Student Stories

This a great example of teaching with a purpose. I love this. Have a look.

Adventures in ELA

Here are some stories from my students’ lives, in their own words:

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Things I Learned in Europe



 

I am not much of a planner.  As I have said in previous posts; life rarely goes according to plan, so I rarely make them. This being said, I learned a lot while in Europe about traveling and making arrangements.  My previous abroad experience  in Ghana was somewhat structured by my university.  Also, in Ghana you really don’t have to plan. Everyone there is very laid back and lively. Ghana is inexpensive so doing things last minute doesn’t harm your budget at all. Europe is polar opposite.  

 

In Europe, the better you are at making arrangements in advance, the better your chances are of saving money and having a smooth trip.  For Americans, traveling within Western Europe can be costly compared to traveling in other places (our currency is generally worth less than the Euro, Pound and Franc).  Learn from my mistakes and plan ahead if possible.

 

1. Peeing is not free!

Most major European cities charge for the use of public restrooms.  In most train stations, malls, and attractions, you will pay about one euro or franc to use the restroom. This being said, keep your coins.  Many European countries have coins that value up to 5 (euros, franks, pounds), so discarding these coins are costly.  You never know when you have to go.  Most small business and restaurants do not have restrooms for the public, so be prepared.

2.The Eurorail is trash

This is obviously based on my own experience but the Eurorail is not the money saver it seems to be.  The Eurorail pass is very complicated and has lots of fine print.  It costs about $400 -$500 for about 8 travel days. The countries you choose must all border each other and if those countries are not a popular ticket choice, you will need to order in advanced or get it online. Most major cities require you to reserve a seat, which will run you about $60 USD or more roundtrip. If you do not reserve seats earlier enough, you run the risk of the train being booked.  (You can still board the train, but you end up standing or sitting on the floor.)  If you choose to use the Eurorail, I recommend using it for Eastern Europe.  The countries tend to be closer together and there is less need for seat reservation.  The train can be time consuming if your destinations are not close.

3.Flying is the way to go

Flying in Europe is a dream.  It can be very cost efficient to catch a flight, not to mention time saving.  I flew from Geneva, Switzerland to London, England for $70 USD round trip and booked my ticket only two weeks before my trip. There are several travel sites that make flying cheap. I booked my flight directly through EasyJet (European Airline).  There is also Ryan Airlines and Skyscanner.com is also a great way find cheap flights.  Note:  if you use these airlines, the only bags that are free are carry-ons.  They can be very strict about the sizes of the carry-on, so check for measurements and do not push it.  Also, give yourself plenty of time to get through airport security, some airports are very small and cannot always get through people quickly. 

4.Booking a Room or Hostel

Hostels are popular among young travelers in Europe.  Hotels can be really expensive, so it is worth it for your budget to either book a hostel or rent a room or couch from someone. Hostels typically house anywhere from 3-10 people in a room.  (You can get a private or two person room but it isn’t cost efficient.) It sounds scary, especially if you’ve watch movies about Americans in foreign countries but really hostels can be a great environment.  In Barcelona, our hostel was very clean, had free breakfast, lots of young people and was in the center of town. I met some very cool people who recommended restaurants, tours and activities.  I even met a girl with the same name as me!  However, book ahead if possible.  In Paris, we did not book a room in advance and boy, oh boy did we regret it.  We stayed in a shabby hostel that was questionable in cleanliness and their idea of a complimentary breakfast was the vending machine.  Needless to say I slept on my sweater.  



imani and imani


If you aren’t a fan of Hostels and prefer a more private experience, try using AirBnB.  It’s a great website and app that is growing.  Locals rent out a room or sometimes their entire apartment. I didn’t personally get to use it but everyone who I know that did, enjoyed it.  If the host was there, they often acted as a person tour guide.  I tried to use AirBnB but my procrastination made it impossible for me to book anything.  Just because a space is available does not mean they will agree to you booking the space.  Remember these are people’s home.  They usually want enough to prepare for you.  They need to check their schedules, so give yourself minimum a week to book (and that may be cutting it close).

5.Always bring a Student ID

Even if you are not a student anymore.  Europe is all about the youth.  Most museums, attractions and activities offer a discount to students.  This can really help you shave down the cost of your activities.  Note; If you are in Paris, the Louvre will not give you a discount unless your school is located in the European Union. BOOOO!  However, the Eiffel Tower gives discounts to anyone under 24. 




