Being Black v. Being A Woman

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When I was in college, a friend and myself were educators of relationship and sexual violence prevention (RSVP) for our university.  As you can imagine, a group of educators for RSVP issues are full of activist and young people motivated by what I call ist-isms (think all things political and justice related).  My friend and I often discussed feminism and what it meant to be a feminist.  While we were both women of color, my friend identified as a feminist and was motivated mostly by women’s issues and rights.  On the other hand, I had always identified more with being black than I did with being female.  At the time I was heavily involved in activism for black civil rights and equality. I never felt that my gender held me back significantly or that I was being stereotyped or mistreated because of it.  I have, however, felt the differences in how people treat me and others based on their skin color.

Our differences in what we identified with more always stimulated great conversations on feminism and its history and relevancy to the black woman.  In some ways, it felt like the issues plaguing race trumped the issues plaguing gender.

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Black women are in a unique category of oppression. (Get a brief explanation on intersectionality here –> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality).  Our gender has been and can be used in a manner to oppress us and hold biases towards us.  Our blackness does the same.  It may just be me but when fighting for justice and equality, it sometimes felt like I had to pick one.   Historically, feminism was about the liberation of white middle class women.  Feminism was about giving them choices and options about how they lived their lives, the type of education they had and the decisions being made in the home.  Feminism in its early stages left out women of color and women in poverty.  Traditionally, women of color and women in lower economic classes never had the choice to stay home.  Black women have always had to play multiple roles; provider and nurturer.  The differences in lifestyle often led to and still does lead to a disconnect.

White women will never completely be able to understand the additional plights women of color have.  They will never get the stereotype of being an angry black woman.  They don’t have to deal with the media stereotyping and advertising products to single mothers.  They have not had centuries of being hypersexualized.  They won’t know the stress and fear that black mothers have had since the beginning of America’s history regarding the safety of their children.

Black women deal with a lot.  We are one of the most degraded and disrespected groups. We are often overly sexualized by the media while simultaneously considered the most unattractive group by some mainstream media groups.  Black women are more likely to become single parents and to never be married.  Many of the stereotypes that we deal with are so deeply engrained in society that even we, ourselves, sometimes carry it with us.  We can at times view other black women as unapproachable, angry, or bitter.  For many of us, our idols growing up looked nothing like us.  We have become a bit of a media joke with all the reality shows centered around ridiculous and immature black women. In today’s trash television mecca, black women are portrayed as unable to evolve into “civil” behavior.  When these images show successful business women and decorated musicians getting into all out brawls, what is the message they expect the world to take? Black women not only have to prove to outsiders that this is not an accurate portrayal of us, but we have to prove to ourselves too.

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While there are things white women will never have to worry about, we do share commonalities.  Women across the board are subject to lower pay wages than their male counterparts.  Women have a higher risk of being sexually assaulted in their lifetime than men.  Women also have a higher chance of being blamed for being attacked.  In other countries, women’s education, safety and development are blatantly ignored and in some cases purposely derailed. As women, we have many bumps in the road.  The older I get, the less I see the struggles as different entities and the more I realize the importance of changing  them all. As an adult, I definitely see the areas traditional feminism misses but I also recognize the importance it has played in the lives of women everywhere.

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What it means to be a black woman changes from woman to woman.  We all identify differently and we all will represent ourselves in the way that makes us feel most comfortable.

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Thoughts on The Damon Dash Interview and Business in the Black Community

I think it is easy for people to get comfortable where they are.  We get complacent.  We stop setting new goals because it is easy to stay where we are.  Recently, I was listening to the Damon Dash interview on the Breakfast Club.  By now this interview is famous and has sparked the twitter hashtag #TweetLikeDameDash.  While I disagree with a large majority of what Damon Dash said and how he said it, I do agree that more people need to invest in themselves and learn how to conduct their own businesses.  I think it is important to set up a strong foundation for your children and community to build off of and business and property ownership is a powerful way to do that.  It is imperative that we teach our youth and ourselves that we can be “Bosses” and that being stagnant in the workplace is not mandatory.

The black community, in particular, is a group that is in need of ownership in both business and capital.  There are so many people growing up who have never left their community.  They are not taught to dream big and they are not taught that they are a BRAND.

