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#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #12

To my RHOyal SoRHOrs of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. –

Happy Founder’s Day and Happy RHOvember! I won’t be too mushy — promise. lol

Here we are celebrating 98 years since our Founders agreed to spread more service into the world.

It was a risk. Being women in college was an accomplishment alone. Being Black women on the predominately White campus of Butler University in the 1920s was a rarity. Organizing to uplift other women in times of suppression was deemed a sign of protest. I think about these factors often when facing hardship especially during times like these. The opposition was immense back then, but they did it anyway. They extended help for present needs while keeping the future in mind. They had us in mind.

I know the world gravitates toward the photo opps, but prior to social media and ready-to-snap cameras, all they had was each other, their word, and their actions. That’s it. If no one saw it, the impact was still made. They knew the fruit of their labor was real.

SoRHOrs, may we be encouraged to take that same spirit of tenacious scholarship, sisterhood, and service and multiply it everywhere. No service is too small. No act of sisterhood is too far. No scholarship is too great. Let’s continue to check on each other. Let’s support each other’s efforts and hug each other’s children. Let’s continue to be there for the wins and create a strength circle around the losses. Our seven Founders knew those sentiments all too well as they were called derogatory names and fought through obligatory and ridiculous red tape. They knew that every closed door meant another one had to open for another woman. They kept going and I’m so glad they did. I wouldn’t have met you.

Of course, we believe Sigma is the best and my God, are we diverse. lol I pray that the authentic spirit of our Founders causes a tidal wave of solidarity among all Black Greek Letter Organizations. We were founded on greatness — all of us were. I hope we pump lifeblood into every situation. I pray that we are breath of fresh air in our personal and professional arenas. I want every industry to have poodle prints all over it. It’s not up to our famous SoRHOrs to do it — every member has that power. That’s how we got here. We saw a Sigma and she made an impression on us enough to take a step toward doing the same thing for others. We decided to multiply.

Remember why you joined. Remember why you stayed. Remember why you’re here. I love you all.

On The Shield Always,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #10

Dear Beautiful Black & Brown People,

I love us.

Our variance in skin color rivals the rainbow. The texture in our voices is unmistakable. We have seemingly endless creativity. Our stride over the last 50 years has been remarkable, let alone the last four hundred.

We are ridiculously resilient.

Repeatedly, we are broken and crushed beneath the heavy boots of injustice and stupidity, yet we soar past the smoke and wipe the mud off our glasses to see the future.

Repeatedly, we provide delectable food, incredible art, and exceptional existence. It amazes me that there is someone from our culture still breaking boundaries post-slavery. The First Black this and the First Black Woman to do that… it gets me every time.

Photo by Wherbson Rodrigues on Pexels.com

It should make us stand taller and put guns down more.
It should make us stand up for equity in public education more than standing in line for sneakers.
It should generate wealth for our children more than indebted sorrow.
It should make us remember that we come from kingdoms.
It should make us look at each other as kinfolk.
It should make us look at each other — period.

I love us; I just don’t understand us sometimes. To celebrate our magnificence seems easy, yet on the day-to-day we forget to uplift our neighborhoods. I’m not talking about a “I hate White people” mindset here. I’m referring to the unfortunate misdirection of some of our energy. If we took half of the potency we pack into the arts and food and circulated it into other channels of empowerment, it wouldn’t matter who is President (refer to the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma circa 1920 or Wilkinson County near Toomsboro, Georgia in 2020) — we would still be fine.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

So, can we fix that? I love us too much to let it go. Even if it’s tutoring a student in your friend circle or attending a webinar together or supporting one another’s businesses (and stop wanting everything for free)… every stretch in our community’s arm will strengthen us. Yes, there are disadvantages and they are emphatically in place to mute our voices or press down our equity. I am aware of gerrymandering affecting our voting, schooling, and housing opportunities and so much more. Unfortunately, the best way to overturn these moldy practices are to change the system from the inside out. That’s where local government and Congressional elections come in. I know it’s disheartening, but whew, chile… if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s how to rise from the ashes.

Photo by Nathan Martins on Pexels.com

I love us.

