Jacqueline Woodson wrote a beautiful coming of age story, set in Brooklyn in the 70s which felt familiar to me. Her main character August is telling this story of her childhood as an adult. She’s a successful archeologist but has to come back to Brooklyn because of her father’s death. Seeing an old best friend triggers memories of the borough that made her who she is. The story is charming but very short. It deals with themes that include grief, friendship, poverty, religion and so much more. If you’re interested in a short read that feels like soul food, this would be it.
Media Mogul. I wrote the words on a yellow post-it, with a black sharpie and pasted it on my bed frame so I could be reminded of my goal every day. But I was not moving towards that goal as an Executive Assistant to a financial tycoon on Wall Street. I was moving him towards his goal. It felt comfortable. I was safe. I was liked by everyone. I had job security. That was the scary part. The scary part is that they always thought I would be there. That I would be content in my role for the rest of my life. That I wouldn’t think more of myself. Or that I didn’t think more of myself. That I didn’t have the same goals as the CEO of the company. That when I sat in his chair while he wasn’t in the office, it felt comfortable, like I deserved to be in the corner office too. But I would never become what I wanted to be in the financial world. I knew it early on that it wasn’t for me. Greed; The money hungriness; The conservatives; The biases; The glass ceilings; The white collars; The suits and slicked black hair; The façade; The boredom; The numbers; The yelling and screaming; The perfectionism; The microaggressions; The lack of women or minorities in “the room.” It just wasn’t for me. And yet I stayed and endured for 5-years. 1,825 days. During that time, my emotions were filled with ups and downs. At first, I was excited to even have a job. Then I realized there was nothing to be excited about-Then I had to humble myself. Then I was promoted and was excited again. Then I realized I wasn’t being paid enough; I should’ve been making more doing the caliber of work that was required of me. I kept the office going. I kept everyone sane. I was a perfectionist; even if it meant staying at work until 9pm. I did more than what was required of me. I worked long and hard. I waited for my boss to ask me “What do you want to do with your life?” I wanted him to invest in my future just as much as I invested in his. But the question never came and the reality hit me that it was time to move on.
Lesson #1: It’s so important to have a boss that knows your goals and pushes you to get there. It’s important to have a boss who doesn’t want to see you doing the same thing in 10-years but wants to see you grow. It’s important to have a boss that believes enough in you to include you. A supportive boss can do wonders for your career. Be wary of the ones that are not.
If my boss wouldn’t mentor me then someone else would have to. Eventually, I found just the person. A woman and a lawyer. She had a successful legal career in the financial sector and when she started at my company we bonded over our shared Pisces astrological sign. This woman saw something in me and pushed me like no other. She made sure I applied to jobs every week and took me out on lunch dates to encourage me. I never had a mentor before and I soon realized God was saving someone special for me when I needed her the most.
Lesson #2 I used to be jealous of people with mentors because I never had one. What was wrong with me that no one wanted to be my mentor? But a mentor is not a fairy godmother. They’re not going to just appear. I had to “court” my mentor. A few weeks after meeting her, I asked if she would take a walk with me to tell me about herself and I would do the same. She said yes, and the rest was history. I realized she would be a perfect mentor after our walk. But I had to take the initiative and make the first step in building our relationship.
So as I prepared to change careers, there was one more kick that happened that pushed me like no other. When I say push, I mean set the fire in my back. That was me finding out what others were making in the same position. I also confirmed this by simply googling the average for what someone in my position should be making compared to what I was making. It amazed me that I could work so hard and still not be paid for the work I was doing. But I didn’t speak up. My boss and I had a relationship where I revered him like a father almost. I didn’t know how to confront him about my pay so I just wallowed in my misery. I was literally taunted by it at least twice a month. He paid for my lunch and I received bonuses but that didn’t count when my salary was not where it should’ve been. I needed to make the move. But first I had to decide was this really about money? Or was I seeking a job that I was passionate about?
Lesson Three: Money or Passion? I applied for a hedge fund in the midst of my anger and got an interview. I later declined the interview. I made a decision to myself a long time ago that I would not sell my soul for money, my salary, or material things. My career would have to make me happy and would not feel like work. It would feel like I am just doing what I loved. So yes, I declined an interview for a job that started at 115k because it was just like the job I had, maybe even worst. For some people, even some friends, they would call me crazy but that’s what separates me from a lot of people. My happiness far outweighs my salary pursuits. My next job would just have to make me happy and pay me what I deserved!
