A New Routine

IMG_0116.JPEG

Written By Aspen S., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The days have gotten shorter and the nights much colder, letting us know that winter is here and she is staying. Having lived in Florida for two years, I think the Florida heat has finally left my veins and I’m ready for winter outfits, snow days, and having to defrost my car twenty minutes before I can go anywhere (which for me means I’ll be late to every function but never mind that!).  Despite my excitement for the winter season, I’ve found the winter weather to be a bit draining on my body. After a long day of work, I want nothing but to curl up on the couch with some hot food and a cup of my favorite honey ginger tea. So, in the midst of Netflix binges, I found myself spending many evenings ordering delivery like I was sponsored by UberEats. Although I certainly had the UberEats appetite, there was hardly a time when I asked myself if I had UberEats money.

So, as I started off the new year, I started planning my budget to save up for the many trips that I am looking forward to take within the next year. It became clear that if I still want to be able to live comfortably I would need to cut out frivolous expenses like $20 for an $8 oatmeal bowl delivery that I can definitely make myself when I want breakfast for dinner.  The new year served as a perfect time to do better but a year-long resolution seemed like too big of a commitment.

I’ve instead decided to move forward with a January resolution to cut back on spending by grocery shopping and cooking for myself. I’ve decided to share my resolution with you all along with a few of my favorite meal prep dishes, especially for those that are exhausted after a long work day. 

  1.    Meal prepping is everything. I know a lot of people do this in order to be more conscious of portion sizes but I have found that it does wonders when it comes to saving time. If I spend an hour or two on a Sunday night then I can be set for the week. I can cook enough food for both lunch and dinners during weeknights, saving me quite a bit of time throughout the week. Now, I have more time for so many other things like the gym, my hair, hanging out with friends, etc.
  2.    Variety is key. One thing that I very quickly am learning about meal prepping is that I can easily get tired of the same things. I need to cook two or three meals to give this initiative some razzle dazzle. The meals don’t have to be complicated but they have to be different enough from each other that it feels like I’m eating something totally different from meal to meal. 
  3.     Supplement with simple meals if need be. I’ve found that if there’s ever a day where I really cannot subscribe to leftovers, I’ve found that having a few meals that I can cook in 15 minutes or less to increase the feeling of variety can really do wonders. I typically bake a potato and load it with broccoli and seasoning or cook a veggie sausage with peppers and onions or sauerkraut. This adds to the variety and helps me curb any delivery hankerings.

Now, enough about how I’m cooking and a little more about what I am cooking in my meal preps. I try to utilize vegetables that are in season. The colder months tend to be forth the growth of some of the more savory and leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and brussel sprouts. Some of my favorite dishes that make for great meal preps include the following:

  •     Vegetable pot pie
  •     Cauliflower tacos
  •     Chickpea soup
  •     Curry tofu
  •     Vegetable chili
  •     BBQ (veggie) meatballs
  •     Sweet potato bowls
  •     Mushroom ramen

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, life is a continuous adventure for me. Halfway through the month of January and things are going well with this meal prep. If this keeps up I’ll set it as a goal for February. I’ve heard that it takes thirty days to create a habit so hopefully by then I’ll truly be on a roll. In the meantime, feel free to share your favorite dishes and recipes for me to try!

Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Art of Minding Your Business and Drinking Your Water

IMG_9797.JPEG

I scrolled through Instagram stories of my followers. Read through the daily motivational quotes people post on their stories early in the morning. Tapped through people’s workout accountability reposts. I stopped when I got to my homegirl Tyra’s Instagram story. Tyra’s story was unusually long. She never really posts a lot unless it’s someone’s birthday, the anniversary of her becoming an AKA, or the AKA’s founders day. So, seeing multiple dashed lines at the top of her story indicating that she was posting a lot, intrigued me. 

I clicked through the pictures she was posting of former versions of herself. With the pictures came captions that talked about how during the time when she took said photos, her hair was unhealthy. Her written narrative about the reason as to why her hair was unhealthy was because she was not minding her business and drinking her water. She talked about how she was constantly in other people’s business or in some mess. Her main message was to release yourself from toxicity and focus on yourself, the business that pays you. She then posted recent photos of her hair. She described how her hair was healthier, longer, and better managed because she let go of negativity and began taking care of herself…and of course, drinking water was part of her total transformation.

She posted this story a few months ago. It resonated with me but it didn’t fully resonate with me until recently. Right before the new year, a series of unrelated events happened to me seemingly back to back. Some were good, many others were not so good. I feel as if I went through multiple life changes in a span of two weeks. As I sat with those changes and their outcomes, I became emotional and being the cryer that I am, allowed the flood gates that are my tear ducts, rain down onto my cheeks and neck. I was crying because the outcomes of all the bad were outcomes where I had to choose me. And that shit was hard. 

