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The bold assassination of Nipsey Hussle has triggered heightened reactions from those in the Black community.
Response #1: Fear
The first part of these reactions begins with a question:
Once you “make it” or become successful, should you come back to help others from your community?
Let me begin by saying that the fact that Black people, the most structurally oppressed people in America and globally, are questioning whether or not they should come back and help other Black people is beyond RIDICULOUS! If we don’t help each other, then who will?
We have been one of the main groups of people who have struggled to unify. Granted, this was not a problem that we originated. Since the moment African people were stolen and shackled into this country, there have been consistent efforts from outside sources — aka White America — to keep us dismantled. We were conditioned to see each other as opponents instead of as family.
We are historically aware of the forceful attempts to divide us. With this knowledge, why would we allow the evil actions of one person to separate us further? The fact that Nispey’s killer has got Black celebrities and influencers fearful of continuing with their philanthropy in Black neighborhoods is beyond enraging. Cutting ties with the same community that made you, supported you, and celebrated your potential when no one else would makes you a selfish coward committed to no one but yourself. You will gladly step on the backs of our people to reach heights that you are unwilling to make available to others.
I’ve heard some Black celebrities talk about how they’re not trying to “keep it real” anymore, and that “keeping it real” places your life at risk. Seriously!? This has nothing to do with “keeping it real”. What does that phrase even really mean? I assume it means that you adhere to your old ways of behaving so as not to be seen as a sell-out by your people. But this is dumb. No one is suggesting that you engage in ways that are foolish and reckless. No one is advocating that you neglect the wiser person that you are now for the ignorant person you once were.
Nipsey wasn’t “keeping it real” by doing dumb sh*t, he was simply standing outside of his place of business — a business that he used to help employ other Black people. This situation has nothing to do with “keeping it real”, but it has everything to do with not taking advantage of your community by getting wealthy off of them and then leaving them in the same chaos that made you rich. It’s about values. It’s about not only looking out for yourself.
What’s even more devastating is that young, Black kids are witnessing the fearful retreat of Black celebrities — their role models — and they internalize it. Days after Nipsey’s death, I returned to a high school in Compton where I was facilitating weekly workshops. Needless to say, the students were not interested in working. They needed to vent, to release their pent up frustrations. While in passionate dialogue, one student said, “We all should just leave and not come back.” Another student in my class said, “Ms. Bethanee, I’m not trying to go to college right now, I’m trying to survive.” My heart shattered.
My students feared gang retaliation. They feared for their safety — for their lives. They couldn’t wrap their minds around such a tragedy. I was like a sergeant watching all of my soldiers shrink down from the warriors that they had become. How do I resurrect their spirits during a time such as this?
I understand their fear and confusion. The question essentially becomes:
1). Why do good, if no one appreciates it?
2). Why should I risk my life to do good?
I get it. Your safety is a priority. You must be mindful of your surroundings and who is in your space. There will be times when you must keep a safe distance. But you do not abandon your community. You always come back to help if you can. We are not crabs in a barrel. We are a people with so much power & beauty & influence who only need to learn how to work & harness power together. We must trust each other — When will we trust each other?
If a soldier dies on the battlefield, do you run away in fear, or do you pick up the sword and charge forward? This is not the first time that a pillar of the community has been slain. Their deaths shouldn’t stop our progression. You pick up the baton and you keep going. We are fighting a war — a mental, political war. We are fighting against the racist structural forces around us, while fighting against the negative stereotypes and lies the world has taught us to believe about each other.
In response to my students, I say this:
You do good because it is the right thing to do. You do good because you are manifesting a bigger picture, a greater vision that goes beyond you. You do good because it enchances the joy within yourself, not because you need validation. There will always be people who will acknowledge and appreciate your good work. The community appreciated Nipsey. One person shouldn’t hinder others from receiving blessings.
When you are doing good things, with the right intention, you are not risking your life. You are fulfilling your life’s purpose. Be smart. Be intentional. But do not be afraid.
Response #2: Conspiracies
The second part of these reactions stems from Black people criticizing other Black people for providing conspiracy theories surrounding Nipsey’s death.
Listen, I don’t know the full details or reasons behind Nipsey’s murder aside from what has already been reported. Would I put it past the government to do some shady sh*t? No. Would I put it past an evil soul to commit a heinous act independently? No. Would I put it past an evil soul and the government collaborating? No. Again, I don’t have the answer. However, don’t criticize Black people for thinking there is a conspiracy.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a conspiracy is: “A plan secretly devised to accomplish an evil or treacherous end. A plot. Implies careful foresight in planning a complex scheme.”
