Resilience and Black Folk

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Photo Cred: Instagram

               I remember studying American History in elementary school and the feeling I had every time we reached the paragraph about the contributions of blacks to America’s history. I could be wrong but it seemed to go a little something like this “slavery happened, civil rights, oh yeah, and Martin Luther King, great guy. Moving on.” It was a combination of feeling uncomfortable, cheated and wanting more. Then there was high school at a private, predominately white, Christian school. Where I can recall all of my speeches in speech class were either covering Black History or race related. It was a win-win in my high-school mind, I would learn something new through my research and in turn offer a different perspective to those listening. I also remember my high school’s attempt at celebrating black history month. In February, during morning announcements the administration would have one of the few black kids at the school read a “fun fact” about black history, every morning.

“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” – Carter G. Woodson

Woodson made this statement in 1926 during Negro History Week. Woodson believed that teaching black history was vital to the survival of the black race in the broader society. Fifty years later the week was turned into a month. It is a month intended to pay tribute to our ancestors who fought and died to achieve full citizenship. Their stories and achievements weren’t being told and was often overlooked. The validity of the month is often questioned by people from various backgrounds. While I agree with Morgan Freeman 100% when he said “Black History is American History,” I recognize and appreciate the spirit and intentions of the month. The history of black people in America is not properly told in its entirety. Do we, as a nation, fully comprehend what people of color faced and overcame? No matter if it’s February or November; anytime I’m reminded of the history of blacks in America I always hear the word: Resilience

Photo Cred: Pinterest

Photo Cred: Pinterest

Resilience — the ability to be knocked down by life and comeback stronger. The capacity to recover quickly from stress and catastrophe. According to Froma Walsh, a leading authority on family resilience, “being resilient includes more than surviving and being a victim for life, it’s also the ability to heal from painful wounds, take charge of their lives, and go on to live fully and love well.”

Stripped from their homeland, their families and forced to endure years of enslavement. Legally considered 3/5 a person. Blacks kept hope of freedom alive, many of them rising up, resisting and rebelling. Many of them found creative ways to educate themselves and those around them. Freedom time finally came presenting new obstacles; setting up homes, finding work, and providing for their families. In spite of the failures of reconstruction, newly enfranchised blacks flourished even gaining a voice in the government for the first time in American history.
In 1941, the country entered into its first world war; black men saw this as an opportunity to prove their loyalty and worthiness to be treated as equal citizens. Only to face hostility when they arrived to training, then to return home after the war, to violence and ingratitude. Blacks went on to fight in WWII paving the way to a fully integrated military by the Vietnam War.
They excelled as educators, philosophers, musicians, writers, scientist, and theologians; all the while enduring decades of Jim Crow. Where laws were set up to disfranchise them; the housing options were inadequate, the education was poor and the economic opportunities were limited. The film, “Selma” did a great job at depicting the resilient spirit of people who refused to take “no” for an answer. There were times where progress was nowhere in sight. In spite of the countless beatings, jobs lost, numerous arson attacks, threats and lives lost they continued on. The sit-ins, the boycotts, the marches and protest continued, all in the name of freedom and equality. Forcing the government to ultimately pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Their courageous acts paved the way, opened doors and set the tone for the America we know today. Their resilient spirit is why there’s a history to tell. It is why Black Americans aren’t, as Woodson put it, “negligible factors in the thought of the world.”
This is resiliency embodied. Life is full of adversities. We all have the ability to overcome them and live full lives. American History is a testament to the human ability to be “knocked down by life and come back stronger.” I encourage you to re-connect with your inner strength and find ways to boost your resilience. Fully feel your emotions, encourage yourself, connect with others, reflect on a time you made it and were able to comeback stronger. Think of the great people who exude resilience and made history.

Ameli Boyton in “Selma” encouraged Corretta Scott King with these words:
“I know that we are descendants of a mighty people who gave civilization to the world. People who survived the halls of slave ships across vast oceans. People who innovate and create and love despite pressure and torture unimaginable. They are in our blood stream. Pumping our hearts every second. They’ve prepared you. You are already prepared.”

