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I’ve been blessed to encounter so many educated, beautiful and overall phenomenal women. They make me laugh, smile and are sources of inspiration. I can no longer be selfish, I have to share them with the world! So here you go, Black Girl Magic

Tell us about yourself…
I believe in the power of marketing for good and am not afraid to take risks as a marketing and communications professional, whether it is to promote my clients or myself!

After interning at ABC News 20/20 while at Hunter College, I could not accept that the experience was over, despite the fact that the interns were told just that. I penned a letter to the Executive Producer of the world-renowned news magazine, expressing what I would bring to the table as a journalist and storyteller. One week later, my phone rang. It was the EP calling to personally offer me a job. That was just the beginning. I went on to work in production at MTV and BET before I made the natural transition into the non-profit space. As a branding and marketing specialist, I have since consulted to and worked for several corporate, non-profit and governmental agencies including Burson-Marsteller, The City of New York, MSL Group, BroadCause, Abyssinian Development Corporation, Starbucks Corporation, Taproot Foundation, City Year, Target, Mobile Commons, Mary J. Blige, Jazz Foundation of America and more.

Being a woman of color, what has been your biggest adversity in your career?
Always having to prove! It may be having to prove that I belong at the table or that I know what I am doing once I get there. I have studied the social media space and I loved it. However, I found that oftentimes, I wasn’t welcomed in offices, which were mostly white and male. I was questioned, challenged, hazed and disrespected. An interviewer at a very well-known Foundation called me a ‘unicorn’ – she could not believe the caliber of my references and was, ‘looking for a flaw’. In my last role, someone who arrived a month before I did began questioning my ability two weeks after my arrival. At times, it angers me, I can’t lie. To get through it, I redirect. I pour mentorship into others who are just starting off in the space. I also go harder. I have always believed that I am my only competition. Finally, I keep God at the center of it all.

How would you define black girl magic?
Black Girl magic means rising above it all despite diversity all with amazing hair, nails and lip-gloss.

What motivates/inspires you?
The idea of what my legacy will be inspires me. I constantly think about what will be said about the mark I work so hard to leave on this earth will be after I have left and will it endure. I also am inspired my mom and sister!

If you can give black women any advice (career, life, love, etc) what would it be?
Know what you know what you know – at work, in love…don’t doubt your gut,
know that your steps are ordered. My favorite Bible scripture is Jeremiah 29.11. Check it out 🙂
Know that you cannot fail. You may fall but cannot fail.

How can we stay connected with you?
I love staying in touch! I’m on LinkedIn and also on Twitter @theajayieffect

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thoughts? feelings? opinions? comment, let’s talk about it!

Since 2012 I’ve heard Trayvon scream for his life, watched Tamir shot dead, I screamed as Walter ran for his life as a loaded gun was pointed to his back, I looked into the sad eyes of Sandra, I watched Eric take his last breath, I saw Freddie be thrown into the back of a police van to never be seen again, I saw Philando grasp for his life as a officer pointed a loaded gun at his girlfriend and daughter sat in the back, I saw Alton move for the last time and then heard his son cries.

With all we’ve seen you would think we would be use to it, immune to it, the death of our people in front of our eyes would be the norm. But something about these moments changed our perspectives; something was different, something about these moments made us mad, upset, enraged, scared, frustrated, and tired.

US-POLICE-CRIME-RACISM

Truth is – since 2015 346 black people in the U.S. have been killed by police officers, and that’s NOT counting what has happened 2016. According to Mappingpoliceviolence.org, 97% of the cases in 2015 did not result in any officers involved being charged with a crime. Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age. (The Guardian)

The question becomes: What can we do? How can we help? How can we try to make things better?

Here’s a few ways you can participate in the movement:

Know your rights! Know them so much that you can recite them by heart.

A key problem is a lot of us aren’t aware of our citizen rights. This is how to take your power back. Find your nearest library! (get to reading and printing!) Save it on your phone, and or computer. Take at least one hour out of your week to educate yourself, your friends, your family, and your community.

Below are a few of many gems to know:

MUST READ: What to Do When Stopped by the Police via BlackPolice.Org link

The 4th Amendment link Broken down a bit more link

Search and Secure link

Probable Cause link

Bear Arms Rights (State to State) link

Protesting Right link

First Amendment (Right to Peaceful Assembly) link

Go to your local officials: You change the laws!

A key issue isn’t with us; it’s with those who hold the higher power. But the beauty within us is in our voices. Write letters, go there alone, gather up a group. It’s in our power! Don’t know your local officials? Here’s a way to locate them – Link

Vote! Click here to register

Run for office, become a teacher, professor, activist, go back to school – become the system you want!

Connect & Organize (there’s power in number!)

