To Mail, or Not to Mail

The art of handwritten notes and loving touch of personalized packages is slowly dying out. With all of our technology, there hardly seems to be a use for handwritten letters. Bills are typed and printed on paper before being stuffed in an envelope for stamping and mailing. Interpersonal communication with people outside of our immediate grasp now tends to come in text form on our cell phones or typed emails from our computers, but sometimes we’re even messaging someone we’re in the same room with. That’s something I’m still guilty of. The one piece of printed mail I still look forward to receiving is a check, but lately, that hasn’t been as exciting, but it certainly has been stress inducing.

Across the country, people like myself are waiting. Low income employees are waiting on mailed in payment checks from their employers and stimulus checks from the government, health conscious Americans are waiting on detox tea shipments, and the average sustainable girl is probably twiddling her thumbs waiting on a Poshmark or Thredup shipment. The harsh reality is that even with Trump physically out of the White House, we’re still feeling the effects of his term in our homes and wallets. During his term, the United States Postal Service (USPS) was- and still remains- a Republican majority which, is headed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who is hell bent on delaying mail delivery. He told Congress that he plans to be in leadership a long time and to, “Get used to it.”. His actions, quite frankly, have been unjust. According to a Mother Jones article, in an attempt to rectify this wrong, President Biden announced on February 24, 2021, the three nominees to the Postal Service Board of Governors. Such a move would tilt the nine-member board in favor of Democrats and could potentially lead to the removal of troublesome Postmaster General Louis DeJoy who is a big supporter of the former Potus ideals. The ridiculous slogan, “Make America Great Again”, should be transfigured to, “Make the USPS great again”, but that leads to questions in the vein of, “Was it ever great?”

The USPS began it’s mailing service with mailing newspapers and graduated to letters and then packages (people no longer included). In 1913, the Postmaster General received a letter inquiring about the appropriate way to wrap a baby; the customer noted that the Post Office was more trustworthy than the privately owned companies it competed against, which would be too “rough in handling.” according to National Geographic article, The tumultuous history of the U.S. Postal Service– and it’s constant fight for survival. Thankfully, shortly after that letter, it was regulated that mailing people was prohibited. The USPS noted ease of accessibility and reliability made them an asset and an integral part of showing this country’s strength in connecting people while braving the elements to make home deliveries. Author of the article, Boyce Upholt also mentions that the Constitution granted the federal government the power to establish “post roads,” which by 1823 spanned more than 80,000 miles. By 1860, these roads linked 28,000 post offices, where people sometimes waited in long lines to pick up their mail in an era before home delivery. Can you imagine waiting in a long line for mail today, especially in this Covid-19 world where the lines are even longer because of the need for 6 feet of distance between strangers? I can, and it isn’t pretty. The US Postal Service has come a long way, but despite the flexibility and evolution, it stills seems like it’s degenerating.

About a month or so ago, I found myself the winner of an online sweepstakes. After sending my mailing information, and receiving my USPS tracking information, I began the routine of habitually checking the tracking progress and staring out the window every time a mail truck came by. A week went by and nothing. The tracking would show it’s most recent scanning zone, but wouldn’t give an estimated time of arrival. When my package finally arrived the following week, I was unaware because the USPS service didn’t offer a text service to let me know my package had arrived and been sent back to the Post Office. Imagine my surprise and frustration when I went to the tracking site and saw that update. When I went to check the mailbox, I saw the note left that said they returned the package to the Post Office because my package was too big for the package slot. Ten minutes later, I found myself in the line at the Post Office waiting to pick up both my packages, of which only one remained. The other box had been returned to sender and needless to say, I never received that second package. When I got home, however, I opened my package and saw the contents were in a bit of disarray. I can only imagine what that box had to endure en route. There are videos circulating the internet today that highlight the differences between shipping services, and the depiction of the USPS seems comical, yet accurate.

Youtube: Amazon Prime vs. FedEx vs. UPS vs. USPS

The age of the internet has made things incredibly accessible; clothing, food, car parts, etc. With shipping services like the USPS, UPS, FedEx, and Amazon Prime, we can order practically anything online and have it shipped directly to our homes and places of work, but the reliability of the USPS is under heavy scrutiny right now. What happens when the middle man, like the USPS doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain? What happens when packages get mishandled or delayed in transportation? This delay in the mailing service isn’t good for businesses both big and small that offer direct shipping options. The delay could cause patrons to go to other shipping services such as UPS and FedEx for the shipping of their goods, but the way Amazon is expanding, they may as well throw their hat in the ring too. I don’t know what will happen with the future of shipping services, but I do know that if things continue the way they are presently with the U.S. Postal service, it will only go downhill from here and things like handwritten thank you notes and pen pal letters may become a thing of the past.