I love our brilliance in the midst of darkness. I love our cookouts and our confidence. I love that our fingerprints are on every genre of music and our footsteps are etched into every continent. It’s OK that others want to sanitize our watermarks. They will never go away because they live in everyone on this planet. So, drop that off your shoulders. Just keep doing what is in OUR control — monitoring our time, talent, and resources. Stay truthful. Stay well. In some cases, just stay. Stop criticizing. Start doing. Start living. Start protecting. Start being. Start loving. In most cases, just start. That’s what everyone before us did… that’s how we got here. That a Black Woman with Native American roots can live in a South that used to hunt and breed her like an animal and she is now using the World Wide Web in the same South to reach thousands is a miracle that had first steps.

Everything is just a matter of time and effort, my Loves. Everything. Let’s keep going so we can be the elders our children speak highly of.

I love you,

CJW

Wednesday Wind Down: Great Expectations

Happy Wednesday, Sweethearts!

How have you been? Glad you made it.

Let’s look at the connection between what we pay for and the quality we expect.

At a restaurant, we will return an unsatisfactory plate. We will refuse a hotel room that is subpar. We will share a social media post about incompetent service from a clothing store associate. Our extension of payment is related to our expectations. We like quality. We like an even or greater exchange.

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

When it comes to voting, I see it as civically paying for an expected service. We expect for elected officials to represent our voices behind closed doors. Here’s the thing — I don’t think we truly expect what we pay for. Maybe it’s that they are out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Perhaps it’s because we’ve lost faith; nevertheless, they are our representatives. You may think all politicians are evil or incompetent. You may believe there is no point in voting because your voice will never be heard. You may think that faith transcends politics and voting is futile. I don’t know your reason, but I encourage you to use your expectations as your weapon. If we can expect divine promises from God, why can’t we hold our fellow humans accountable to our civic expectations?

After all, American colonists fought for their right to make their own governmental decisions and various ethnic groups have even died in the pursuit of this opportunity.

I’ve often wondered what my ancestors would think if they saw some of us not cashing in their blood, sweat, and tears. One of my favorite movie lines could possibly describe their sentiments. If you’ve seen Madea’s Family Reunion (2006), you must recall Cicely Tyson’s invigorating soliloquy on the steps of their ancestors’ home. It was sparked by the following question from the Simmons’ 96-year-old matriarch named Ruby who was disappointed at her family’s behavior.

“Is this what we paid for?”

– Ruby (the late Actress and Educator Georgia Allen)
Madea’s Family Reunion
Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Lately, I’ve asked myself this question while imagining my elders’ perspectives. Their civil rights marches. Their sit-ins. Their clocking into work for disgraceful pay. Their face freshly spat upon. Their back sprayed with lashes from their masters. The lies defaming their character. The many times nothing was done against their accusers. Then to look into the future to see people say they aren’t voting or that they don’t care; they’ll just pray about it and love everyone. We must not forget that the church was the heartbeat of the American civil rights movement approximately 60 years ago. They prayed and they organized. They prayed and they boycotted. They prayed and they voted. Their faith and their movement went hand-in-hand. They held the government accountable to its purpose and the elected officials to their word.

Sweethearts, let us be motivated to get what we civically pay for — to receive the quality of service we expect. If we can do it for tangible products, we should expect as much for the greater good. Simply put, we can’t expect more from a restaurant than we do from our elected officials.

Peace & Thanks for listening! Stay well out there!

Wednesday Wind Down: Bricklayer

Hi, Sweethearts!

OK, I am still on a high from watching Boss: The Black Experience in Business – a documentary about African-American history in entrepreneurship and business industries. If you haven’t seen it, please do. Definitely a must-see. Here’s a play-by-play of how it all went down in my world. Special Shoutout to Carmen Mays, Founder of Elevators on 4th, and my alma mater UAB for hosting this event and reminding Birmingham of the juggernaut of Black entrepreneurship she was and will continue to be.

boss film uab

BEFORE THE FILM

20190716_175221.jpgI have a confession to make. Networking events are not at the top of my social list. It’s where my introversion leaps out to block my smile and I have to overshadow her by scanning the room for people I know and introducing myself to people I don’t. In all that I do that involves others (blogging, dancing, and massage therapy), solitude is where I am cozy.

So, what did I do? I made my introverted nemesis attend the pre-film reception. I’m also recovering from a knee injury and walking from my car to the event space was the longest distance I had accomplished without using my crutches. Needless to say, I was ready to sit down. While familiar faces wove in and out of their elements, I shared sincere laughs with another great businesswoman in my state and we decided to sit together during the film.

