The New Normal

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

I’ve been doing a great job of exclaiming to everyone that I recently started going to therapy.  This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while doing but something just sparked and I was ready to dive in and do it.  It’s probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made for myself. I’m taking the initiative and doing this for me to unpack much that I’ve suppressed for an incredibly long time.  Also working on a Ph.D with a research topic that is embedded in who I am can cause the need for therapy alone. 

Seeing that I have more than enough reasons to start, I want to focus on what took so long to begin.  I understand why black people believe that therapy is only for white people. This myth is one that guides so many to believe that speaking to an objective person is a bad idea. Again, all a myth. But we as black people are used to living in distrustful worlds where we don’t tell folks our business…or better yet, hear “what goes on in this house, stays in this house.” For very good reasons, black people have tried to protect their families from the cruelities of the world we’ve experienced as a group of people for generations.

Therapy has allowed me to be in a space to heal on a level that gives me autonomy for my life.  Considering that black people have always been controlled at some level of capacity in America, allowing us to go to therapy in masses, would set an insurmountable amount of discourse for power structures.  Allowing me to heal from traumas I’ve experienced AND my foremothers? MAN! And before anyone says that slavery is over and black people control shit, we can barely be in our own homes without getting shot.  

The most disheartening part of beginning the process was actually beginning.  I say this because for a while I’ve lightly researched; I’d go on a website here and there or inquire with my insurance to know what was available.  I wanted a black woman as a therapist and I wasn’t settling for anything else. However, considering a few things: 1. I have insurance 2. I’m aware of what’s available and have the resources to navigate all that shit 3. I’m proactively choosing this to one day not really be ready to cut a bitch like I say I am all.thee.time. So, I came in knowing, ready, and all the way prepared. But there weren’t any and I mean any black female therapist that accepted insurance.  And supposedly I got pretty good insurance but my ass pays out of pocket for all this. 

I want to call this out because THIS is why black people don’t go to therapy, at least in places like the great state of Wisconsin.  Newer generations have been trying to break generational curses in all kinds of ways so I don’t necessarily buy completely the black myth of why we believe black people don’t go.  I do know that finances will definitely be a reason to not go, even when you have the money. I definitely didn’t want to pay for this but I knew that my self-care journey needs more depth than getting my nails done. 

Imagine if there was a world that existed where misguided anger and frustration has a place to be worked out.  A place where insecurities could be discussed. For self discovery to happen. Rather than over diagnosed ADHD prescriptions, being called the angry black person or excessive criminal punishment… hell even death. This particular post of mine this month is more of a call to action rather than just sharing a story time of what’s going on in my life.  It’s time to normalize therapy.

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

 

 

The Gift of Cultural Experience

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

One of my favorite courses that I’m taking this semester is Global Leadership. It forces us (the students) to analyze our life through a cultural lens. Being a multicultural girl has helped shape me into the person I am today. As some of you may already know from my previous blogs, my entire family and I were born in a different country, migrating to the United States around 19 years ago. I was raised in a culturally diverse environment that has led me to develop a deep appreciation and respect for everyone, every religion, and every opinion that differs from mine. 

 I have an Afro-Latina mother, and an Austrian grandmother,  I went to a Turkish middle school and have visited several countries in my 20 years. My upbringing certainly was not conventional by any means but it has helped shape me into the person I am today.

The cultural experiences one has also allows them to build rapport wherever they go. A situation I am reminded of occurred just a few months ago. I was helping out with an International Fest and one of the girls I volunteered with was also Colombian. We hit it off straight away and became instant friends all through sharing the same country of origin. Another instance would be at the same Festival when a Turkish woman came to the food line. Through my time in middle school and Turkey itself, I was able to greet her in Arabic. We formed this instantaneous bond just by exchanging a few short words. I have always known the power of cultural rapport but to experience it firsthand is eye-opening as it puts in perspective how significant these encounters can be. 

Not only does being culturally competent make you a better global citizen, but it also increases your chances of success as the word is becoming more “flat”. Meaning, we are able to connect with people from across the globe within seconds thanks to the internet. In today’s society, especially, one has to be hyper-aware of the different cultures and customs that coexist in the world. This heightened cultural intelligence is due in part by the social media platform and the era of accountability this decade has seen.