I needed the motivation to apply to jobs consistently. Job-hunting is really tedious. I tried everything, including using spreadsheets, keeping track of what I already applied to and what I didn’t apply to. I applied to jobs every-Thursday bi-weekly from January to August. I remained consistent. If Thursday was a day where I had an event, then it was pushed to Friday or the weekend but I never stopped. I went on Linkedin and searched for jobs on there too. Linkedin is really a powerhouse. I reread my resume and cover letter every other week, making adjustments as the months progressed. I didn’t hear from anyone and I began to get anxiety. At work, I was getting anxious and panicked. I hated my job and it was beginning to show.
Lesson Four: Stay Consistent!
It was in August that I received a call for an interview. During the interview process, my side gigs came up a lot. I do a lot of things on the side in addition to a 9-5. I blog, podcast, produce, direct, read, volunteer, etc. Never in a million years would I have guessed that these side projects would separate me from other candidates. Initially, I started them to fill a void that I was feeling at work. My work was unfulfilling, to be honest. But then, it became a part of me. I’m a blogger. I’m a podcaster. I directed a documentary. All of these things shaped me into who I am and separated me from the pack. Some people look down on side projects. They call it mere hobbies. They say it’s not worth your time and to focus solely on your 9-5. But I disagree. Your 6 to 10 hustle is what you can call your own. Your baby. Your passion project. The unique vision that will exalt you into your destiny. It’s these projects that take me one step closer to my dream and ultimately landed me a position at my dream company because a couple of months later, I got the job!
Lesson Five: Passion projects/6-10 hustles, are so important. I’ve had people question why I spend my time doing what I do. I had people doubt my side projects. I’ve had people who I couldn’t reveal any news on these projects because they didn’t understand. I’ve had people question why I would ever work for an up and coming travel platform for black millennia’s for free? I’ve had people question why I would ever volunteer my time as a Sunday School teacher from 7AM -3PM without pay? I’ve had people question all of my ventures and I never cared. It will take some people longer than others to discover their passions and destinies. Some may always be too afraid to uncover it. But I don’t want to ever live my life that way. Never underestimate an idea that you have in your heart or a talent that you haven’t uncovered since childhood. It may be the key to finding purpose in your career.
I say this all to say, figuring out what you want to do in life is hard work. Gaining the courage to leave a secure job for a career in an totally different industry is scary. But you’ll never know if success is waiting for you on the other side of the door if you don’t try. We have to believe in ourselves enough to know that we will be successful and that our lives will have purpose. We have to catch ourselves when we are secure and complacent and push ourselves for more.
Super late with this, but still wanted to share. In 2016 I challenged myself to read two books a month or 24-books. In turn, I only read 20, not reaching my goal, but I still set a new standard in my book intake (In 2015, it was only 14 books). I read books about race, self-help, finance, and spirituality. I read books that built me up, motivated me to change my life, and taught me about my history. I learned things about Malcolm X that I never knew and Assata Shakur became my hero. I learned how important purpose and destiny was and to avoid complacency all together. My life reached new heights as a result. Each book on this list was great, some better than others but none not leaving a permanent mark on my mind and my heart. Let me know your thoughts and let me know if you’re interested in reading what’s on my list (click the picture of the book to be linked directly to Amazon):
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
I wanted this book to be better. Maybe it’s because I am used to unparalleled depth and history in Toni Morrison books and this was one of the first books she’s written set in modern-day. It tells the story of Bride, who has blue-black skin, born to a light-skin mother and her struggles with becoming successful and finding what she thinks is love in spite of her insecurities. I read a similar book, The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman a few years back and that one was similar but had a bit more depth than this.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
Funny. Relatable. So Issa. This book is a series of essays that navigate Issa’s upbringing in California. Daughter of a Senegalese father and American mother, Issa tells stories of her summer adventures in Senegal, her first relationships and the days of AOL AIM, where she (we) chatted with friends before Iphones and Group text messages were even a thought. Honest, comedic, and so darn good, Issa tackles race, the early beginnings of Awkward Black Girl, and what it really means to be “different” as a black woman. One of my favorites by far.
