The Hate U Give: A Film That Challenges Us So Beautifully

(NO SPOILERS) After returning from my recent trip to the movies, I’m blown away. The Hate U Give is a drama film based on the 2017 novel by Angie Thomas. The film, so beautifully directed by George Tillman Jr., forced you to confront your biases. Though the individuals on the silver screen were acting, their storylines were very real. Identity, love, fear, forgiveness, rage—all are themes in the film. It was a depiction so relatable that it caused a collision with fiction (the script) and reality (America’s actuality).

With each scene, I felt the tugging of my emotions. I smiled at the warmth of love surrounding family. At the sight of injustice, my body tensed up with anger. I fought to hold back tears while viewing moments of pain.

This film challenged a very real brokenness within our criminal justice system, as well as the brokenness within man, such as prejudices, irrational fears, and misperceptions. The Hate U Give showed that although these negative perspectives and toxic attitudes are learned in our society, they could be overcome with unity, justice, and compassion. Superb acting. Incredible writing. Exceptional film.

When a society continues to hate and misjudge, it can spur a continuous cycle of  devastation.  Allow yourself to have a moment of in-depth self-reflection.  Come face to face with a reality known by far too many.  Accept the challenge.  Go see it.

Vote It, Like I Talk It

I could give a long, drawn out speech about why midterm elections are important, but I’m not going to do that (at least not today anyway). I’ll just cut to the chase. Below are helpful links to help you figure out what exactly is going on during this upcoming election. Your time is precious, so check out some of the crème de la crème of political info to help you be on your merry, electoral way! (And don’t worry, for those of us who love to read, there will be more posts that are elaborate in the near future.)

This Is How We Do It

Want to know exactly how to register to vote? Here is a helpful link for you.  Already registered? You should still check the status of your registration (see previous link). If you heard that some voters in certain locations may have been purged from the rolls of registration, that’s not fake news.  Also, make sure your driver’s license or state i.d. is valid (up to date, without errors, etc.) by visiting your local DMV office.  For more information, visit your state’s DMV website by clicking here and follow the necessary prompts.

I Just Want It To Be Over

Check to see if you can go ahead and get voting out the way in your state via early voting.  Once you click the voting link above, scroll down to the chart at the bottom of the page and learn whether your state allows for early voting and whether the deadline has passed or is fast approaching.

She Doesn’t Even Go Here

If you are currently living outside of your home state where you’re registered, away at college, or won’t be able to go to the polls on Election Day due to special circumstances, you may be eligible for absentee voting (aka “mail-in voting”) for your state. Click here to see if you meet the necessary conditions required to mail in a ballot.  For further information on the myths often associated with voting via absentee ballot, click here.

Who are these people!?

Don’t realize who is going to be on your ballot? Find out who the candidates are and what they support on BallotReady, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that provides voter guides for this upcoming election. Simply type in your city and state, and it will provide you background information on the candidates in your area.

Cómo se dice, “Vote,” en español?

If English isn’t your first language, click this link here to view voter’s guides available in up to 11 different languages.

What’s going on in my neighborhood?

This link takes you directly to the local elections site of your state/territory.

Where do I go from here?

Learn where the location of your polling place is by typing in your address here.

Who you gonna call?

There are so many shenanigans going on in the world today. If on Election Day you smell trouble brewing at your local polling place, you can contact this organization immediately with questions and help protect your right to vote.

Long Live the King of Pop

Me being silly at the Wax Museum 🙂

Today marks the King of Pop’s birthday. The legend would have been 60 years old. Ever since I can remember, Michael Jackson has inspired me—everything from constantly borrowing a friend’s Moonwalker VHS tape every chance I got to trying to mimic his signature moves. I even forced friends and family to watch his music videos and documentaries with me over and over again. I’m sure they enjoyed it though. (Hey family, if you’re reading this, sorry, not sorry.) I’m even convinced that my first words were, “Michael Jackson.” (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)

I have always been awestruck by his musical genius. His artistry had always been innovative. His performances were always breathtaking. His talent is unmatched and his skill is incomparable. He’s inspired me to strive for excellence on my own personal journey.

One thing that we can glean from the superstar’s life is that we should work hard, dream big, and maintain a giving and humble heart. Though he is no longer with us, may we continue to be inspired not only by his music, but by his creativity, work ethic, excellence, and his philanthropy.   May each and every one of you all’s journey be filled with purpose and love.  Blessings.

Pure Essence: Friendship

All smiles.