It’s our right to peaceably assemble. It doesn’t require 193787 people, just a few people who share a common interest. Got friends? Know people? Gather them up, make a sign and speak out! Holding a public demonstration educates the public about issues and gives an opportunity for supporters to be heard. Don’t want to protest? Start a blog, start a petition, start a organization, start something…

Don’t know where to start and need back up? Here are some places to look into (there are many others): (click names) Generation Progress  Black Lives Matter  Black Youth Project  100 Black Men

Tweet, Snapchat, Blog, Write a Status…

Last week I saw so many people say things like “so what is tweeting or writing a status going to do?” The beauty in social media is that it can be viewed by everyone, which keeps it on everyone’s mind. We cant stop these conversations, we cant let things fade into the past

Don’t be afraid, don’t be timid, and don’t be silent!

The reality is that one day we all can be another hash tag. One day you can be walking down the street, driving in your car, out partying and the next thing you know a gun is being placed to your head and you’re living the last moments of your life. It is your duty to speak up for those who can no longer speak. Silence enables racism.

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My brothers and sisters there is a lot to do but, brighter days are ahead, don’t be discouraged! It’s now up to us as a unit to push those dark clouds to the side and let that sun shine on our melanin.

Can’t nothing stop us!

thoughts? feelings? opinions? comment, let’s talk about it!

The older I get the more I realize the importance of transparency. I’m not saying run around shouting your woes from the highest mountain top (do remember – everyone isn’t worthy of your story) but it is ok to share when your heart tells you too. You never know who you may help, influence or inspire.

Life for me had always seemed balanced. Granted, I had faced many adversities and there were tough times but I always made it through. Growing up my mother referred to me as being the strong one, able to deal with anything – so in my mind that was true. I had accomplished a lot in my short years of adulthood; as soon as I graduated I got a job, my own place, friends that loved to party, clothes and got the attention I wanted from the guys I actually liked … I mistook all of those things as blessings and loved every moment of it!

On the outside I was bubbly, fun, always had a joke up my sleeve and seemed happy but honestly I really wasn’t. Life felt like it was at a halt. Depression kicked in and there were days I just didn’t want to get out of bed. Days where I would turn off every light, close the curtains, put the covers over my head and just … sleep. Days where the only energy I had was to make something to eat, watch a sitcom (usually Martin or The Cosby Show) imagined my life was like theirs, cry a little and sleep. Days I would turn off my phone not wanting to talk to anyone and deactivated all of my social networks. Days when I would text everyone in my contacts, even guys I knew I wanted nothing to do with, I just wanted to feel wanted and have some type of control over someone’s emotions – since I couldn’t control my own. Days when I would join as many volunteer opportunities as possible; things from classes to workshops to mixers, not because I liked them but because I wanted to have a purpose and feel needed. Some days didn’t last long, I would usually bounce right back and no one would notice but there came a point when the feeling wouldn’t leave.

I had been depressed for weeks. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I cried for hours, called out of work (which wasn’t like me at all), wanted nothing to do with anyone – there was so much hurt and anger in my heart … it seemed unbearable. I finally decided to reemerge and called my best friend, my sister. She gave me encouraging words (…like she had done on numerous occasions) but everything went in one ear and out the other. It was as if no one understood what I felt, no one really got my sadness.

Days had gone by and she sent me a text that I am forever grateful for – she told me to go to church. I wasn’t a stranger to church, in fact I had gone to catholic school and knew bible verses word for word but there was really no connection. I decided to go alone … it couldn’t hurt.

The moment I walked into church and sat down – I felt my spirit had forever changed. I had been to this church many times, knew a few people there but this was something I had never felt. The Pastor preached the story of Gabriel going to Mary and telling her she would bare a son, named Jesus (Luke 1:26-38) her son would forever reign over his kingdom without end. Mary, a virgin, questioned how could this be – she had never slept with a man and was soon to marry Joseph, what would he say? The angel told Mary to trust in God, for with him nothing is impossible. Mary believed with her whole heart and Joseph took in Jesus as his child with love and they were forever blessed. The Pastor continued his sermon with the message of believing and that change can/will happen. I felt God tug on my heart, I knew he had crafted this message to feed me with what I had been missing and I needed.

I went home on cloud 9 and decided to take action … deleted every random out of my contacts (I’ll blog about RANDOMS and why everyone needs to get rid of them later) and prayed asking God to show me what I needed to do and without question get rid of anyone/thing that would bring me sorrow. He brought me to PINYPROMISEMOVEMENT.COM and introduced me to tons of women on the same journey and shared their encouraging words. Slowly people faded away, it got easier to not respond to messages and calls from those who weren’t pushing me in the right direction and he started bringing me closer to the people who love and truly support me.