After I calmed down, I realized that Tyra’s “mind your business and drink your water” mantra was the metaphor for the outcomes of “choosing me”. Let me explain three different situations to paint a better picture for you…

–> In 2019, I was working two jobs, my full-time role, and a few hours a week job at a clothing store. When I interviewed for the clothing store position, the store manager and I chatted about what hourly rate I wanted to make because I had previously worked for the same company in a different state, so I had experience. I told her the rate, she agreed, and we went about our business. Now, silly me for not checking my pay stubs and essentially they were paying about 4 cents less than what we talked about when I started. 4 cents isn’t that much of a difference but it adds up if you think about back pay. I’d been working there since February of 2019. One day, I asked the store manager for a raise (before I knew about the 4 cent thing) and she said she would talk to the district manager. Word came back from the district manager and I was told that the raise would go into effect in mid-December. During the waiting period, was when I noticed my pay stubs. I inquired about that and about my raise. Long story short, I was told that they weren’t going to give me back pay and I couldn’t get the raise I requested unless I take on other roles at the store. 

I decided to mind my business (choose me):  I told the manager that it wasn’t worth staying at the company, and I resigned that day. I didn’t deserve that. But resigning wasn’t the only way I chose myself. I went home and started thinking of a plan. I would be fine without the part-time job but it was time for me to make some moves. I had already purchased an LLC, so it was the perfect time to map out a plan for it. My LLC focuses on training in diversity and inclusion special topics AND I will now be making waist beads. I am taking control of my own money and destiny.

–> For too long, I surrounded myself with toxic relationships. At 30, you would think I  had a handle on which people were toxic and who were not. And I do. But not when it came to my heart. When I had feelings for someone or cared about someone deeply, I put up with things that I knew in the back of my mind that weren’t good for me. I had feelings for one of my male friends. I honestly don’t know how to describe our relationship. It seemed like he had feelings for me, especially by the things he would say, or how connected I felt we were when we were around each other. A few months ago he told me he wasn’t “ready for a relationship” and I accepted it. Even after that point, there were still signs that contradicted that. Because of this, I kept part of my heart open to the possibility that there would be something in the future. It wasn’t doing me any good. Along with the signs, there were also signs that he really wasn’t interested in a relationship. Weeks and months would go by and I wouldn’t hear from him. When we did talk, he never really asked about things I had going on outside of him asking how I was doing. Before the new year, he hit me up asking to come see me.

I decided to mind my business (choose me): After I sat and pondered about my response to him, I drafted what I was going to write back. I wanted him to come because I missed him. But the other part of me knew that if I said ‘yes, you can come’, it would have continued the cycle. I wanted more and he didn’t, so when I responded, I was honest about why he could not come see me. I told him that I didn’t want to make our relationship more messy because I had feelings for him that he did not have for me. It was hard. I knew that saying no would alter the situation that we did have and I was afraid to lose the connection we shared. But again, I wanted more. Because we weren’t on the same page, I had to step away for my own healing to be ready for the actual person God is preparing for me. I love myself too much to continue going down a path of nothingness.

–> Reflecting back on the last decade, I thought about all of the things I missed out on because I was scared or I told myself I couldn’t do something. I allowed negative self-talk and my mental health to hinder me in many ways. For example, I started making myself waist beads in 2015. Why did it take me over 4 years to decide to turn it into a business? It was because I was too scared to take risks and try something that was outside of my comfort zone. This last decade, I didn’t manage my money right. I was never to a point where I didn’t have anything but I could have saved more. I was too busy spending and not investing…trying to keep up with the world around me.

I decided for this next decade to my mind my business (choose me): Although some of the examples I mentioned in this post happened very recently, I’ve also been making slow changes for a couple years now. So, moving into this next decade of my life, I’m going to be smarter, take risks, and not hold myself back from the things I want to do. I already have a plan on how I’m going to run my businesses, finish my Ph.D., travel more, and live my life without limits. The first thing I did was get a financial planner. I met with him a few days ago to talk about my goals and it was super helpful. I recommend everyone getting a financial planner. Do this sooner, rather than later. They really help you get a sense of how you’re managing your finances and will assist you in planning for the future. I’m also working on being a better friend to the ones who are in my circle. I often find myself centering our conversations around the things I have going on so I’ve been more intentionally on providing my friends space to center the conversations around them. My friends are some of the most important people in my life and I want to continue to mold myself to being the friend they need. 

Be selfish going into this next decade. Remove toxicity from your life, take risks, and learn from the good and bad mistakes of those risks. I’m not going to lie, choosing you is going to be uncomfortable. But bask in the uncomfortability because that means you’re growing. If you’re never uncomfortable, then you aren’t growing. If you aren’t growing, you aren’t evolving. So, please, mind the business that pays you and drink your water and watch the seeds you’ve been planting sprout into something beautiful. Trust me, the process and outcomes have been fulfilling. 

…And if you don’t believe me, just look at how my locs are flourishing in the photo for this blog post 🙂

❤ Queen T

P.S. Since November 2019, I’ve been drinking a gallon of water a day 🙂

10 Things I Wish I Would’ve Known Before Pursuing My Ph.D.

 

IMG_9488.JPG

Written By Mesha G., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Y’all, I’m officially a Ph.D candidate! I honestly couldn’t even image how the day would be once it came, but it’s here! It’s been a long 3 1/2 years but ya girl made it.  So, this month, I really want to focus on ten things I wish I knew before beginning this journey. Some of the items that I will mention, I honestly didn’t know I had until the moment arose and others are truly moments of “damn, well x could have been y.”