As Helen Keller once said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” On a lighter note, I’d like to adjust that quote with, “Walking with a friend at the Essence Festival is better than walking it alone.” By no means am I trying to take anything away from Ms. Keller because she makes a valid point that true friendship blossoms amidst adversity. However, taking on the adventure of Essence Fest has got to be in the top five tests for true friendship, right? My own personal girls trip this year was a testament to that fact.

An estimated half of million flooded the streets of New Orleans on Essence weekend. Multiple sets of friends packed the Convention Center and the Superdome. The city was filled with the kind of laughter that only inside jokes could provide. There were tons of friends with sparkling, custom-made jackets, each one holding the group name they’d dubbed themselves for the weekend. My friends and I were excited for the adventures that lie ahead, but little did we know all that was in store.

I’m supportive if you’re the type to thrive in solo traveling. By all means, enjoy yourself. However, would I recommend Essence Fest as a solo traveling spot? Probably not. There are just certain adventures, like this one, that require the presence of friends. And even though all of my close friends weren’t able to attend, I made the best of it with the ones who could. I don’t know where I would have been without my two girls, TaCarla and Crystal, by my side to get me through the weekend. We had each other’s backs for sure.

We compromised on places to eat so that everyone could enjoy the experience. We made sure that each one of us got to enjoy a major event tailored to our specific tastes each day. We held spots for each other, navigated crowds, and stood in long lines. We stood for hours just to watch an event even if only 1/3 of our trio was interested in seeing it. And though my friends were a little too shy to take photos of their fave celebs, I had no shame and did my best to get pictures for them.

My friends were just as equally supportive of me as well, e.g. waiting for me to change after a concert from high heels to flats because my feet were over it. One of my friends even had her hairdo messed up, and almost suffered a neck injury, from a surprise crowd surfing incident at one of the events that I wanted to see! My poor friend handled it so graciously though, all in the name of friendship. (And don’t worry; her neck and her hair are doing perfectly fine, lol.)

Should you decide to attend an event like Essence in the future, it is to your benefit to attend with friends who have your back and are loyal to the core. Trust me on this. There will be plenty of times during the festival (and throughout the rest of your life) that you will need a solid support system. But be warned, only the truest of friends can handle the shenanigans of such an epic weekend, flaky acquaintances need not apply.

Friends . . . how many of us have them? Well, I certainly do.

Being Silly
Serious face. -_-
This is the “Yeah, right. We don’t believe you” pose, lol.

(Special shout out to my girls pictured here.  I love you y’all!  Smooches!)

Pure Essence: Forever Brandy

Brandy at Essence Fest

There I was, smartphone in hand, camera in position, awaiting the moment when she would to the stage. Never having had the opportunity to witness a live performance of hers in person, I did my best to keep my anticipation under control. I was excited but growing impatient watching the time drag along. Finally, after a long-drawn out moment of the host teasing the audience, torturing us with delay, the moment had arrived. She had arrived. I couldn’t believe this moment was finally here. She walked out on to the stage and began to bestow her melodic genius upon us. The “vocal bible” is what they called her, for she was known for her ability to maneuver her voice in ways that were practically impossible to mimic. There she stood, glowing melanin with big, bold twists cascading from her crown, enhancing her baby doll-like beauty. I must have been in shock because I just stood there and watched in awe. I don’t remember even singing along. I was captivated not only by her talent but her essence of nostalgia. She was the embodiment of my childhood, but yet she was timeless. She was Brandy.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Christmas time, and I was about 12 years old.   My older sister had bought me a present. I unwrapped my gift to reveal its contents, and I was officially on cloud nine. There in my hand rested a portable cd player and Brandy’s “Never Say Never” cd. My first cd ever! I was ecstatic to say the least. I’ve always been a music lover, so having something portable to take music practically everywhere was amazing. However, the icing on the cake was getting that Brandy cd. I loved her! She was definitely one of my childhood (as well as my adulthood) faves.

I remember having the Brandy Barbie doll, which was the only doll I owned that came with braided hair. I used to stare at the doll thinking, “Wow, she’s just like me!” I remember constantly asking my mother if I could get braids like Brandy, but my mom thought the style was more suitable for older girls. Not completely deterred, I imagined my adult self in my braided grandeur. Yep, when I grew up, I was going to be a braided-beauty just like Brandy.