Historically, we know about calculated efforts meant to destroy us. We know how the government has not only infiltrated our communities and organizations, but has infiltrated global communities to intentionally cause havoc — to intentionally keep people in a state of oppression all in efforts to maintain power.
Understanding all of this, you can’t blame Black people for responding in a way that history has taught us to respond. A history that veils the truth and swarms us with lies.
The very fact that we are questioning the narrative at all reveals the residue of a painful past that has yet to heal. Questioning the narrative is a reflection of our current national turmoil. We are living in a time where we don’t know what the truth is. We must question everyone’s story because so many people are LYING. Our own president is a blatant liar who showers our social media feeds with outlandish fiction. He is able to lie because his supporters allow it. We are living in a world of smoke and mirrors.
You can disagree with conspiracies but don’t act as though people are so crazy that they would create scenarios or plots that haven’t already played themselves out in our history. Whatever narrative you choose to believe, what cannot be disputed is the fact that Nipsey has passed away.
Response #3: Unity
However, his hopes and his dreams are still alive. He planted good seed and it is our job to nurture what has sprouted and aid in the growth of our people — to invest in our youth. Dreams only die if we let them. I’m so proud of the way my city came together to honor Nipsey, and to show the world that Black folks know how to rise as one — how not to retaliate against each other, how not to fear each other — that’s progress.
Let’s continue. Let’s uphold the vision. Let’s pick up the baton, and keep going. We can cross the finish line together.
It’s a new year, and as much as I wanted to begin my first 2019 blog with something motivational, something inspirational, I found myself needing to vent, needing to purge, needing to wail the same war cry I’ve always bellowed:
“Protect Black Women, Love Black Women.”
2019 started with multiple stories detailing the assault against black girls.
First, there was a video going viral on social media showing a black girl — Yasmine James — getting assaulted by a white man while working the register at Mcdonalds. The white man — Daniel Taylor — reaches ACROSS the Mcdonald’s counter, GRABS Yasmine by the collar, and violently PULLS her back to the counter. Instinctively, James defended herself with a series of blows she gave Taylor. Her co-wokers watched James defend herself for quite some time before mildly stepping in and telling Taylor to stop. What started the quarrel? Taylor was upset that there were no straws readily available to him, which led to a heated conversation with Yasmine.
Second, the R. Kelly docuseries aired on Lifetime and chronicled the horror stories of underage black girls who were manipulated, brainwashed, and muscled into an illegal, sexually abusive relationship with the R&B star. The docuseries led to a flood of commentary and criticism from the public. There were many within the black community that overlooked the alarming evidence produced by the documentary and defended R.Kelly while chastising the victims.
Third, 7 yr. old Jazmine Barnes was killed during a drive-by while out with her mother and sisters. Jazmine’s mother was shot as well. The shooters claimed it was an act of “mistaken identity”. Jazmine Barnes’ murder caught national attention. Based on a criminal sketch of the shooter, it was believed that the killer was a white male. To the surprise of many, the shooters were black.
Fourth, today it was reported that in North Carolina, 51 yr. old David Bell — who is 6’5″, 250 pound white dude — stood in the center of an altercation with a group of black girls while standing outside of a mall. He gets into verbal combat with an 11yr. old black girl and violently pushes her away. Upset that she was pushed, the 11yr. old girl aggressively walks up to Bell, and Bell heavily PUNCHES her in the FACE, and the little girl is instantly knocked to the floor. While the girl lies immobile on the concrete, the group of spectators scream and flee the scene.
Pause. Let me breathe.
First, I will address the two white brutes who viciously attacked two young, black girls. These animals — they are not men — have no respect for black people, especially black women. Their strong distaste for black women does not surprise me considering the brutal history of this country; however, to be so bold, in this day and age, to publicly & violently abuse a black girl — a child — is beyond comprehension. No matter what the verbal exchange was, neither one of these girls did anything that would warrant such an assault. At the end of the day, these were GROWN MEN who, instead of handling the situation like mature adults and walking away, decide to fight these girls as though they were men. They acted as if these girls posed a serious threat to them, which they didn’t.