Me – 1
Nemesis – 0

DURING THE FILM

I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I tried to capture a few notes, but only if the visual stayed the same. As soon as it changed, I looked up fast like a little kid with a bad case of FOMO before bed. Throughout the film, I was infused with strength. It would have been easy to be angry at the injustice, but I was undoubtedly empowered. Fortified. The stories of my ancestral heroes sealed the natural cracks in my entrepreneurial foundation. Some of the stories, I knew and taught my students. Others, I learned for the first time. I sat forward with my hands clasped at times and in other moments I smiled in awe.

What a beautiful rocky road of Black determination, I thought. Seriously. We were given manure and we made it grow – over, and over, and over again. Our money was stolen and we generated more like a prosthetic limb. We pumped the life-blood into ourselves after being left for dead. Agriculture. Banking. Hair. Clothing. We are a force to be reckoned with no matter which decade you decide to slice. I recalled my first time reading Ebony, Jet, Black Enterprise, and Essence as their humble beginnings were told in front of me. To see bursts of Color in a monochromatic printed world was lifechanging. Seeds of cultural self-esteem were planted within me at an early age and watching these gladiators of vision and ingenuity reminded me of their fruits manifested through today’s industry moguls. I sighed and smiled again to see such relentless prowess right before my eyes.

AFTER THE FILM

20190716_195315.jpgI sat up straighter. My back was stronger and my neck held my chin a bit higher. My hearty handclaps might as well have been among a sea of applause at Carnegie-Hall.  I felt so proud. So tall. As an African-American Woman Entrepreneur, I am walking on the bricks of hard labor and I get the immutable opportunity to place my own brick along that historical trail.

Black business owners have proven that skin color should never override intelligence and passion. We are beyond capable of building a present and a future for ourselves and others – nationally and internationally. Regardless of the opposition of ignorance, we continue to showcase dexterity and incredible resilience. Can you imagine the escalating levels of repeated faith it takes to accomplish such feats? I can’t imagine. To create decades of legacies without an Ellis Island is an irrefutable honor that should never be undermined or forgotten. 

Lastly, I also realized that I am exactly where I should be. To be reminded that those pillars of strength began with pennies in their pockets was just the juice I needed keep my energy going. Six months ago, I plunged into full-time entrepreneurship after my school closed, and it has been an exceptional journey. I have no complaints, but people often romanticize the life of owning a business and I couldn’t help but smile to know that my grit was in good company. My scars were in the right place. My tired eyes could still see my ancestors rooting for me. My hands were still capable of facilitating my dreams just like their cotton-picking fingers repeatedly reached for hope. My heart was still able to incubate their fire for economic freedom. My spirit was still synonymous with theirs and my feet could still walk forward on the bricks of their backs — one day, allowing someone to step on mine. Let’s keep building, America.

You don’t have to lose who you are to be successful.
Cathy Hughes, Founder of Radio One –

Peace & Thanks for listening! Keep shining!

boss film pbs

Wednesday Wind Down: Full Circle

Good Evening, Sweethearts!

So, a beautiful thing happened this month and there were 3 messages that were so clear to me. I chewed on them a bit before sharing them with you and now I’m ready. But first, the context.

On Saturday, February 16th, the Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation hosted A Conversation with Dr. Angela Davis at the historic Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama. I had the honor of performing Glory (from the Selma movie soundtrack) with my childhood friend G.I. Magus in front of Dr. Davis and a potpourri of historical and political pillars. I was appreciative just be a piece of the puzzle and I couldn’t have written a better chapter in my life story. Besides the obvious prestige, let me tell you why this was a jewel of a moment.

In elementary school, I saw a photo of Dr. Davis and was entranced. She was a beautiful mix of political prowess, academic excellence, and natural beauty. I loved the way she wore her freedom like a long technicolor cape. Her hair, her voice, and her facial expressions screamed confidence. It was official – she was a shero. The more I read about her, the more fire I felt and I was proud to know that she was a native daughter. I was convinced that I would have an afro just like her when I found the courage to do so. For over 10 years, I did and still do.

Seeing her this month was the culmination of multiple dots connecting to create a beautiful experience, which leads me to the first message – your past can touch your future at any moment, so spend your present well. You never know how hello’s can turn into a double helix of lifetime connections. The people I met in 7th grade, high school, and college would become creative geniuses, community organizers, academic powerhouses, and prolific speakers. Any way you slice it, the fingerprints of my past were all over my future and I was in awe of the masterpiece.