The Education of Kevin Powell by Kevin Powell
I went to a Kevin Powell event at the Brooklyn Historical Society and it was almost obligatory to buy his book. I am happy I did too. It was one of the first memoirs that I read from the perspective of a man which was interesting, to say the least. Kevin Powell is a man that was raised by an unattached single black mother, who had been let down by the system and the men in her life and in turn, took her resentment out for the world on her son. Kevin Powell is a man who would grow up to become a writer, an activist and apart of the first season of the groundbreaking reality show “The Real World.” But Kevin Powell is a man who was troubled and lacked the guidance of a positive male figure who would’ve been able to show him right from wrong when it came down to his treatment of women, especially his girlfriends.
If you like good memoirs, I recommend this one.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
Malcolm X autobiography is required reading. If you read it as a kid, I believe you should read it again as an adult. I loved everything about this book. I write a full review here, that you can check out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and one of my favorite memoirs…ever!
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
A close second to The Autobiography of Malcolm X is Assata Shakur’s autobiography. Try as I may, I wanted to write a review about this book but for me it defied description and I knew my review would do it no justice. I was left feeling angry, empowered, and moved after reading this book. Angry because of the injustices that went behind getting Assata convicted. The right to a fair trial was not given to her. They treated her like an animal left to die in jail, the abuse was inhumane and I was disgusted. Empowered, because of the ownership and agency, she took over her life and over the situation she was in. She eventually escaped her prison hell and received asylum in Cuba. Moved, because her story matters. Our stories matter. We can’t let others manipulate and tell our stories, we ultimately have to write our own and I am impacted to this day by her power and her spirit.
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
I read this book during a very vulnerable time in my life. It was the perfect pick. I do a full review of this book here.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Hmmm. Good book, but not great. I like the concept of the book, especially for what saying yes did for Shonda. Basically, what she’s trying to get across is that we have to say yes to living. Say yes to opportunities. At times she came off a little bit haughty and other times pretty humble. I will be the first to say I am proud of Shonda Rhimes and all that she’s accomplished. I loved learning about her journey and listening to her words of encouragement. I guess I was looking forward to a book about Shonda’s trajectory, how she got to where she was, and not how she overcame her insecurities and social anxieties once success came. It just seemed like more of a second book, as opposed to her first. Nevertheless, one of the most poignant moments in the book for me was that in the midst of saying Yes to everything, she said No to marriage; an engagement proposed by her then-boyfriend. Ultimately, Shonda said yes to herself, her children, and her own happiness not the happiness defined by society.
What I Know For Sure by Oprah
This book is better via Audio than reading…just saying! Oprah has the perfect audiobook voice. This book navigates a series of things that Oprah knows for sure. It takes you on a journey through her life including epic recaps of birthdays and first jobs, relationships and career ups and downs. What I loved about this book was Oprah’s ability to be transparent about her mistakes and triumphs. If you’re not already in love with Oprah, this book will make you fall hard.
Between the World and Me by Ta’neshi Coates
Required Reading in present times, also keep a highlighter handy. I wanted to write a full review of this book, and I still might. Coates explores race in America in an explicit way so his son, whom this book was written for, is not disillusioned by his place and position in this world as a black boy-soon-to-be-man. Ta-Nehisi explores “the dream” and the different connotations it takes on for someone who is white vs. someone who is black. He navigates gentrification, and the freedom whites have to walk through our streets without fear, while we constantly live in fear for our lives. He talks about black bodies and how devalued they are in America. Most importantly, he addresses violence at the hands of police, as he consoles a friend’s mother who has lost her son at the hands of a senseless police officer. He didn’t deserve to die but he did. And so, with so much more to say but at the risk of giving too much away, I would recommend this book to any and everyone.
