Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Senseless

I just finished watching a video of man verbally and then physically assault an elderly couple on a bus.  Fortunately, when his assault became physical the several members of the bus rallied together to literally kick the man off of the bus.  Senseless.

I write this post through drying tears.  Sometimes I am just saddened beyond words how people treat each other.  People practically look at me as if I were a saint when I hold the door for others.  I was always raised to be kind to the sick, elderly, and pregnant.  I was always taught to be nice to everyone.  My faith has ingrained within me message of loving my neighbors because Jesus loves me.

When I see videos like I did today or yet another murder in the city, I feel this overwhelming sense of disappointment.  I wonder when did we get to his point.  How did we stray so far from the ideal that "it takes a village"?  More importantly, I contemplate if we will ever get back to the way we used to be.

I am not a blind idealist.  I know that "back in the day" was not always some land of optimism and pleasantries.  This country has had a history of treating people as less than human.  But that is not the point I mean to make today.

So what is the point?  When did we stop caring for each other?  When did it become ok to curse out elderly people on the bus?  Even more, why is it ok to shoot a video of someone attacking an elderly couple on a bus and the laugh in the background when the attacker is getting attacked himself.  Why do we laugh at videos of children fighting each other?  Why do we glorify violence on the "reality" shows that we love so much?  When did please and thank you become optional sayings?  What has sparked this meanness, this violence?  And is it all just the beginning of the end?

It makes me glad that I don't have kids.  It makes me even happier that I don't want kids.  I cannot begin to imagine how parents are able to navigate the circumstances of today when raising children.

I guess all I can do is continue to behave how my parents taught me.  Maybe if there are enough of us that set positive examples to others that I will never see another senseless video like I saw today.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Reality Bites


I admit it I am addicted to reality tv.  From Project Runway, maybe the Voice from time to time, to Chopped, I love it!  While I have not seen it all, I have seen enough to know that reality tv is my vice of choice.  But my favorite thing to watch?  The Real Housewives of <insert city here>.  But by far the Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) is my above all favorite.  Each Sunday I make sure to have my schedule cleared to sit down and watch the outrageous cast of RHOA.  Shoot I even live tweet during the show.

But this Sunday was different.  In fact, the past few months have been different.  I am not sure if it is this working on becoming a better person thing, my spiritual journey quest, or simply a change of heart, but I am beginning to think that I need to distance myself from RHOA.  It was this past Sunday when we all saw what we having been waiting to see for  weeks, the RHOA Reunion where Porsha and Kenya threw down. At a time when I would normally delight in my weekly scheduled indulgence I was disgusted.

Television has long been the only image that people have of black people.  Many people had never seen black people until they were introduced through stereotypical representations of us on tv.   Black men were slaves and/or angry.  Black women were also slaves, or maids, or provocative sexual beings existing only for the pleasure of a man.  But that image has clearly changes.  Black women went from being Claire Huxtable to either having a sex tape, scrapping at restaurants and high class functions, or both.  The image of black women portrayed on television has taken a rather sharp digression, a digression that could have an impact on generations yet to come.

The irony of reality tv is that there really is no reality in it.  Story lines are created.  Situations are set up.  Characters are manipulated.  All to achieve the biggest drama which will equate to the highest ratings.  But in reality black women do not go around pulling hair and threatening to beat each other's ass when they have a disagreement.  Women do not carry around scepters and use a bullhorn to speak to each other.  If someone says something you don't like you do not get up and drag them across of a stage by their hair.

As black female I wish not to further condone this behavior.  I don't think any of us should.  Children should see examples of strong black females.  They need role models who are educated, who have businesses, are artists, athletes, who are pioneers paving the way for others following behind.  We don't need images of fighting nor the degradation of our fellow black woman.  We should be building each other up and not tearing each other down.  We should not allow these reality stars to extend their 15 seconds of fame through inappropriate behavior.

Of course not all reality tv is bad.  There are many reality stars  who use their shows and their images for good.  But that is not what sells is it?  Because people use trash tv as a form of escapism from their own problems there will always be a market.  However if we as a collective whole decide to take our business elsewhere the market will be dead.

So I am making this plea to whoever is reading:

Reality stars: if you are known for your inappropriate behavior please either resign from your position our clean up your act.  If you truly care about our children and even your own children, if you care about positive images of black women on tv you owe it to us all.

Everyone else: I ask my fellow reality tv viewers to boycott trash tv.  Do it for the kids.  Do it for your own sense of peace.

I can't say I am going to totally give up on reality tv, but I am going to make an effort to stay away from shows that are not in alignment with my morals, values, and spirit.  I hope that you will follow me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday!

Today is Good Friday!  Historically, this is the day that Jesus died on the cross.  I have always wondered why it was called "good" when it really seemed like quite the opposite.  According to my sources (Wikipedia) the origin of good actually could mean holy, which makes far more sense.

For me today is "good" for me for a different reason.  Today, I am getting baptized for the first time!  When I tell people that I have never been baptized they are usually shocked.  I mean most people are baptized as children.  But not me!  I am so excited that I will have friends and family who will be witnessing this very special occasion.