Another benefit that cultural intelligence can have is the ability to facilitate an environment of positivity and respect. I understand that this is an important attribute to have as the ambiance that a business has can make or break the outcome of success. If the work environment is one rife with insensitivity and lack of willingness to learn, it would serve as a major deficit especially when working (or vacationing) internationally. This means that the more culturally intelligence one has, the better chance they have at thriving in today’s professional world. 

A question that often forms in my mind while completing work for this course is ‘Will I ever be fully culturally competent?’ I have ultimately answered that for myself and came to realize that no, no one can ever be completely culturally competent. For some reason, I find solace in that answer as there is always another adventure or experience to be had. This allows for the intelligence and information gained through different experiences to expand the mind and enhance our knowledge pool. What fun can one have if they know absolutely everything?

If it weren’t for the cultural exchanges I have had, I would not have the experience of something different, new, and exciting. Being able to travel, or even connecting with someone from a different culture can expand your outlook on life. This world is home to many people with many different stories, cultures, customs, languages, foods, etc. If we don’t push ourselves to have these interactions we will lose out on potentially life-changing experiences. I encourage all of you to travel, whether it is to Korea or Korea town, you never know who you might meet and the stories you will gain!

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Fandoms: A One-Sided Love Affair?

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

Day in and day out, the students that I work with absolutely love to call me a nerd. In my youth, I’d be quick to fight anyone (with my slick words) who dared called me a nerd. I associated the word with someone who was easily picked on, who lacked social skills, and had virtually zero friends. And while I was at times made fun of for knowing weird facts or being enthralled in fictional worlds (I will forever be a Twi-hard), the fact of the matter is that there is nothing wrong with being a nerd. Especially if you own it.

Since I’ve gotten older, you will never hear me deny that I’m a nerd. It’s who I am and I’m fine with that. My proximity to the nerd world mostly comes through with my fandom obsessions: The Twilight Saga, Harry Potter, comic book multiverses, etc. I love it all and these fandoms consumed much of my formative high school years and have stuck with me throughout adulthood. 

Now, my fandom allegiance doesn’t make me any different than the next person, but as a black woman deeply enthralled in these universes I think that a part of me has always been trying to bind together two worlds: My reality and the fantasy worlds that I temporarily escape my own reality to visit, especially when the real world gets too tough (you’ll always find me watching Twilight when I’m emotionally or socially drained). 

 When I say bind two distinct cultures, I think about how most of these narratives lack people of color so rarely have I seen characters who physically look like myself, but at the same time I relate so well to the quirky personalities of so many of the characters. Sometimes when reading I even imagine a character who may look more like me than the person who is then cast to play them in a movie. I think about how excited I was when I saw that The Flash cast Candace Patton as Iris West Allen, a historically White character. But then I see some of the negative commentary that she receives and start to question whether her sacrificing her own mental health as a result of playing this role is worth it. But then I think about all of the residual good that she is doing and the role modeling that she is doing for young black girls, even if that isn’t always communicated through social media. 

In a similar vein, I think about one of the relatively newer comic book shows introduced to the CW, Black Lightning. Almost all of the show’s main characters are Black, it has fairly good character development, and the Black family dynamic that it portrays is super important. And despite all of this, it has taken me quite some time to get invested. With the season 3 premiere just being released earlier this week I took a minute to think about why I was not caught up on the show. The marketing. Now here is where I get a little nerdy so bear with me: All of the other primetime comic book series on the network belong to one universe: The Arrowverse, the phrase coined to the world that exists amongst the characters of now 5 shows that have previously appeared on Arrow at some point in its seven season run. When Black Lightning was released it was made very clear that it would not be joining the The Arrowverse and that it would exist in its own parallel yet very separate universe. I did not think too much into this at first but in doing some of my research I soon learned that the Black Lightning character was also a part of the Justice League, which is the link between many of these other characters. So why was the show not included? Why was it not given the same opportunities as say Supergirl, which takes place essentially in a different dimension. 