6.Bring a Water bottle

Again, there are not a whole lot of water fountains and water in most restaurants are not free.  If you do order water, make sure you ask for tap water, otherwise you get overpriced bottled water.  It is better to just pack your own water and fill up on those rare occasions you find a water fountain.

***Bonuses****

*Paris smells like pee.  In fact a lot of urban Europe does.  *The toilets use very little water, so they smell as well. *Find the free beaches.  A lot of European beaches don’t have sand. (Spain does, they import it). * Doing laundry is expensive.  Learn to hand wash.  *If you are there for an extended time period, know that you will not have an oven.  Your refrigerator is miniature. *Starbucks is ridiculously expensive.  *PB&J is always in style.  *The European metro system is really good in urban cities. *Train Stations double as malls, don’t get sucked in.

 



I hope you all get the chance to visit Europe one day.  Learn from my mistakes.  I promise you will save soooooo much money and time.

 

-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


Baltimore: Is it Necessary?

source: Washington Post
source: Washington Post

The last year has been eye opening for many people. The black American plight officially made it past the boundaries of this country and is open for the entire world to see. While the rest of the world is finally seeing the struggle the black Americans still go through, black people have always been aware. We are always reminded of the color of our skin; whether it’s in the classroom, at the store, walking down the street or with a group non-black friends. No matter how good you are, it is never quite good enough to prove to the world the worthiness of black people. If you are a successful black man or woman, you are believed to be the exception. You are not really representing blacks. We are always reminded the much of the world views us as inferior.

Freddie Gray
Freddie Gray

The murders of people of color by officers over the past year have been amplified. These acts of brutality aren’t new but thanks to social media and technology, it is no longer just the problem of blacks. Growing up we knew better than to trust the cops. We wouldn’t call the police unless it was absolutely necessary. The black community and law enforcement have had strained relations long before now.

Source: USA TODAY
Source: USA TODAY

Many people are criticizing the acts of youth in Baltimore right now, the same way the criticized the youth in St.Louis. I refused to do that. Right now teenagers of color have it bad. They are being taught in classrooms that they aren’t shit. The government reminds them that they are worthless everyday when more money is invested in the prison system than in their schools and communities. As a youth worker, I’ve had discussions with teenage boys who had no desire to dream because they knew for most of them it wasn’t worth it. Many black teens have accepted that they may not live past 24 and that their days as a free man are limited. Prison has become an accepted right of passage. Violent encounters with the police are expected. Living in poverty with no access to health care is the regular. So excuse them for not giving a damn. Excuse them for their refusal to respect the institution that doesn’t respect them.

Personally, I think they have it right. They have the right to be angry. They are the main targets. Those who hate people of color are trying to eliminate POCs while they are young. Black youth are choosing to go out fighting over laying down. They are challenging an unjust and illegitimate authority. I fear for them just as much as I am proud of them. I want them to know that they have power. They can change their own lives. They can make a difference. The youth are so often ignored and silenced and now they refuse to be. I admire it.

Source: Madam Noire
Source: Madam Noire

I wish things could be peaceful, fair and just. I wish that peaceful protest garnered as much media and political attention as the riots and uprisings did. We don’t live in that world right now. A friend of mine told me a long time ago to be a hellraiser and to raise hellraisers. He told me that polite people don’t incite change, only those who are willing to disrupt the comfort of those in power can. I think today’s teenagers are hellraisers. I believe that they know where the world should be and they will continue to push the world to that level.

Is the violence, looting and destruction of property necessary? History has taught us that every great revolution has two sides: the violent and non violent. So to answer the question, I would say yes. Yesterday’s events in Baltimore were necessary. The events in Saint Louis (Ferguson) were necessary, LA was necessary. That being said, we still need the other side. We need those leaders that call for calm. We need those who will redirect the anger of the youth. We need those who are willing to stand in front of storefronts to protect the community’s businesses. Together both sides have a role. They balance each other. So, I can admit that the violence and destruction of property is necessary. It has a role to play in the growing revolution.

Ending Police brutality is just the first step. We will eventually break down the foundation of the system that oppresses people of color. Poverty will no longer determine a person’s health or ability to be successful. It is not just about Mike Brown, John Garner or Freddie Gray. It is about setting a group of people free that have been enslaved since the slave trade.

I could go on forever about the subject. Instead I will suggest some readings.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Nigger by Randall Kennedy

Black Boy by Richard Wright

Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton

Motorcycle Diaries I and II by Che Guevarra

Angela Davis, An Autobiography by Angela Davis (she also have several books on prison injustice.  I have not read them yet).