In no way, shape or form am I saying…I am a completely different woman (there is still A LOT I need to work on)! But I do feel a change happening and my spirit is relieved. No longer do I drown in my sorrow and when I feel moments of despair – I PRAY. Other times I listen to a podcast or two (Joel Osteen and Gathering Oasis are some of my favorites), read passages in my bible (a GREAT on the go bible is YouVerision Bible app it’s completely free and you can highlight, write notes and bookmark your favorite verses). And when all else fails, I take quite moments and remember all that God has brought me through and there is more “happy” to come.I know the journey is going to be a L- O – N –G one but I am completely devoted and excited for all it has to offer.

Please know … everything happens in divine order. This may have been a grueling year, nothing seemed to go right but remember that each season God is preparing you for your next. You may not have understood it when it happened but it happened for a reason. Leave all your worry, pain, mistrust, dependence on others, heartache, jealousy in this year and stop trying to figure things out – a new journey awaits! All that you need and want will be given to you. Just trust and remember … with God all things are possible!

This new year belongs to YOU!

Saturday stands for “Sex and the City” marathons on T.V. You lie around and absorb all of the lavishness that is Carrie Bradshaw. At times you may cry, laugh and roll your eyes with envy but in the end you love every moment of it. She, Carrie, is blueprint of what being a New York City girl is – some even move to the Big Apple expecting to receive the “Carrie Treatment” as soon as their shoe hits the pavement but truth is … she lied! I know, it hurts but let’s face it – it’s all fiction.

Here’s the biggest lies of them all:

1. A single man is waiting for you at each and every corner.

Aidan, Jack, Aleskandr, Sebastian, and the unforgettable “Mr. Big” … Carrie was the epitome of a “hopeless romantic”. She always had a guy who was charming, easy on the eye and some even rich. No matter how bad Carrie treated him, he always wanted her back. Remember when Carrie ran into Aidan in Abu Dhabi? Even though Carrie had broken off their engagement, cheated on him with Mr. Big and he was now married and a father, he was still mesmerized and willing to risk any and everything to be with her. She did have her fair share of heartbreak (Jack broke up with her via post-it note) there was always another man there to save the day and love was seconds away … boo!

2. You can be jobless and still have it all in New York City!

Carrie not only owned her apartment, but she ate out at top notch restaurants and wore designer clothes! What was Carrie’s occupation you ask…she was a writer! A simple writer, she wrote a weekly column about herself in a newspaper and managed to maintain a lavish life. We never saw Carrie’s checks and she never had a busy work schedule but always made ends with a few extra thousand for a new pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes. There was one episode in the series when Carrie did mention of a small financial problem. Terrible with money she ran from friend to friend begging and borrowing BUT was QUICKLY saved by the ever-so wealthy Mr. Big and she went back to buying shoes … boo!

3. You’ll have a diverse group of friends – they’ll get along and will be RELIABLE!

Each week the girls would gather and have life recaps over expensive martinis. You had your promiscuous one, the uptight one, the over-analytical/prude and the self-absorbed one. Although the group was extremely diverse, they always got along (some were closer than others) they had a sisterhood. Their bond was so tight and rarely broken – they respected each other’s differences. Carrie always had a shoulder to cry on, someone to call if she wanted to randomly hang out and an ear to listen. It always worked –everyone meshed one big ol’ happy friend/family … boo!

So you’re a twenty/thirty something year old who lives in New York City and uber depressed because your life is nothing like Carrie Bradshaw’s … DON’T BE! Why? Because if Carrie Bradshaw was an actual character living in New York City chances are her life would be nothing like that either. She would be like the rest of us – single, semi-broke because rent is a million dollars with two or three friends (some cases one) that are actually dependable. Carrie would be a real city gal!

If there is one thing we all CAN learn from Carrie is to be FEARLESS! She did what she wanted, when she wanted and how she wanted. She moved to New York City on a whim with not a dollar to her name! In earlier episodes she said she was so poor when she first moved to New York that she would purchase Vogue instead of dinner. When friends weren’t too fond of her marrying Big, even after he stood her up at the altar … she married him anyway. And let’s not forget, when she left her “job”, apartment and friends and moved to Paris to be Aleksandr. Carrie always went with her gut and although she failed, sometimes repeatedly, nothing ever stopped her.

Maybe one day we’ll all live like Carrie Bradshaw but until then woe no more … just live like you!

‘Life gives you lots of chances to screw up which means you have just as many chances to get it right.” – Carrie

The first time I saw Roots, I was not only angry, overwhelmed, saddened but also excited – it was something that I had never seen before. Ranked as one of the 100 narrated TV shows of all times, Roots which was based on Alex Haley’s novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” told the story of Kunta Kinte who was captured from Gambia and sold to slave traders in 1767. It is Kunta’s journey from a free man in West Africa to his enslavement, generations after and in the end traces back to Alex Haley.