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Redefining Realness was eye-opening. Janet Mock is fabulous. She has brown skin, big spiral golden brown curls, and an amazing body. Upon looking at her you would never think she was born male. This book takes you on a journey through her troubled childhood in Hawaii, born to a mother who put her boyfriends before her children and a drug-addicted father. Janet explores the perils of sexual abuse, human trafficking and the plight of her transgender identity which ultimately shapes the successful woman she is today. I loved what this book did to me. It opened my mind to the struggles of the LGBTQ community and how hard it is to be true to yourself when society is telling you how you feel is wrong. There’s still so much for me to learn, but I am proud that I tackled this book and have more of an understanding of this community that has been silenced and ostracized for so long.
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki’s
Rich Dad Poor Dad was a good book. It taught me that you should never judge a book by its cover as the first couple of pages unveils who Robert’s rich dad was and who his poor dad was and it’s definitely not who you would have expected. Money consciousness and financial awareness are very important if you want to secure your financial future. I learned many important lessons. One of them being that you must pay yourself first. Bills will always be there, but if you don’t pay yourself out of your own paycheck, you’ll be in a cycle that benefits your bill collectors but does not benefit you. I also learned the importance of entrepreneurship, owning something. Being the boss, not working for one all your life. Finally, I learned how dangerous complacency is. I was moved by this book, and would like to read more books about financial awareness in the future.
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I expected a bit more from this book than I received. After all, it was one of Oprah’s favorites. What separates this novel from others of its kind is that the author Colson Whitehead, actually makes the Underground Railroad, a railroad. Another unique characteristic of this book is that the main character is a black woman named Cora. This book tackles mental health, the horrors of slavery, the medical experiments performed on blacks both dead and alive, and the hopelessness of many blacks whenever they thought the system was on their side (and it wasn’t). I was empowered by the main character Cora but slightly disappointed in the ending.
You Can and You Will by Joel Osteen
One of the most transformative books for my mind. I read You Can and You Will, while I was interviewing for a new job. When you’re in such a vulnerable position, you immediately want to be hard on your self. You want to tell yourself, you will never make it and that you will mess up during the interview. You say a bunch of things to yourself so you won’t be disappointed when the rejection email comes through. However, Joel wouldn’t allow me to do that. This book encouraged me. It helped me to realize that I have to think positive and change my outlook on life. Good things will happen to me. In fact, he encourages you to say that every morning “Today something great will happen to me” and it’s that type of upbeat positivity that has changed my life. I don’t have to be miserable like everyone else. I don’t have to think negatively. I want amazing things to happen in my life and because I believe it will…it will. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this book. It will change you for the better.
Destiny by T.D Jakes
Destiny by T.D Jakes was good but not earth-shattering great. I think listening to his sermons every Sunday was more transformative for my 2016. One thing this book made me realize is how your ego could get in the way of destiny. When we’ve been hurt by someone, we can’t forgive them because our ego won’t allow it, but we have to. I was also amazed when a powerhouse like Corretta Scott King revealed that her destiny was being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It made me realize that sometimes our destines have nothing to do with us, but how we can impact and help others. I really enjoyed the stories in this book and the different way it made me look at destiny. Not all of us will be huge superstars and that’s ok. Getting to your destiny is a process but we have to remain faithful through it.
Colliding with Destiny by Sarah Jakes
Colliding with Destiny dissects the bible story of Ruth, which some believe is about love, but Sarah Jakes characterizes it as a story about destiny and Purpose. She takes the book of Ruth and intertwines it with her own personal stories. It was important for me to read this book because I am constantly on the search for purpose and what this book showed me was that having integrity, humbling your self in rough times, keeping faith, and always looking to God will eventually allow God to do a work in you, leading you to his plan for your life. In Ruth’s case it was her Boaz, a man that was equally upright and equally yoked with Ruth. At the heart of the story is a beautiful love that was ignited as a result of loss and pain, but God abundantly restored everything that the devil tried to take from Ruth.
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
Eh! It wasn’t the best memoir I read this year, but it served its purpose in teaching me about the life of elite blacks or as they refer to themselves the third race. Margot Jefferson has been raised privileged all her life during the 1950s but learns that money and class do not erase your blackness in the eyes of whites during the civil rights era. She takes us on a journey through her childhood, sharing experiences about her awkward but funny habits and we follow her into adulthood as she becomes more conscious of race and advocates against the injustices of her people. I learned a little more about the origins of Jack and Jill and organizations like it so the upper-class blacks could network with one another. I still wasn’t moved by it. Maybe it was a bit pretentious for me. Maybe it was because I couldn’t relate.