The black consensus has been that, had these two girls been white, their safety would have never been discarded in such a manner. To be white is to be human — it means that your life is worth more in the eyes of society. To be black is to be un-human — it means that our existence holds little value in the eyes of many, and is, therefore, not protected. To know this cognitively is one thing, but to see this truth visually re-played over and over again is another thing entirely — it’s traumatizing.
Lastly, I will address the black brutes who also violated the safety of black girls.
What the f*%k is wrong with you?!
As African Americans we know what our struggle has been and we are aware of the war against us. Why then would we commit war amongst ourselves? R. Kelly is a sick, tortured monster who has emotionally, psychologically, and physically infected young girls with his same illness. He leaves these young girls as zombies — the walking dead — totally disconnected from themselves and the life they once had. And the fact that there are black people still willing to listen to his music and refuse to let go of the idea of this R&B “genius” is absolutely enraging. To ignore the truth shows an unwillingness to prioritize the life of black girls.
And the goons who killed Jazmine Barnes are lowly fools caught up in a familiar killing cycle that continues to take so many black lives. I also find it really hard to believe this whole “mistaken identity” non-sense. How can you pull up to a vehicle and not see a woman in the drivers seat with her kids in the back? Something about that excuse makes no sense to me.
We have experienced so much trauma in the black community, that we are now passing that trauma on to each other. But we know too much now to continue the abuse, to continue this idea that black women and girls are not worth protecting. If the world will not come to our defense, then it’s expected that the black men in our community will, in fact, come to our aid. But, alas, not enough black men come to serve as a place of refuge and security for black womanhood. Those voices of support and love sound faint and need to grow louder and stronger and more consistent. We need to see more black men provide a shield for us — not against us.
Until this happens, black women must do what we have always done, and that is to pick up our daily armor of whatever scraps we have been given and protect ourselves once again.
I’ve always known that black women were secretly coveted by other people, but these instagram “influencers” have taken it too far. Stories have surfaced that reveal the true identity of certain instagram profiles and — surprise, surprise — these young women have adorned themselves with specific make-up, hair and fashion to appear Black — And the public believed them. There are a few points to make here:
1). Yes, it’s offensive … and creepy. However, I can’t act as if I am totally surprised. As much as people publicly criticize and hate on black women, deep down they admire our melaninated skin, curvy frames, incredible fashion, and bomb-ass hair styles. We’re amazing and wield our black girl magic with every step we take.
WHO WOULDN”T WANT TO BE US??!!
This goes back to being a kid on the playground and being bullied for looking a certain way, when the cause of all that animosity was ENVY. They want to be us so bad! As the saying goes, “They want to be black, but they don’t really wanna be black”. They wish to enjoy and profit off of everything that we create — off of everything that we are — without wanting to experience or empathize with the black struggle or actually learn anything about black culture. People like this get to profit off of and receive praise for impersonating what I ACTUALLY AM. That is unfair. That is ignorance. That is racial privilege. What’s worse, is that these folks never show remorse for their actions. These incidents never spark enough curiosity within them to ask or find out why something like this is offensive. All they do is give an empty apology — if they give one at all — and go about their lives having learned absolutely nothing. It’s nothing new. All I can say is that I’m so glad that these people were exposed.
2). It just goes to show that we all must remember that not everything that is presented to us is real. Therefore, never long to look like or live the lives of anyone you see on social media. You don’t know the truth of who they are or their reality. You can admire someone and respect someone, but never place yourself below anyone. And apparently these “influ-LIARS” have no concept of reality either. After being exposed, one of these women said,
“I’m white and I never claimed to be anything else… I’m NOT a ‘posing’ as a coloured person as you claim…
I do not see myself as anything else than white… I get a deep tan naturally from the sun.”
Sis, come on now! I’m giving her ALLLL the side-eyes. No white person has a tan that runs THAT DEEP all year round.
3). You can admire, respect, and love a culture without the impersonation or the theft. Black culture is so dope and runs so strong in so many countries that you cannot deny our influence, our genius, and our beauty because it is everywhere. These women were mirroring what is cool — and BLACK is cool — but they were doing it in a way that was inauthentic and disrespectful. What would be lovely is if our influence was actually acknowleged and Black people — especially Black women — were given the credit for our beauty and creativity.
But I’m sure this story will eventually die, and soon another similar story will resurrect itself and take its place. And when that happens, I will be right here to re-affirm Black women. I will be here to reaffirm myself.