*Yes, I have read them all.  I am recommended them because they give different perspectives throughout time of the effects of racism, poverty, classism, etc.

Take A Shot For Me:  Turmeric Edition 

 

At some point, we will all get older.  I fully accept and embrace this.  However, I never want to feel old or sickly.   I work hard to pick up habits that nurture my health and act as preventative maintenance for my body. 

 

I am extremely tolerant, so most drug store medicines and products do not work for me long, if at all.  This in mind, I have to be proactive in keeping myself in good health.  I am always looking for superfoods and home remedies that do just that. 

 


 

Turmeric is a great example of a food that has great benefits for your body.  Turmeric contains the active ingredient Curcumin, which is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.

 

Benefits:

-Acts as a natural anti-inflammatory

-Aids in fat metabolism

-Helps with weight control

-Natural liver detoxifier

-Natural pain killer

-Natural antiseptic

-Believed to help reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s

-Found to prevent and reduce the spread of cancers such as  leukemia, breast, prostate and lung cancer

-Can help treat symptoms of Arthritis

-Can aid in relieving depression

-Controls Diabetes

-Reduces cholesterol 

 

 

With all the benefits turmeric offers, I drink a shot or 1 oz of my turmeric drink every morning as a preventative effort.  If you are actually sick or treating symptoms of one of the above ailments, I recommend taking 2-3 shots a day.  You know your body, so increase consumption at your own pace and discretion.

 

 

Ingredients for an 18 oz bottle:

Coconut water

3-4 tablespoons of turmeric powder

Cayenne and Black Pepper (the spices)

Lemon Juice (add as much or as little as you like)

Honey (again this is up to your discretion)

Cinnamon (just a splash)

*Pineapple Juice (I don’t add pineapple juice to mine, however, if the taste of turmeric is too strong or unfavorable to you, pineapple juice does wonders with making anything taste good.)

 

(This recipe was adapted and altered from the Real Girls Kitchenhttp://realgirlskitchen.com/)

 

 

Turmeric is just one super-food that has great benefits, what are your super-food favorites? 

 

-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

Barcelona, I love you

Paella.  Very common spanish cuisine.
Paella. Very common spanish cuisine.

Of the five European cities I’ve visited so far, Barcelona is hands down my favorite city. It has a culture about it that is very different than the other European cities I visited. It is festive, a constant celebration. It’s a city full of hustlers and the political history of this city runs rampant.  There is so much to do in Barcelona and so many people to meet. It’s an excellent place for travelers. Travelers in Barcelona have an agreed upon bond. When you embark on a journey in this city, you can never be alone, you have a traveler’s family.

Laughing in Spain
Laughing in Spain

“I am in love with [Barcelona]. Probably more than Paris. Barcelona has so many hidden beauties in all of its nooks and crannies. It is seriously like a concrete old world maze. The architecture is typical Europe but with more gothic finishes than you could image. It’s so urban and so festive. If I could live in a European city it would be Barcelona. The entire city is filled with old world charm. The city is built upon war, blood and corruption and the evidence of the differences in political views are everywhere. Even still there is something so mesmerizing about this place…” –excerpt of my journal while there.

City view in the Parc de Guille
City view in the Parc de Guille

Where I Stayed:

I stayed in a hostel called Equity Point Gothic. Equity Point has numerous hostels throughout Europe (The US also) and three in Barcelona. I highly recommend staying in Equity Point Gothic. It was a great location and a great hostel for young people travelling. The hostile itself is very clean. You get a complimentary breakfast (if you get up early enough). They provide you with clean linen and there are lockers for your belongings. You can choose to stay in large rooms by sex, mixed rooms or pay more for more private rooms. A lot of people use Air BnB in Barcelona and this is a great option as well. However, I think hostiles such as Equity Point allow you to meet and interact with other travelers much better. I also highly recommend storing some of the fruit and breakfast foods in your bag for snacking later in the day. Because we were in such a great location, we hardly used public transit. Location is everything, so do your research on where you are staying.

http://www.equity-point.com/our-hostels/gothic-point-hostel/general-information.html 

Catalonian musician
Catalonian musician

What I Did:

I did pretty much everything. I’m not big on the travel guidebooks. I find them to have too much fluff and they aren’t always current. Instead I used Google and Trip Advisor. I literally googled “Things to do in Barcelona”. Google will provide pictures of popular locations and activities at the top of your search. Trip Advisor provides you with prices, reviews and current hours. From these two methods, I found myself in the Parc de Guille, Sagrada Familia, Museu Picasso (museum), Santa Maria del Mar (catholic church), Casa Batllo and more. (Bring a student ID. Barcelona has student prices for pretty much everything).