At an even younger age, I watched Brandy faithfully on TV. Brandy played a misunderstood teenager, Moesha, on the self-titled television series. I remember rushing to turn on the TV show on as soon as I got home from school. Not only did Brandy play a relatable teenager, but when I discovered she was going to play Cinderella on TV, I was floored. Brandy was not only going to be a princess, but one of the first televised black princesses. You can imagine the amount of excitement that runs through a young girl’s head seeing one of her faves dubbed as a princess. More importantly, imagine how much of that aspiration is multiplied when the celebrity reflects your characteristics.

Brandy was everything I was, but yet everything I wished to be. She was growing up, trying to find her way, but at the same time, she was becoming her own person. Not only was she smart, talented, and beautiful, but she wore braids and had brown skin just like me. Now maybe you can’t relate as to why something like that is a big deal. You may even be thinking, “Why does skin color even matter?” When it comes to the content of someone’s character, it doesn’t matter. However, when it comes to representation, it means a whole lot.

During the time Moesha aired, there weren’t many black, teenage girls as main characters, specifically in a show that put a positive spin on growing pains. Representation is so important because it helps open up your mind to opportunities that you never realized existed. Though the Civil rights movement expressed that many opportunities should be possible, the lack of abundance of people of color thriving in certain fields made you question if it could be possible. What others may have brushed off as mere entertainment had greatly impacted my life.

It’s amazing how life comes full circle.   Here I was at my first Essence festival, hair braided and eyes sparkling, as I watched a radiant Brandy croon on stage. In all of my childhood years, she was one of the individuals who I aspired to be. She was boldly being her beautifully brown and braided self. And that’s exactly how I wanted to be, both now and forever. Forever Brandy.  🙂

Me- the day of the Brandy performance
Me and my braids a while back.

 

And another one…

Pure Essence: That Melanin Though . . .

I had an awesome time attending my first ever Essence Festival this past weekend, so much so that I decided to do a series of blog posts entitled, “Pure Essence. . .,” inspired by the music-filled weekend. As a lover of music, I experienced major music-sensory-overload in New Orleans. I’ve still yet to come down off of my musical high. I look forward to playing my Essence 18 playlist on my way to work in hopes of encapsulating that feeling of the weekend within my music player forever.

My friends and I. 🙂
(Crystal, me, and Tacarla)

The energy was the go-go sounds of good times mixed with the smooth jazziness of positive vibes and fused with a hip-hop vibrancy and the soulfulness of R&B. The weekend was a musical melting pot packed with nostalgia and good feelings. The music was awe-inspiring, but there was something more that left my heart smiling even after the cheerful expression had left my face. The gorgeous sea of melanin making waves across the heart of city made my heart leap for joy.

As an African American woman, I am fully aware of the atrocities within the history of being black in America and I am constantly reminded of that by the vile rhetoric and hate that is alive today. Whether it’s the misuse of dialing 911 for mere annoyances rather than actual emergencies, the silencing of voices who dare to protest against clear injustices, brutality against our bodies and souls, or the constant messaging, subliminal and otherwise, sent by corporations that demeans our humanity—the darkness can be overwhelming. So, it did my heart good to see people who look like me coming together and experiencing a little piece of musical sunshine. (This is the part where I reference the power of song with the lyrics from Sly & the Family Stone’s, “Sing a Simple Song.”)

It may not be a big deal to some, but music is powerful and its impact is very real. Music can make you remember a person whom you thought you had eliminated from your memory. It can make you smile when you were just going through heartache. It can make you feel like your younger self, when your younger self was at least 20 years ago. Yeah, music can do all of that. And it did even more this past weekend.

Though I had never been to New Orleans before this, it felt like home. The vibe of seeing people with my shared ancestry embracing one another, singing together—it felt like a moment with family. In spite of the evils society has put us up against, the evidence of our sparkling melanin had shown that we’ve made it out of the fire as pure gold and we share a determination to keep on making it through. Yes, I had a blast during the 2018 Essence Festival. The music was phenomenal, but that melanin though . . .

 

No Scrubs, No Waterfalls, Just Opportunity

My first TLC concert!

Recently, my great nephew and I were watching a television show, and one of the individuals on the show mentioned the term, “scrubs.” He then asked me, “What’s a scrub?” I defaulted to an intellectual response and said, “It’s a person who is lazy and doesn’t act to his full potential.” It didn’t hit me until the ride home that all I had to say was simply, “A scrub is a guy that thinks he’s fly and is also known as a busta . . .” Darn it! It could not have been a more perfect time to break into a TLC song, but I had missed it.

