Poetry Corner: A Chance’s Ballad

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Ms. Dyson, I wanna believe but how am I supposed to have faith when I walk in these streets.
vacos, hookers and needles
Everything around me was designed to defeat me.
Yea I hear what you saying and trust that you’re true but none of that is helping me deal with the constant red and blue.
The pop pop pow
That’s as common as music.
Normalized.
I can’t function in this state of calm you’re pushin’.
You’re intentions are good but your advice to walk away from the war that is my life might get me killed.
See conflict is not just a conflict.
Conflict is life.
Just like war, street conflicts speak dollars and these dollars put food on the table.
Ms. Dyson, I know you wouldn’t want me to abandon my family.
These dreams you speak of and hopes you have for me…
There no room for.
Dreaming is selfish.
No room for dreams in the hood.

Can’t even dream in my sleep
You’re always poking me
“Not in my room” you say
Then where?
How many times I gotta tell you I gotta a family to feed
And I’m only 16 so not too many tryna pay me
Its aight tho
I learned young not to depend on no one.
The hustle is the only constant.
Can’t do my kinda hustle under the eye of the sun
And to protect what’s mine sometimes I have to use my…
Well, I don’t want you to see me that way.

Would you believe me if I said I don’t want to be bad?
Do you think God hears me when I tell him I’m sad?

What kinda God would let so many innocent people struggle?

Not my God.

Where I’m from, you gotta be your own God

And sometimes someone else’s.

Life and death lies in the index finger.

Mine is on the trigger

But Ms. Dyson believe when I say I wanna be a better person.

I do some fucked up things

But I believe the means justify the ends.

Maybe I won’t be shit

But lil sister…

She’ll be a queen.

Inspired by books and classy things.

My baby Bro

Won’t ever know the struggle of poisoning his own.

No hope for me except my hopes for them.

So I sacrifice

So they can be

Be better

Be happy

Hell anything that requires them to be… here

The world I mean.
Ms.Dyson did you hear about the murder today?

Walked out the door and I saw the crime scene tape on display/

Not even 7am and it’s already hot.

It makes me sick

Knowing that nigga coulda been me.

Pure or corrupt

We all have targets on our backs.

Keep ya back against the wall so you see the threats coming
I wanna be everything you say I can be

But that kinda success means jumping blindly.

Do you think I can afford blind faith?
You say everything thing worth having is worth fighting for.

Well, I’m fighting for my life.

But maybe just maybe you’re right

Look, If I make it through another night

If I can walk down one block without getting shot

I’ll reach for the stars you talk about.

I’ll be somebody special you can brag about.
Bang bang pop.
Ms. Dyson…

just say you’ll never forget who I was

Not the thug the news will describe me as

Know that I wanted everything we talked about

Just feels like I was never given the . . .

Just feels like life stole my . . .

Just feel like this bullet just ended my . . .

chance.

 

 

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*This poem is not to be republished. 

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Imani’s Top Books of 2016

Now that the year is over, I can FINALLY discuss my favorite books that I read this year.   I made it a mission to read a new book every month that had nothing to do with work or school.

1.Daughters of Jerusalem

This gem was one of the first books I read in 2016.   Joan Wolf explores the story of Mary Magdalene, a woman we often hear about when discussing the bible. Some believe she was a whore. In this fictional story the author explains how Mary got the label and how she transitioned to be one of Jesus’ first female disciples. It is a beautiful story of redemption, faith and female empowerment.

2.Milk and Honey

Rupi Kaur has a beautiful and raw way of expressing what it means to be a woman. Through short poems and simplistic art, she perfectly captures the complexities, emotions and power that make up womanhood. This is a must read.

3.Parable of the Talents

Octavia Butler’s talents, follows the life of Lauren Olamina when the world is filled with complete anarchy, pain and suffering. Butler clearly has some prophetic gifts as this story painfully mirrors the direction the world seems to be going in. There is even a president the spews hate and discord such as the president elect now. Similarly to my first two picks, this story has a strong female lead and captures her ambition, empathy and ability to love perfectly.