Compelled by the story, I asked for the Special Collector’s edition one Christmas, followed by the book and before I knew it I could recite the movie from beginning to end. Watching countless times, I realized there was so much I didn’t know. Granted, some of us go through the same dull lesson in middle school about Abraham Lincoln “freeing” the slaves, but we never go in-depth and talk about slavery. We never talk about slavery and religion, color division, mental illness and countless of things that still affect our society today. From Haley’s Queen Miniseries to Steven Spielberg’s historical film Amistad, I watched in complete awe – the older I got the more I appreciated filmmakers who would take a risk and shed a light on slavery and its forgotten relationship with America.

As time passed, the enthusiasm died down and films about slavery became a rarity. It wasn’t until the recent awakening with Quentin Tarantino’s “unique” film Django Unchained, the things began to shift. Django, the fictional story of a freed slave on a mission to rescue his wife from a cruel plantation owner, was entertaining and (though I heist to say this!) slightly informative, even with its questionable storyline and unneeded over usage of the “n-word” it was a smash, slightly opening the door. Recently 2013’s box office hit The Butler, the story of Cecil Gaines, a white house butler, who witnessed notable events of the 20th century, from slavery to the 2008 presidential election of Barack. To the just released 12 Years a Slave, based on the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and held as a slave in Louisiana for 12years before being released, once frowned upon stories and now being told.

Being a lover of history, in particular black history, I’m excited for this rebirth and assumed everyone else would share that same excitement but actually I’m wrong. Some seem to be wary about the reawakening of slavery and slave narratives, some even call it pathetic.

The Guardian’s, black Canadian author Oriville Lloyd Douglas recently wrote an article titled “Why I won’t be watching The Butler and 12 Years a Slave”, Douglas says he doesn’t plan on seeing the recent “flood” of slavery based movies and is actually bored and exhausted with these kinds of “dramatic race” films.

He writes:

Lee Daniel’s new film The Butler is a box office success, already generating Oscar buzz, but I am not interested in seeing it. I’m also skipping British filmmaker Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, another movie about black people dealing with slavery.
I don’t know about other black people, but I don’t sit around all day thinking only about the fact I am black. I think about the problems in my life: the struggles, the joys, the happiness, most of which don’t involve the issue of race. As a black person, I can honestly say I am exhausted and bored with these kinds of “dramatic race” films.
The narrow range of films about the black life experience being produced by Hollywood is actually dangerous because it limits the imagination, it doesn’t allow real progress to take place. Yet, sadly,
these roles are some of the only ones open to black talent. People want us to cheer that black actors from The Butler and 12 Years a Slave are likely to be up for best actor and actress awards, yet it feels like a throwback, almost to the Gone with the Wind era.
I might have to turn in my black card, because I don’t care much about slavery. I’ve already watched the television series Roots, which I feel covered the subject matter extremely well. Of course , I understand slavery is an important part of any black person’s history, but dwelling on slavery is pathetic.

Though I understand his point, black history is more than oppression and there needs to be broader themes for black movies, to ignore it all and deem the “dwelling” on slavery as pathetic doesn’t make sense. Let’s face it, Mr. Douglas is quite fortunate that he doesn’t have to worry or think all day about being black and none of his problems involve the issue of race. It is beautiful to know that in Canada racism no longer lingers and discrimination is simply a thing of the past. (LET’S ALL MOVE TO CANADA!) Truth be told, slavery did happen and lasted well over 200 years. It isn’t just a figment of someone’s imagination. The “Wiz” in Hollywood didn’t hire a bunch of writers to create a fiction piece to wow the audience. Slavery is real and no one should ever turn a blind towards it.

Imagine sitting in a classroom filled with middle school kids, going over a Social Studies lesson and one yells out “…I’m tired of talking about slavery!” and another “Let’s talk about something else, slavery is BORING!” Truthfully, in 2013, there are many children and teens who don’t know anything about slavery or the civil rights movement. While watching a special on Oprah’s “Own Network” about The Butler, she said that she encountered young people who asked “are these stories actually true?” and she was shocked that they had no clue.

Am I tired of slavery films? Nope, not one bit. I promote that Hollywood explores not only slavery accounts but also dig deeper covering all aspects such as sharecropping, religion, rape and the list goes on and on – telling stories from a variety of perspectives. Or maybe even post slavery – the stories of Madame CJ Walker, George Washington Carver, Fannie Lou Hammer and countless of others who fought diligently to achieve equality and advance in all areas of life. Not only do these films explore moments that are rarely talked about but they also give jobs to black actors that are rarely noticed in Hollywood; giving opportunities to showcase their diversity in craft.