  1. Don’t do it if you don’t have the passion for it.

I know so many people who pursued a doctoral degree for the earning potential and not because they truly care about whatever they are getting a degree in.  But I want to have a newsflash moment for anyone that’s pursuing a doctoral degree in the soft sciences or humanities…you will not be a million off the strength of your degree, what has your bachelor’s degree do so far? I will not discredit the earning potential will rise, but let’s not get carried away, especially if you’re paying out of pocket. (Take it from me, I work in Financial Aid).

2. Find your interest topic before you apply

I have loosely had the same topic since I applied for my doctoral program and what I blessing it has been.  Going into an investment like this with a plan is the best thing that you can do for yourself. And depending upon your program, they may require for you to know what your interest is to ensure they have faculty available to support your research.  A disclaimer for this, be open…I have broadened and narrowed and broadened my general topic over the last few years. Be open and accepting of the feedback you receive. 

3. Have a supportive environment

You need support from everyone. You will need a supportive partner, whether that be a FWB, boyfriend, husband, wife, common law spouse, whoever he or she is needs to be supportive. They will need to understand that you have competing priorities but you’re not necessarily neglecting them on purpose.

A supportive family. Nothing is worse than being guilted for not spending the entire weekend with your family because you have to study or coming home to visit and bring books and your laptop with you.

A supportive workplace. Your supervisor at your place of employment has to have some consideration for this new addition in your life.  You will be miserable if you do not have a workplace that supports and respects your time and effort at the job while pursuing your degree.

4. Apply for scholarships

Even if you get your tuition for free, apply for scholarships! Period.

5. Publish

Imposter syndrome was too real for me, so I did not grow with my writing as I wish I would have because I was scurred lol. Had I had my stuff together way before and was confident enough to just go out there and receive critical feedback, I could have had a few articles out in the academic world.  Understand this, you are a scholar as soon as you start this!

6. Every professor is not the same

Because Professor X did this, doesn’t mean Professor Y will, respect the academic freedom that professors have and let them do their job.  It’s fine to challenge them with respect, but just because one Professor favored you more than another does not mean the experience occurred in the classroom goes out the window. 

7. Not much is different from earning an A or a B

I once was obsessed with getting all As in my doctoral program but regardless if I have a 99% or an 85%, I’m still a whole doctor of philosophy… so focus on actually learning and retaining information than having a transactional relationship focused on grades.  No one will ask you for your GPA of a terminal degree. 

8. Sacrifice is an understatement 

The amount of sacrifice is unreal. I had to say no to a lot of events and vacations and dinners and nights out. I went to conferences and some vacations with my book bag full of work for school. The grind never stops. The doctoral process truly does take over your life, and you might be half crazy just as I was.

9. Be open to learn

This follows the same sentiments that I had earlier about your intention to be in the program.  If you’re going only for the purpose of a fatter check, don’t do. You will not be receptive to hearing opposing views and actually learning.  I remember a few times where the students didn’t like the professors who instructed our class because they weren’t feeling the epistemology of the instructor, not because of something more substantial like just a low quality course. 

10. Self Care is mandatory

During this process, everything will be seem a top priority but you are #1.  Get your sleep, eat well, workout, meditate, take time to stand up once in awhile, get your eyes checked for your prescription…all of that stuff that you think is not self care is self care.  I gained (thank God I lost it) at least 35-40 pounds while being in the Ph.D program. And that’s because I was taking care of everything except for myself. 

It’s still unbelievable that I made it to this point.  It truly does take persistence, dedication, determination, and perseverance to make it happen. I know all these words seem synonymous but they ain’t lol…you will need all of it.

Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Simply Chic

IMG_9116.JPEG

Written By Victoria B., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Respect the process – Victoria B.

For the longest time I have been obsessed with high fashion, haute couture, bespoke pieces, you name it. My style icons include the Duchess of Sussex and Cambridge (Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton), Nikki Thot, Zendaya, Kim Kardashian, Lydia Elise Millen, just to name a few. While my heart is with their taste, my budget definitely is not. As much as I dream to be strutting in custom Dior and Manolo Blahniks, I realize and appreciate that I am not quite there yet. As a full-time college student with a single mom, I don’t even have the means to spend $2000 on a handbag. With this in mind, I have learned to achieve the same sleek expensive look for less than a quarter of the price.

 Here’s how I do it:

 

  • Develop your style

 

One of the most important things to achieving the chic look is to establish your style. By doing so, it leaves little room for error as you know what looks fall into your persona. I’ll give you mine for example. When asked what my go-to style is, my friends, answered “classic and crisp”. So, keeping this in mind, I tend to go for the pieces that create a timeless look. Whether it’s a structured navy winter coat or camel colored leather riding boots. 

Individuality is another aspect one needs to stay true to. Fashion isn’t any fun if you’re dressing to please others or directly copying someone else. Find what speaks to you, what you feel that expresses your persona/energy and stick to it. 