While I am getting baptized they will be reading my story.  Now I am pretty sure that it might get shortened due to time constraints.  However, I wanted to share it with you all because it is something of which I am very proud.  Here it is in its entirety:
 A lot of people were surprised when I told them that I was going to get baptized.  I did not grow up going to church.  Sure I went to Sunday school sparingly, but never on a regular basis.  But in my heart I always believed that God was a presence in my life from an early age.  When I was in college I started going to church more often.  It was actually back then at a gospel concert that I officially accepted Jesus into my life. 
I continued going to church in law school, but it was when I came back home to Maryland that I really started to work on my relationship with God.  When I returned, I began to attend church each weekend.  In fact not a week goes by when my mother doesn't ask me if we are going to church and at what time.  Week after week I would sit listening to the sermon with tears streaming from my eyes.  Many times I had no idea why I was crying, but I knew that a change was beginning. 
For the past few years life has been challenging.  I have struggled with unemployment, taking care of my mother, and the feeling that I am not fulfilling my purpose.  But throughout this process I have remained faithful despite the days when I feel as if I have no more to give.  If anything, my faith has grown stronger.  Each day I try to work on practicing forgiveness, patience, and love for others just as God has practiced with each one of us.  Each day I lean on God for strength and guidance.  In fact my favorite passage is: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (KJV) 
Some of you may ask why get baptized now?  Well it is kind of like the line from the movie “When Harry Met Sally”, “Because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”  Long ago I decided to give my life to Christ, now I want to start living the rest of my life with him as soon as possible. 
My baptism has many meanings.  It is a follow through to a decision that I made many years ago.  It is a sign of obedience to God.  It is a sign of progression in my faith.  But perhaps most importantly my baptism represents that I have put my trust in God.  It is a testimony that I am walking in faith and that I am not scared to declare to my family, my friends, and the world that I am a proud follower of Christ.
Everyone have a great Easter!

#HoCoFaith

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reprogram Your Thoughts



I have always been of the philosophy that your thoughts can control your outcome.  I usually call it positive thinking.  If you think negative thoughts you will have negative results, however if you think positive results you will have positive results.  And I think that for the most part I try to stay as positive as I can.  But there are those times when I feel like my negative thoughts, my worrying, the always planning for the worst cast scenario side of me hoovers like a dark bleak cloud.  It is in those times when it is really hard to think positively.  It feels almost impossible to think of the good side of it all.  I even wrote a little about this in my post Get My Mind Right last year.  But for the past few weeks I have really been making a conscience effort in reprogramming my thoughts.

I don't think it is by coincidence that I had the urge to write about this topic today.  In fact, it was just this weekend when I was telling one of my friends of my efforts to change my thoughts.  But today, God sent me a reaffirmation of this practice.  

All this month I have been reading the book I Declare:  31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life written by Joel Osteen.  My friend gave me this book a few months ago, but I just started it reading it at the beginning of the month.  This book is a powerful tool.  In fact, some of the declarations speak so strongly to my journey right now that I feel like this book was placed in my possession only through God's wisdom.  Today's declaration is to "have a sound mind filled with good thoughts, not thoughts of defeat."  And boy is this a struggle.

A few days ago a friend was checking up on me to see how I was doing.  I told her that I was feeling good and that God was really making some changes in my life and that I felt like I was about to start a new phase. She told me that she was happy for me, but to be on the look out.  That the devil tries to block from receiving our blessings and tries to keep our eyes off of God.  I listened to her warning, but at the same time I was thinking I have been through enough I can take anything.  That same day I found out that I did not get the job that I had interviewed for.  I was a little disappointed, maybe even a little sad, but definitely not defeated.  

Yesterday I took my car in only to get a break light fixed.  I casually asked them to look at the breaks because there was some squeaking.  The estimate came back for over $1400 worth of repairs.  I was sad.  But I also very calm.  And again I was not defeated.  Over my the course of my life, money, or shall I say lack of money, has been an issue for me for quite sometime.  Even before I became unemployed money was still an issue.  However, I am used to this and I realize that I can only do what is in my power. The me from a few weeks ago might not have handled everything so well.  I can only thank God for that.

Financial issues aside, there have been a lot of issues that I have been dealing with the last few months that require me to reprogram my thoughts.  I have been dealing with how others see me and how I see the world.  I have analyzed how I am as a person, who my friends are, and how friendships work.  I have questioned what I am bringing into the world and how I fit in.  At times I have definitely had some stinking thinking.  But I think the difference is that I can recognize it and really work and pray to change those thoughts.  It is not easy.  No it is very difficult to make a conscience effort to change your thoughts.  

Over the past few weeks I have gone through this whole uncomfortable feeling of change.  However, at the same time I have also experienced some peace as well.  I can only think it is partially from working to reprogram my thoughts.  I encourage everyone to give it a try, it might just change your life.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Words Beats & Life

If you went to the University of Maryland between 2000 and 2003 chances are you have heard of Words Beats & Life.  Words Beats & Life (WBL) founded by my friend, Mazi Mutafa, started as a conference at the University and 12 years later it has ascended to an organization that is affecting change around the world!

