Live In Love <3

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

I’ve allowed my heart to love. Now, before everyone thinks this is all about a guy, it really isn’t because it’s about so much more.  I’ve allowed myself to love me and everyone around me. Moving through life with love is way different that what many would anticipate, it’s freeing, a little scary but definitely freeing once it’s been embraced.  

Recently, a couple of my girls and I began a book club and our first read is a book dedicated to loving yourself and finding the love you want.  The read was definitely insightful and challenged me in a way I wasn’t anticipating on being challenged. How we navigate through life are indications of if we are moving through life with love or not. The way we decide to handle adversities are a direct display of how we ultimately feel about ourselves and how we view ourselves. We can believe and lie to ourselves saying that we are living life through love but can be driven more by anxiety or fear.  

When we navigate life through fear, we are always in fight or flight mode.  One of my favorite quotes that I have on my work monitor is “when you are going to stop living in survival mode?”  This particular quote was in reference to how we overwork ourselves so I kept this around after I heard it because I continued to find myself making decisions as if I didn’t have my feet on the ground. Living in fear or anxiety rather than love creates emotional dissonance.  We aren’t empathetic or compassionate to others, we tend to listen to respond rather than listen to recieve, amongst a host of other things that create an unhealthy existence for us. And if we do find ourselves in empathetic or compassionate places, it may be very easy to be walked over because it became an avenue for approval. 

I didn’t realize how moving through life without love meant that I was cutting myself short of so many opportunities; the opportunity to be truly and internally joyful rather than just a delightful person for others to be around. The opportunity to not be mad about shit that I cannot control or embrace being mad and letting it go. And the opportunity to let go of skepticism that life gifts us with. Throughout the more recent experience I’ve had learning how to live through love, I’ve learned so much about myself and how to react (or not react) with others.  Most importantly, I’ve learned how to choose me in the midst of all of the demands of the world without guilt. Moving through life with love is so underrated.

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

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My Journey to Becoming…

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

“Am I good enough?” 4 words asked by former First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the beginning of her book, “Becoming” that ran often through my mind.

Last winter I decided to pick up a copy of “Becoming”. At that time, I had no idea how much I would relate to Mrs. Obama and her feelings towards the roller coaster we call life. Before reading her words, I thought she had always had her life together and knew exactly what she wanted (I thought everyone did). It wasn’t until further reading did I realize that she, like the rest of us, is figuring it out along the way. This sudden comprehension felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. 

From the age of 11, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I made sure to tailor my high school electives, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work to gain experience in the field that I had chosen. I did this all throughout high school and the beginning part of college. It wasn’t until starting at my university did I feel that I had chosen the wrong major. I was constantly under an overwhelming amount of stress, got sick/ injured often, and wasn’t succeeding in the way I knew I could.  I felt as if I wasn’t realizing my full potential and I didn’t know why. I would often end up questioning my abilities even though I knew deep down that I had what it took. I distanced myself and seldom wore the smile that I am so well known for. I finally had enough of feeling low and decided to take matters into my own hands, listen to my body, and not go against the grain as it felt like I had been doing for so long.

 I took a step back and reevaluated what I wanted to achieve and how I was going to pursue my dreams. I did weeks of research on different career options in the related field of my precious choice. I chose one that I knew I could succeed with great potential for advancement. I listened to my intuition and decided to change everything. I started a new university job, switched both my major and my minor, and even redecorated my room. It felt like I had a new lease on life. I began achieving the grades I knew I deserved/worked so hard for, was awarded many different professional opportunities, and started to develop my sense of self. Of course, I have to give tremendous credit to my wonderful mother who not only supported my decisions but guided me in the right direction. Without her wisdom and counsel, I have no idea where I would be.]

What Mrs. Obama taught me was that life is a never-ending journey of lessons and growth. To get “to know the richness of [your] own mind” is something achieved after many experiences in which you learn a great deal of yourself.  I think it’s important for everyone, especially young people starting their voyage, to understand and respect the process that we must go through. It isn’t just a straight shot toward achieving your goals but rather a turbulent one filled with highs and lows. One must always trust your instinct and try their hardest.

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

We All Want to FEEL Something

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

For the past eight weeks I have spent my Sunday nights anxiously waiting for the clock to hit 10:00 to watch what has quickly become my favorite television show, Euphoria. The show, executive produced by Drake, is HBO’s newest original series. The story details the life of high school students and the intricate yet somewhat connected storylines that each of these students experience. The show itself is reminiscent of the UK series Skins or even the beloved Degrassi but it bears a level of honesty and rawness that I personally have never seen before in a show. Its incredible story lines are then augmented by beautiful cinematography, a robust soundtrack that includes the like of Too $hort and Arcade Fire in the same episode, and a score compilated by the musical genius that is Labrinth.