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My first day in Barcelona, I went on a walking tour recommended by the front desk agent at my hostel. Walking tours are great. They are tip based, so it’s really affordable and because you are walking, you get to see more and you have more time to take pictures in front of sites. It was also a really great way to get to know other travelers. Through this tour and my awesome tour guide, I learned about Catalunya and Barcelona’s history. I was so amazed to see how few people in Barcelona/Catalunya identified as Spanish. There are Catalunyan flags hanging everywhere! We did the two hour tour, so I couldn’t begin to tell you everything I saw. There is also a strong Jewish history here, take a stroll through the Jewish Quarters and learn about their exile.

Again, I highly recommend being friendly with other travelers. Through word of mouth, I learned about an awesome Flamenco dance show, great restaurants, and received directions to the beach. There are so many hidden gems here, so be sure to talk to some strangers.

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What to Watch Out For:

Barcelona is a city full of hustlers. Watch your shit! It is the pick pocketing capital of Europe. I know so many people who have been pick pocketed while there. Ladies, I highly recommend you use bags with longer, thicker straps that you can wear across your bodies. Keep the bag in the front. Guys, I also recommend you invest in a nice man bag or a shoulder backpack that you can keep in front. Traditional bookbags can easily be stolen from so I don’t recommend their use. Also, do not carry all of your cash in one place. I recommend having a smaller amount in one place for use so that you aren’t pulling out large wads of cash. Barcelona hustlers are always watching, so be careful.

beach babes
beach babes

Also, there are a lot of street vendors. This is normal in Europe however, DO NOT BUY ALCHOLIC DRINKS FROM STREET VENDERS. It is illegal and unsafe. It is not uncommon for there to dangerous ingredients in these drinks. On the beaches, it will seem like its ok because there are so many and they have a legitimate looking set up but it is still not safe and still illegal. Buy your drinks from restaurants or shops only.

Also if you go to the Parc de Guille, do not be shocked if the loads of park vendors disappear at the sight of a cop. Buy from them while you can because they may be gone when you get back.

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There is so much more I could say about Barcelona and its treasures but I will stop here. At a later date, I can review some of the places I visited in depth. I will say that the top three places/activities I did in Barcelona were: The Parc de Guille, the walking tour and the flamenco show!

I hope this helps for those who are considering going to Barcelona. Feel free to comment with questions or your own Spanish stories.

-Imani

Life is a Journey

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It can be difficult to accept that our plans may not always workout.  It is even more difficult when accepting that your plans and goals for yourself are not in line with the purpose God has for you.

I am a notorious planner.  I like things to go as I planned and I like things to make sense but sometimes things don’t make sense.  Sometimes you have a calling for something you may not have foreseen.  It happens this way for most us.  Most of us fall into talents and opportunities we didn’t expect.  Not saying we didn’t work to earn this opportunity but we just didn’t plan for it.

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I am learning, like most of you, that it is ok to go with the flow.  It’s ok to fall in love with something that is outside of our plans.  Planning and goals can be good.  It makes us feel comfortable, it’s a great way to make sure you are always doing your best, but sometimes we have to let go of the plan.  I have a difficult time doing this but life is so much easier when you accept what is.

In the past two years, none of my original plans have worked out.  Not one.  There were so many points where this absolutely crushed me, or so I thought.  However, life has really played out in my favor.  In two years, I have managed to do quite a bit of traveling both domestically and internationally (though I would LOVE to do more).  I’ve strengthened friendships and built new ones.  I’ve grown so much closer to my family; immediate and extended.  I’ve found a love for running (my first half marathon is in a week).  I’ve had a slew of jobs, none of which were Ideal but I’ve learned a lot about my strengths, gifts, weaknesses and what I don’t want in a career.  I also earned another degree (MA in International Relations) along the way.

Last day as a Masters Student
Last day as a Masters Student

So no, nothing happened the way I wanted but thus far I feel pretty accomplished in most areas of life.  I will continue to plan because that is just who I am.  I’m sure there will be another time that I will be disappointed when they don’t work out.  However, I won’t let that disappointment crush me and I will be ok with what is.  Life is a journey and it is meant to be explored.  There will always be trials and errors but the best results will always come.

I would change absolutely nothing about my life or my experiences because they have made me who I am.  I like me and I hope you like and love the person you are and are becoming.

Enjoy the ride.

-Imani

s/o to instagram for the meme
s/o to instagram for the meme

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.