Trust you

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I often write about issues that I’m working through at the moment. Presently, I’m working on listening to my intuition.  I’m no expert on the subject but here’s what I’ve found.

What is intuition?

Intuition is the ability to know something without reasoning — that gut feeling or hunch that shows up when something is or isn’t right. It’s your inner GPS. It’s the part of you that guides you to what’s authentic and true for you. It offers clarity when you’re feeling confused and overwhelmed. It’s that inner wisdom; that still small voice. I strongly believe intuition is God’s way of speaking to us.

External Influences

From the beginning we’re told what do, what to believe, how to think, what success is, etc.  We often suppress our intuition and replace it with external influences. When it comes to making a decision, I often find myself consulting others. One of my earliest memories of what I believed to be a life changing decision was my freshman year in college. I honestly didn’t know what I was supposed to study. I talked to family, friends, advisors, co-workers, mentors — anybody who seemed like they would know what I should choose as a major. In the end, their input just added to my confusion. I do believe in seeking counsel and learning from others, but I also believe that what we are looking for comes from within.

Internal Influences

My intuition spoke clearly in a recent decision I had to make, but logically it didn’t make sense to me.    I was honestly afraid of making the wrong decision.  Every time I settled that I would go with what my gut was telling me, I felt a peace.  I wanted to make sure I had all of the pieces to the puzzle before I move forward with making my decision.  I suppressed my intuition and went with what made logical sense.  I can definitely see where I’m dealing with the repercussions of my mistake. I now know that it’s worth it to listen to my gut. I’m thankful for the lesson and hope to not make the mistake again. Often times we won’t have all of the pieces to the puzzle.  We’ll just have a knowing.

How can we get in tune?

  • Know yourself – Take time out to pay close attention to who you are and what works for you. Self-reflect and find out what’s true for you. Figure out what you want out of your relationships, your daily activities, career, and your life as a whole.
  • Take time out – Quiet outside sources, whether it be TV, social media, your phone, or even your friends. Go for a walk; go play. Do something creative.
  • Meditate – Get quiet, clear your mind, and relax.
  • Recognize how your intuition speaks to you every day — maybe it’s through your desires, a tight feeling in your stomach, a quiet whisper, or a simple knowing that you can’t ignore.

It’s a powerful thing when we begin to take control and listen to the voice within. Our intuition knows what we need and want out of life more than we know ourselves.

I would like to know your thoughts on intuition.  Even if you totally disagree with me, I would love to converse about it. Please share in the comments below.
Photo Cred: Flickr

#100HappyDays

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams topped six Billboard radio format charts: Adult Contemporary, Pop and R&B, as well as, Pop songs, Rhythmic songs and Mainstream R&B/Hip Hop. It hit number one in 24 countries.  Nominated for an Oscar, Billboard Music Awards, BET Awards, a Teen Choice Award, among other awards.  The music video has been remade countless times by happiness seekers everywhere. Even causing Iranian youth to be jailed for their version of the award winning video. It has been said that high energy song has sparked a global movement of happiness.

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The pursuit of happiness transcends gender, culture, race, religion and creed. We can all relate to simply wanting to be happy. Everyone has their own personal way of obtaining happiness. Whether it’s traveling around the world, starting a family or seeking higher education. We believe if we could just get to or past a certain point in life then we will truly be happy. I agree accomplishing goals and realizing dreams brings happiness, but I believe in order to ensure happiness between those defining moments we have to set out to live a grateful life.

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I’ve found that to be true through my own personal experience and through the research of others about the link between happiness and gratitude. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. The technical term for happiness is subjective well-being. Psychologist have found that gratitude is one of the keenest predictors of, you guessed it, happiness.