It is so easy to believe that the cause of the oppression that black people have endured stemmed from White men. After all it was White & Spanish men who forced us onto boats, and enslaved us. It was White men who created laws that to this day have kept black people socially and economically disenfranchised. It was White men who policed us and abused their power by stripping us of ours.
Being that White women have encountered challenges as a result of living in a patriarchal society and have fought to gain their own power, it is assumed that they would sympathize with the black struggle because they, too, have their own struggle. We also assume that as women, it is more in our nature to extend kindness to others — moreso than our male counterparts.
We were wrong.
Now, are there White women who empathize with our struggle and strongly disagree with the blatant injustice we endure, and have taken action to oppose the cruelty thrown against us by showing compassion & respect? Absolutely. Now, are there White women who could care less about black people? Absolutely.
Throughout our time in America, White women have stood next to White men and have hurled hatred at African Americans with audacity. Over time we have forgotten this hatred due to the strong outcry against sexism and the feminist movement. The focus of their hatred shifted from the Black community to one that prioritized their immediate needs as White women.
But with the many recent news headlines about White women calling the police on Black people, we are reminded that many White women fear and assume the worst about the Black community. When someone fears you as a result of their own ignorance and conditioned hatred they will oppose you and attack you.
By White women calling the cops on Black people — Black men, especially — they are utilizing their white privilege to draw harm towards Black people. We all know that when White women cry wolf and shed crocodile tears, the entire village comes out to assist her and to ward off any perceived negative force that dares to come near her. There is and has always been a priority to protect white womanhood, and White women know that there will always be others who will fight and attack on behalf of them. They can cause harm indirectly.
Once I read the news of a White woman — Teresa Klein — who falsely accused a 9yr.old boy of SEXUALLY ASSAULTING her and called the police on him, I lost it!
In my mind, I’m like this is damn near Emmett Till all over again!
Why would a 9yr. old grope you, Teresa?!
What was she expecting the cops to do?! Hand-cuff this poor boy? Place him jail?!
Even if the she was sexually assaulted — which she wasn’t — why not address the boy’s mother?? Because she didn’t want to confront her issue face to face and cowardly called the police to do the confrontation on her behalf. That lady was absolutely insane.
Some of these White women are abusing their power. Whether they are demanding that Black people not have a bbq in the park, or demand that a Black child not sell water on a hot summer day, or whether they are questioning the residence of a Black man and demand him to tell her what his apt. number is, or they secretly barge into a Black man’s residence while off duty and shoot him dead for no reason, it is an abuse of power that stems from fear and privilege.
What’s even more maddening is that these women don’t see their actions as racist. But it is. They would not call the cops if these children or these men were White and they know it. What’s worse is that they feel no remorse for their transgressions until the world berates them and they are forced to give an empty apology.
And now, we have to hear Megan Kelly’s dumb comments about black face not being offensive.
UGH! This stress!
White women, Listen: Chill the f*%k out.
You wield enough power to cause considerable harm to Black people. Your fear is unwarranted, and rooted in bigotry. You have no right to try and control the actions of any Black person, especially Black people who are causing no harm and are minding their own business. Mind your business, sis.
All of this is a reminder that sexism and racism are separate struggles in the eyes of some White women. Even though injustice is wrong no matter the category it falls under, when some White women are fighting for equality, they are fighting for themselves alone. They will line the streets and protest against the patriarchy, but if a Black woman is assaulted by police or dies while in police custody, they are silent.
Let me clarify that I am in no way branding all White women with these actions. I know that there are White women who are allies to the Black struggle and genuinely care. Unfortunately, the bigots are the ones who are getting attention. I need our White, liberal allies to speak out against such cruelty and show solidarity. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
We are all connected. What affects one will affect another. We will never move forward as a country if black people are still considered to be “outsiders” in the land of their birth, or if we are assumed to be “agitators” when in reality we living our lives boldly and without apology — which you feel threatened by.
However, my life is no threat to your life.
So chill the f*%k out.
We have the right to live unapologetically, just like you. We have the right to be here.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Women’s Rights Convention, Old Stone Church (since demolished), Akron, Ohio
“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”
Nia Wilson was savagely murdered while waiting with her sister to catch a train at Bart Station in Oakland, California. The news of her death spread throughout social media. I learned of her murder through Shaun King’s (@shaunking) Instagram long before I heard about it on any major news platform. (Thank you to Shaun King for spotlighting Black news and for helping to keep us informed about things we wouldn’t otherwise know about).