I read The Originals by Adam Grant for a book club. At first, I was super excited to read it, because Grant uses his book to discuss extraordinary individuals and what makes them special. He addresses procrastination as a positive trait using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an example because he waited until the twelfth hour to craft his world-renowned “I Have a Dream” speech (which was actually an improvisation). He talked about the dangers of Group Think and the failures and successes of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. I was excited to learn about these movers and shakers but about halfway through the book, it all became unbearable; reading a case study after case study was great, but after a while, it lost my attention. If you’re interested in learning about creative people who changed the world this book might be for you!
I read this book, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi in about 4-days which is shocking to me because I didn’t want to read it at all. Let me just say I REALLY enjoyed this book and learning that the author was my age was a proud moment for me. Homegoing is an amazing novel about our ancestry and the significance of returning back home, wherever home might be; in the case of these characters, Ghana.
The book starts with Effia and Esi, half-sisters who were not only beautiful, but didn’t know each other existed until their familial histories were revealed to them by family members and foes. Unknowingly, their lives would cross paths through generations. The book takes place in both Ghana and America chronicling the trajectories of both Effia and Esi’s descendants as they navigate Tribal Wars, Slavery, Jim Crow, Chain Gangs, British Imperialism, Drug Wars, and Mental Health. The book navigates history through the eyes of its characters and brings us to a full circle moment in the end. This book filled me up with pride and it made me want to go to Ghana. Gyasi is such an excellent writer. Reading her work, you can only wonder how she’s able to articulate her words with such detail and eloquence. The characters she created have depth, their stories similar to my own. I can say with certainty this is one of the most captivating novels I’ve read. Although our culture and history were taken from us, we should try to understand our family history from our mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and family-friends before it dies with them.
What happens when you are surrounded by friends who unknowingly give off negative energy? Or family who never have anything good to say about you? What happens in situations when you want to be the bigger person, but it’s so much easier to stoop down to someone’s level instead of rising above the foolishness?
A friend of mine shared with me that one of her goals in 2017 was to protect her energy. This means staying away from all of the aforementioned. Her goal shook me to my core, I wanted to do the same. As someone who is progressively trying to move towards a more positive life, it’s hard when you’re sometimes surrounded by people who don’t want to do the same work in themselves. Here’s how I plan to protect my energy in 2017:
There’s a season for everything and everyone…Let it Go!
Hard pill to swallow that some people are meant to be in your life for a season even though you thought it would be for a lifetime. I’ve learned a long time ago to let people go when they no longer feed positivity in your life; when their energy is no longer building you up, and you’re not doing the same for them either. You either outgrow some friends or you don’t grow with them fast enough. Let them go. Even if it’s for a season because holding on to a dead friendship is more emotionally draining than anything.
Fight Negativity with Positivity
This is easier said than done. I have a family member who is absolutely miserable. Every time he sees me, he says something to me that’s meant to tear me down. I know why he does it. Like the old saying goes, misery loves company or hurt people hurt people but I don’t feed his negativity with more negativity as hard as that is. I feed him with positivity. I return his negative comments with positive comments about himself, leaving him for the most part dumbfounded. I learned that strength doesn’t come with an eye-for-an-eye mentality. No, strength is when you are able to ignore and rise above the hate.
If you don’t want to do something don’t do it. If you know the area surrounding the club your friends want to go to is dangerous, don’t go. If you know a certain group of friends only get together to gossip, avoid those outings. If you know a birthday dinner is going to be triple the cost of your actual meal, propose a brunch the following day with the birthday person instead. If you get a funny feeling about something and you feel like you shouldn’t do it, then don’t. It’s so important to learn to say no to things that’s not for you.
Gossip is anything that you say about someone that you can’t say to them while they are present because it’s negative. Avoid it. It doesn’t feel good to revel in someone else’s adversity. What goes around comes around, so be careful how hard you laugh at someone else’s situation.
Last but not least, forgiveness. It’s so important to just let it go and forgive those who have wronged you. Forgive those who have not apologized yet. Forgive those who hurt you. Just forgive and exhale.
