehow inferior. And what message is this sending to people who wear and can only afford “cheap” clothing? It teaches them to correlate their self-worth to their attire, and — although I’m sure that’s not the idea you meant to convey in your book — that is a damaging message for your readers to interpret.

No one even knows how much your clothes are or what designer labels you’re wearing unless you say it, otherwise they would have no idea and they probably wouldn’t even think about it. You command respect not by what you wear, but by how you carry yourself — that is what “high class” means. Similar to “low class”, “high class” is a mentality, it’s not a Givenchy bag, or a dress, it’s you. By respecting yourself, you command that same respect from others, regardless of the clothing brands you sport. YOU control how people will treat you based on your actions and your behavior. And after reading your book, Tiffany, I highly doubt that you would allow anyone to disrespect you or look down on you. You are already “high-class” because you respect yourself and you respect others.

As a comedian, the audience could care less about the designer label you’re wearing. All they care about is whether or not you can make them laugh — they care more about what you have to offer — your skill. Your Givenchy bag won’t save you from bombing on stage. Tiffany, you made it this far without all of that stuff.
F*%k Hollywood and their perceptions. If this past year has taught us nothing, it’s taught us that the Hollywood industry needs a spirit cleanse because it has way too many demons that its needs to be set free from. Don’t place so much weight on the opinions of an industry that has no moral or ethical foundation.

As an L.A. native, the people who I’ve run into that were really wealthy never flossed their diamonds or their cars or their clothing. At first glance, you wouldn’t even assume that they had lots of money. It’s the ones who are bragging about their money and what they wear that are the ones who are trying to impress and fit in — and they usually don’t have the money to keep up their appearances and their life-style. They are fake. They are plastic — man-made, homogenous, and lacking depth.

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Tiffany, you don’t fit in with Hollywood and that’s why we love you. You are better than Hollywood. You remind people — especially celebrities — of who they were before they became jaded and the fame stripped them of their authenticity, and they lost who they were while trying to be someone else — someone they deemed as being better than who they already were. Don’t get lost or fooled by the smoke and mirrors of Hollywood. There is nothing wrong with looking good — we all enjoy looking nice and dressing up. However, you can look just as good in an $85 dress, as you would in a $2,000 dress. I would hate for you to lose yourself and become disconnected all in an attempt to fit in with people who don’t truly care about you. Remember that even those with the best intentions may not provide the best counsel, and you still have to pick and choose what advice will serve you best — this blog included. I hope that you continue to grow and evolve into the best version of yourself, but don’t forget who you are.

You’re a star Tiffany, you don’t need a label to remind people of that.
I wish you all the best.

 

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Keep Me Off Your Pedestal

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This blog is in response to a comment that an acquaintance made. I told him that I have made mistakes in my life just like everyone else has. He said, “I don’t see you making any mistakes.”

I am a Motivational Speaker. I have been blessed with the opportunity to pour love and encouragement, along with some personal advice, into the people to whom I speak. However, sometimes people forget that I need that same love and encouragement poured back into me as well. I think the assumption is that as a motivational speaker, I don’t need others to encourage me because I can motivate myself. I think the assumption is that we, as motivators, have everything figured out. Well, I will speak for myself when I say that I do not have everything figured out. If I did, I would be walking on water like Jesus did, but I can barely swim.

 

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The truth is that I am not perfect. Do not make room for me on any pedestal that you have carved out to place me on. As a matter of fact, don’t put anyone on a pedestal; this would be a horrible mistake. I am simply a human being who has decided to accept “the call” to share some life lessons based off of personal experiences. I am not perfect. I am a vessel — an imperfect vessel — allowing my voice and my imperfections to serve as road maps for others. Hopefully, by displaying my journey, I will help someone else along theirs. I am a human being, which means that I am susceptible to all the emotions that human beings experience: joy, doubt, fear, peace, worry, sadness, glee, confusion, anger, etc. And on those days when I am emitting low vibrations, even though I am aware of what tools to use to counter them, I still need love to be poured into me. I need words of affirmation that will dissipate those moments of doubt. Fortunately, I am blessed to have loving, supportive people in my life who are there to lighten my load on days when I feel too weighed down.

As a speaker/teacher, the best moments are when members from the audience come up to me afterwards and share how they related to what I said and how they appreciated the message. It’s the moment when a student comes up to me being extremely vulnerable and boldly exposes all of their insecurities in front of me. They trust that I will be gentle with their wounds, that I will not judge them for how they came to be so emotionally bruised, and that I will be the sounding board of approval and confirmation that they desperately want. Those moments, as overwhelming as they can be sometimes, lets me know that what I said resonated and is relevant to what they are experiencing. It reminds me that I am here to use my gift to continue serving others — that me being honest about my growing pains aides others in understanding that they are not alone and that they can/will move past the stages and into something much better and much brighter.
It’s during these short exchanges that we affirm each other, we pour into each other and lift our vibrations higher.

 


So, no, I have not mastered life just yet, I am still learning. But as I learn, I share. I am operating as a vessel that is allowing God to use my voice and my imperfections to deliver a powerful message of self-love.