The show is loosely based on an Israeli series of the same name but is also very personal to the show creator, Sam Levinson, who battled drug addiction and navigating his own mental health through his teen years, two themes that are heavily discussed in the show. Zendaya’s character, Rue, is the main character and narrator of the show and the show features a variety of other amazing actors including Hunter Schafer, Maude Apatow, and many others, some of whom are in their first acting role and still managed to get me deeply invested in their characters (shoutout Angus Cloud #feznation). 

Now that the season is over, I have taken some time to really reflect on it all and have come to three major realizations.

1. We are all humans who want to be loved. The show does a great job of detailing the trials and tribulations of the characters but at the end of the day what truly connects them is that they are all aiming to feel loved and comforted in who they are. For some this first means figuring out who they are and for others this means finding someone who honors who they are through the waning good and bad times. This can easily be translated to real life when we think about our own unique lived experiences and how this may look or feel completely different, but as the tagline mentions, we are just hoping to feeling something – and preferably something good. This is what drives our actions, steers how we perceive our interactions with others, and how we choose to navigate the world around us.

2. We have a bad habit of becoming out of touch as we grow older. When the show first aired there were so many parents who were shocked by the content. They were even more thoroughly shook when they watched it with their kids, only to find out that the show manages to convey a pretty accurate portrayal of life for high school-aged kids. I had a very similar conversation with my own mother who I recommended the show too. I didn’t expect her to watch but surprisingly she did and just like me she was hooked after the first episode. After that, we would always be sure to text or call each other on Mondays to discuss our thoughts on most recent episodes. At first she felt very disconnected to the characters but after I gave her my take on it and related the characters to myself, my siblings, and/or friends and peers in my life that she knows well she was even more intrigued. It got us talking with a level of depth and honesty that I cannot recall us previously every doing. I am grateful for the ways that Euphoria has unexpectedly brought me and my mother together and I hope we can continue to have these conversations, especially as they pertain to our own experiences, leading me to realization number three.

3. We are all doing the best that we can and that’s all that we can ask for. As my mother and I reflected on our experiences, I came to realize that in the moment we are really doing the best that we can in the best ways that we know how. For parents this doesn’t always mean that they are the best parents in the world and for kids it doesn’t always mean that we are making the best decisions for our futures. But we are reacting to our experiences and making decisions in the moment in a way that works for us, in a way that we can avoid pain, and in a way that will allow us to hopefully suffer the least. It doesn’t always work out for the best, but that’s all part of the journey.

Despite going into this show with zero expectations (it came on after Big Little Lies and I wasn’t ready to move from the couch so I stayed to watch), it has allowed me to think about so much more than I ever would have thought. It has gotten me to reflect on my own teen years and continued early adulthood and has sparked conversations with friends and family.

The show has already been renewed for a second season which will likely air in the summer of 2020. In the meantime, I’ll be on Twitter every day, blowing up Labrinth’s mentions as I beg him to release the show’s ear-gasmic score.

 Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Stop Inviting Me Over If Your House Ain’t Clean

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To some, the title, Stop Inviting Me Over If Your House Ain’t Clean may be alarming. But to others, you know exactly what I mean. I’m even going to flex, I used to date this guy who didn’t know what cleaning meant. His apartment was always a mess, the bathroom looked like it hadn’t tasted a lick of Scrubbing Bubbles since the building was built, I was scared of the kitchen because I thought something was growing in it, I mean…it was bad. Since that relationship has long since ended, I vowed to never go to anyone’s house that wasn’t clean. 

Since being back on the dating scene, it’s been kind of weird trying to figuring out if a guy’s apartment/house is clean before I decide to go over there. It’s weird to come out and say “hey, sir! Is your apartment clean? Is your bathroom clean? Do you know how to use bathroom cleaner? Do you wash your dishes? Do you leave your trash in the can for days?” I remember I was on FaceTime with this guy a couple weeks ago and I could see his room in the background. It was an entire mess. I made a mental note to stop talking to him after that moment. I’m unsure if this is shallow or not but I don’t feel comfortable being in someone’s space that isn’t clean. That tells me so much about you as a person and what type of companion you will be in the future.

And most times, a messy and unclean house is a sign that there may be deeper issues going on with the person in the first place. That’s what I learned about my ex. 