 

  • Choose your favorite stores

 

Selecting your staple brands or stores will create a cohesiveness to your wardrobe. This has to do with the continuation of cuts, shapes, and fabrics each store has. Let’s take Meghan Markle, for example. Meghan chose Givenchy for her wedding and has sported many of their items ever since joining the British Royal Family. It’s because of her that I can instantly spot a Givenchy dress due to its clean lines and abstract cuts. Of course, I cannot afford a $3000 dress but the same flow can be achieved for a much more affordable price. One of my favorite stores at the moment is ZARA. While some of their pieces are more on the expensive side, I wait for their sales to go shopping. (More on that in the next section) A few other stores/brands I like to shop are TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, and Calvin Klein.

 

  • Keep an eye out for Semi-Annual and Flash Sales

 

As I mentioned before, you must be familiar with sales! This is when I usually do the majority of my shopping as most of the items are 40-70% off. This allows you to have the same name brands at a feasible price. Just a few weeks ago, my mom and I went into ZARA to have a look around but was surprised by a flash sale going on. I bought a beautiful black ribbed turtle neck dress for $15 that was originally $50. Since it’s from ZARA, I know that it’ll last me years if I take care of it. Another tip I’d like to mention is to be wary of fast fashion. Although the clothes are cheap, they are most likely to deteriorate in the wash after 1-2 uses. (Not to mention the horrible environmental and social effect it has).

Another tip would be to shop a season in advance. I always see racks of name brand coats, such as Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, etc. for at least 50% off in the summer months. Last year I saw an MK wool coat that was originally around $200 for $79.99. This would be the time to choose your winter coat, or anything else you might think would be useful in the upcoming months.

 

  • Splurge on one thing (if you can!)

 

One of the best fashion advice I received from my mother is to buy quality. Let’s say you’re going on a trip to somewhere extremely cold and need a new winter coat. If it is within your means, it’s better to buy a coat that will last you years as opposed to one winter as in the grand scheme of things it is more cost-efficient. It’s also better functionality speaking, as the more expensive one is usually made with better materials that will keep you warmer. For example, when my mother and I first came to Florida we found a store called HSN outlet. I bought a pair of leather boots for half the original price that still look amazing 6 years later.

 

  • Respect the process

 

Respecting the point in which you are in your journey is something that I have learned to do. Instead of feeling bad that I can’t buy the $800 Dior belt, I find something of similar taste like the $30 MK belt at Nordstrom Rack. Keep in mind, it’s no use to buy something you want but can’t afford to feed yourself or buy gas, or whatever the case might be. 

The last point I’d like to make, and one of the most important is to remember that your personal fashion is constantly under evolution. It changes with your moods, age, budget, seasons, etc. Remember this, and you’ll always be the best dressed in the room. 

Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Exposing Our Hearts to the World

IMG_9064.JPG

Written By Aspen S., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

They say that empathy is the ability to understand or feel what another person is experiencing. Growing up, this was taught to us every time we were told to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. This always came naturally to me as I often felt as though I couldn’t fully help someone if I wasn’t sure where they were truly coming from. What they were thinking or feeling in that moment. I had to be present in the situation with them. 

In my youth, this often led to me being described as just being over sensitive as I would cry whenever someone else would cry. A sympathetic crier they would say. In my adolescence I was told that I was overreacting and the extreme emotional fatigue that I felt was linked to poor mental and physical health. I was told that sleep was the answer and I wouldn’t feel such a range of emotion. In adulthood, I was given the opportunity to unlearn all of those things that undermined what was actually going on.

 So, while yes, I am certainly an empathetic crier and will sob at the slightest drop of water from someone else’s eyes, the true feeling behind all of this is empathy. And as of recently I have been feeling all too empathetic, so much so that it had started to drain me of my own life force. 

I have chosen a career in Student Affairs and in doing so I have chosen a lifetime of providing solace to those in distress and those who find themselves need guidance as they develop along their own paths. I am privileged enough for people to share their stories with me and to trust me enough to ask me for advice. But to say that every day in an chose career path would be a lie. The truth is that some weeks are like last week. Last week, nothing was particularly different and yet I couldn’t find the motivation to get out of bed or to do simple tasks at work without crying. Even the thought of seeing my truly amazing colleagues or the many students whose work ethic and innovation keeps me in awe was enough to get me going. I was like a steam engine that truly lost its steam and from the outside looking in I’m sure it was crippling to watch.

But when I truly think back to last week it was much different than any other week. I had four students come to me with information linked to their personal lives that had truly rocked their worlds. And in turn, it truly rocked mine as well. I felt their pain as if it was my own and with each one a little part of me was slashed away. By the end of the week, I was the emotional version of raw skin and exposed bones and my emotional stability was on borrowed time.