You are your own brand!  Build upon that brand and invest in yourself! Invest in your community!

I think it is important to teach people that there is power in their brand.  The better educated you are, the more opportunities that are open to you.  Let me note, that when I say educated I do not necessarily mean school. I literally mean the amount of knowledge you have acquired (books, Youtube, Documentaries, Word of mouth, lectures, etc).  We have to use what we know to fulfill a need.

We need to carry ourselves for the jobs and ventures we want, not the ones we have.  Dress to impress, speak eloquently, stay organized and always work to improve.

I am always planning, not because my plans always pan out but because it keeps me on my toes.  It keeps me organized and it keeps me aware.  Sometimes, great opportunities magically appear, but most don’t.  You have to create the opportunities.  You have to network and you have to speak to strangers as if they could be the next partners in a business.

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During the 1900s Black Wall Street flourished.  The black dollar was only spent in black communities.  That money stayed within the community.  This allowed black people great power and independence.  Today, the black dollar is not reinvested in black communities and it’s apparent in our school systems and our neighborhoods and black homes.  The constant struggles and disadvantages are proof of this. The growth of black businesses is essential to the development of black communities. Click the link to learn more about Black Wall Street… http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2011/02/greenwood_oklahoma_from_the_black_wall_street_to_the_tulsa_race_riot.html 

Damon Dash had a point in setting up a foundation for his son to build upon.  Historically, many ethnic groups in America have not had a foundation for their children.  Slavery left blacks dependent on white slave owners long after the abolition of slavery.  Native Americans (indigenous) were forced off of the best land and given the crappiest land to live on.  People of Color in America have historically had to start over from generation to generation.  It is now engraved in the mind of many that this is the way it will always be.

As black people, we have grown up knowing that we have to work twice as hard to get to the same place as our white counterparts. Don’t settle for what society has decided is good for you.  Do not accept average.  Always go for the superior option.   By breaking down the barrier in your own life, you break down barriers for the people in your community and family.  Building yourself up as a brand and becoming a boss are not selfish goal.  By putting yourself in a position of power, you create an environment conducive to aiding others. You create an environment the breaks down the inequity that has disadvantaged people of color in America.

I could go on forever discussing branding and business development in the black community but I won’t bore you with my rambling.  I leave you with this; Never stop improving, Never stop wanting more and Never stop building a solid foundation for yourself and those who will come after you.

Damon Dash Interview:

Dr. Boyce Watkins Interview:

-Imani

New Video: J.Cole- G.O.M.D.

I was introduced to J. Cole during the early years of college.  I fell in love immediately with his ability to merge politics and music.  He doesn’t shy away from discussing social issues for the sake of popularity.  I appreciate J.Cole’s play on words and his latest album was a great display of artistry.  Check out his latest video below:

What are your thoughts on J.Cole and Hip Hop?  What do you all think about his new video and the use slavery to depict his message?

The Importance of Balance

San Diego
San Diego

Millennials get a bad rap for being lazy, unreliable and indecisive. As a part of this generation, I strongly disagree. I went to college with some of the most motivated and creative individuals you could imagine.   I have friends who have penned books, started fashion lines, write for major publications, started businesses, and have successful broadcast journalism jobs to name a few. Our generation has a can do attitude. We believe in the power of slashes. By slashes, I mean job titles. For example, my best friend works for a foreign news station, manages a dance studio and teaches at pre-school. She is also a blogger and a guru at multi media.

Millennials reject the notion that we have to pick just one career, one talent, one passion. If doing it all isn’t possible, our generation is challenging this decree. I love the entrepreneurial attitude of so many young adults. I love that we are no longer accepting the regular 9-5 lifestyle and becoming our own bosses.

This mindset of many young adults can definitely lead to workaholic tendencies. While I hope this wave of entrepreneurial thought continues and grows stronger, all work and no play is not good for anyone. It is important to learn the art of balancing. We have to learn when to take a break from working and take care of our minds and bodies. We have to make time for our families and friends. We have to allow ourselves the space to get organized and just breathe.

Continuous work without taking care of your other needs will eventually affect your work endeavors in a negative light. You can become stressed and unfocused. The quality of your work can decrease. The creative juices you thrive on can dry up. Feelings of being overwhelmed can consume you.