I try my best to ensure that I keep my place clean. I do this for two reasons. The first, I can’t focus on anything if my apartment is not clean. If there are clothes everywhere or I have a sink full of dishes, my mind and body cannot relax because I feel like I’m in chaos. Being at home is supposed to relax you after a long day at work. Coming home to a messy place doesn’t settle me down. The second reason is, if I have guests over, I don’t want them to think I’m a dirty person lol. It’s just not sanitary for anyone and I don’t get how some guys feel comfortable inviting people (especially women they are trying to impress) over knowing their space is filthy. The new me who is appreciative of the standards I set for myself, cannot stand for this. 

But the title goes beyond apartments and houses. Cleaning your “house” means yourself. I don’t think it’s fair to pursue a relationship with anyone if you don’t have yourself together. Here’s a few examples of what I mean.

  1.  If you know for sure you are not ready to be in a relationship because you aren’t ready to give up the multiple other people you’re messing around with, stop inviting me over if your house ain’t clean. Situations like this are tricky. It’s important that when you are searching for someone to be with to date multiple people. I am all for it. But don’t be talking to me about how I’m the one and only but you know good and well I’m not the one and only. Be honest. Let me make the decision if I want to continue to talk to you or not. 
  2. If you have lots of emotional baggage that you aren’t ready to address with a licensed therapist, stop inviting me over if your house ain’t clean. Mental health is very important to me. I’ve met many people who still don’t believe in going to therapy and they carry around all this shit and take it out on the ones they are with. Being mentally healthy is an on-going process just like exercising and eating right. It is part of a longer and more fruitful life and you are doing me and yourself a disservice if you don’t take the time to work on yourself.
  3. In connection with mental health, if you don’t take your physical health seriously, stop inviting me over if your house ain’t clean. I come from a family with a history of heart disease and diabetes. I’ve been big my entire life and in 2013, I decided to make a lifestyle change for myself. I stepped on the scale in 2013 and I was approximately 250 pounds and I couldn’t take it anymore. It is important to be cognizant of how you are treating your body. Although I workout here and there, I can’t be with someone who doesn’t believe in doing some type of physical activity, be it walking during the day or going to the gym a couple times a week, who doesn’t believe in drinking water, who doesn’t eat at least 2 green vegetables. Trust me, I love my share of sweets and things that aren’t good for me. I’m not saying deprive yourself of the things you want, but think about your body long term. Anddddd, on a selfish note: if you’re overweight, that probably means you snore when you sleep and I cannnnnnnnot! lol
  4. If you know for sure you’re not ready to pursue a relationship, stop inviting me over if your house ain’t clean. In my experience, guys know if they want to be with you or not. If you are not sure if you want to be with someone, don’t lead them on and have them thinking you want to be with them. There’s a difference between saying, “I’m not looking for a relationship” and talking and acting like you are looking for one. That does nothing but lead us on and waste our time. Be open and honest about the expectations, especially if you know the woman is starting to catch feelings for you.

This list isn’t an end all be all and to be honest, having a clean house can go with friendships, too. I was talking to one of my really good friends about this. There has been times in the past where I have gotten close to other women and thinking we are friends and then they turn around and disrespect me in the worst way possible because of their own insecurities. 

To conclude, it is important to do self-reflection and self-work before you try to invite people into your space. My best friends tell me this all the time. I had to do lots of self-reflection last year. I realized that at that point in time, I wasn’t ready to allow someone into my life because I still had lots of emotional baggage going on in various avenues in my life. Now, that I am in a better space, I hope this helps someone else who feels they need to clean their house (literally or figuratively) before they invite people over.

❤ Queen T

My Modern Day Religion Journey

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

Religion is the basis of America. When we look at the dollar bill it says “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Controversially, public schools still recite the Pledge of Allegiance and that says “one nation under God.”  Regardless of your religion or lack of religion if you live in America, you have been infiltrated with religion, specifically Christianity.   

I grew up fairly involved in a (non-denominational) Christian church and still identify as a Christian. However, like many others, my experience in the church has led me astray from the fellowship that occurs when the church congregate.  Nothing terribly traumatizing happened at church other than judgement. I can take some conviction, now. But the “holier than thou” vibes were something I actively made a choice to not fall into because I’ve experienced life… and by life at that time just meant I went to college LOL but I got a chance to experience people outside of my bubble.  