I read so many other awesome books last year but the above three really stood out to me.   I am so excited about exploring more literature in 2017. If you love to read as well, I suggest becoming a Kindle Unlimited member. I have access to thousands of free books and Audibles. I was able to explore so many books that I wouldn’t have read otherwise. Through Kindle Unlimited I read Daughters of Jerusalem, The Wait, Queen Sugar, Yellow Crocus, and Trail of Broken Tears.

 

What books are you all reading?  What books do you suggest for others this year?

A Year in Review: Imani Vision (2016)

2016 was good to me.


I know many have complained about how terrible this year has been but I don’t share this sentiment. It was a good year. I was able to grow personally, spiritually and professionally. I had some major moments this year. I was able to see my friends and family thrive. I was able to deal with my life’s obstacles and make the best of many situations. I had a few fails as well but overall, my failures, mistakes and obstacles didn’t taint all of the positive thinks that happen to me and my loved ones. To kick off the new year and my return to blogging regularly, here are a few of my highlights from last year.

 

  1. I bought a house! This was literally the last thing that happened this year. On December 23, 2016, I officially became a homeowner. My house was a short sell and the battle to close was long but soooo worth it. My home is beautiful. It has character and it was purchased undervalue. Everyday I come home, I feel blessed and amazed. God saw it fit for a 25 year old to become a homeowner. I plan to blog about my buying process and tips at a later date.
  2. I know travel is not new to me but after a year of struggling financially, I was able to get back to my love affair with traveling. I was able to go to several new cities including: Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., Miami, Memphis and Baton Rouge. I lived it up in New Orleans with my best friends, danced with the locals in San Juan and drink free wine Beachside in San Juan. I had to sit back towards the end of the year to purchase my home but this years travels definitely make up for the year I spent grounded.
  3. In 2016, I completed year one of teaching. I survived a year with teenagers and began year two. I have improved in so many ways and my desire to improve is only growing. I have built relationships with my students and peers. While teaching can be stressful and its hard work, I love my job. I love that my career directly impacts the people I care about the most. How many people can say that their job has the potential to make the world better? I go into work with this attitude and it helps get through the hard days and stress.
  4. I failed at this in 2016. I am still trying to understand how I allowed fitness to get almost none of my attention this year. In previous years, health and fitness has been a top priority of mine. I ran a ½ marathon, increased muscle mass, found holistic health options. So why didn’t this translate in 2016? Stress! I wasn’t giving myself enough self care. I was so focused on negativity and work that I forgot to take care of my body. I was burning out. The last few months of this year, I began to take care of my body again. I am losing some of the weight I gained at the first half of the year. It is definitely a goal to get back to my ‘pre-teaching weight.
  5. I am really proud of the relationships I have with my family and friends. It can be so hard to balance work, self and relationships. I like to think I did a good job of balancing the ones I love with my endeavors. There is always room for improvement but I know my loved ones know my love for them. As far as dating, I suck but we can’t be good at everything.
  6. Faith. I spent the greater part of the year rededicating my life to God. I never forgot about God but God was not a priority. I joined my church about a year ago and have been so inspired by my River of Life church family.  They are constant motivations to live a life of purpose and faith.

 

Bonus: Books. I have always been a lover of books thanks to my mother and TeeTee. This year, I wanted to get back to this love. I decided to read a book a month that had NOTHING to do with work or school. Sounds silly but when you are reading two-three books at a time for something other than pure enjoyment, it takes the fun out of reading. I read some awesome books this year. Find my top picks here. Reading is a powerful tool.

Black Mizzou: We Are The Elite


The University of Missouri, better known as Mizzou, has a sea of problems.  The biggest problem being systemic and blatant racism, classism, and gender based violence.  My alma mater has been in the news over the last few years and few of the reports are positive.  