If you share the same tired feeling that Mr. Douglas has and are simply over the same mundane slavery movies, there is a very simple solution … don’t see them. If your black (…white, brown, purple, yellow, green) not seeing a slave movie will not send you to the fiery pits, it isn’t a requirement to be black and it definitely won’t strip you of your blackness – everyone is allowed their preference. Personally, I am tired of every year seeing the same euro-historical dramatic trailers where there are rarely any faces of color (if one at all) I.E. Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, The Kings Speech and the list is never ending. I am tired of movies where a woman is dying to find love and goes to hell and back. She sits with her girlfriends and cries hours upon hours confused as to why she can’t seem to find “Mr. Right”; luckily in the end after being damaged she meets her Prince Charming, finds God and realizes it was all worth it … yawn. In order to keep my sanity, I just avoid them.

In such a profound time in history, when black people are still being targeted by their skin color, not character and constantly having to prove their worthiness, it is imperative that generations before, now and after are forever reminded of the adversities and triumphs black people. Not only does this work as an educator but also to inspire … promoting the idea that no matter what you have encountered, you can be whatever and whoever you want to be.

Famous Jewish author and activist Elie Wiesel once said “To Forget the Holocaust is to kill twice.”

If only people felt the same way about slavery…

Note: Be sure to catch Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s “The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross” six-part series exploring the evolution of the African American people premiering Tuesday, October 22, 2013 on PBS.

Remember those days when you would run home from school to talk to your friends (who you JUST left at school) on the phone about what happened throughout the day. I would tie up my mother’s phone line with 3-way calls chatting about who did what to whom and what we planned on doing the next day. Once, some friends and I tried an experiment, I called two people and my friend called 2 more people and tried to get as many of us on the phone at once (the experiment turned out to be an epic fail.) Back in those middle and high school days nobody was messing with yo clique. You shared secrets, stories, ideas, problems; it was a good feeling to know you had a bond. And as time progressed you grew up, things changed and so did the definition of friendship.

Let Facebook tell it, I have well over 600 friends who know and like me, they come from all backgrounds and walks of life. Let Twitter tell you more, I have 300 + friends that follow my every word, concerned with what I have to say. The best is when my birthday rolls around and I get endless amounts of notifications sending me “Happy Birthdays” and other well wishes. Although, it is a highlight of each birthday, truth be told it just isn’t true, not only for me but for many. When you sit down and reflect count all those well wishes calls that are received throughout the year and more than likely the number will drop. Your “friends” dwindle down going from plural to singular.

In a New York Times article called “Friends of a Certain Age”, writer Alex Williams expands on the trials and tribulations of finding friends in your 30’s and 40’s. Even though I am years away from 30, in my 20’s I am faced with the same friendship dilemmas. My own trials, loneliness and confusion realizing “my crew” isn’t what I hoped it would be.

Shows like “Sex and the City”, “Girlfriends”, “Living Single”, and even my all-time favorite “The Golden Girls” paint pictures of the ultimate girl power groups. These women are bonded together by friendship. Never just two, there was a group of gal pals always on-call and willing to help. Watching shows like these build our ideas of what a friendship should be and how many friends one should have, ultimate becoming what we expect and want in reality.

““When you’re younger, you define what it really means to be friends in a more serious way,” said my screenwriter friend, Brian. My ideas of friendship were built by ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Diner,’ ” he said. “Your friends were your brothers, and anything but total loyalty at all costs meant excommunication. As you get older, that model becomes unrealistic.” (“Friends of a Certain Age”)

Honestly, a lot of our ideas of a how a friendship should be are unrealistic. Everybody doesn’t have a ton of friends on call, that sisterhood. Instead many of us have those groups of “friends” who are unreliable, self-serving, only flock when in need, or call when beneficial or to get the “tea”. You aren’t really sure if they’re sincere and some of them are bite by what I call the “New York City” bug, those people who are always saying “oh, I’m so busy. I can’t call you because I’m so busy. I can’t do anything because … I’m so busy.” But then you log on to a social network and see pictures of them laughing it up, out and about. Instead of holding on with a tight grip to those friendships for the sake of having friends, you slowly realize it just isn’t healthy.

I’ll be the first to admit, in the past I haven’t been the greatest gal pal. From not responding to a text or having a late lack luster reply, to showing up late to an event, to not fully expressing my feelings and at times not being constant. I’ve done my fair share of questionable friend behavior but in the words of a wise urban prophet by the name of Chrissy Lampkin “I’m flawed but I’m solid.” and that alone at times maybe hard to find. *I’m improving too!*

There will be weekends that pass without being flooded with phone calls and weeks when no one asks “How was your day? How are you doing?” Sometimes your phone may not ring. It may feel lonely, but you’re not really a lone. There are plenty of people going through the same adversity and my friend, I am one of them. Through my “journey” I’ve picked up a few gems …

Your friends will never be determined by quantity but will be determined by the quality. You don’t have ten friends, so? Do you have two or one that you can always count on? Be happy and thankful for that. You are blessed with the beauty of a true friendship, forget the number. If you want a good friend first you have to be one. That old cliché “treat others the way you want to be treated”, will forever haunt us all, but as tiring as it may sound, it’s true. You want a friend who loves you unconditionally? Well, do you love yourself and everyone unconditionally? Are you loyal to you? Are you always there for others? Be consistent with your own actions first and you’ll receive it back. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized developing friendships is like dating. You don’t find Prince Charming on the first date (unless your extremely lucky) everything takes time. True friendships that withstand the test of time and life’s transitions happen organically and can never be forced.