I attended the epitome of a state school so everybody and they mama from all over Illinois attended with sprinkles of people from other states and countries. But I learned so much about others upbringings and traditions (and religion) that shapes how they view the world from people who lived relatively close to my hometown.  I’m very appreciative of my upbringing, it made a bomb ass woman. I’m not always right as I tend to feel I am but I’ve grown grounded enough to be unwavering with my beliefs while still making myself open and available to other regardless of where they came from. And THIS is something that isn’t true typically shared among our church folk. 

Many millennials and younger generations have fallen flat to the idea of maintaining a religious relationship in the church.  They may have some groundedness in spirituality, like myself, but no longer have a church home or spiritual guide like a pastor. I honestly teeter back and forth with myself if I need it or not.  Sometimes, I miss it…most times I don’t. 

One of the rationales why I don’t miss it is based off the word, our goal is to be salt and light in the world. I’m not being in the world sharing light and being salt if I sit with Cheryl every Sunday and Wednesday night and judge the people that don’t feel comfortable walking through those doors.  By nature, we hang with people who are very much alike and aligned with ourselves. And because of this natural habit, we are not being vessels…. Ooh that’s a word. 

And the very reason why I don’t miss it is the very same reason why I do, under great leadership and even better community, there’s amazing opportunities to become true leaders in the community and the world without the opposition of forcing views down people who may view life different than you.  As a true testament of God’s will in your life will shine without force. You will literally radiate from His grace and from there opens a window of opportunity to share the word should you choose to. 

Maybe my ideology doesn’t align with the ideal Christianity and I don’t care…honestly and truly.  I do the work of the Lord in my best form without being barbaric and I still be blessed. 

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Ballet Noir

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

Idols. Ingrid Silva. Michaela DePrince. Precious Adams. Carlos Acosta. Andrea Long. Harper Watters. One of my earliest memories in ballet was in 2003 when I was patiently waiting in the hallway for class to start. My eyes danced around searching for something to catch my attention. Finally, they fixated on a stunning portrait of what I thought was a princess. It was of a black woman en pointe in a light pink and fuschia tutu. At the time, I didn’t know who she was. All I knew is that I wanted to be just like her. From that moment on, I saw her everywhere I turned. From being in magazines as the Firebird to on a portrait hanging at the dancewear shop as Cleopatra (the role specifically created for Ms. Anderson by former Artistic Director, Ben Stevenson)  I then found out that she was Principal Dancer, Lauren Anderson. Her bright smile, shining eyes, and impeccable technique will forever be sketched in my memory. Besides, Ms. Anderson, I never had many ballet idols that looked like me. Now, because of the diversity revolution and social media, we are exposed to many black dancers. This is not to say everything is perfect. Change is slow but inevitable. 

Apparel. “Why aren’t your tights pink?” Was a question I used to get from my fellow classmates. Confused, I used to ask my mom if she bought the wrong color tights because my legs never looked like everyone else. She tenderly explained that they were, in fact, the same color but darkened because of my skin tone. When I was growing up the default universal “nude” shade was a light pink color. This can prove to create an internal conflict when your skin tone doesn’t match the norm. While it might not seem like all that big of a deal, to a child it makes one feel isolated and like they don’t belong. The hues of pink also severs the extension that should be accentuated by the tights and pointe shoes.  “It changes the aesthetic, you want there to be a continuation between your upper and lower body and there’s a big disconnect if I put pink tights on.” (Precious Adams, 2018). This could be quite discouraging for a dancer chasing their dreams to feel.

Opportunities. “We don’t want to break the corps line.” An excuse young black dancers are often met with when they aren’t chosen for a role. Ballet is about synchronicity and uniformity. Everything, especially the corps de ballet (the body of the stage)  should be precise and balanced. Some companies use the notion of disturbing the line to justify their decision to leave out the dancer with a darker skin tone. Maya James, a close friend of mine, recounted the feeling of being the only black dancer at her studio, “When I stood at the barre and looked around the room before class, I did not see a single person that looked like me. Being the only brown face in the room made me feel a real sense of alienation – despite these other girls being my friends, I felt alone in the sense of being the only girl who had to apply foundation to my shoes and sometimes even to the flesh-colored parts of my performance costumes.” To maintain the aforementioned continuity, Maya found herself, like most other black dancers, being placed in the back during performances. “It’s almost like you’re the ugly duckling because the decision is purely to maintain aesthetics so that each dancer in the front looks the same. But what about talent? What about drive? If a black dancer exhibits these qualities, then why can’t they be in the front?” One might ask the simple question, “What’s the big deal if everyone looks different?” Former dancer with the New York City Ballet and Principal Dancer of the Dance Theater of Harlem, Andrea Long,  says, “A lot of the ballets are so programmed into people’s heads that they can’t see it any other way.” Often times people fear change. It shouldn’t be seen as an attack but as progress towards a more diverse and cohesive society.  