I graduated in December 2012.  I spent 3 and ½ years actively working against campus and community racism and sexual and domestic violence against women.  I was involved passionately in the school’s NAACP, RSVP (Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention), LBC (black student government) and more.  So while recent news seems to be ‘exposing’ how oppressive Mizzou has become, it has always had those elements.  Mizzou’s first accept black student, Lloyd Gaines, subsequently went missing after his lawsuit (Read about Gaines Now).  My point is, this is nothing new. (check out my old blog from the college days).

Students of color who choose to go to PWIs (predominantly white institutions)  must go into it knowing that they will not fit in.  You must acknowledge that for every nice and liberal white person you meet, there is one closet or blatant racist in the crowd.  There will be classes where you are the only black person.  There will MANY, MANY times where your response will represent ALL black people to those ignorant white students.  For those of us that grew up in poverty, you will also have to deal with your financial hardship in a sea of spoiled, rich kids.  Some of your well off peers will only work to pay for booze, while you struggle to pay for a meal.  It can be frustrating. There will be times where you wonder why you have to work so hard.  (Please read Nikki Giovanni’s, College Racism 101,  It is required reading  here ). 


All that being said, I (overall) LOVED going to Mizzou.  I made some of the best friends of my life.  I had some of the best opportunities.  I made lifelong connections with some of my professors.  I can only speak on MIZZOU, but we had (and from what I have heard still has) one of the strongest black communities I have ever witnessed.  The desire to fit into the rest of the Mizzou community was non existent because we had our own.  We had our own student government, professional organizations, choir, homecoming, events, parties, etc.  We had our own midday meeting area.  We had our own twitter hashtag.  I know that some of, if not all of this, is a part of the systemic racism black students at mizzou have had to endure over time but we successful and excelled in spite and despite all of this.  


Similarly to HBCUs, we had the opportunity to connect to Black excellence in a way that endures longer than the college experience.  It is our constant reminder in a sea of whiteness that we are absolutely amazing.  I went to college with people that not only went on to be business men and women, lawyers, teachers, doctors and nurses but actors, artists, entrepreneurs, authors, social media coordinators, journalist, and more.  I am soooo proud of every single person I got to know at MIZZOU and those I didn’t know.  We exude excellence and magic and joy.  We didn’t just become successful for ourselves but for our community.  Many of us still volunteer, or work in non profits.  

I know that this does not undo all of the negative aspects of MIZZOU and other PWIs but it shows you how strong we are.  Its shows how little we need to fit into mainstream society (whatever that means).  I am a teacher now, and when my students ask me about my experience at Mizzou, this is what I tell them.  I tell them that society may treat them  as if they don’t belong.  As if they do not have the capacity to be great without assimilating.  It will make them feel inferior at times but they are not.  They are the strongest people most of the world has ever seen.  They are creative and compassionate.  They are logical and calculating.  They won’t fit in because they were made to stand out.  


My fellow Mizzou Alum, y’all taught me that.  You all taught me that we are beautiful and tough.  We are educated hustlers.  We are spiritual and hold knowledge beyond our years.  I love you guys.  I love all of the future Mizzou tigers too.  Keep your head up.  Don’t give up and Mizzou is just as much yours as the rest of the students.

-Imani

Reflections on Ghana: Part 1

   

  

 In 2011, I embarked on my biggest adventure yet. I was spending the summer abroad in Cape Coast, Ghana with 14 other Mizzou students. I must admit, going to Africa, was never on the top of my travel priorities. I had never gone out of the country and I always imagined my first trip abroad being in Europe and gallivanting in Paris. I knew that at some point, I would embark on a journey in an African country but never did I imagine Ghana as my very first travel experience.