I first learned the term “Self-Care” in 2016 while at Blavity’s first Women’s Conference called “Empower Her.” I listened intently to a group of panelists, zeroing in on Francheska of HeyFranHey as she discussed self-care and the importance of taking a break from the world when it gets tough. Some of her tips included:
(1) Turning off your phone
(3) Taking nice baths
I thought these were great ideas. You can read some more about her tips here in this recent article published by the Huffington Post Black Voices. Hey Fran Hey, inspired me to create 5-self-care tips of my own that I want to share with you all for 2017:
- Prayer (Church): First, let me address what church does for me. Even before I was a believer, I always went to church. Initially, I was forced by my mother but eventually, it became a personal choice. I would go after spending all night out at a party, I would go when I knew I was doing everything God didn’t want me to do; it didn’t matter, I would still go. There was something captivating about Church. The peace I had as the service ended and feeling more encouraged to tackle the cruel world eventually had an effect on me. Today, it still serves as my refuge. A place where I can lift my hands and worship Jesus through song and prayer for all he’s brought me through. As I mature in my walk with Christ, I realize that I don’t have to get down on my knees to talk to God, I can talk to him throughout the day, when I’m in the elevator, on the train, at work, in my head, out loud, it doesn’t matter, because he’s always there. Sometimes saying a simple prayer about whatever is bothering me, makes me feel better. Sometimes, reading a spiritually based devotional or the bible makes me feel better too. I feel like prayer is a very important self-care tip, if not the most important because you have the security in knowing that you are not alone. God sees everything; he knows what you’re going through before you even say it. He can intervene on our behalf, we just have to talk to him.
- Limit Social Media Intake: Notice I said limit, I didn’t say get rid of completely (although for some people that works too). For me, social media has become a part of my life. It’s where I discover news and keep up to date with my family and friends. In reality, I don’t want to rid myself of it entirely, but I understand that if I spend too much time on it, it becomes overwhelming. I also know how draining it is to follow people who only post negative or nonsensical things. So, if you’re like me try limiting your social media intake. Spend10-15minutes on Facebook or Instagram a day. Unfollow the people who annoy you for peace of mind and keep it moving.
- Read a book: I love reading so this might be a bit self-indulgent but getting sucked into an amazing book is one of the best feelings ever. I always feel most accomplished and fulfilled after I finish a great book. It definitely helps to take your mind off of everything else.
- Positive Vibes: Hanging out with people who have amazing vibes is one of the best feelings in the world. Discovering a new restaurant or spot that you enjoy is equally as amazing. Being surrounded by positivity is one of the best self-care tips I can suggest for anyone. Self-care doesn’t always mean you’re isolated and alone. It has taken on a new meaning for me in recent months as I discovered a tribe of women who I can just be transparent with, letting my hair down, discussing insecurities and imperfections and not feeling judged according to my flaws. I can’t emphasize the importance of positive vibes in everything you do whether it’s the friends you choose, the people you choose to work with, or even the places you visit during a night on the town. You make the choice, and the choice has to be one that makes you feel good.
- Activities: I dance in the mirror. It’s something that I do. I like looking at myself while I dance. It makes me happy. Weird quirks aside, I like to paint, take a class that builds a skill (TV Writing, DJ’ing, Cooking), take myself out to dinner or a movie, write, exercise (don’t sleep on a Twerkout or Aerial Yoga), make collages, watch DVDs…basically, I do anything that makes me feel good. I try not to limit myself and what I do and you shouldn’t either!
What are some of your self-care tips?
For New Year 2017, I decided to do something different. Rather than sending out a holiday card, which to me is kind of typical, I wanted to do a New Year email, for all of the people who’ve impacted me in 2016. This meant, I reached out to co-workers, bosses, previous bosses, friends, parents, ex’s, you name it! I had about 40-people on my final list.
In the email, I shared a memory or encouraging words and a simple prayer at the end for what I hoped their New Year would bring. I didn’t do it for anything in return but I realized how short life is. In 2016, dozens of people passed away suddenly, when I least expected it, and I believe the worst feeling in life is when you lose someone who never knew how you truly felt about them or they have no idea that you remember the kindness they once showed you. So I feel like if 2016 has taught me anything (as horrible as it was), its that we have to love a little harder and encourage others. What I least expected to happen was people sending me notes of gratitude in return, sharing the same kindness that I’d shared with them, ultimately empowering me for a great new year too!