Hope. “When I see someone that looks like me that’s when I get inspired.” (School of American Ballet student, Kennedy Sheriff). The power of representation is unparalleled and vital for our people to feel accepted and included. There has been a shift in ballet seen in recent years. The taboo topic of race has been discussed more openly on huge platforms thanks to Misty Copeland, Michaela DePrince, etc. Harper Watters, Soloist for the Houston Ballet, has a popular Youtube Channel that gives insight to the life of a dancer. Carlos Acosta, a former dancer for the English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, has been appointed as the next Artistic Director for the Birmingham Royal Ballet starting in 2020. And Michaela DePrince, Soloist for the Het National Ballet in Amsterdam has been featured in many documentaries and magazines.

 In the past, black dancers would have to “pancake” their pointe shoes with their stage makeup to match their skin tones. Now, with companies such as Gaynor Minden and Mariia Dancewear, dancers of color are starting to feel welcomed in the dance world. Even though we have made leaps and bounds, we have a long way to go. Despite headway being made in creating a space for black dancers, the disparity between opportunities extended to white dancers and black dancers is glaringly apparent. We mustn’t be discouraged but inspired to create a world we are not only able but encouraged to thrive in.

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I AM My Hair

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

Having recently moved to a literal swamp environment I have noticed that my curls just don’t have the same bounce that they used to. My hair and been pretty dry and even though it’s very humid here, Maryland’s summer humidity is much different than the year-long humidity that envelopes the entire state of Florida. But with that being said my hair products just don’t hit the same these days. So, I’ve been doing quite a bit of experimenting in these past few weeks. 

I’ve done some research on different hair types and have determined that I definitely have low porosity hair. In less scientific terms, it basically takes hours on end for my hair to dry. If I do a wash-and-go in the morning, I have to bring a sweat towel with me because my hair will be dripping for the first three hours in my office (even after 15-20 minutes of towel trying because I truly try to avoid blow drying it). So no matter how cute my wash-and-go, my hair always ends up in a bun to keep the moisture contained. 

Like most people with low-porosity hair, my hair cuticles tend to block moisture during initial contact. The best example of this is when I get into the shower and the water will come in contact with my hair and literally bead up like oil and water. And while yes, I’m definitely putting oil in my hair it is not so lathered in oil that it would repel water like that. However, the low porosity means that after a few minutes of being in the shower, my hair cuticles will start to hold onto the water and at that point the hair actually won’t let it go anymore.  It is almost as if my hair is dehydrated and has found the last cup of water on earth. It will do anything to make it last. 

My low porosity hair is also easily affected by products. Since my hair cuticles are saturated by water after a wash, any products that I put in are not able to get into the hair cuticles. Instead they tend to build up over the cuticles and the ingredients are not absorbed well in my hair. This also means that my hair is not getting well-moisturized even when I put in product to do just that. This can lead to breakage to my hair when it finally dries. 

Before I go any further, I wanted to add a tidbit on high porosity hair. If you high porosity hair, your hair is very likely to dry very quickly but will frizz easily with the slightest exposure to moisture. This is because your hair cuticles are very receptive to moisture. Unlike my hair, high porosity hair will grab on to moisture very quickly but it will also lose it very quickly as well once absorbed, thus avoiding that over saturation. 

I’ve been looking for products, techniques, and styles that are good practice for low porosity hair. Products can be expensive so my experimentation is going little by little. I am starting off with being better able to moisturize my hair. Deep conditioning is something that I have always been super lazy about, but that is one of the best opportunities to moisturize my hair. Using a shower cap or other system that creates steam in a concentrated environment helps lift up the cuticle so that product can be absorbed. I’m also on the hunt for sticky but light products that can really attached to the cuticle, but not build up very thickly if it isn’t absorbed. 

In all of this, I’ve become very grateful for my many natural hair friends who have shared their hair experiences, products, and routines. I’ve realized that hair has a special way of bringing people together. I’ve also grown appreciative of the diversity of Black hair and how different my hair can look on any given day because it truly has a mind of its own. I’m looking forward to my experiments and maybe even exploring new hair opportunities that are completely new to me such a clip in hair, wigs, etc. that serve as both protective styles and the chance to serve new looks and styles. 

Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

**FOR AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT***

Let us know your favorite hair products or routines in the comments!

Inhale.

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Inhale.

Breathe. We do this all day everyday subconsciously. Think about it: we never focus on breathing until something makes us stop breathing. Holding your breath, having an anxiety attack, crying so hard you can’t breathe, so on and so forth. 

Before last Monday, I wasn’t breathing. I signed up to take a Koru Mindfulness course taught by one of my lovely sorors/friends, Tiara Cash (I wrote about her a while ago in the Special Spotlight Section). This four week course is supposed to help us be mindful and be in the present using meditation skills. I’ll be honest, I signed up for the class for two reasons: the first being, I wanted to support my soror. If anyone else would have posted something about them teaching a meditation class, I would have encouraged others to sign up and probably wouldn’t have participated myself. This is as honest as I can be. The second reason I signed up is because I never take the time to be in the moment with myself. I am constantly on the go at work and after. The pressure of not really knowing what I’m doing in writing my dissertation has me overwhelmed with a constant dormant headache. So, I believe God placed this class in my lap with someone I trust for a reason. 

The course is an online virtual course on Zoom. Last Monday, the first class, started off awkward for me. I was nervous to be doing breathing exercises over the computer with about 4 or 5 other strange women I’ve never met before. The comforting part was that of course, my soror was the instructor. After she explained the plan for the 4-week course, she led us through our guided first meditation. She had us center ourselves and practice inhaling and exhaling.

Notice your breath…inhale…and release…

As I was breathing, I felt differently than I did just 10 minutes prior to the exercise. I felt as if I was having an out of body experience. The pressure I was holding on to instantly rose to the surface of my body and on the 5th to last exhale, I felt that pressure release. I was crying and didn’t realize it until I heard the sound of the chimes indicating to us that the exercise was complete. Cash asked us some guiding questions about the experience and I was almost speechless.

I haven’t taken the time to recognize my breathing. I’m always on the go and find myself taking quick, short breaths just to get through the day. I haven’t seen my therapist in almost two months and not seeing her has had a major effect on my mental health. I talk to my friends sometimes about all of the things I have going on but I try not to overwhelm them. I use my therapist to really be open. During the two short months I’ve been away from her, life slapped me in the face like Nipsey Hustle (rest in peace) did that guy outside the 2018 BET Awards. [if you need to see what I mean, here’s the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV35i7FdOvs

I had to get all new tires and a car battery on my car, I had knee surgery, my aunt passed away, behind on my dissertation proposal, trying to figure out how to keep my blog afloat, found out my apartment complex is raising my rent. I mean the list goes on. Whole time I’m just dealing and continuing to go day-to-day like nothing is wrong. I had good days in between the rough patches but my mind was steadied on the turmoil. Smiling through the chaos. I didn’t know how much I was holding my breath as I moved through the weeks. 

Each week, we have homework to do. The homework consists of doing one of the 10 minute guided meditations we learned in the class, keeping a log about the experience, writing about a mindful activity, and writing down two things we are grateful for. I found it easier for me to do the meditations before I went to bed at night. It has helped me fall asleep and allowed me to reflect on the day. The mindful activity I logged about last week was about staying off of my phone while I am having conversations with people. I practiced this at work and at home while on Facetime with my friends. We don’t realize the connection we lose with people when we aren’t tuned into what they are saying. I noticed that when I talk with people, I’m either texting or scrolling through social media. Although I think I’m fully engaged in the conversation, I’m very much distracted. When I began practicing being mindful in the conversations, I noticed when others would be on their phones while we were talking and I felt that they weren’t fully listening. It’s wild how you notice things when you aren’t doing them anymore.

I am excited to see what else I will learn with this class. Yesterday we focused on meditated walking, a concept that I didn’t know existed. I am ready to learn more guided practices to keep me centered and in the present.

Here’s the recommended exercises you can do at home too:

Belly breathing

Breath Awareness

Body Scan

Walking Meditation

Exhale.

❤ Queen T

What My Father Taught Me About Men

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Dad Loves You, Honey!!!

Today, June 16, 2019, we celebrate Father’s Day.

I have been privileged to have my father in my life. My daddy is one of my best friends. I can talk to him about anything without judgment or ridicule and I feel affirmed in who I am. He has made me feel this way all of my life.