  
I tend take things as signs, so when I saw the flyer advertising a service trip in Ghana three times, I knew that it was in the cards for me to go. My sophomore year of college, I had gotten more involved with service and had recently switched my major from business to political science. It all seemed to fit so perfectly together. I jumped at the chance. I had no clue how I would pay for the trip and I knew absolutely nothing about Ghana but I decided I would go, so go I did. (I highly recommend applying for the Gilman Scholarship if you qualify).
After struggling and worrying about how I would pay for the trip, it finally worked itself out (Thank you Jesus). I found myself on the longest flight ever (around 11 hours total) heading to Ghana. On my way from the restroom on the flight, a Ghanaian woman promptly handed me her baby and instructed me to sit in her so that she could go to the restroom. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it was the first Ghanaian encounter I had. In America, a stranger would not dare hand their child to a stranger but in Ghana, I found that trust was a given. Raising a child was a community task and this flight was no different. I learned about the trusting nature of Ghanaian people before I even landed.
  
Fast forward to landing. I arrived in Accra on a sunny June day. There was no bridge way from the plane to the airport. We walked down the steps of the plane and into the airport. (I later found out this was not uncommon anywhere. This was my second flight ever, the first being the shuttle to DC for this flight). Going through customs was kind of frightening for me. I had never been out of the country and no one told me what to do. I was surrounded by a rainbow of languages. A friend and myself, navigated our way through the airport to find our ride. We had been told very strict guidelines about how to conduct ourselves in the airport. We were told not to let a cabby touch our bags. If one touched our bags we would be obligated to tip him regardless of the fact that his service was unwarranted.
We searched for the escort from the organization called Proworld. My university had partnered with them for group internships. Proworld was a NGO that provided interns and funding from the interns to local nonprofits, schools and clinics. The idea was that we would help provide a sustainable structure for the organization we assisted. (yes, cue the American savior music). 
We finally found our escorts without problem. We waited awhile for other Americans to arrive. My friend and I were arriving a few days earlier than the rest of the Mizzou students, so we were going to be with home stay interns for the next day or so. When we finally hit the road, we drove from Accra, the country’s capital to Cape Coast. The drive was long and tedious. Ghanaian traffic is notoriously bad so a trip that should have been about two hours took more than four. Luckily, I had a seat in the front of the 17 passenger van. I was able to get a quick tour of the country that would be my home for the next 5 weeks. I remember the dirt being so red and bright. It was like nothing I had ever seen. Driving between cities was like driving in between different worlds. Certain parts of Accra were adorned with multi colored mansions and buildings. Outside of the capital lie make shift shacks and homes barely big enough for one. While some of the sights were devastating, it still had a beauty to it that one could only understand when there. Businesses and homes were covered in cell phone logos. Children and women walked up and down the roads and through traffic selling water pouches, and plantain chips on their heads. 

After driving for hours, we finally arrived to our pro world house (its been a long time, so I do not remember the name of my town L). We arrived late night and everyone was jet lagged. We ate a quick and short meal made by our house cook, Elizabeth. Then we all went to bed for what would be our first night in Ghana. I fell asleep dreaming about how the rest of my Ghanaian adventure would go.

What I was seeing was just a precursor to what I would soon know as Ghana. Ghana is a land filled with beauty, inspiration, and love as well as, poverty, oppression and despair. My trip to Ghana, thus far, has been the most enlightening trip I have had.

Stay tuned for a more on my Ghanaian reflection. 

   
 -Imani

The Courage to Change

 



I’ve always thought it was ridiculous that our society expects 18 -20 somethings to pick a career path for the rest of their lives.  At 18, you barely know who you are.  You haven’t had a chance to live life on your own and you most likely haven’t met the people that will influence you most yet. 

 

I’ve come across this problematic expectation many times in the past year or so.  Many of my friends are now in their mid-20s and for those who still aren’t sure where they want to go in life, they feel immensely left behind and stuck in rut.  It’s so unfortunate that they feel like they aren’t living up to their potential because they haven’t met this ridiculous expectation of having it all figured out. 

 

No one has it all figured out.  No one has everything together.  Some people are just better at making it look that way. 