Sadly, this was not the first time this has happened to me and I say with bittersweet confidence that it won’t be the last. So as I write this, I think about ways that I can shield my heart just a little bit without sacrificing the empathy that I know nothing but to give.  For people like me, spending quality time with loved ones can always be a game of jack in the box as I never know what that person may be feeling in the moment until it hits me. But at the same time, this quality time may be exactly the type of thing to recharge me. This past weekend I hosted a gift exchange with the student staff that I work with. Despite the piles of laundry that I had trailed around and overall chaos that ensued as a result of the week before, I didn’t want them to think poorly of me. So I found enough energy to attempt to decorate my apartment for the holidays and cook a slew of my favorite dishes. A few of them decorated my very naked Christmas tree (even Christmas couldn’t knock my distress on this one!) and the room was filled with music and laughter. It was by the far the happiest day that week and turned out to be exactly what I needed to start my ascent back to “normal”.  I kind of imagine it like the Monster’s Inc scream meter but with joy and happiness. It was finally starting to fill back up after being empty for so long.

The empathy that I feel for others influences the way that I feel in any given moment. It is my superpower but also my curse as my emotions change like the wind when I walk in a room full of people. But as I grow older I realize that it is neither good nor bad. It just is. It’s all I’ve ever known and I have been told that it is one of the reasons that people enjoy my company so much.  As someone who takes a long time to trust others, I think it is my way of exposing my heart to the world when I otherwise wouldn’t. As I go through life, I just need to make sure I do a better job of protecting that little beating gem of mine.

Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Queen and Slim: A Film About Black Love OR Black Trauma?

IMG_8960.JPG

** Spoilers **

As soon as I heard the shot, saw the bullet pierce Queen’s chest, and watched her body hit the ground, hot tears instantly filled my eyes.

Like many Americans, I saw the movie Queen and Slim by writer/actress/producer genius, Lena Waithe over the Thanksgiving holiday break. I anticipated nothing but great visuals and story lines from the first time I saw the trailer for the movie. Two dark skinned Black leading characters was what sold me from the start. It was an opportunity to see myself on screen. It was the Black love story we rarely see. Most of the Black love stories we see on TV and film star a dark skinned Black woman with a white man or a dark skinned Black man with a light skinned Black woman. It’s rare that you see the two intertwine. But this was IT.

This movie gave us a perspective about love that we often don’t think about. It’s hard to imagine falling in love with someone in the span of six days after meeting on Tinder. Outside of them deciding to run for their lives, the idea of staying alive and protecting each other turned into an opportunity to have a deeper connection. I saw two people that had no other choice but to bond despite their differences. When they met, Queen was a successful lawyer, and Slim was a guy who worked in retail. If the unfortunate traffic stop never happened, would it have been likely that Queen and Slim would have continued to date? Maybe not. Queen didn’t seem interested in him at all until they decided to run. From my perspective, she looked at him as if he was beneath her…or not her equal. This is a common thing I’ve noticed in my time on the dating scene. It’s hard to find a man that is on the same career path as you or your “equal”, especially now. However, I do believe that if true love is there, both people in the relationship should figure out how to make it work no matter who makes more money or who has the most “ideal” career. The two never got a chance to explore that and because of their situation, their jobs didn’t matter. All that mattered was protecting each other at all costs.

I felt their connection grow as the movie progressed. Despite my undying love for the two, I heard some rumbles from folks about their opposition for seeing the movie. Their reasoning was the visuals of Black trauma continued to be played out on screen. What is “Black Trauma”? My definition of it is when violence against Blacks is constantly portrayed on screen for profit. We continue to see the same type of movies: Blacks being killed by the police, slavery, etc. where we are victims. One person I talked to said they would rather have seen a movie about Black perseverance (like Black Panther or Harriet *even though there was controversy about Harriet*) where we win. He decided against seeing Queen and Slim because he figured they would either die at the hands of the police at the end or they would end up in jail. And of course if you’ve seen the movie, they died. I mean, I felt their deaths in my soul. As soon as I heard the shot, saw the bullet pierce Queen’s chest, and watched her body hit the ground, hot tears instantly filled my eyes.

Now, I personally love Lena Waithe’s work. I don’t think she was trying to exploit Black trauma because she is always about Black folks no matter what. But it doesn’t hurt to ask the question, are the majority of the movies and television shows about Blackness centered around their trauma? For example, I just began watching the show All American about a Black kid growing up in Crenshaw in Los Angeles and the gang violence in his neighborhood. We know that in real life, things like this happen, but I wonder if there was a different story line, if the show would even be successful.

I will admit, it was hard watching the interaction of Queen and Slim with the white police officer. We see this so much in our society in how the police treat us and in my opinion, we are beginning to become numb to it. Was there another way we could have engaged with Black love without the police brutality and Queen and Slim’s deaths at the end? I’m sure there was but this is how Waithe decided to connect their love. 

I do hope that we as Black folks know that our love can exist without the violence and the emotional trauma we often face.

❤ Queen T

 

 

Crab or Token?

IMG_8639.JPG

Written By Mesha G., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

When do you know if its crabs in a bucket syndrome or glorified tokenism? A while back I read Gabrielle Union’s memoir, “We’re Going to Need More Wine” and she explained how as she was getting older and when another star came on the scene, she felt threatened. The realization of feelings occurred to her when she understood that she could be replaced.  Just like her character, Mary Jane Paul in Being Mary Jane was intimidated by the star anchor, Rhonda. On screen, Mary Jane and Rhonda had it out for each other and it even spilled over through camera time. Just like the script, this is something that Gabrielle Union felt in real life with the new and upcoming star, but this time she was the Rhonda. And often, in the black community we feel like there can only be one…or possibly no one at all.