 

 

In the beginning of August I was inspired by my favorite vlogger, Andrea Lewis, to join the #100happydays challenge. It’s a challenge, put on the by the 100HappyDays Foundation, to document happy moments through pictures. I’m thirty-seven days into the challenge and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. It is through this challenge that I have accomplished my personal goal of just waking up grateful and going to sleep grateful. I look for reasons to be grateful and this has brought me happiness on a daily.

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Now, I’m not saying that gratefulness is cure all to life’s issues. I have had my low moments throughout the challenge. I’ve learned that it is up to me and how I choose to face those issues. When faced with things that threaten my happiness I have to make a decision to keep it moving, because there is so much to be grateful for in life. This challenge, which I’m documenting via Instagram, has given me a new perspective and caused me to realize how beautiful life can be when I choose gratitude.

Here are a few my happy moments. Join me and start your own #100happydays challenge.

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The Twenty-Twenty Experience (Guest Post)

I’m not a writer but I love to express things that intrigue me or inspire me. Something that really inspires me is life and the journey it takes you on. While aimlessly scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across a Huffington Post article titled, “20 Thing You Need To Accept About Your 20’s”. The article gave a brief summary of certain things that you need to face and come to terms with when you are in that eventful period of life. The article touched on things like losing friends, obstacles in your career path, body changes, relationship “whoa’s” and several other common pit-stops you may encounter as a young adult. As I was reading through all of those factors, the one thing that all of them had in common, was change. Change is an inevitable process that we all have to go through in order to move forward in our lives. Life itself is a series of changes and transitions and I’ve come to realize that your twenties is the most prominent, defining, changing phase of your adult life.

After I read through the article, I sat there and thought back to twenty-one year old, Laura. Twenty-one year old me was a completely different person than I am now at twenty-seven. When I was twenty-one, I was dating a twenty-nine year old, womanizing drug dealer who had multiple kids with different women[yeah I know!]. I was very impulsive and terrible about making decisions. As a person, I was struggling in this religious bubble. I couldn’t find the balance between being a “good Christian” and being a human with flaws. Six years ago, you could never tell me I was wrong. I had tunnel vision and there was nothing that anyone could say to me that would make me open my mind…until life happened.

Screenshot_2014-05-31-17-00-33~2My mindset slowly shifted throughout the numerous turn of events in my life; the good, the bad and the ugly. As I moved through the mid twenties, I eventually came to the conclusion that I must live my life. So I dated a few losers, I made some bad wardrobe choices, I got burned by a couple of “friends”, worked at a few dead-end jobs and made plenty of mistakes in between. I now understand that each and every experience was necessary and I don’t regret making any of those decisions.

If I didn’t date “the womanizer”, “the mama’s boy”, “the artsy cynic”, “the eclectic weirdo” or “the angry man”[whose names will not be mentioned!], my heart would have never been able to experience true love and what a good man feels like[<3!]. If I wouldn’t have made that careless decision to move to Oklahoma with only a duffle bag and $80 to my name, I wouldn’t have met the most amazing friend in the world[love you Ray! If I never tried new things and made some major fashion “no-no’s”, I would have never figured out what works for me and what makes me beautiful. In the end, it’s all about trial and error.

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As I digress, going through my twenties has been one of the most colorful, fulfilling times of my life. I have about three years left and I must say that I have enjoyed the ride[and it’s not over!]. My twenties experience helped me to discover my passions, my shortcomings and my womanhood. I encourage you all to do the same. It doesn’t matter if you are twenty or even twenty-nine…make it your business to take advantage of such a time as this, because you’ll never get the chance again. Write your story, live out loud and enjoy the possibilities!

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 Written by my awesome friend: Laura R. Jordan

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Keep Your Sister

The beauty of female friendship, partnership, and support has been on my heart for a while now. I love seeing women come together to love, forgive, support, encourage, and stand with each other in life. I’m thankful for the ladies that have been placed in my life. They have been there to lift me up during my lowest moments and been there to celebrate my highs. I know I can turn to them when I need encouragement, entertainment and advice. When nothing is constant in my life they are my constant. They were there when the last thing I needed was to be judged, but simply a listening ear. They’ve also been there to hit me over the head when I needed to wake up. They show me what the female bond looks like and how powerful it can be. I’m sure the same could be said about other relationship dynamics, but I love the female bond the most!