Embrace those who do reach out to check up on you, it may not be often but it’s happening. And when others don’t take the time to invite you out, reach out to them but don’t over reach. If you’re constantly inviting someone out and the role is never reversed, place them where they need to be and walk away knowing you gave it your best.

What may seem never ending and discouraging now, won’t last forever …

Brief disclaimer: I am writing this directed towards black women because I myself am one, was raised by one, I am the sister to some and inspired by others.

This is based on experience…

Let the media tell it, black women are mean, rude, cold, emotionless, judgmental and always complaining. Basically anything negative…that’s us! Not only are these words hurtful, they also have a negative connotation and don’t reflect all black women but it does speak volumes.

Truth be told, black women have it hard. First, we’re women which is a challenge. Second, we’re black and combing both means we have to work harder, think smarter and move faster. On top of that we have to be a strategist; cooking, cleaning, working, going to school, catering to a man (sometimes a woman) all while remaining motivated and hoping everything turns out successful. Now, how the heck do you expect someone to smile and bat their lashes while doing all of that? Yes, I know it’s hard and sometimes never ending but does it have to be? Do you have to walk around carrying your entire burden on your back, all the time?

Case in point, Keyshia Cole, you can’t help but to like her. Her “around the way girl” appeal, multicolor hair, ever-changing hairstyles, her relatable lyrics and that feeling she gives you when you’re going through it! “ummhmm, Keyshia! That’s how I’m feeling!” So when I saw she was coming back to BET with another show, not only was I interested but also excited. Even though, I felt betrayed, my around the way home girl had transitioned into a wife and a mother … who was going to tell me I should have cheated and to change my mind now? I was happy for her progression and comeback, so I thought…

The first episode left me a tad confused. She came off as smug, cold and often disconnected from her husband. Instead of jumping to conclusions I channeled my inner Monica and wrote it off as her having “just one of those days”, we are all human and we have them.

The following week I tuned in again and Keyshia was the same exact way, in fact she was more unreasonable, emotionless and guarded. She finally had some of what she wanted; a husband who clearly loves her to death (every word he speaks is about her and him thanking God for her), a cutie potie child and guess what… Frankie is clean. Yet, she seemed more displeased than before. I couldn’t help but to ask my television…Sister, why are you so bitter?

Yes, she had a hard life but who hasn’t had hardships? Like her, there are plenty of black women who have dealt with abandonment, a mother or a parent an addicted to drugs, a man who has treated them unfairly, not receiving the respect and appreciation she deserves. In life you are given challenges but those challenges aren’t meant to define you but instead to make you a better person – give you a lesson. But like Ms. Cole, plenty of black women wear their hurt on their sleeve, sporting it and wondering why they’re so damn miserable.

One song that should be on every woman’s iPod and listened to once a week is Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady”

Bag lady you gone miss your bus
You can’t hurry up
Cause you got too much stuff
When they see you comin
Men take off runnin
From you it’s true oh yes they do…

Girl I know sometimes it’s hard
And we can’t let go
Oh when someone hurts you oh so bad inside
You can’t deny it you can’t stop crying
So oh, oh, oh
If you start breathin
Then you won’t believe it
You’ll feel so much better…

By holding on to every hurt from your past not only does it injure you as a person, also has the potential to block blessings. Your eyes are so red with anger that you can’t see the light and positivity anywhere.

There was a scene where Keyshia and her husband went to couple’s therapy; although reluctant he agreed to go. Keyshia expressed her complaints and the therapist tried to get Keyshia and her husband to stop making generalizations about each other and to look at the bright side, Keyshia was not fazed. She sat their firm in her ways and it was even painful to watch. Everything she said about her spouse was negative, instead of coming to therapy (she suggested) with an open mind, her heart was cold and her guard was all the way up. She blocked all the love her husband was showing her but hold on to all the pain she built up and for what? Nothing came of the meeting and there was a point when her spouse suggested he would leave if this had all continued. A prime example, that when holding on to pain, we slowly begin to categorize people based on past hurt and it the long run, future relationships are damaged.

I’m not saying that I skip through meadows, holding flowers and singing happy songs every day and I’m no Iyanla Vanzant, but as I grow older I’ve been slowly understanding the importance of happiness and letting go. Your adversities don’t have to haunt, unless you want them to. The generalization of black women being mean may not be forgotten once you drop your pain and sorrow, but your own personal happiness will increase.