Missed opportunities stink. You’re left with the uncertainty of whether you’ll ever be granted such an awesome opportunity again. You wonder, “What if?How much sweeter would my life had been if I’d actually taken hold of the opportunity? Granted, missing the opportunity to bring up a TLC lyric might have been on the smaller end of the opportunity spectrum (unless you’re a TLC superfan 😉 ); nonetheless, it was a mini, illustrative life-lesson.

The old adages, “Stay ready so you won’t have to get ready,” and “Practice makes perfect,” now hold even deeper meanings. The stick-to-itiveness of preparation is bound to pay off eventually. You will no longer waste time chasing the waterfalls of hasty nothingness; rather, you will stick to the stability of rivers and lakes as a beaver preparing his dam. (Too much? Okay, so, I went a little far with that last simile, but you get my point.) The point of preparation is to allow you to capitalize off the moment of opportunity.

Who knew that the lyrics of a super-girl group would help bring clarity to life’s perplexities?! It must be a MTB (Meant to Be) thing. (Yes, I managed to slip yet another TLC reference in this post, but I just couldn’t help myself.)

Adulting Chronicles: I Don’t Want to Adult Today

Have you ever had one of those days when you just didn’t feel like adulting? Not too long ago, I came home to find a letter from a company—one of those “this-is-not-a-bill-but-it-still-looks-like-a-bill” letters. Apparently I had some adulting animosity that had been building up, festering inside me because seeing that letter just set me off. After attempting to get my mother, who has been adulting much longer than me, to decipher this language that was written in adulting-hieroglyphics, I went off on a random tangent. It went something like this:

 

I don’t want to adult anymore today. I just finished adulting all day at work today, and I don’t want to anymore. No (insert company name here), I don’t want to read your new policies. No, I don’t want to interpret your terms and conditions. I don’t want to hear about your new privacy statement. I don’t want to do any of that. I just want to get in my bed and lay in my pajamas. Can I just go back to the day where I just sat in my pjs and watched cartoons? I don’t want to do this today. I don’t. I can’t. I CAN’T!

 

Then just like that, it happened. Like a scene out of a Christmas movie by Dr. Suess, I had an instant change of heart. I believed it was God dropping me an “Aha!” moment for a period of much needed self-reflection. Why was I complaining? There was a time when I needed the services of (insert company name here), but did not have the ability to do business with them. Now that I have the opportunity, I should stop complaining and just be grateful. Plus, there are plenty of people who don’t have this opportunity, but would love it if they did. So I told myself, “You know what? I’m not going to complain. I’m just going to be grateful.”

Yes, I had a moment, but it was just that, a moment. I’ll be fine, so long as I don’t let that moment transform into a state of mind. I just had to get that stuff off of my chest. The reality is this adulting thing isn’t going anywhere. There are no backsies. In the words of Willy Wonka, “You’ve got to go forwards to go back.” So if adulting-ville is where I am, then adulting-ville is where I must stay, but I will definitely make the most of it. It’s not going to always be unicorns and gummy bears. (It’s actually going to be more like taxes, DMV lines, and jury duty.) However, I know I will make it through the humdrum days because I’ve found the secret to being content, which consists of being grateful, being present and appreciative of the journey.

I Breathe Hard When Walking Up the Stairs

When I’m walking up a set of stairs, I like to do so when there’s the least amount of foot traffic around. That way, I can huff and puff my way up the stairs as I please. (As someone who doesn’t frequent the gym, these types of things are important to me. Contrary to popular belief, you can be petite in frame but still not be physically fit.) However, more often than not, this is unavoidable in high foot traffic areas, such as the stairwells of parking garages. Upon exiting the office building at the end of a workday, I find myself placing on a mask—the mask of a fitness queen. It’s the pressure I feel when faced with an uphill battle of stairs, and there are people are around. I may be a bit out of shape and get winded after the fourth step, but I don’t want a bystander to know that. So what do I do? I transform. Yes, I, Ms. Iwouldlikefrieswiththat, feel pressure to instantly transform into Jane Fonda (Google her fellow millennials) at the base of the steps. My transformation looks a little like this:

 

As I begin to head up the flight of stairs, I suck in my stomach and proceed to prance up the steps. In an attempt hide my utter exhaustion from my peers, I barely let air escape from my lungs. I hurry to take quicker steps so as not to slow down the obvious gym goer who is close on my heels. His stride is longer, but he is not panting. I’m panting. Why am I panting? Because I’m normal, that’s why! This guy behind me is the weird one. He’s immortal. Who jogs up a flight of stairs and you can’t even hear them breathe?! He’s not even breaking up a sweat. Me? I’m barely holding on. Then suddenly, I realize I didn’t park on the second floor because I couldn’t find a spot this morning. Great. Just great. I begin hoping and wishing that this fitness guru behind me gets off on the second floor so that I can finally begin breathing like a normal stair walker. Finally, I reach my floor and spot my car. I’m so close to victory, I can taste it. I just have to pull some energy from the bottom of my gut and power-walk these last few steps so that I can finally exhale. I get to my car and close the door. I exhale and let out a breath that rivals that of a tire deflating. Victory.