I truly find joy in receiving handwritten mail and I wish I could say that I remembered my first letter received in the mail, but I don’t. It might have been a birthday card or Christmas card from my agoraphobic grandmother in Durham, North Carolina. What I do remember, however, is the feeling of excitement in my belly. The texture of the paper envelope and my need to meticulously open it so I could save it. Letter opening is a mindful experience for me. To this day, I save all my Birthday cards, Christmas cards, and “Congratulations Graduate!” cards in a black cloth bag for safe keeping and perhaps one day I’ll upgrade their haven to a sentiment box from Marshalls, Ross, or TJ Maxx. Either way, I’m keeping them safe because they hold valuable space in my life because there are elements in handwritten notes that a technology generated note can’t convey. President Biden certainly has his hands full with this administration, but I pray this nomination goes well and soon so the joy of receiving mail can be restored.

The Golden Hour

I carried my love easily,

it bore no burden to me.

It was my own;

cultivated and wholesome, righteous in devotion.

It was my own.

I lathered myself in it, syrupy and sweet

Swaddled myself in self love while I bided my time

Waited

for the day a love that matched my own came my way.

And there you are, the Golden Hour.

Majestic in hue and cloaked in humility that boasts of confidence

You are beautiful.

You are enough.

You give good love.

I should know, I’ve had far worse

I have entered chasms of despair and had frequently vacationed there, but this…

This love you give me is rare and precious like the gems

and the silk laden trunks that bear them.

You are beautiful.

Sun kissed and chocolate dipped

You are beautiful

You light my world and I yours

We are the light and we shine

We are a moment!

One you must experience to believe, so take a pic before the moment sours,

Love is here and thus it is the golden hour.

Called to The Depths

My Spiritual Evolution

I found God when I left the church. My life, however, without a relationship with God is like hearing someone intermittently running their nails against a chalkboard. Things will be peaceful for a time, but eventually, there will be a disruption that drives me up a wall. It physically pains me just thinking about it. My ears are especially sensitive to different frequencies and sounds, so the experience is exceptionally painful and it’s one I try to avoid at all costs, but why has this past week felt like someone took their crusty fingernails and dragged them across a chalkboard in my mind? The best way I can summarize it is that you never miss your water till the well runs dry.

The Beginning of The End
My relationship with God began very early in my life. According to my mom, I practically came out of the womb loving God, and at the age of six, I invited Christ into my life. It’s safe to assume that most Sundays were spent in church with family. Sometimes it was at an A.M.E. with my grandma or a non denominational church with my mom. I didn’t believe in evolution or why- contrary to church teachings- I didn’t fully believe homosexuality was wrong. I simply believed the majority of what I was taught without question. The past few years, however, have been a time of spiritual introspection and re-evaluation that practically destroyed my belief system.

Circa 2015, things began to go south with my old church in Miami. The experiences my mom and I had, contradicted what we had been taught while confirming our suspicions about needing to leave. We had no idea that this was the beginning of what I have come to know as The Awakening. Shortly before leaving the church, however, God kept telling me I was going back to school for a Master’s degree, much to my displeasure. After dreaming of our trip out west, however, I knew I had to go soon. After ignoring many leader’s attempts to discourage my trip to the West Coast, my mom and I flew Spirit airlines into LAX. Super befitting right? Having very little money and feeling quite unprepared, Spirit made a way for us to fly on Spirit airlines into Los Angeles. In the first few weeks of my arrival, I spent much of my time asking God, “Why You would send me to the other side of the country with five outfits so I could be a homeless grad student?” I was baffled why He would do that to me so I spent a lot of time questioning my beliefs not knowing it would be years before I truly grasped what was happening and why.
I was so overwhelmed with school work that I barely had time to focus on my spiritual growth until after I graduated in 2017. During that time, I was so turned off by the hypocrisy of the church and didn’t bother to search or step foot in one again until some months after my graduation in 2017, when Heidi Baker came to North California, where after experiencing a second bout of homelessness, I had recently acquired residence. If I had never seen the love of God personified in anyone outside of myself, I saw it in her the day we met a few years prior. I traveled to that conference by city bus because I knew there was something there for me. I didn’t need her to speak to me directly or give me another one of her heart-melting hugs, it was the atmosphere of worship that enveloped me and left me feeling like Spirit wrapped their arms around me. It would be another year before I stepped foot in another church.