 





my favorite book as a kid


The only expectation we should have as young people is to continue to make progress and to actively reach for our goals.  Sometimes, you find that what you thought you wanted, isn’t for you and that’s ok.   There is no life contract binding you to that one choice forever.  If you don’t like the career path you choose, change it. If your friends are negative, cut them lose, and if you’re bored in your hometown, move. 

 

I know it is not as easy as it sounds.  It takes a lot of courage to change your situation but at the end of day your happiness and fulfillment is worth it.  In our lives we will probably change careers many, many times.  We will see our lives shift to different chapters on a personal level as well.  Don’t feel bad about outgrowing things, choices or people. 

 

So you got a little off track; you’re working at a job you don’t want and that will lead to nowhere.  What’s stopping you from going after your dreams?  The only person in your way is you.  Don’t use bills, children, or other people’s expectation as an excuse to remain unhappy.  It is never too late to follow your heart.  You want travel, do it.  You want to go back to school, go ahead. Change may require some temporary sacrifices but know that the sacrifices are worth the payoff.

 



Be okay with switching lanes.  Sometimes life doesn’t stay on the path we intended. Opportunities sometimes arise in places we never expected.  That awful job you have has prepared you for better.  That negative relationship has taught you what not to tolerate.  Remember that feelings of discomfort and failure are just the catalyst you need to go after better.  The rough patches in your life are polishing you up for what you deserve.  Do not be afraid to change your life.  No one else will do it for you. 

 

It takes courage to change, so be courageous.

 

-Imani


6 Ways to Indulge in Positivity

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It is so much easier to recognize the negative aspects of life than it is to acknowledge all the beautiful things life has to offer. Today, the news, social media and everyday conversations are consumed with the worst parts of life. It can be difficult to stay positive when everything around you is the opposite. 

 While we can’t change the fact that bad things will happen, we can do our part to make sure our lives are consumed with as many positive components as possible. Positivity begets more positivity. If you live a positive life, your positive energy will spread to those around you. However, if you are surrounding yourself with constant negativity, you will eventually be a negative person. You can be a strong willed person and still be affected by the negativity around you. Do your best rid your life of the negativity.

 

imani meme
 


Steps to Indulge in Positivity

1.Positive Affirmations– Positive Affirmations may seem silly but they can really work. When you wake up say something positive about your day. Set intentions for yourself and throughout the day remind yourself of this. For example, “Something good is going to happen to me and with me.” I am a firm believer that you set the tone of your life by your own beliefs. Believe in good things and good things will happen. 

 2.Love Some People From A Distance- There are some people in our lives who we love dearly but they are a constant source of negativity. They can’t help but spew hate, they complain about everything, and they are never genuinely happy for other people’s blessings. I have had friends whom I grew up and I loved like family. Unfortunately the way they choose to live their life clashed with the way I was choosing to live mine. Their lives was filled with negativity, drama and poor choices. I had to make a choice to love those people from a distance. It is unfair to keep people in your life when you can’t think positively about them and it is unfair to you to be surrounded by people that bring you down.

3.Do Things That Make You Happy and Make You Geel Good- Everyday, do something that makes you feel good. Working out, writing, and dancing typically make me feel really good and gives me burst of energy. Figure out what random acts give you a ‘feel good’ moment. Listen to a favorite song, call a good friend, take random trips, buy that thing you’ve been eyeing. Volunteer! It is worth for you to feel good.


4.Sleep- Getting enough sleep is crucial for your health and function. Getting adequate sleep is important to your positive lifestyle. It is hard to be positive or even alert when you are tired and you constant thought is the pillow. Try to get to sleep on time.


5.Acknowledge Your Blessings and Accolades- I can be really hard on myself sometimes. I know I’m not alone in this. Sometimes we have to really stop and evaluate all the good things in our lives. If you need to, list all the accomplishments in your life that you have made so far. Thank God for all the good things around you, no matter how small. When you state or write those things out, you drive out the negative thoughts you may have. You set the tone for positive thinking.