From the start, the show was never given the same platform as the other shows, which almost seems as though the network was not willing to invest as much into it. However, three seasons later, the show has only gotten better and better and it now airs full seasons. Conveniently enough, the CW recently announced that Black Lightning will participate in this year’s annual crossover with the Arrowverse.   

As a self-identifying nerd and Black woman I realize that the stories that consume me are not necessarily for me. I have found some comfort in online networks of others who share my passions but are also equally willing to engage in conversations around this and I am elated to see the increased casting of people of color in these literary universes. I think of the shear impact that movies like Black Panther and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse had, especially for people of color. Times are changing and with that people of color are being added to these narratives, creating a new generation of superheroes and villains and a more prominent space for Black nerds like myself.

 

 Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Stop Telling Me to Smile

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Last week, while at a live music event, I went to the restroom. As soon as I stepped out of the restroom, I was face-to-face with a man who was about to walk into the men’s restroom. Before I could even say a word he said to me “Smile! Why you look so angry? It’s Friday!” Who deemed it a qualification to smile as soon as you leave the bathroom?

This is just one of the many instances that I encounter at least twice a week. Naturally, my resting face is not a smile. To be honest, I only know two people who smile all day everyday. But this is besides the point. I don’t think it’s appropriate to stop what you’re doing to tell a woman to smile if she’s not doing it at the moment you feel she should be smiling. But it’s more annoying for me as Black woman.

Historically, Black women have been labeled as the “angry Black woman”. A narrative that has been told of us since the beginning of time. This concept transfers over to our everyday lives. We aren’t allowed to have relaxed faces in many settings. We don’t get to have relaxed faces at work without supervisors and colleagues thinking we’re upset. Our girls get in trouble at school because teachers think they have an attitude just by their facial expressions.

I remember a time where I was waiting on my drink at the bar in a restaurant. I usually find time to take myself on solo dates and this was one of the times. Anyway, I’m minding my business and this man came and stood next to me. As he was waving down the bartender he looked at me and said, 

“You’re pretty, you should smile more, though. It makes people’s day.” 

My brain quickly shuffled through the many smart ass responses I have stored for moments like that one.

 I responded.

“A person’s facial expressions don’t always equate to their mood. Plus, I’m pretty sure you would never walk up to a man who was a stranger and request that he smiled.”

He was shocked and then responded, “Well, no, I wouldn’t”.

After another minute of me telling him that he shouldn’t tell women what they can and can’t do with their faces, I walked away and found another table to sit at. 

That interaction went more smoothly than others I’ve had in the past. Guys have gotten defensive and told me I was disrespectful for correcting them for telling me how to control my face. Others have tried to silence me but literally telling me to “shush” as I’m correcting them because apparently, I should not have an opinion about myself. 

Imagine smiling all day. Smiling while you’re reading emails, doing chores, driving. Just holding a smile on your face all day long. I’m pretty sure your face would hurt. But outside of that, why is there still an expectation for us to smile all the time? What if something was really wrong with me that day? If I’m not smiling because something triggered me, am I not allowed to feel upset, according to your ideas of how I should look?

We don’t get to own our feelings about anything. People feel as if they can still tell us how we should look or react to normal emotional stimuli. I’m tired of it.

 

❤ Queen T

My Natural Hair Journey

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

More recently, I’ve found myself wearing natural hairstyles.  This summer, I went to Cabo and wore my favorite wig with 22 inches of Brazilian beautiful-ness and ruined it…I don’t know who I thought I was acting like I grew all that from my dome, I was jumping into the ocean and stuff (sidebar, wig was secured at no moment was she not attached to my head).  After my summer fun, it was hard and incredibly stiff; I bought special shampoo to revive it and all that but she died on the scene. I spent a lot of money on that wig too, so I was low key devastated how it bad got. Then my devastation turned into protest, I told myself to not buy any more wigs.

I honestly thought it would be similar to one of those moments you swear you’re done drinking but go out still later that night kind of experience.  But it hasn’t been. For a while, I did the good old wash and blow dry (and flat iron) that many of us are used to. The summer and natural hair that you’re trying to straighten also don’t match that well either, so while talking to one of my friends, she offered to do a flat twist for me.  