The buzz of her death eventually made it to national headlines, but that was also due to the fact that Nia’s story wasn’t just being talked about in Black circles, but in white circles as well. White celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Sophia Bush, who have sizable platforms and influence, talked about the horror of this occurrence. Anne Hathaway singled out her white counterparts and called on them to acknowledge their white privilege and to serve as allies against the inhumane treatment against Black people. Her statement was surprising yet greatly appreciated by those in the Black community.
You see, Black death is rarely acknowledged by those outside of the Black community. Our murders, our tragedies, our targeted crimes go unacknowledged and un-announced. Our problems are seen as our own, and our fight against injustice is our fight to face alone. Rarely do people from other communities wish to get involved and offer their voice or their support. So when Anne Hathaway made her comment, it was a pleasant surprise because most white people in her position would remain silent and unbothered. Many in her position usually are unaware that such things are happening — hell, many people regardless of their position are unaware of these happenings because Black stories are usually not newsworthy unless we are the criminals.
Despite Nia’s story gaining traction and despite her murderer being caught, as a Black woman I felt sad, scared, and emotionally exhausted. Hers was another Black life taken at the hands of some evil, deranged white man and the world was slow to respond. Had the Black community not expressed our anger, who knows if this story would’ve received any spotlight. Our collective Black cries resounded once again belting out the name of our fallen sistah. And again, I was exhausted — tired of consistently mourning.
Like a lot of Black people, I needed a break. I needed to disconnect from the experience for a little while. But the same questions kept popping into my head:
What has really changed since Sojourner Truth gave her speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851? When will Black women finally be identified by the full weight of their humanity? When will Black Women be a prize worth fighting for in the eyes of the global community?
The truth is that, in spite of the Me Too movement, the protection of Black women is still not being advocated for with the same force. Both nationally and globally, White femininity and Black femininity are viewed and treated very differently. White femininity is more protected and is treated as something to be revered, and Black femininity is simply not. Black women were often seen by white women as something to define themselves against, and to set themselves apart with higher regard.
Black femininity has not always been associated with womanhood. In the eyes of some, we are not provided the luxury of being viewed as a full woman. This justifies others treating Black women poorly, because in order to treat another human being poorly, you have to see them as something separate from you — as different, as non-human. That’s why when Black women are raped or beaten or kidnapped or killed it is not responded to with the same level of urgency, or treated as serious an offense as it would be if we were white. It’s as if people believe that our bodies were somehow made to handle such brutality — as if we are at fault for our misfortunes — as if we are empty shells that can be tampered with because our shells house nothing valuable … nothing worth saving.
Well I am not an empty shell. I am a human being. I am a woman. My mere existence means that I am valuable. The lives of Nia Wilson and the lives of all of my sistahs, both in the U.S. and globally, have value. Life itself started in Africa, therefore, to denounce Black women is to denounce the power and the ancestry that begot the rest of humanity. It is time to acknowledge and respect the divine force that is the Black woman.
So, even though I am tired of shouting the fallen names of my sistahs, I will not stop. I know that there will be times where, for my own sanity, I will have to disconnect from the consistent outpouring of sad news. However, I will always return and take my rightful place as my sister’s keeper and call out their names hoping to shake the world awake and into action. However, if the world continues to slumber, at least I know their names will resound within Black communities. And our collective bellow will reach heaven where the names of our sistahs will finally rest amongst the brilliance of the stars.
Top, L-R: Dr. Sherilyn Gordon-Burroughs, Samyah Copeland, Rashanda Franklin, Kendra Moore, Quanta Nashall Chandler, Shaquenda Walker and mother Deborah Walker, Latonya Robinson Moore. Bottom L-R: Alicia Trotter, Latina Herring, Gale Verner, Shanice Williams. (photos from Ebony Magazine)
Photos from left, clockwise: Angelica Wysinger, Angelia Mangum, Ke-Erica D. Bolden, Antquonette Hale, Tjhisha Ball, and Korie Hodges. (photos from HandsUpUnited)
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! ….
(Deep Breath) Ok friends, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me focus on the real reason for this post:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
… 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 me 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.
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.
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.
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!
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 see 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.
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 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??!!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.