6. Deal With Your Stress– Stress is natural. Acknowledge it and address it. Bottling up stress can create an environment that is hostile. Stress can even cause negative physical reactions. Figure out what works for you. I acknowledge the things that are stressing me out. If there is a solution, I try to apply it. If there isn’t a solution I accept what is and focus on the things I can change. I also work out and drink lots of herbal tea during times of high stress. Tea fixes everything.

via Pinterest
via Pinterest

Positivity goes a long way. Do what you can do to create a positive and peaceful environment for yourself and your loved ones. 

 What are some ways you indulge in positivity? 

-Imani

How To Start Your Mornings 



 Growing up, my mornings were always a bit jarring.  My brother and I were always late, unprepared, disorganized and rarely ate a good breakfast.  We were the kind of kids who liked to stay up late and then slept too long in the morning. 

 By the time I got to college, I was definitely not a morning person. I would pick classes as late as possible, I still skipped breakfast and my habit of rushing in the morning continued.

 One day, I realized how unproductive this was.  Not only was it unproductive and inefficient, constantly rushing and skipping breakfast affected my moods and most of my day would be reflective of my hectic morning. 

 It wasn’t until I took a part time job that required me to rise before the sun, that I realize the importance of having a peaceful morning.  Starting your day off right is beneficial for your health, moods, and can help you feel more prepared and grounded for the tasks you have for the day.

 



How I start my morning:

Prepare at night:  Night prep is the best way to ensure a peaceful and smooth morning.  If you’re like me, you want to maximize sleep, so prepare what you can the night before.  Night prep for me includes; making lunch, picking out my outfits, showering, prepping my tea mug, prepping my breakfast, etc.  I also like to straighten up my house before I go to bed.  I like to leave my home clean and organized in the morning.  It saves time to do as much as I can before I go to bed.

-Sleep:  Getting a full night’s rest almost always ensures that I wake up on the right side of the bed.  When I’m well rested, I’ll typically wake up in a great mood and full of energy.  I usually try to get ready for bed an hour before my target bed time (you’re never too old for a bedtime).

Use an Alarm:  A lot people recommend waking up to music or soft alarms.  This doesn’t work for me.  Music and relaxing alarms are easy for me to sleep through.  While I could enjoy not waking up to the most irritating of sounds, I wouldn’t wake up!  I need my aggravating alarm to get me going for my day.  I also recommend avoiding the snooze button.  I definitely have more than one alarm but I do not use the snooze button.  The snooze button is a sure way to oversleep and rush all day.

Stretch:  I notice when I stretch in the morning, my body feels more awake and alert.  I stretch anywhere from 5-10 mins.  It is especially helpful for those of us who are physically active.  Waking up sore definitely slows you down and kills your motivation in the morning. 

-Drink Water:  I have no clue why but drinking a glass of water really wakes me up in the morning.  I try to drink about a gallon of water a day and starting this early makes that goal obtainable.  It also kills some of the morning hunger pains and is great for your skin in the long run.

-Choose Your Background Noise:  My mood determines my background noise.  Some mornings I really enjoy listening to music. I might start the day off with gospel music or upbeat music like Pharrell’s Happy.  Other days, I listen to really girly music like Beyonce.  Most mornings, I prefer the quiet.  Getting ready without music allows me to really process my thoughts and set my intentions for the day.  The morning is a great time to meditate.  So choose your background noise wisely.

-Eat: I try to eat breakfast before I leave the house.  I usually eat a pretty light breakfast on weekday mornings.  I will usually eat oatmeal, eggs, yogurt or a bowl fruit.  On days were I didn’t give myself enough time to enjoy breakfast at home, I will make a smoothie and take it to go, or I’ll pack my breakfast to go and eat it at work. I love coffee and tea, so my breakfast is usually followed by a cup of tea or coffee.

 



Every Morning is different but I always try to do things that lift my spirit and reduce stress.  How do you all start your day off?  

I hope the post helps you start your day off in the most peaceful way.

 

-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?