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On the flip side, women, in many ways, can tear each other down. This was demonstrated in the most recent Real Housewives of Atlanta Reunion show. I know you’re disappointed that I watch such a show, but I occasionally do. I watched a few episodes of this past season then stopped after realizing I could find better things to do with my time. But after seeing various blogs post about the reunion happenings I was curious to know what went on during their sit down with Andy Cohan. I watched as the women turned their noses up, ridiculed, attacked each others physical appearance, cried over broken friendships, argued over men and even put one woman down for not having the ability to bear a child. I wanted to somehow walk onto the set of the show and shake some sense into those women. I wanted them to have an out-of-body experience and see how ugly they were being. I wanted to ask them, “Is this really you, or is Bravo paying you to make an ass of yourself?” They were grown women who have lived long enough to know what each other faces as females, yet they tore each other down in countless ways.

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I’ve always held onto the belief that if I found myself hating on another female, there was some issue I needed to address within myself. There is no reason for me to negatively talk about another woman’s appearance, decisions in life, character, or anything else if I’m secure in who I am. There needs to be a time in every woman’s life where she truly focuses on herself — building herself up, healing, and falling in love with who God made her to be. For me, that time was during my college years and even continues as I change and discover the power of self-love. I truly believe if women can get this right there would be more of us loving and building each other up.

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In a recent conversation with my friend Amy, it was brought to my attention the other half of the problem: Men. Now I’ve never really given this thought before she and I talked about it, but I really felt like it needed to be addressed. Amy shared her thoughts on society being patriarchal and how that has affected the way women relate to each other. Pointing out how men have been in the decision making roles such as politics, education and media. Controlling the things we see as far as what it means to be a woman. As women, we have been divided and been made to think of each other as competition when it comes to men, which also stems back to self-worth. As more and more women realize their self-worth outside of a man it will shift the way we relate to each other. Instead of competing we come together; we start to celebrate each other instead of tearing each other down.

I challenge you, I challenge myself, to strive to break the stereotype that women can’t get along. Strive to be a better friend, daughter, sister, co-worker, and stranger to other women.

 

My forever friend Lashawn wrote this beautiful poem on the topic Titled “Sister’s Keeper”:

She has a purpose and a destiny

Just like me

On this battlefield called life

I am her ally not her enemy

It is such a disgrace to see

What was meant to be

Bonds of loyalty

Destroyed by jealousy

We are all Queens

Let us show respect

Even if some of us haven’t

Embraced our royalty yet

Let us never forget

The power of our bonds

Sharing your light

Treat your sister right

Avoid the stereotype that…

We can’t get along

Gossiping, Backstabbing and Phony

That’s the trend

Ladies I’m calling you out to bring

All of this to an end

We have all been hurt by one another

Now is the time to heal

Seek to understand the pain

and joy the other one feels

Because she has a purpose and destiny

Like you and me

On this battle field of life

Chose to be a ally not an enemy

My sister’s keeper

Is what I strive to be.

 

Update: Goals and A false Sense of Accomplishing Them

In one of my first posts, ‘Goals and A False Sense of Accomplishing Them,’ I shared with you my goal of not voicing my goals, in hopes of increasing my chances of accomplishing them. Also in that post, I shared with you a few of my short term goals, and promised a follow up in a year. Well its been a little over three months since that post, and I don’t know what I was thinking when I told you it would take me a year to update you.