Waist Deep
In 2018, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going back to church, but once again, God surprised me. I woke up one Sunday in Stone Mountain, GA after having been invited by my dad to go to church, and after I failed to fall back asleep I knew I was being goaded to go. Not wanting to disobey God, I went, had an OK time, and knew it was time to reach out to a friend from college who was a leader in a young adult ministry in the area. The first few months of my time there were necessary. It was then that I was able to share with so many others about how God took care of me while I was homeless in Los Angeles (20 days) and San Francisco (6 months) and how I remained joyful through it all; my relationship with God. Our relationship was my tether to sanity and joy in the midst of them constantly shaking up my world. Months into my membership at the Norcross church, God began highlighting things to me in research that weren’t lining up with things being taught in the ministry. They felt out of alignment with my spirit and He slowly put pressure on me to leave the church. By this time, I was being trained for leadership and had just been admitted to the choir. I was so confused by the change of direction and concerned for my new friend’s perception of my need to leave that it took me some time to detach myself. Slowly, yet surely, God made it harder and harder for me to fit in and feel comfortable and one day in late February or early March, I finally told them it would be my last day. Hugs were given, goodbyes were said, and I’m grateful to say that some of those relationships are still intact. In retrospect, I find it odd yet beautiful how my connection to people I wasn’t so close to has grown after I left their immediate sphere of influence, whereas I lost touch with those I was once closest to.

Troubled Waters
In the years that followed this exodus out of the church and Georgia altogether, I continued to stumble across pages and articles that continued to shake the foundations of my belief system. I was constantly moving from place to place while questioning things and I was so shaken by the answers, that I slowly found myself backing away from my original idea of God, what God meant to me, and their place in my life. If you are confused by my use of “their”, it is to describe the many moving, yet interconnected parts of God.

I moved to North Carolina believing I had finally found some stability: a place I call home (a word I don’t use lightly), a healthy relationship, and work I believe in. What I realized only recently, however, is that being stable isn’t the same as being grounded. After having no meditative routine or communion with The Divine, I found myself at the breaking point. I had never considered the possibility that I could back so far away from God that I would feel myself slowly losing my mind. My over-analytical mind and sensitive spirit coupled with stress, and the ongoings within the atmosphere, engulfed me in mental chaos because I had no emotional or spiritual center and was thus sent into a divinely timed spiral.

Lifeboat
Who would believe that a spiral could save me? It sent me in search of external help that pointed me back to myself. My mom and best friend provided a compass moment as they instructed me to use meditation to slow my mind and guide me out of my Stranger Things moment. My mom and I have a running joke that she is El and I am the Demogorgon in the sensory deprivation tank scene at the lab. She has to gingerly come in to get me when I get lost in my head. By telling me to meditate, they were pointing me in the direction of mental clarity, which led to spiritual clarity. I had to sit with myself and face the fact that I had been avoiding implementing a practice of mindfulness and clearly saw the need to reinforce my connection to God. Like I said before, you don’t miss your water til your well runs dry. When people ask me how I made it through homelessness seemingly unscathed, I tell them it was my relationship with God and my knowing that the situation was temporary that kept me joyful and at ease. It was this recent lack of this relationship that left me bereft because I hadn’t properly cared for it. I thank God for them and their advice because it brought me back to myself, back to God, my source of love, protection, peace, prosperity, life, etc. My spiritual evolution is far from over and I am far too dedicated to thriving in the depths of my spirituality to go back to shallow waters. I don’t know all that is ahead of me or how I will traverse it all, but with Christ consciousness I know I can do all things but fail. Prayer and meditation became the lifeboat that carried me when the waters got too much for me to handle on my own and it will always be here when I need it, but I’ll soon be ready to tread the waters again and see just how far into the unknown I can go in this lifetime. Are you coming with me?

A Time For Empathy

There is no time like the present to practice empathy. Social injustice and death runs rampant in the streets and the number of homelessness camps is on the rise while Covid cases soar to new heights. Now is not the time to become desensitized and turn a blind eye, but rather to flex the atrophied muscle of empathy and be moved to bring about change.

Empathy is feeling “as” others, while sympathy is feeling “for” others. As a Black woman raised around other Black women (my family), I learned that it takes a village to raise a child. My mom could leave me in their care knowing that I was well cared for. Being around them in public spaces, I watched how they would become alert when children were separated from their parents and how they herded them back to them, or stood guard as the parent approached. I didn’t fully understand it then, but this was empathy. Their attentiveness and protectiveness is something that I have adopted and carried with me from youth into adulthood. It is a mother’s greatest fear to lose a child, a pain I can only imagine, so when I see an unattended child, I immediately empathize so I wait to see where their mother is and I make sure the child is safely returned. When I see strangers in need of help, I offer help. This is empathy and this is a major difference between the Black and White community. More specifically, the privileged vs the underprivileged. An example of this would be publicized mugshots of Black suspects vs. White suspects and the racial bias in the portrayal of Black victims vs. White victims.