This morning I was honored to attend the WBL Breakfast of Champions.  I, along with many others, were honored for our contributions to the organization. To be honest, when I received the invitation I didn't think much of it.  In fact, my thoughts were hmm I am off and I like breakfast so I might as well go.  I would have never thought that I would be a part of a breakfast that raised over $73,000 in an hour!

So let me tell you more about WBL.  According the website the mission of WBL is
to transform individual lives and whole communities through Hip-Hop.  We do this through public art creation, teaching courses in the core elements of Hip-Hop, publishing a global academic journal on Hip-Hop, sending artists abroad and hosting Teach-Ins and retreats to build the capacity of scholars, artists and arts educators and arts managers from throughout the country and around the world.
Over the past few years I have seen WBL grow and prosper.  This organization does it all.  They have an academy in which students can learn to DJ, dance, and even paint.  There are parties.  There is an annual teach- in that brings hip hop's finest from around the world.  There is an academic journal.  They hosted the first of its kind hip hop chess tournament.  And if you walk around the streets of DC you will see many of the murals that WBL were instrumental in creating.  Not only is this organization shaping the lives of individuals but communities as well.  It is so exciting to watch hip hop being utilized as an instrument of change!

Today I pledged to increase my monthly donor amount.  I also pledged to volunteer at at least two upcoming events.  But most important of all, I pledged to recruit at least two more monthly donors (called MVPS).  You can contribute as little as $5 a month or as much as you would like.  The organization also accepts in kind donations as well.  So please consider joining me in being an MVP for Words Beats & Life.

To learn more about WBL please go to:  http://wblinc.org/

Thursday, April 10, 2014

God's Conduit

Sunday morning was rough.  My mom was getting on my nerves, as usual, and making  my morning start off the wrong way.  That morning I was debating about which service to go to.  For the past few weeks we had been going to a new service at church where we sit at tables and have a group discussion after the sermon is played on the video screens.  However, I had spent the past few weeks ugly crying at church and I felt the need to be a little more inconspicuous.  But because of the rush of the morning we ended up going to the same discussion service as the week before.

As we walk into the room the usher informed me that our table captain had been waiting for us.  In fact, she had even saved a seat for me, my mom and my friend.  This is the same table captain that was there when I was a blubbering fool the week before.  I definitely felt a little guilty for my thoughts of not wanting to go to this particular service for my own selfish reasons, especially after everyone had been so nice and comforting.

This week at our table there were two unfamiliar faces.  They were a couple who looked like they were probably in their 40s or 50s.  They began to share that they had lost their son to a drunk driver in 2010. While not having had the same kind of loss with my father's passing, I was able to share with them some words of understanding and comfort.  The wife thanked me after and said my words had helped.  We ended up exchanging information a few minutes later.

I left church that day with this amazing feeling.  I thought how awesome is it that I almost missed this opportunity to help someone else who was in need.   I also was so shocked that God had used me as a conduit to help others.  I guess in my eyes I am still that girl who didn't grow up going to church and who has a limited understanding of the bible.  I feel like I would be the least likely person to help deliver God's messages.  But as I have told others this story  they don't share my amazement.  In fact, they have all had a sort of "duh" reaction. The duh, meaning that they have always seen me as someone who delivers words that help others.  I guess I am starting to realize that my desire to help others may not manifest in the way I had imagined.  I just feel privileged that God is using me in ways that I had never imagined nor may I ever understand.

I share this to say don't underestimate the power of words and their affect on others.  Words have the power to make someone's day but they also have the power to break someone's spirit.  You never know when you might be called on to say the right thing, to the right person, in the right situation.  Don't miss your opportunity.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Be Still




Recently I have been practicing being still.  Sometimes I just sit in my room with no music playing and no tv on.  I stop checking my email.  I stop checking my text messages.  I just sit still, in the rare quietness of my room.  And recently this silence has been golden.

Don't get me wrong I am no stranger to the love of silence.  Living in a house with multiple people I appreciate the time sometimes in the dead of night where you can hear only the sounds of a house that is breathing.  It is on those rare occasions that my mother has finally turned off her tv and her snores are so faint that I can appreciate only hearing the natural sounds made by nature during the night.  It doesn't happen very often but when it does I take it in like it is my last breath.

As much as I enjoy the silence it is rare that I am actually still.  I mean isn't rare that anyone is still?  In this age we are are constantly doing something.  We can't even wait at a red light without responding to a text message or checking email.  At least for me, each day is planned.  No matter how spontaneous I try to be to some extent I have a set aside time to be spontaneous.  Each hour of the day is planned for something that I will do or I could be doing.  We are so used to the feeling of being always being busy and shuffling from place to place that we are allow ourselves to be still with our thoughts.

This week I have been practicing this.  And this week practicing stillness has been kind of excellent.  I feel for a brief time that I have actually heard myself think.  I have had the chance to pray freely.  For once in a very long time I have enjoyed letting my thoughts roam free without the guilt of not devoting my attention to someone else or to something else.

In my stillness I am trying to take in more of God and less of me.  I am trying to process all of the feelings and thoughts that I have without the voice of others, just myself.  Try it out and see what you think.