Over working can also negatively affect your health. People who are stressed and overworked tend to get sick more often and have higher rates of Diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

For the sake of the motivation that drives your boss ambitions and your overall health, work on balancing your life. Take care of your physical, mental and emotional needs. Prioritize. Have fun. Travel. Fall in Love. Educate yourself.

Just be happy.

Friends! How many of us have them? Friends!
Friends! How many of us have them? Friends!
Nothing Like Exercise!
Nothing Like Exercise!

-Imani

Appreciate Being Unplugged

Today, It is easy to make friends with people that are a million miles away. We can have heated debates with people across the country and service clients we have never even met. We are totally and completely plugged up. We are hopelessly connected and life exists within instantaneous clicks. I can keep up pre school friends I haven’t spoken to since puberty, I know the exact outfit my cousin across the country wore yesterday and embarrassing drunken moments of college co-eds reach thousands.

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Technology is amazing. I appreciate the advances we have. We can document the most precious moments of our lives and share it with everyone (literally). We can use Time Hop to see how thought when were younger. We can blog J and thousands of research databases are online, enabling the average Joe access to theories and new developments. Technology has opened up the world.

However, when we become so plugged up that we miss out on the simple things, we have a problem. I am guilty of this too. How many times have you hung out with friends and you checked all of your social medias every few minutes? Have you texted through a dinner with a family member? Are you guilty of taking so many selfies that you miss out on the beauty outside of yourself?

Me too.

Its great to stay connected to the world but don’t forget to check into reality. Enjoy that concert you paid to see live, don’t watch through your phone the whole time. Go hard in the gym, text your buddies after. Enjoy the moments you have with your parents, they won’t be here forever. While keeping up with other peoples lives, don’t forget to LIVE!

Hiking with My Friends in Washington!
Hiking with My Friends in Washington!

How to Unplug:

  1. Talk to Strangers– Obviously our parents told us as children to never do this but talking to strangers is great. In fact, while I was writing this (in my neighborhood Starbucks) I struck up a conversation with a stranger. He was older man who had a career in the Army. He talked to me about his career, his family and the differences of how he grew up and how kids today grow up. Coincidently, He felt that kids today are so wrapped up in technology that they don’t know how to play outside and enjoy nature’s beauty. It was a pleasant conversation. Sometimes strangers bring awesome perspectives. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. That person could become a great friend, a business opportunity or maybe even a significant other.
  2. Build Memories, Not Albums– Photos are great but if you don’t have memories behind them, that’s all they are. Don’t forget to live in that moment. Awesome memories with your friends and family will survive longer than a photo will.
  3. Turn off your devices: At least for a little while. Take time to think without influences. Get some alone time. Watch a movie. Travel the world. Come up with a business plan. Again, being too plugged up can make you miss some great things. Sometimes you need to be alone with just your thoughts and nature. You can check your messages later.
  4. Read a book– An actual book. I have an eReader too but nothing is quite like holding a book. Get lost in it. Be someone else for a while. Start a book club even.
  5. Get outside– There is no point in taking a walk if you’re going to be on Facebook the whole time. Seriously. Go running, do yoga, sit under a tree and just enjoy God’s beauty. Nature is God’s gift to us. Enjoy it. And yes, I mean enjoy it without music too. It is possible, I promise.
Family Time with My beautiful Nephew
Family Time with My beautiful Nephew

Why Traveling is Good for the Soul

I love that more and more people are leaving their comfort zones and exploring more parts of the world. Traveling is a unique opportunity for education that no school or institution could ever provide you. While learning about other cultures and histories, you learn about yourself. You are able to tap into a part of yourself you never knew existed and you find that you are stronger and more resilient than you ever imagined.

Old Town, Geneva, Switzerland.
Old Town, Geneva, Switzerland.

People travel for different reasons; leisure, to find themselves, business, parties. Whatever the reason, traveling is good for the soul. Whether you are taking a weekend trip camping or a month long excursion to the Himalayas, the act of traveling is restorative. While I was in Europe, I was able to get a recharge I didn’t know I needed. I spent many days running along the rivers in Geneva, and journaling at the lake. I was able to press pause on life and evaluate who I am and what direction I was going. For the first time in years, I didn’t have to rush to get from one place to another. I didn’t have to punch a time clock, (although I did have classes) and I was able to enjoy doing nothing.