Keyshia’s season is far from over, I think there might be a few episodes left and who knows she may change, she may not. But one thing I can take away from her series and I hope you take this away too: Pain eats at your soul and no matter where you go it will follow and eventually you will become that bitter angry woman that no black woman wants to become…LET IT GO.

Welcome to 2012, where validation is sought-after through Instagram likes, nothing is ever personal, weed is recreational and strip clubs are the new hang out spots. Yes, if you ain’t at the strip club you just ain’t hot.

From Maliah Michel to Draya Michele to Blac Chyna to Amber Rose, strippers haven’t only become the hot commodity for rappers but they also have taken over music. You can’t listen to one song without mention of a stripper dropping it, popping it, slaying it, tossing it up and down, throwing it (…you get the point). It seems as if you don’t mention a strip club or a stripper your song just isn’t hot. Now, I don’t mind hearing about strippers in every single rap song I listen too. (I’m lying) If she wants to dance for Bands, go ahead, but I do have a problem when it pours into my everyday life.

For an associates birthday she wanted us all go to a strip club and I agreed, it was her birthday and she had always been kind to me, so I thought ok. I didn’t know what to expect, I had never been to one and never really had a desire too. Don’t get me wrong, I love women and I think it takes a certain confidence to get in front of hundreds of people and flaunt what your mother gave you, clap and applaud to that courage, but I just didn’t want to see and pay to see it at that. I went and before made sure I had a drink to loosen my mood, walking in we were double and triple checked by security after waiting on a long line, we proceeded in. With music blasting in the background, I scanned the crowded expecting to see your typical rapper-esque men but no oh no oh no…it was 80% women! All types of women, a few were even dressed as if they were the strippers.

The night continued on, my drink had worn off and I was over it. After hearing Meek Mill’s “House Party” 202043874737 times, I knew my time was up, I tapped one of the girls I was with and said “Hey, I’m leaving, have a great night. Talk to you later.” And instead of receiving a “Bye, girl get home safe.” I got a “Why, are you being like that and leaving?” followed by a “catty” stare. Granted, I didn’t participate like the rest of the crew I was with (by participate I mean, throwing some money on a girl, slapping a couple of butts and getting my very own personal lap dance, complimentary head stand in my lap of course.) there was no reason to judge. Instead of a side eye response, I left.

I can’t count how many times, I’ve been asked to go to a strip club after that. Literally, it has become the hang out spot for most of the people I know and a large group of them are women. (Well, recently a guy I was dating asked “for my birthday can we go to a strip club? Throwing money of a few girls together.” and when I responded with a “huh?” he dropped the subject.) Usually, before I’masked I get a “I know you’re not into women touching you…” or “I know how you feel about strippers…” or a “Nah, you act to stuck up for strip clubs…” WRONG! It has nothing to do with the club itself, but why should I be forced to go, even if it’s what’s popular, if I don’t like it. Yes! I am not afraid to stand up and say… I don’t like going to strip clubs! *sigh of relief*

When I was younger, a strip club or strippers were something reserved. Going was your personal business and kept personal. Men that did go were stereotyped as horny and extremely creepy, who couldn’t get a woman so he would frequent strip clubs to get a peek of what he didn’t have. And in some other cases, strippers would attend a guy’s bachelor party as his last hurrah and glimpse of the single world. But now, you even have children with aspirations of becoming a stripper and going to clubs. With all the glitz and glamor glorified in music and videos, it’s hard not to think the life is dazzling and imagining weekends at the strip club, but I just don’t get it.

Truth be told, a lot of the females that do frequent these clubs, do it because it’s what’s in, seems appealing to men, and want to meet men. Really think, what man would take any woman serious who he sees every week at the strip club? What woman would want a man who spends every week at the strip club? Why would you spend money you barely have, every week at the strip club? Personally, it saddens me that women have been belittled so much to the point that we join in on the belittling. (but that’s another topic…)

So excuse me if I don’t want a Big Booty Whore for my birthday, and I don’t jump for joy when it’s ladies night at the strip club…it just isn’t my thing. And Bandz won’t make this brown girl dance, but paying back my student loans and investing in my career would.

Twiddling my thumbs at work, I was suffering from a serious case of boredom.

It was a Friday and like most New York City offices, Fridays are dead days; co-workers have already placed their “I’m sick and won’t be in today.” calls  (actually it means “screw work, I’m starting my weekend early!”) or everyone has rushed out for an extended lunch break.

Searching for things to do, I couldn’t help but to think of the younger me and how I was in such a rush to be older.  Eager to reach adult life, many days were spent dreaming of the fancy exciting job I would have, all the extreme things I would have done and the rebellious life I would live. No one could ever tell me anything! And now, older me, I spend a good deal of my time volunteering with and mentoring young girls, each day drilling into their heads decent amounts of advice, often receiving reluctant “thank you’s” followed by eye rolls.