 

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Colorism?…But at the Club, Though?

 

 

darker_lighter_skin  There’s nothing like going out with your girls: twerking, two stepping, hip swinging, waist winding, all while singing loud and off key to all your favorite songs makes for a truly magical evening.  So, on this particular night,  I was excited to hit the city of L.A. with my favorite dance partners. We decide to explore the busy streets of Santa Monica, and so far, our night was off to a great start–we didn’t have to pay to park and there was no cover charge, which is not always easy to find in Los Angeles.  We stepped into one of the many bars/clubs on the block that was recommended to us and were surprised to hear some hip-hop music playing. The bars in Santa Monica are mostly inhabited by young white people, so typically there’s a lot of house and pop music. So upon entering this particular bar, we knew that this place was probably our best bet and decided to stay.
There we were, dancing our lives away on a crowded dance floor, enjoying every minute of it. We had made friends with another group of black folks from out of town, and one of my girlfriends ended up dancing with one of the guys we met. My friend and this guy — we’ll just call him Dante — had taken a break from dancing and were talking, while I was standing by the wall next to them. Dante motions me over, so I walk to him.  He leans in to my ear and says, “Hey, go talk to my friend over there; he’s kinda awkward. He told me he was feeling you, so you should go talk to him.”  I felt like Dante was just trying to get rid of me so that he could be completely alone with my friend. I was getting ready to tell Dante that I was just chilling and probably wouldn’t go over to talk at that moment, but before I could say anything, Dante continued, “Yea, my sister told me that I should dance with you, but, no dis to you, but I like light-skin girls”. My stomach dropped. My friend and I gave Dante a serious side eye like, WFT??!!

 

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Now, comments like this are not new to me. I’ve heard some black men say how they “prefer light-skin” girls and, normally, I just shrug off their ignorance and keep it pushing. But for some reason his comment was the final straw and I broke. I walked away from them and sat at the far end of the bar trying my hardest to hold back tears. I was really hurt.  The build up of these types of comments had finally taken its toll, yet I was embarrassed that his words had affected me to the extent that they did.

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I was hurt by the fact that it is 2017, and the Black community is still dealing with colorism. The fact that we, as Black people, have yet to appreciate and truly see the beauty of all the hues we come in is extremely frustrating, and the fact that some Black people are completely clueless to the effects of slavery and social conditioning on their romantic “preferences” is enraging. I was hurt because for the first time I really felt unattractive and unwanted. I was unwanted by a black man whose skin was just as brown as mine. It is beyond bewildering. I felt like I had been transported to another world where everyone was asleep except for me. There I was operating amongst zombies who had no idea they weren’t “woke”.

My question is, why did he feel the need to say anything at all?! He didn’t have to continue his spiel. If that is the mindset you carry, then there is no need to say it aloud and reveal your foolishness to the public. He literally told me that the reason he didn’t dance with me was because my skin was too dark. Why the f*%k would you actually let those words come out of your mouth?! Did I mention that his beloved sister was just as dark as me?  I’m sure that he thinks his sister is beautiful, but you mean to tell me that he wouldn’t date someone who had the same skin tone as his sister?!!  I just don’t get it! How could he not see that there was something seriously wrong with his comment

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I was done. Exhausted. Defeated. And at that moment the only thing I wanted to do was go home, lay down, and cry.
Luckily Dante’s friend, Eric, came and sat next to me and started talking to me. Even though a part of me wanted to be left alone, I greatly appreciated him being there, if only to preoccupy my mind with idle chit-chat and to prevent the tears from dropping onto my cocktail napkin. Eric was not like Dante and expressed a great appreciation for all things black. Thank you, Eric. You saved me at that moment with your conversation and you had no idea.
We stayed until the bar closed and then made our trek back home. I didn’t speak a word of what I was feeling to my friends. I wanted to keep the evening fun and light and I thought that I could move past the experience. However, the next morning when I woke up, I still felt the emotional weight of the previous night and I surrendered to that feeling and cried. I told my girlfriends how I felt and they expressed their empathy and said that Dante was an asshole. They allowed me to break and they used their loving words to piece me back together. Thank you to my girlfriends, my squad, my sistas … you know who you are. 636006945613581481-1906458683_image
I spoke to my mother as well, she is always there to remind me of who and whose I am. She was sad that I had to experience the same ignorance she had to endure during her younger years, but she reminded me that there are men out there who see and appreciate my blackness. She said, “Now Beth, if you are woke and can see the beauty in our people, then you have to know that you are not the only one. You have to know that there are other black people — black men — who feel like you do, who see the beauty, your beauty. You have to know this!”
My mother was right, deep down I did know. I know that there are black people out there, black men in particular, who are awake — who see the beauty within the spectrum. I know that there are men out there who would not dismiss me because I have dark skin, but who would be ready and more than willing to embrace me. Thank you, mom, for building me up and for reminding me that there is nothing wrong with me — for reminding me that I am beautiful. Thank you for straightening my spine and helping me to stand tall and proud in my black skin. Thank you for reminding me, that as I stand, I’m helping others to stand too.

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