Growing up, I watched my daddy closely. At one point, I wanted to be him. He was (is) smart, funny, and had (still has) all the charm with people. My friends would meet my dad and often say to me “Wow, your dad is so nice” “You’re lucky to have a dad” “OMG, Mr. Johnson is the best”. Even today, my current friends still tell me how nice my dad is and how they can feel the love he showers on others. My daddy has a true genuine spirit at his core.

Having the kind of father I have is one in a million. I often joke with my mom and tell her that she married the last good man on Earth…and she’ll say, “I know”. My father has an energy about him that is unmatched. Which is why the saying “marry a man like your father” doesn’t make sense to me. There is no man like my daddy but my daddy did teach me (be it knowingly or unknowingly) that my expectations for any man who comes into my life should be high.

Before I list the top five things my daddy taught me about men, I should be open about the past choices I’ve made regarding relationships. From the time I turned 18, I was eager to be someone’s girlfriend. I wasn’t allowed to date before then so sure enough, as soon as October 16, 2007 rolled around I was geeked! I introduced my dad to a boy who went to a different high school and I could feel the dislike my dad had for him. It wasn’t because my dad didn’t want to like him, my dad is good at reading people and he read that this boy wasn’t shit. And he was right, the guy and I broke up about 4 weeks later and he was actually at his high school talking mad trash about me and allowed others to do the same.

Now, my dad isn’t the type to comment on anyone’s relationship unless they initiate the conversation…but even then he may not comment. That’s just the type of person he is. From then I went on to date about three other guys as I matured into a woman. Each relationship showing me things I didn’t need in a partner. I questioned why I stayed in those relationships. When I finally had the courage to tell my dad the things that happened to me, he did nothing but shower me with a listening ear, love, and affection.

While there are a number of things my daddy has taught me about men, these five points are the ones that I believe are the most essential when selecting a life partner.

  • Genuine love: The way my daddy loves me and loves other people is unmatched. Of course, no man is going to love you the way your father does, however, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat you and others around them. Every day of my life (except three weeks when I was in high school and I was cutting up) my father has told me he loves me. Expressing love for someone makes them feel secure and safe. It makes them feel valued. My dad made sure to let me know that I was important. His actions showed that he walked his talk.
    • I took the love my dad showered on me for granted in a couple of my relationships. If one of them told me they loved me, it was because I said it first. It seemed very forced and their actions did match up to the “love” they had for me.
  • Provider: I grew up in a two-parent household. Both of my parents made a real decent amount of money. From what I could guess is that my father made the most money and he took care of some of the larger bills and my mom the others and groceries and necessity things. Rarely would my dad call off work unless we took a family vacation. He wanted to ensure that his family was provided for. Now, I don’t know all of the ins and outs of my parents’ finances but from what I saw from the outside looking in, my dad never treated my mom as inferior because she didn’t make as much money as he did. They worked together on making financial decisions that would best support themselves and me and my siblings. After an unfortunate turn of events when I went off to college, my father and his job parted ways after almost 30 years at the company and my mom’s income became the head of the household. That change didn’t stop my dad. He went to find other avenues of income so he could continue to provide the support the family needed the best he could. Today, he is still doing that and assisting in any way he can.
  • Support System: My daddy is someone who you can talk to and can count on to be there when times get hard. During some of the times in my life where I’ve felt my world crashing down, my dad has prayed for me, held me tight, and helped me process. He’s provided countless hours of unsolicited advice and comfort. He makes me feel heard. He’s my biggest cheerleader. Any life choice I make, he’s behind me 100%. My dad has the kind of faith that allows him to not worry.
    • I know that in my next relationship, this is something that is going to be key for me. I have the support system quality instilled me from my dad. I love trying to help others and listen to what they have going on. It’s important to have this reciprocated.
  • My dad is a Mack: Lol! Let me start by saying my dad is a faithful man to mother. My dad would often share with me that because I’m a “Johnson” that we Johnsons automatically have the juice. So, naturally, women have always been drawn to my dad’s presence. Most times unsolicited. He told me a story about how he was working in a lab when he attended Hampton University for graduate school and a girl came in there and was instantly attracted to him. My dad laid down some ground rules and the rest was history. After he moved to Peoria, Illinois in the early ‘80s, he met my mom on the phone at her job and next thing he knows, he’s at her apartment and she cooked for him. Growing up in the house with my parents, my dad would sometimes flirt with my mom or buy her expensive jewelry. That’s just the type of energy that my dad gives off. He’s smooth without even trying.
  • Flawed: Although, I think my daddy is perfect, he’s not afraid to let me know he has flaws. Transparency is key in any relationship. No one person is going to have everything you are looking for and no one person is perfect. The key is to work through those flaws. One flaw that my dad possesses is his inability to get rid of things. My dad has sooooo much stuff. Sometimes, it drives my mom crazy how much stuff he actually has. But he won’t throw them away. One day, he finally told me why he has attachment issues to his things. When my dad was a young adult, one of his sisters burned up items that belonged to him and other members of his family. These were things that he could never get back. The feeling of security started at that point. Sometimes, my dad will tell me that he’s going through his stuff to get rid of some things but then he’ll laugh and say “but I just moved it to another room”. He’s open about his imperfections.