We see it all the time, we see people start small businesses and complain that they get more support from strangers than family and friends. We can agree that we’ve seen someone saying this on Facebook or IG. And the same goes for those who are going back to school, move to a different city, or have finally decided to begin a fitness journey… it’s haters all around, B!   And it’s sad to say that I truly believe that some of it is unconscious and we’ve been socialized that as this is the way of life.

The crabs in a bucket mentality is a metaphor to describe human behavior and screams the ideal, that if I can’t have it (whatever it is) then neither can you.  It’s such a hurtful place to live in life, trying to bring others down because you can’t either find your way out or are too jealous to lift and climb at the same time.  Crabs in a bucket mentality also attest to people shutting you down because they never seen some bomb ass shit happened before; sometimes, other folks talk you down because they don’t have the confidence to do it themselves. Which brings me to my side point for a later post: have friends around you, who truly support you! 

Tokenism is a topic all of its own that I can talk about for hours.  When I reflect on my experience in my office, I am the only black woman — and the tokenism feels more like exploitation than praise.  And not to discredit anyone that may be multi-racial or non-black people of color, it’s just not the same. The history that stands with black people wanting validation from whites or the basic demand of just wanting to be treated like a human lies deep and has shaped some people to be proud of being the only one. Still today, some black people find value in whiteness, emerging themselves in spaces where they are the only one and is congratulated for not being like the rest of black people has really been a point of praise. 

Many of us in our workplaces scream about underrepresentation, when the goal was never to be proportionally represented in the first place.  Having a few people of diverse backgrounds a part of the larger groups gives the appearance of equality but doesn’t truly stands for it. Considering how the system is set up, is underrepresentation perpetuating whiteness all by itself or is the system really set up to be that complex?

It makes me want to ask the question, if there’s more than one black woman (or person) who shares opportunity, why is this a threat?

Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Importance of Sisterhood

IMG_8254.JPEG

Written By Victoria B., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family. -Unknown

As an only child, I have always longed for at least one sister. Growing up I would see the incredible bond siblings would share and wished to have the same thing. It wasn’t until recently did I realize that I do have that bond, not just with one person, but with several. For my 21st birthday, I was with five of my closest friends. Most of them I have known for five or more years. It was when I was editing one of the photos we took that I realized I have such a special and unique connection with every single one of them. There are some that I talk to and hangout out with every day and others that I speak to once in a while (but it feels like no time has passed). These are the friendships that are cultivated to stand the test of time. We all laugh together, cry together, rejoice in one another’s successes. This, for me, is the true meaning of sisterhood. Being able to go through life with people that evolve and grow with you, not relish in your mistakes or misfortunes. 

This realization made me understand the beauty of being an only child. One is being able to create their family with people they feel that will uplift them and vice versa. This is something that I value and am grateful for as I have the ability to meticulously develop a larger support system that benefits all parties involved. My mom always used to say (and still does to this day), “Surround yourself with people that lift you up, not tear you down.” This ideology seems pretty straight forward but is quite difficult in practice. It took me years to grasp the notion that not everyone is genuine even if they seem like it. Take, for example, my Freshman year of college. I made “friends” with almost everyone I met which served to my disadvantage. I was focused more on quantity rather than quality. 

Growing up emphasis is put on warning us against having people close to you that do drugs and were a negative influence but the idea of manipulative friends in other forms rarely made the conversation. I gave so much of myself to people that never gave me anything in return. These are the parasitic exchanges that inevitably suck all the joy and life out of a person. I pride myself on analyzing those I considered friends and making the decision to end those that were toxic. It took me a minute but I finally realized that it’s okay to not entertain people that serve as a deficit to your growth. I choose to give thanks to those negative experiences because they make positive ones so much more special. By refining the circle of people I consider my friends, I was able to focus my energy on building up true friendships.

 Sisterhood comes in many different forms. Whether it’s from actual blood sisters to sorority sisters, to best friends or mentors. Each relationship is crucial to the success of one another. It’s the idea of building your own personal community that empowers all those apart of it. It is created through shared experiences, whether they are positive or negative. To end this blog post, I’d like to share a powerful quote.

 

“Sisterhood provides a safe space for your truest self to emerge. It is a place where your tears are caught, not judged; where you are held, not ridiculed; and where it’s okay not be okay.” – Makeda Pennycooke

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich: Saving America from What Exactly?

IMG_8098.JPG

Written By Aspen S., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

On August 12th, the internet was sweeping with positive reviews of the Popeye’s chicken sandwich.  The sandwich was better than Chik-fil-A and people would wait, sometimes over an hour just to get the delectable piece of chicken on a bun. Popeye’s did not even have to do much advertisement because of the sheer personal hype that people were sharing about their experience eating the sandwich. One article in The New Yorker even went so far as to say that “The Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich is Here to Save America”.