(18 year old rebellious me…)

I recalled all the things I wish I knew, the things I would love to tell myself if I could travel back to give the 18-year old me advice. So after some free hours of thinking and deliberating, here are 18 things I wish someone told me when I was 18:

1. Ask Questions – Ask! Ask! Ask! One of the greatest things about life is having the ability to learn and how can you learn if you don’t ask? With every answer comes knowledge – no question is too big or small. So open that little mouth up and speak! “Closed mouths never get fed!”

2. What’s the Worst Someone Can Tell You? ….No? – You never know a outcome unless you go head first for it. Want that internship? Ask. Want to go on that trip? Ask.  And you will hear no at times, but sooooo. A no means nothing unless you give it meaning. So keep on keeping on…those yes’s are coming.

3. Live Below Your Means – Trends go out of style, every last one! (Some may come back…) but not all! Instead of investing in what’s hot now think about the future. You can be comfortable but not wasteful, there is no one to impress. Manage your money wisely…don’t let your money manage you.

4. Smile. – even when there’s nothing to smile about…fake it until you make it! 😀

5. Listen More, Talk Less – A hard head makes for a soft behind. Listen when older folks give you gems of knowledge, they’ve been there and done it ALL before. It may seem annoying at the moment, but hush and listen closely. TRUST, it will all help in the long run.

6. Say NO to Gossip – Gossip eats at the soul and eventually KILLS IT! Talking about someone maybe all giggles in the moment but remember everything comes full circle. Beware of those who gossip with you because trust they will gossip about you. Phrases like, “you didn’t hear this from me…” or “…I’m not suppose to tell you but…” will get you caught in the web, avoid it! *Also, protect your own business…*

7. Everyone isn’t your friend – or doesn’t have to be. Your time is valuable and should be spent with people of value; those who uplift, motivate and believe in you. Girl, just because both of you wear your hair in the same style, like the same song or food…doesn’t mean you are friends! Learn people, it is ok to be associates, a “hey” here or there. Everybody isn’t worthy to be let in.

8. When a person shows you who they are, believe them… –  said by Mama Angelou, “A person will always show you who they are, so pay close attention.” Everyone has a bad day but everyday can’t be bad, take notes. Don’t write a persons cruel behavior off, don’t make excuses for them. If you believe the behavior is unacceptable and the bad treatment is consistent, believe them…they aren’t worth being around.

9. Pray – Praying really does help. Don’t just pray when everything is going downhill, pray all the time. Have discussions with God and be honest. Trust that everything will be ok, put all your doubts, fears, and accomplishments in prayers, everything will and is working in your favor. Let go and let God.

10. Change is Constant, Accept It – One thing in life you can always count on is change. Whether good or bad change always happens and can never be avoided so embrace it. It won’t be easy but change happens for a reason and that reason will always work.

11. Be Disloyal – being disloyal doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re looking out for your best interest. Loyalty is an act of being faithful, devoted and dedicated. Not everyone deserves that, hold back a little, don’t give your all right away.

12. Boys will Always be There, Pay them NO Attention – Focus on yourself and your betterment. Guys will tell you whatever you want to hear to get whatever they want. (…usually whatever they want involves sex) Guard yourself; guard your body with your life! It is something precious and extremely valuable. Allow yourself time to grow, become a woman and when the time is right … everything will fall into place and Prince Charming will arrive. Until then, do you!

13. Don’t be Afraid…Live A Lot – “…well behaved women seldom make history.” Live a little because people die a lot! (in my best Drake voice) Laugh! Enjoy! You have only one life to live! Don’t go out and lose all your morals but do something you always wanted to do; no one wants to be 50+ saying “I wish I would have…” Life is a gift…open it up.

14. No One Owes you ANYTHING! – Hard to believe it, I know! But in order to get what you want you have to work hard. You have to work as hard as you possibly can. Your dedication and hard work will be rewarded not your feeling of entitlement.

15. Practice Healthy Habits – the older you get the slower your metabolism becomes, which means…the harder it will be for you to be fit inside and out. Control your sweet intake, exercise more and make it fun. Prepare your body for the future now, that way it will be easier later. Your body is a temple, treat it as such.

16. Invest In Your Dreams – What do you want? Like, realllllyyyyy want. Take the time each day and build, build up to those dreams. No dream is too small or big, no matter what a “hater” says. No one will ever be as passionate about your dreams as you are, nurture them.

17. Network – it’s not what you know (…not all the time), its who you know. Get to know people! Professors, Classmates, other students outside your class, join social circles, Deans, Friends of Friends, the man/woman who owns the store across the street…EVERYONE. Be sincere, be yourself. Overtime, you will see that the new people you meet will change your life.

18. Don’t Worry – It is impossible to predict the future so why spend time trying to predict it? Using precious moments of each day worrying about things you can’t control is useless. Learn to go with the flow, nothing can be changed.