And a 6th one that I thought a should mention, my daddy has always told me the truth. Honesty is the best love you can give someone.

To all the men out there in a relationship or looking to pursue a relationship with someone, ensure to work on yourselves to be the best person you can be for yourself and your partner.

To my daddy, Happy Father’s Day and Thank you for showing me the things I deserve.

❤ Queen T

 

 

 

When They See Us – More Than a Horror Series

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Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray

*I want to start this post by saying that if you are not mentally ready to watch this show, take your time. Oprah’s interview with the cast and the men is up on Netflix and is only an hour long and is easier to process*

I’m positive many of you have either watched the Netflix series When They See Us or you’ve read an article about it because you weren’t ready to watch an actual reality play out. Wherever you are on the spectrum, I’m with you.

Surprisingly, I watched all four episodes in one sitting. Reflecting back on the emotions I felt while watching it do not compare to the emotional trauma the actual men in this case faced as young boys. I remember being about 30 minutes into the first episode and pressing pause because I felt my skin turn hot, my palms start to sweat, and my tear ducts going into overdrive. I had to mentally prepare myself for the rollercoaster Ava Duvernay was about to take me on.

Prior to watching When They See Us, I was already pretty familiar with the story of the “Central Park 5”, now known as the “Exonerated 5”. I remember hearing about them when I was younger but in 2016 I watched Ava Duvernay’s documentary, 13th, on Netflix. 13th focused on the 13th Amendment and how it was created to supposedly abolish slavery. The catch to that amendment is, slavery can still be legal if a person is incarcerated. In 13th, Duvernay, highlights the story of the Exonerated 5 and how America’s current president, 45 (I refuse to say or type his name still), spent thousands of dollars on an ad calling for the death penalty of Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Kevin Richardson, the falsely accused boys/men of the rape of a 28-year-old white woman.

It wasn’t until I watched When They See Us when I began to really understand what happened 30 years ago. I sat with this for a while. April 19, 1989 was about 6 months before I was born. It’s wild that 30 years later, shit like this still happens everyday. I think about all of the Black and brown men and women who are in prison now for crimes they didn’t commit. The prison system in our country is designed to eliminate us. I’m convinced. And the unjust justice system continues to be stagnant.

My heart cries and breaks every time I hear stories like these. I saw people posting articles about When They See Us being a horror film/series for Black and brown people but it’s more than that. The emotional, mental, and physical abuse that we as people of color face on a daily basis is a real life horror. Even in today’s time where we have camera phones and social media to expose the corrupt unjust justice system and police, we are still somehow villainized. “She shouldn’t have talked back.” “It looked like he was reaching for a gun.” “He was in the park.” It’s the same cycle of false accusations that we’ve seen for hundreds of years in this country.

The last point I want to make is the dynamics between white women and Black men.  The institution of slavery has labeled Black men as predators to white women. We’ve seen countless images of white women running from Black men in fear for their lives. We’ve heard a number of stories of white women lying on Black men that has gotten Black men put in jail and/or lynched (*coughEmmettTillcough*). The story of the Exonerated 5 is an example of this dynamic. We witnessed five innocent children be labeled as sexual predators because of the vicious attack on a white woman. No DNA matched either boy; their confessions were coerced in the forms of threats, violence, and police telling them what to say; and the actual rapist confessed. Yet, the city of New York has not apologized; Linda Fairstein, the lead detective in this case, still refuses to admit wrongdoing; and these men are emotionally scarred for life. White women have had a say in the demise of our Black men since the beginning of time and find a way to turn victim when they are called out on their bullshit. Linda Fairstein, for example, is losing all of her endorsements and positions since this documentary aired and deems it unfair. She got to spend her life making millions of dollars and living the American dream while these boys were criminalized in the media, abused, lied on, and in prison. And that ladies and gents is white privilege.

America. We have to do better. To Korey, Yusef, Kevin, Antron, and Raymond and all the other Black and brown people in this country, I see you.

❤ Queen T