In the weeks following, Twitter was swarming with videos of customers fighting in lines and even more notably, Popeye’s employees being berated, assaulted, and robbed for failure to provide this sandwich to impatient customers. In short, it became clear that the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich was here to shine a spotlight on some of the worst behavior in America. Around this same time, Popeye’s issued messages that they were sold out of the sandwich on account of the fact that they no longer had buns. This still did not stop Americans as customers were willing to bring their own bun, thus allowing the poor treatment of Popeye’s employees to maintain the norm. Soon after, Popeye’s issued a statement that they would no longer be selling the infamous sandwich at its locations. That is until the end of October when Popeye’s tweeted that they would be re-releasing the sandwich at all of its locations starting November 3rd. America was ready and I’ll personally never forget how Twitter users were some of the first to comment on this grand news, sharing in the joy by jokingly posting their re-release party outfits with the world.  

 It is at this point that I think it’s fair to say that I have yet to try the sandwich. As I’ve shared with you all before, I rarely eat chicken so I will not go out of my way to wait in long lines to try it (although if it ended up in front of me due to happenstance I wouldn’t be opposed to a bite – just to see if it’s worth the hype!). But I think my belief in the sandwich really grew when my mother called me in the afternoon of November 3rd to inform me that she had indeed arrived to Popeye’s prior to opening and waited in line for 23 minutes to get the sandwich. And she reported that it was gooooooood, damn near moaning as she reflected upon her eating experience. Furthermore, she told me that the only reason she knew about the re-release was because my brother (who was visiting from college for the weekend) awoke from his slumber early in the morning and ran in every room to tell people they had to arrive to Popeye’s by 10 AM to get the sandwich. That man hardly ever wakes up before noon so I know the sandwich is fuego (-fuego=fire).  

My family’s positive experience made my quite happy and more than anything I believed that this time around Americans would not act a fool. But the only clown here was me and the headlines were almost instantly back showing off yet again that Americans have lost all sense of virtue when it comes to this damn sandwich. People were fighting in lines and more than anyone it was the employees were were suffering. At this point, I personally believed it was time to shut it down but I knew Popeye’s was making far too much money for that to happen. But soon the Popeye’s Chicken sandwich experience started to hit a little bit closer to home and I really got to thinking…

On November 4th (yes, one day after the launch of the re-release smh), articles were reporting that a man was fatally stabbed for cutting in line at a Popeye’s in Oxon Hill, MD about 30 minutes from where I live/work. I was of course very upset about the situation but like the millennial I am I avoided unpacking the situation and instead sat on Twitter retweeting memes about the situation created by other Marylanders. It wasn’t until two days later when a friend of mine expressed how upset she was about the situation. One of my students and I had been bantering back and forth with her in a joking manner about the situation because the area that the situation occurred in is often labelled as “the hood”. But she came to me and asked me why I felt comfortable promoting the anti-Black narrative that the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich is promoting. At first I took offense at the thought her putting me and anti-Black in the same sentence but I am rarely one to pop off without reflection so I took some time to think about what she said.

Very soon I came to the conclusion that she was actually right. In thinking of the media coverage and the way that negative experiences were reported and videos released, they were almost always creating a narrative that Black people love fried chicken so much that they’d kill for it. This was then co-signed by Ja Rule (whose statements have kind of been a bit questionable since the Fyre Festival situation but who is still a well-known figure in the Black community) who said he was disappointed by his people and that people are “idiots” and “acting like niggas” when ranting about the sandwich epidemic. The funny thing about all of this is that there is never any other information about other people….non-Black people…enjoying the sandwich – and I know they’re out there eating it too!

Ironically, it was determined that man in Oxon Hill was not stabbed for cutting in line but rather for previous beef between the two men and the altercation just conveniently went down at a Popeye’s in the midst of the sandwich fanfare. But this new information was never reported despite traction by Marylanders to get the truth reported via Twitter after it was made clear by someone who had a personal connection to the assailant. I had people reaching out to me about the situation asking if I’m ok and as the prideful Marylander I am I was quite quick to spread the truth and nothing but it. For many people, the way this was reported served as a breaking point for many like myself who were fed up about the way the Popeye’s experience was shared in a way that negatively impacts Black people. Many went out of their way to find and promote footage of White people also acting up at Popeye’s. But the sad part about this was that many of these videos were because a White person called the employees or another customer the N-word. And more often than not, these headlines would start with “White Women Attacked at Popeye’s” so the narrative was once again skewed this time in favor of White people. And in reading some of these articles, employees of color seemed to be the people who still suffered in situations like this as they are investigated for situations like this even though they were clearly provoked by grossly racist customers.