If you forgot them or didn’t read the post, here is a list of goals:

1. Create a blog.

2. The learn Associated Press Style of writing.

3. To land a writing/PR internship.

4. To help and inspire others in accomplishing their goals.

5. To break through my self-imposed glass ceiling, find my voice and do what I was called to do.

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I set those goals just days after making the hard decision not to return to Korea. Three months later, I’m happy to report to you that I’m still blogging (goal 1). I’m getting better with each post, but I still have a long way to go on building it and getting it to where I want it be.  Through my post, I feel and hope I have inspired others to go after whatever it is that makes them happy (goal 3).  I’m currently discovering the world of AP Style writing(goal 3) in a class I’ve been attending once a week since January. I am about two months into a three-month internship at the only diversity and inclusion communications firm in my city (goal 4).  I am discovering a lot about myself in this new season. I’m ever so grateful to God these opportunities. I’m in a happy place. Even though, at 27, I’m not in the most ideal of situations, I’m in a happy place. And what the heck is an ideal situation for a 27- year-old, anyway?

In this journey, I’ve discovered that going after what I want is the method that will most likely get me to where I want to be; instead of simply talking about it. This has inspired me to dream bigger, and to think up something new to work toward as well. It’s shown me what can be done when I believe in myself. So there are new goals to be set. At the moment I don’t have a set list. But I can tell you the words “travel” and “world”  maybe be somewhere on that list. Maybe. I’ll update you in a year, or maybe another three months with my new goals.

Let me know!  I want to know what your goals are. Big or small.  Are you working toward anything in particular? Feel free to try answer my question about what the ideal situation for a 27-year-old is.

Undergrad: Was it worth it?

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That’s me after my graduation ceremony in 2009. I graduated from Oral Roberts University with a Bachelors of Science in Business Management. Oh, what a glorious day it was. The day I had been looking forward to for the past four years. I remember being in class day dreaming about my graduation.  What dance moves I was going to do to celebrate? What was I going to wear?  After all I was making history by being the first to graduate from college on both sides of my family.

Now, almost five years and a ton of student loan payments later,  I reflect on the value of my degree. What impact has it had on my life? I often have conversations with people who wonder ‘Ray, are you ever going to use your degree?’  Of course I love answering that question. Not.  I’ll try to answer that question and address  education’s impact on my life later in the post. But first, I recently asked a few of my degree-holding,  college educated, amazingly accomplished friends how they feel about  education and its impact on their life.  Here’s a condensed version of what they had to say:

Chelsea, said: “I was a literature major, I read three books a week. Because of the rigorous schedule, I learned to read quickly and comprehend the story easily. In class, I was always shy  to participate in group discussion and I thought my input wasn’t necessary. I gradually felt more comfortable and started stating my opinions and ideas….I not only learned about genres and characters, but also a good deal about myself was discovered through studying the timeless pieces. I wouldn’t trade my undergrad experience for the world!”

Nicole shared: “I got my undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance….towards my last year in college I decided I didn’t really love opera…then the I got bit by the film bug. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t spent that time and money on my undergrad, but then again it prepared me for auditioning for film. Also, being in a community of talented performers (classmates) prepared me for competition.”

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Mary, pictured above, gave me something to think about; “I honestly have mixed feelings about the worth of my undergraduate degree. I feel as if it’s an accomplishment, but nothing substantial. I now know that I will reap benefits from my degree by pursuing my aspirations. I will benefit from the knowledge, friendships and hardships. I think the degree does not do what we think it will do in the real world for some people.”

‘So Ray, what’s your take on education? Are you ever going to use your degree?,’ you ask. Well I, too, at times question the value of my degree. There are a few things I may have done differently in my undergrad, but for the most part I’m thankful for it.  Like these ladies I choose to look at its impact on who I am today. While I don’t believe college is for everyone, I do believe it was for me. I believe I use my degree in everything I do. Who I am is a confident-educated person. It was a necessary foundation and an invaluable experience.  I totally agree with Mary that in most cases our degree does not do what we think it will do in the real world. In the end having the courage to do what makes you happy is most important.  If you’re like me, you studied business management and all you want to do is see the world and experience new things on a regular basis. Whatever it is that makes you happy, do it. Work toward it. Don’t let your education be a source of limitation but a foundation on which you stand.

Let me know! What’s your take on education? What impact has it had on you?