 

All of that just to maintain an appearance. Am I the only one who gets self-conscious in these types of scenarios? You go through all of this work just to keep up an appearance for strangers who probably couldn’t care less anyway. Still, we do it. This was a lighthearted scenario, but how many times do we go through life practically dying just to maintain the image that we are living? We need to use wisdom and lay our burdens down.

Don’t create a crazy scenario for yourself in order to impress others because in the end, it’s you who will suffer. Don’t go after the career in your father’s footsteps when you already hate that job and would only be doing it to please him. Don’t stay with someone just to appear to have “#relationshipgoals”, when the reality is you two go days without speaking while living in the same house. Don’t “do it for the gram,” only to not have “it” for your landlord. Be a good steward and take care of yourself.

Huff and puff up the stairs of life if that’s your truth that you’re in right now. Just be sure to progress, building endurance to ease the strain. Eventually the pressure will lessen. Those huffs and puffs will naturally transform into wisps of air off of your lips, barely detectable by the person running next to you. Staying true, working towards a better you—that’s victory.

Drippin’ in Finesse: How to Age like a Boss

Birthday dinner flow. #Finesse

So, I’m coming fresh off of a birthday week. Though I am still quite young by society’s standards, I still can’t ignore the changes that reality brings with aging. My friends and I decided to partake on an adventure of laser tag as part of my b-day shenanigans. What began as a night filled with adrenaline-pumped, Mission Impossible-like acrobatics resulted with a following day of thigh burning, leg soreness, and aching bones. This wasn’t just a response from the body simply letting me know I was not in shape. No, this was the screeching battle cry from the “ghosts of unused-muscles past” saying, “Sit down! You’re not 14 anymore!”

As I sit here typing this with pillows at my back and my legs in an elevated position, I am forced to come to terms with my reality. Sometimes aging hurts. The good news is that it doesn’t have to. A little preparation and wisdom goes a long way. If I had simply taken the time to stretch, we might have a different story. Had I previously established a workout plan, my body could have been better able to absorb the shock. Also, knowing your limits helps you not push yourself beyond your breaking point, or in my case, the point of needing a heating pad or Tylenol.

 

 

The look you have the day before muscle soreness creeps in. #Lasertagwoes

This devastating clash with reality has made me recognize that I would like to age like a fine wine rather than spoil like milk. I’m amazed at the timeless beauty of women like Janet Jackson, Toni Braxton, and even my mom, who’ve managed to transition each year to another age, but have magically frozen time and appear to be 20 years more youthful than the rest of us. When speaking with my friend, TaCarla, about this aging phenomenon, she stated that the key is “drinking plenty of water and staying out of other people’s business.” While I doubled over in laughter, I have no doubt that my friend was on to something. Granted a lot of the splendid aging can be accounted for with great genes and wealth, there’s still some aspect due to how you take care of yourself in the here and now. Maintaining your health is no doubt a big part of it.

I’ve noticed the difference in how I feel when I eat fresh fruits and vegetables versus partaking in a processed piece of junk food. Getting more sleep at night helps me to feel more refreshed in the morning. Removing myself from stressful situations and picking my battles wisely has helped ease the tension in my shoulders and limited headaches. Prayer and inspirational music has helped quiet my anxiety. I believe that if I work on maintaining my wellbeing and create better habits for myself, I can help make the transitioning of aging happen brilliantly and smoothly.

I should prepare myself for life’s changes rather than loathe them and hide my head in the sand. My newfound goal is to make sure that my grow up is a “glow up.” I do not want the elements of aging to catch me by surprise like a jack-in-the-box. I want to ease into it, growing old gracefully. Here’s to the next 90 years of a life filled with God, peace, and sparkle!

Food for thought: How do you tame the beast that is aging? How do you feel about getting older? What are some practical tips you’ve applied when embracing a new era in life?