Much similar to Black Friday, Americans of all backgrounds don’t know how to act when the demand is high and the supply low. But just like Black Friday, it’s more than just Black people that behave in these harmful ways. So, although the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich may be saving America’s stomachs and palette, it had done little to save us from the disgusting and false narratives that Black people as a whole are fried-chicken loving criminals. Now, I’m not saying that we need to give up on the sandwich (bless your stomachs, y’all and Popeyes, get your coins, girl!) but I’m just thinking about how it never hurts to keep a critical eye out for the narratives that these cultural sensations can perpetuate. Yes, fried chicken is certainly something that brings many Black people together (my family included!) but the honest truth is that it is something that has brought many types of folks from all walks of life together and into Popeye’s so we need to paint that entire picture. Maybe instead of talking about these isolated instances of black on black crime that may or may not even be related to chicken, let’s talk about getting some paid time off for these employees who are at this point putting their life on the line to make American stomachs happy!

 Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

So, I’m 30…

RNI-Films-IMG-8DA29C80-0F30-459D-A20E-B7C923398A70.JPG

Approximately 2 weeks ago, I turned 30-years-old. As I inched closer to the big three-oh, I heard from other 30-year-olds how great 30 was and how your life really begins to happen in your 30s. Well, I’ve been here 2 ½ weeks and I hate it here lol. Let me explain. 

I made many poor choices in my 20s, be it with friendships, men, money, student loans. I had a good glow up but all while I was still very discombobulated in the aspects of the things that were going to affect me into my 30s and beyond. So, here I am, looking around trying to figure out how to sweep up the debris caused by the mini catastrophes I created being careless. 

I’ve been open on this blog about my uphill battle with my mental health, anxiety, and depression. Two weeks before I turned 30, I got into a car accident that was allegedly my fault. I suppressed how I felt about the accident until probably this past Sunday when I sat and reflected on my life over the last 30 years. Since my birthday, my depression revved up to an all-time high and when I finally admitted that the accident affected me, I broke. 

A few panic attacks later, I got my shit in order and took the advice of my dad and friend. They told me to write down some goals for myself. One of the goals is to stop holding in how I feel. I have to acknowledge when I’m not happy or when I am happy because those feelings are real. Keeping them in won’t make them any better. I recognize that the longer I hold on to it the bigger the explosion. To lessen the blow, let it go. I started with 11 short term goals that I think are obtainable. I had to be realistic with the timeline because some will take longer than others. One thing I did not do was write down how I was going to accomplish some of the goals…I only outlined a few. There are some goals I will not share on this platform but I will share the ones that I believe will help others. These are in no particular order.

  1. Validate my emotions: Whatever I feel, I have to acknowledge that those feelings exist. When I have multiple ones at once, write them down to not harbor them all. (This is an on-going goal).
  2. Pay off one credit card at a time: It’s unrealistic to take all of your credit cards at once. Continue to make the minimum payments on all of them but pay more than the minimum on your lowest card as much as you can. Then, once the lowest card is paid off, do not use it again and take the payments you were putting on that card onto the next lowest card. So, essentially, you’ll pay the minimum payment for the first card, the minimum payment on the second card, plus extra on the second card. Continue to follow that pattern. (This is an on-going goal).
  3. Look for the next opportunity: In grad school, one of my professors would always tell us that when we landed a job to ensure that we did the following: a.) never lose your keys, b.) don’t burn down the building, and c.) always be looking for your next job. His advice has always stuck with me. In order to meet your financial goals, never stop checking out what other job opportunities are out there while you are employed. That will motivate you to get all of your professional development experience in your current job so that you will be ready to move into the next role. I’ve been doing this but while I wait, I paid for my own LLC so I can start getting booked for workshops and presentations on the side to supplement my income. I do plan on applying for jobs with higher salary as well. (I hope to meet this goal by June 2020).
  4. Get booked: I want to get my first speaking opportunity to grow my business. I am trying to figure out ways to get my name out there and who to speak with. (Goal to have first paid speaking engagement: April 2020)
    1. To make this work, I have to stop being afraid to ask for help.
  5. Let go of toxic people: Now, this is something I’ve been doing since I was about 18. I have a great set of core friends who are truly genuine. I’ve stopped communicating with a couple of the guys I was entertaining recently. I finally recognized that me carrying on with them was doing nothing to enhance my life. (This goal is on-going)
    1. Toxic people include members of my family. I’m still working on what that looks like. Unlike people who aren’t blood related, family is a touchy thing. When I say let go, I don’t mean that I want them out of my life. I mean that I need to find a way to tell them how their toxic actions have impacted me. I need to find a way to say it without them taking it personal and thinking that I don’t love them.
  6. Finish this damn Ph.D: This goes without saying. I’m ready to be DONE!!!! (Graduation goal is December 2020).
  7. Reconnect with God/Spirituality: I realized that part of my inner turmoil is that I need to stay close with God. I’ve been praying more. I don’t feel comfortable in the church anymore but not because I don’t believe in God. At some point, I started feeling isolated in the church and now every time I walk in there, I feel condemned. It’s the wildest feeling. I decided in order to recenter myself, that I need to do the work on my own with the help of my dad, the Bible, and friends. Learn to be thankful for where I am now and what I do have. **Shout out to Mesha for putting me on Sara Jakes Roberts’ Podcast ** (This goal is on-going).

Seeing my goals written out has helped me see my 30s more clear. I’m ready to tackle this next decade and I know I have nothing to fear now. Whatever is going to happen was designed to happen and I will be successful.

❤ Queen T