The content of this blog post is solely my personal views.
In the last 2-years, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to 10-countries, from Africa to Asia, from Asia to Europe. But never, have I been more conscious of my race than when I am in America. In Italy, locals stared at my skin color, enamored. In Spain, two women were overjoyed upon hearing I was from New York. In Paris, I was told that I was “Tres Bouge” or bougie as we call it. In London, I was just among the crowd of other diverse locals and tourists enjoying the city. Not once, having to wear the burden of my blackness on my sleeve, but in America, I am not bougie or a sophisticated New Yorker first, I am black, the “disadvantaged” race, the one whose ancestors were slaves and hung from trees. And I am wary of what the next 4-years during a Trump Presidency will bring.
They’ve already started. “Go back to Africa” they chant. “Nigger” they say, without shame anymore, because the leader of the free world used his campaign to incite hate and bigotry. He made fun of a disabled reporter, he vilified Muslims and he said we needed a wall for Mexico because their immigrants are criminals and rapists. He called us “The African Americans” and asked us “What do you have to lose?” only making it more apparent he would never be in touch with us as a people. “Sir, we have a lot to lose with you because you don’t get it” I replied back to the TV screen, my voice unheard. But to make matters worse, his treatment of women came out to the press like a whirlwind and eventually, it was just dusted under the rug. No one cared that he sexually harassed and assaulted women, exclaiming “just grab them by the…” too explicit for my blog. As women we are already dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace at record numbers, will having a President who partakes in this behavior only make our situation worse? And after listing all of the wrongdoings of this man, on Tuesday November 8, 2016, a day I will never forget, we made Donald Trump the President of the United States. Yep, America voted and their voice was heard.
My friend asked me “Will you give him a chance?” I was initially insulted by the question. She had to feel as angry, as uncertain, and as betrayed as me…didn’t she? Did they ever give Obama a chance? They made his life a living hell. They told him No before he could present a new idea or legislation, they wanted nothing to do with the success of an African American president, it was bad enough “The African American” was in office. The republicans never went on TV saying, “Give Obama a chance” did they? They couldn’t allow a man with his skin color to be successful because it might open doors for more like him in the coming years. I’ll never forget during Obama’s first State of the Union address, Congressman Joe Wilson, screamed out “You lie” literally calling him a liar in front of all of America, discrediting him, discrediting his power, using his white privilege to disrespect the President of the United States, because even though he had the highest title in America he was still black and the whole ordeal for lack of a better word was unprecedented. But they did it and continued to do it. Denying gun laws after the fatal mass shooting of Sandy Hook first graders, calling him a lame duck, discrediting ObamaCare, literally shutting down congress while Ted Cruise, the filibuster, read Green Eggs & Ham. I remember watching the ordeal and losing brain cells simultaneously. And, Mr. Trump, saying nasty things about President Obama from day one, including an outlandish campaign questioning his citizenship. I will never, ever forget the sacrifice that Obama made for this country despite all of the push back he received and how many people wanted to see him fail. So a question like “Will you give Trump a chance?” is almost insulting. My friend proceeded to say “Trump is God’s child too.”
One of the only things I will say that I agree with Mr. Trump during his post-election attacks on Hillary Clinton was that she didn’t campaign in the right states. On Election Day, I was filled with pride and tears, as I watched the swarms of Brooklyn locals line up to vote. We would have our first woman president; our daughters would never think it was not possible for them –hooray! It was a proud moment because I felt like America was finally progressing forward, leaving behind its stained past. It was a temporary feeling though and eventually, I had to confront the loss of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. First, I blamed myself. Maybe I could’ve done more. Maybe I could’ve campaigned more. Maybe just maybe I could’ve been more involved. But we were comfortable. No one saw a Trump win coming not even him. Hillary was more qualified. She had more experience. She was the better candidate, but for some reason, she didn’t connect with a lot of people. So Trump was right, she didn’t campaign hard enough in the right states. I think her team got comfortable. They just knew they would win the same states that Obama had won, but Obama’s charisma and personal popularity won him those critical swing states. Hillary greatly suffered in the character area. People really didn’t like nor trust her. Clinton also put her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, which I understood was a cool thing, but in my opinion a bad choice. New Yorkers are going to vote democrat regardless, Hillary you needed to be in those states that were complaining from hell to high waters about how isolated they felt by Washington. Another mistake she made was Tim Kane. Tim Kane is a really nice guy, really, I like him, but he wasn’t revolutionary enough. People complained that a vote for Hillary meant a vote for the elite Washington establishment and she knew this. Tim Kane represented that too. Not the elite part, but the typical white male part. She needed a woman as her Vice President, or better yet, she needed Bernie Sanders! Again, they played it too safe, and so she lost. A terrible upset, to a man who wasn’t even close to her political and intellectual level and was well aware of that too.