Now at that time, I admired but knew nothing about true natural hairstyling.  As I was watching YouTube learning how people DIY’d this themselves, I came across the LoC method — it felt like black girls learned the Krabby patty sauce recipe. A whole new world of information was unfolding right before me.  I was amazed but immediately I felt some kind of way. 

One of the reasons this experience brought me into my feelings is based off the strength that for so long, black women only had one standard of beauty that didn’t reflect our image.  At a very young age, many black girls around my age and older has had an experience with Just for Me relaxer kits and we were so excited as children to chemically change our hair to be straight.  That shit burned like something crazy but as children we thought that the temporary pain we endured relaxing our hair was worth it. 

I’m pretty late on the natural bandwagon. It’s been years since I’ve had a relaxer, but many of my hairstyles were wigs, weaves, and my own hair just straighten so who would have ever known. And I wasn’t proud of my hair that I was born with… I always thought things like, a few more inches in length or as soon as my dry time decrease, I’ll do something different…literally making up excuses to myself about my natural crown of glory.  

Learning about natural hair also served as a catalyst for the nerd in me to truly learn from multiple perspectives about black women and their hair and the struggle it has been here in America. Sometime soon, I’ll have to share all I learned, giving you all another reason to know how black women are amazing. Versatility isn’t even the best part of black women and their hair. Also, on the note of versatility, don’t be alarmed of a wig fall back in my good graces — it does not take away any of the admiration I’ve gained over the summer. 

My final thought (for now) flat twist > two strand twist.

 

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Mindful Living

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

The last time I wrote, I spoke of the perpetual journey we all take to finding our purpose. The beauty of this is that there is never an endpoint. We all continue to grow. Since becoming aware of this, I am able to point out all of the distractions in my life. The first step into fixing the issue of overexertion is to realize that there is one.

7 hours and 40 minutes. That’s the amount of time I spend on my phone daily. That astounding number adds up to around 2.2 days out of each week and 114 days out of my year that is essentially wasted. There are so many things that I could do with that time. I could write a book in that amount of time! Since the invention on the smartphone, people are becoming increasingly unaware of the world that surrounds them. Yes, in many cases it can act as an equalizer, leveling the playing field for so many across the globe. But in retrospect, it detaches us from reality. Our social skills are beginning to deteriorate as almost all forms of communication are executed through technology. This is becoming increasingly evident when people enter the professional world cannot properly function in social settings due to the lack of practice with their communication skills. 

This absence of synergy among us in our society has also been established as a direct correlation to the amount of well-being that we all feel. “Whether it’s someone you’ve never met or it’s friends and family, spending time with people face to face is linked with happiness” (Lynne Peeples). It also inhibits the number of different opinions we are exposed to. 

This utter fascination with technology also inhibits our minds to ease. The fact of the matter is that we aren’t truly allowing ourselves to relax and decompress as we so desperately need. Going forward, I am going to challenge myself and anyone else willing and able to limit phone usage to just 2 hours a day. Anything less, realistically speaking, is not achievable at this point. Personally, I plan on doing this by not checking it immediately after I wake up. Instead, I’ll put on some gentle morning wake up music (you know the kind) and get energized that way. Throughout the day as I get tired, I’ll try to close my eyes, have an engaging conversation with someone or maybe even read the rest of my book that I have been working on for the past 6 months. This will give my mind the time to truly “shut down” and connect with others around me. When I get home in the evenings, instead of spending hours on Instagram, Tik Tok, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. I’ll read the New York Times magazine that I’m subscribed to, cook with my mother, or draw something in my sketchbook that has been neglected since the start of my higher education. This way, I’ll still be caught up on the current happenings of the world and doing something that sparks joy without submitting myself to inevitable distractions that my phone gives me. 

Through this, I am hoping to become more in tune with the physical world around me and less tethered to the facade or mask the internet creates. This will enable me to establish my roots in the present and allow me to explore other options of spending my time doing something more productive.