20190216_190006.jpg

It’s a blessing to genuinely develop relationships over time, which leads to the 2nd message I heard that week –  your character will follow you wherever you go. This past weekend was a reminder that how you treat people goes far beyond the present moment. I’m not perfect, but I am so grateful that my rapport was strong enough to last a decade or two and some awesome individuals thought positive of my footsteps. That is a gift I will never take lightly… as long as I live. I hate it when people size me up based upon what I can do for them. That’s why I love learning about the spirit behind the job title and socioeconomic status.  In the end, we all appreciate being seen as a person. We appreciate a chance to disrobe our character and let it walk freely ahead of us.

The third message was just as loud – your help is waiting on you. I couldn’t have performed with confidence without the support of my tribe. The prayers from my mother, the love from my small group, the perfect track from my friends, the training from my mentors… there were familiar faces in every facet of this opportunity, each of them believing in God’s gift in me. I am forever grateful. Forever appreciative that when I asked for help, many hands opened wide. Pride keeps a lot of people in the jail cell of their souls’ contempt. I was once a prisoner of that warden and never will be again. This experience was a reiteration that some are still held captive.

Sweethearts, you are exceptional. Stop trying to be perfect. See everyone around you as an individual, not as a marketing tool. Try to be a better version of yourself than the day before. Whether you know it or not, everything will come full circle if you let it. I am so glad I did.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Pomp & Circumstance

In March of this year, I witnessed a beautiful blend of past and present.

IMAG2424My fraternity brother was inducted into the Birmingham Police Department after graduating from the academy. Be it that he is my little-big brother (he towers over my 5′ 4.75″ frame), I was so proud when he shared the news and invited me to come to the ceremony. I had attended military and law enforcement events before, but unfortunately, most of them were funerals. This time, I was in the audience as a member of his support team and I was honored.

Upon arrival to the designated room, it was clear that this was a family affair. Many people were just as excited as I was to be present for such a special occasion. Even children that may not have understood the magnitude of the moment were all smiles seeing blue police uniforms everywhere. There were sergeants, captains, and city officials waiting to honor the new graduates with their new badges and priceless pearls of wisdom. I found a good seat and waited with expectation for what would happen next. I’m used to attending events by myself, but this time was different. I felt out of place for a minute because I wasn’t with a pack. I didn’t come with a 15-piece cheering section, yet, I cleaned the lens on my camera phone and checked the front and back doors in hopes of getting a good photo on the first try.

Families and friends were buzzing around like paparazzi waiting for celebrities. To us, that’s exactly what they were. They were our heroes and we were excited to see their debut.  A short, petite female officer stood in front of the cadets like she was six-foot-four.

BPD Academy Grads 2017

I was immediately proud and wanted to raise my feminist fist. As she gave orders to stand at attention, recite prolific promises, and march forward, the room absorbed her command as well. Everyone seemed to be at spiritual attention. My fraternity brother marched by and I felt the wind of his maturity and pride. He was seriously motivated to uphold his vow and relieved to finish the first leg of his municipal marathon.

I smiled.

Then, I got emotional.

The tears almost fell from my face when I realized that this was the same police department that tormented his ancestors – with water and other horrible means. The history of what I was watching flooded my soul and a for a brief moment, I was overwhelmed. Dignity arose within me for every freedom fighter, foot soldier, and civil rights leader ever to grace this God-given Earth. I didn’t feel militant. I felt regal. I felt strong. I felt American.

My vision was blurry with teary pride as I watched each officer shake hands with superior officers, some of which were parents initiating their children with a solemn salute. This was the dream so many slaves had when their heads fell upon their pillows made of dirty cotton after surviving lashings they didn’t deserve. When marchers stood in the streets locked arm-in-arm, singing and chanting in the blood thirsty faces of evil, they imagined a mirror image of liberated faces on the other side.

I couldn’t breathe easy for a few minutes. I couldn’t stop smiling for a few more. There was nothing more American than what I was feeling right then – a dream realized and an honor bestowed simultaneously. I blessed them in my spirit and prayed over their lives… that God would keep them alert and ready at every call and even when no one was in need of their service. I prayed for protection and wisdom and for the understanding of their families.

The fact that something so ugly could metamorphosize into this moment made me proud to the recipient of their sacrifices. It was a social spit in the face of centuries of racial injustice.

I was grateful. I was proud. I was filled.

What makes you “feel” American? Moments like these do it for me. 

Peace & Thanks for listening!

kelly-ingram-park-59e7f8e524b9c99b
AP Photo/Butch Dill

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