Since we are talking about women, I want to finally address first ladies. In my lifetime, before Michelle, there was Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. Hillary always seemed like she had her own political ambitions, which was very commendable to me and Laura seemed like a nice woman. But I didn’t connect with any of them as much as I did, Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama was the best first lady to date in my opinion. She was classy, down to earth, intelligent, and just a dignified and integral woman. Ivy-league educated, I remember when I first saw her brown skin on a cover of Ebony and was proud that President Obama chose her, relieved and proud that she looked like me. I know that shouldn’t matter but it did. While in office, I remember being initially disappointed in her campaign Lets Move. Obesity and a healthy lifestyle…who cares? Wasn’t she going to do stuff for us women? But then as if it were overnight, eating healthy became the thing to do, and soon I was thanking her for her initiatives because I became a victim of the freshman 15 while at Penn State. Michelle rapped about the importance of getting an education, she went on talk shows and danced, she brought the who’s who to the White House, and it felt good to see people, my age, people that looked like me, doing their thing and meeting the first family. She loved the veterans and their families, that’s one of the times you would get an emotional reaction from her. She also eventually started Let Girls Learn and Reach Higher, promoting education domestically and around the world. In the midst of all she had going on, she was “Mom-in-Chief” as she called her self, raising two beautiful and amazing daughters. I am protective of Michelle Obama. I love her as if I know her and I still get a little angry that our upcoming first lady stole her speech. The whole ordeal was unreal. Only in America can a Caucasian first lady plagiarize the speech of an African American first lady and it disappears from the media mill after 3-days. But if it was the other way around, I shudder to think if that black first lady and her husband’s campaign would’ve ever seen the light of day…AGAIN. Only in America could Michelle Obama be attacked for wearing a dress that exposed her arms while our upcoming first lady posed nude for a magazine. I have literally seen Melania Trump exposed, but we’re ignoring that too. Privilege is real and I don’t want anyone to forget how hurtful this is to our community. The playing field is not equal according to your race and we still have a lot of work to do.
Now, it would be remiss, if I were making it seem like other countries are more progressive than America because that’s not the case either. Each and every country has its issues and each country has its “disadvantaged race or tribe” but in America, it feels like race is one of the biggest problems to date. We choose to ignore the elephant in the room and it seems like race will be a bigger problem during the Trump Era as well.
However, despite everything going on, I am not afraid. I am not hopeful either. But I know that being idle is no longer an option. We, who are against what’s going on, need to get out there and lobby on Washington, find our nearest elected official’s office and ask, how can we serve? We all seem to be waiting for our next leader to save us when our next leader is both you and I. We are in control of our destiny and we need to start taking ownership of our political futures. Also, we need to pray, really hard, because only God can control what’s happening.
To state the obvious, I’ve been on hiatus for the last 5-months. I started an interview process for a new job around August and finally started working in October, so as you can imagine it was rigorous and all of my time and focus had to be there.
Then around the same time, I partnered with my friend Kadia to create The Pop-Up Care Shop, a Pop Up Shop for homeless women.
Now, I wouldn’t say I am back in full force, blogging like I used to, but I will say I am consciously making an effort. The thing about me is, if I don’t feel it, I don’t write it. I can’t force myself to write when it’s not authentic and for the past few months life got in the way and I suffered from severe writer’s block and a lack of inspiration. So be patient with me, and enjoy this new wave of posts that are going to come to you in 5-4-3-2-1.