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Next Step: Adulthood

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

Adulting. It’s one of life’s necessary evils that many millennials like myself were hoping to hold out for as long as possible. But now that I am in my first salary-paying job and I have real bills, I think it is safe to say that adulthood has found me for real this time. While I often joke that this adult situation is really for the birds, I’ve recently taken some time to think about the other and significantly less expensive aspects of adulthood.

  • Making friends is kind of hard. I am blessed to be living in an area where I already have a well-connected social network but I have quickly learned that this is somewhat unusual. Since I am one of the newer people to join my work environment, I spend a lot of time with the other new people and they often tell me that making new friends is very difficult, especially ones outside of the work environment. At first I was like “just talk to people!” but that’s much easier said than done and as an introvert, I of all people should have understood that. So clearly, I really dropped the ball on validating their experience as a friend but it got me thinking about how I have formed friendships in the past. As I ran through my mental contact list one thing became clear, I became friends with people through school — classes, leadership opportunities, and on-campus employment. So, my peers were definitely right. Making friends is indeed quite hard and as someone who is from the DMV, my new mission is to try my best to be a better connector amongst people. Adulting is hard enough so nobody should have to go through it alone.

 

  • But maybe some alone time is great. The idea of expanding social networks actually brings me to the second realization that I had about my own personal journey through adulthood. As I mentioned, I have quite a bit of friends in this area who I have had the pleasure of reconnecting with. I also grew up in a household of seven. I then went off to college and then to graduate school where I always had roommates. Now, I primarily live alone (my best friend stays over some times to avoid work traffic) in a two bedroom apartment. At first I was very afraid that the sheer silence would make me feel lonely and drive me to a bad place mentally. However, I really enjoy being alone. As I’m sure many of you can tell by now I am a very reflective person and although I can turn my extrovert on I am truly an introvert at heart. So, I always enjoy when I am visited by friends and family, especially those traveling far and wide to visit me (shoutout my Florida friends!) but I also love being able to close my door at the end of the day and sink into my bed without a care in the world. I like being able to store 100 beets in my refrigerator without anyone judging me and make smoothies at 9 am OR 9 pm without feeling like I will disturb anyone. I can return as late as I want without telling anyone where I’m going or with whom. Overall, I feel a sense of liberation that I have yet to feel in almost 25 years and so that is what I associate with adulthood more than anything else.
  • Adults can have fun too. And the last thing that I’ve learned so far about this whole adulting endeavor is that adults deserve to have a good time too. Although I work a lot and never have money because I’m still paying emergency surgery bills and credit card bills that accumulated throughout grad school, I still need to make time for fun. I don’t have to rush to pay bills if it means that I will have no spending money to go out to dinner or the movies every so often with friends. I am grateful for my friends, especially those approaching or in their thirties who constantly encourage me to take time for myself and pursue opportunities to travel or do things that will bring joy into my life. 

 

If I’ve learned anything about this whole adulthood situation so far, it’s that it requires balance. Things that were once so easily or accessible or never a concern are at the forefront of our experiences now. We make memes that describe adulthood like it is a bogey man that you should keep running from without looking back. But like most things, I’m learning that it is yet another venue for personal growth and just another new set of challenges that I know I can navigate if I just give it my best energy, take it one step at a time, and lend myself a little grace when I inevitably mess something up. 

 Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Hate U Give: The Black Community, “Christianity”, and the LGBTQ Community

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We can’t be free unless we’re all free

This one is long overdue. I’ve been purposely collecting my thoughts to address a topic that is still, to members of the Black community, seen as taboo or un-Christian-like. I’ve also been figuring out how to keep my heterosexual privilege in check to not offend members of the LGBT community. When I say offend I mean, I don’t want to speak for the LGBT community. I want to use my platform to stand with them as an advocate. I want to use my privilege as a heterosexual woman to speak to other privileged heterosexual people in the Black community about how discriminating against members of the LBGT community is wrong. 

It’s important to provide a little context to the basis for this post. Recently, my home state of Illinois passed a law that requires public schools to teach LBGTQ+ history. While I was happy with the new legislation, many were “outraged”. A quick sidenote: I recognize that because I’ve studied and do diversity education for a living, I have a better understanding of how nuanced diversity and inclusion work can be. I also recognize that folks have freedom of choice. People choose to not change their mindsets and that’s okay. But they have no excuse to say no one ever tried to help educate them. 