I took walks through the Swiss Botanical gardens, got lost in Paris, lounged on Spanish beaches, shopped at English markets and years ago, I helped pull in fish with Ghanaian fisherman. I was able to enjoy new experiences without worrying about my next obligation and that’s important. We all need a break from our reality of work, responsibilities and bills.

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Traveling is not always fun and peaceful but the stress of traveling could contribute to your personal growth. There are times where you are hopelessly lost, or you’ve wasted much needed money. You may feel extreme homesickness or hate your choice of destination but when in a new place that is foreign to you, you have to rely on yourself and trust your instincts. You have to solve whatever problem you’re facing. There is no bailout! If you are sad, you have to figure out how to pick yourself up. If you are lost, you have to find your way back and if you have wasted money, you’ll figure out where to cut costs. You will be pushed to your limits and your comfort will be nearly nonexistent but it is worth it. You will come home feeling refreshed, you will appreciate your home and your family and the world will feel like an entity you need to explore.

Leaving Ghana and Europe, I felt like I had grown spiritually. I felt closer to God, and I felt more grounded in the world. Each time I was reminded of who I am minus the pressures of society and the people around me. I left knowing that the world is full of beauty and goodness. I returned home feeling full of purpose and ready to tackle life’s obstacles. I was inspired; by my own journey, by the amazing people I met and by the beauty in both nature and architecture. Traveling is more than seeing new places. It is about seeing who you really are and finding peace with the world around you.

Paris
Paris
Laughing in Spain
Laughing in Spain
Leaving London for Hogwarts
Leaving London for Hogwarts

****Always travel with a journal. Journaling is a great way to capture the moment beyond pictures and a great method to track your growth.

Suggested Readings:

  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • content
  • Wild by Cheryl StrayedUnknown

Using Feelings of Failure to Thrive

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There are times in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong. You aren’t where you thought you’d be and you aren’t who you thought you were. Whether you are in your teens, mid twenties or fifties, there will be times were you feel like you have failed.

It is easy to focus so much on the goal that we forget to enjoy the journey. We lose patience with the process and the urge for instant gratification allows us to forget the progress we have made thus far.

I am no exception. Like many of you, I’ve set many goals for myself. I expect greatness and sometimes perfection. There are times that I am so hard on myself that I can’t enjoy my accolades so far. When I graduated from college, I was so depressed because the plans I had made fell apart. I wasn’t excited that I was graduating a semester early. I wasn’t impressed that after several years of struggling both financially and academically, I finally “made it.” All I focused on was what I didn’t have. I wasn’t traveling abroad like I had planned. I was unable to secure a job prior to graduation. There would be no lavish vacation or car to celebrate my achievement. While everyone else was celebrating my achievement, all I could do was focus on my failure.

It is not a bad thing to be goal oriented or driven. However, we cannot focus on what we don’t have. We have to learn to enjoy the process. My biggest fear is looking back and realizing I didn’t enjoy my youth and I didn’t take time to live in the moment. We are all destined for greatness on some level or another. Our struggles and failures are meant to test and make us stronger. We must learn to use our feelings of failure or discomfort to thrive. You may not be where you thought you would be but the path you are on could lead you to a much better destination than you ever imagined.

“If God has given you a vision or a dream, I want you to know that He will fulfill his promises to you,” – Bishop T.D. Jakes

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A few tips for dealing with feelings of failure or discomfort:

  1. Meditate- Meditate on what really makes you happy. Come to terms with the feelings you are having and think about ways you can make yourself feel better.
  2. Make a List- Sometimes writing things out make them more real. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for. Write down a list of your accomplishments and blessings.
  3. Pray- Talking to God has been one of my biggest ways of dealing with feelings of failure and feelings of being stagnant. Growing spiritually can stimulate growth in all other areas of your life.
  4. Make a VISION board. Bring all your dreams into fruition. Seeing images of your goals everyday can stimulate motivation over feelings of hopelessness.
  5. Act-Take action on all the things you can change. If you hate your old job, look for a new one or begin the steps to start a business. If you feel you are unhealthy, start to exercise and begin to make changes to your diet. Even the smallest actions, can a have significant impact on how you feel about your progress.

-Imani