Anywho, folks were outraged (everyone is fake outraged on social media about everything), but I felt a wave of disappointment when I saw the number of Black people having the most ignorant and distasteful comments about it. Of course, this is not the first time our community has spewed hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve been doing it since the beginning of time. Our fathers have told our sons to “stop crying and acting like a (insert homophobic slur here)” or how we’ve all heard the rhetoric “I know my kids better not turn out gay”. Our community sits in silence when a Black transwoman is murdered but flood the streets when a Black person is killed unjustly by law enforcement. [Note: I believe unarmed Blacks being killed by police is a heinous crime, but I’m trying to make a point]. We shun our girls for wearing baggy clothes or “dressing like a boy” because it’s unlady like. We’ve fallen into the socially constructed bullshit that the perceived elite white people created to maintain positions of power. 

After I saw the negative comments about the Illinois law, I made a FaceBook status about how disappointed I was in Black people for what they were saying. The first person to comment on my status was a white guy I went to middle school with. This first amused me because I was clearly talking to Black people on my status and a white person inserted themselves into a conversation that had nothing to do with them. But historically, white people tend to insert themselves in places that weren’t meant for them…but I digress. The comment said something along the lines of “They shouldn’t be trying to force our kids to learn that”. I forgot what exactly I said back to him but it was along the lines of understanding that the law is not about forcing sexuality on children, it was about teaching LGBTQ HISTORY. HISTORY being the keyword here. Historically, LGBTQ folks have been victims of violence, oppression, and discrimination at the hands of systems of domination. Just like Black folks have in this country. But outside of the horrible things that have been done to the community, LGBTQ+ folks have been writers, painters, law makers, instrumental people in the fight for justice for all that has helped shape this country into what it is. Students in schools would be learning about those important figures in that fight for social justice. 

 But my response to him wasn’t enough. Others joined into the conversation. This time, more Black folks. Some agreed with me, others saw my point but still had some reservations, and others were downright out of control. So out of control, that I had to block someone I used to go to school with for how vile his comments were. One common theme I saw among the comments was the theme of “Christianity” and “God”. Now, I identify as a Christian. Not the type of Christian that casts stones at others and not myself, though. People said that LGBTQ people weren’t of God and that it shouldn’t be mandated to teach children about the history because it isn’t what the Bible says. Of course, my rebuttal to that was “God also said to love thy neighbor”. 🙂 Anyway, there was much back and forth on my status and next thing I know, I had 130+ comments. I decided to delete the status because it was getting out of hand and I wanted to ensure to not hurt some feelings. I felt myself going down that route. 

My point here is, Black folks we can’t be down for a socially just world if we are constantly trying to oppress a group of people. WE are already fighting oppression ourselves. We’ve been fighting for centuries. You can’t believe Black Lives Matter if you participate in the demise of another socially oppressed group. News flash, Black people are also members of the LGBTQ+ community and have been pioneers in their work towards equity. You’re upset that Illinois wants to educate the youth about LGBTQ+ history. You feel that they’ve done a piss poor job at teaching Black history in schools. However, you forget that Black experiences are intersectional. Your favorites, James Baldwin and Audre Lorde were Black queer writers and activists. The founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement are three Black queer women. Your niece or nephew, your brother or sister, is a member of the community and afraid to confide in you because of the hate you spew. 

One of the reasons I’ve heard Black millennials have drifted away from the Black church and even Christianity altogether is because of the hypocrisy of the religion. Christians turn a blind eye to everything but feel the need to chastise people’s biological attraction. Christians say nothing when they gossip about each other at church. They say nothing when they have babies out of wedlock, or do hard drugs, or lie. You can’t teach someone to be gay, lesbian, bisexual. We do teach heteronormativity because we don’t believe in anything outside of the “norm”. White people rule everything because anything outside of the “norm” doesn’t fit into their plans of power. It’s the same thing.

We can’t be free unless we’re all free.

❤ Queen T

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