The slander knows no end. Most people will view this tweet with sympathy, and say, “That is so unfair!”, which is an appropriate sympathetic response that allows us to stay removed from the situation. Empathy, however, drives you to take corrective action like calling local news stations to call them out on their bias when they run those ridiculous headlines. By addressing thes title specific issues, we are in no way undercutting the seriousness of their crimes, but we are calling for justice and equity in the portrayal of criminals across the board. Empathy is both a gift and a skill set that must be developed. When underdeveloped, we wind up with generations of privileged people refusing to take accountability of their actions. The accuser of Emmett Till didn’t confess to her lie until decades after his murder. The entire Black community knew her story was a lie, but when she finally told the truth, it was too late. It’s the same with the 1989 Central Park 5 accuser. The Black men, who were the true victims in both instances, weren’t exonerated until years after their wrongful convictions. I believe these things happened because neither woman took the time to think how her words and actions would affect the lives of those accused and the community surrounding them. They didn’t consider how it might be in their position when they lied on them because they lacked empathy.

“Empathy is more active than sympathy. It requires more intellectual development.”, says actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith in her book letters to a young artist. It raises questions within me about the inefficiencies in the childhood development of the privileged: Were life lessons about empathy skipped or ignorantly ignored? and How can someone teach about something they don’t know? They can’t, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be constantly re-educating themselves about emotional and intellectual maturity. “Stepping outside gives you the space to watch, listen, feel. To step outside you must suspend opinions and judgments. It doesn’t mean you are devoid of them. It means that you have control long enough to watch, listen, and feel. You store what you have learned and do what you will with the information you have gathered. You may even try to influence how others watch, listen, and feel. But first you must step outside.”

Ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse for a lack of empathy. There are far too many resources available in the library and on the internet. We even have untapped wells of knowledge and experience within our own sphere of influence to reach out to. On my mom’s side, my great great grandmother was one generation out of slavery and my grandmother was born during the time of sharecropping. I am constantly asking questions to gain insight to my community so I can learn how to best help them. It is our responsibility to ourselves and to our communities to educate ourselves on how to be the best version of ourselves. This self-work not only betters us as individuals, it impacts the lives of those around us. It inspires and lights a pathway to emotional maturity for others to follow.

In an article, “Emotional Maturity: What it Looks Like“, written by Cindy Lamothe, she summarizes emotional maturity as a need to become more self-aware of one’s worth as well as the worth of those around us to truly lead a happier and more fulfilling life. She informs us to apologize to those around us when we are wrong and admit when we need help, while continually seeking ways to grow on a personal level. We are in control of our emotional journey to maturity and we have the power to make more mature choices day by day. I, however, want to take that a bit further. There are so many moments throughout our day bursting with opportunities for empathy. We may fail in some moments, but there are 24 hours in a day, to get it right. Use them wisely.

Don’t Patronize Me!

There’s nothing like

Standing idly by as an interloper buys the block,

only to disrespect it.

Who invited you?

Told you you can set up shop, sell us cancer sticks and candy,

while openly calling us food stamp cockroaches?

You must be so proud. And so ignorant

to berate us with disrespect and expect a payment for it.

To hear, “I don’t give a f*%k about the Black neighborhood!”

is to receive a slap in the face.

If you didn’t want me us to patronize you, you could have said it politely…

But you wanted the money, huh? Too bad!

A lot of us are waking up to the truth that the Black dollar is the final authority,

like “Dean, Big Brother Almighty!

And we won’t tolerate the injustices within the places of business that we frequent,

because we have the buying power, ya dig?

Or did you miss the memo?

In December of 2020, video footage of an East Atlanta Indian Gas station clerk expressing his blatant disregard for the Black community began to circulate the internet. I learned of this injustice through the 85 South Show podcast featuring Karlous Miller and his guest Scapegoat Jones who recounted the tale. He told Miller that after directly confronting the store clerk, he was told to, “Get out you food stamp cockroach”. It was shortly after this, that Jones started the Don’t Stop Don’t Shop (DSDS) organization, which headed the boycott against the racist Exxon establishment in East Atlanta. The boycott lasted for 60 days and caused the owner to decide to sell. This was a major win for the community and it is Jones’ hope to continue this winning streak by buying the gas station to generate wealth within the community as well as a means of inspiring other members of the Black community to take interest in owning property and businesses within the area. He is steadily raising funds to buy the gas station via gofundme, so whether you are located in the East Atlanta area or not, if you want to support this vision, please donate today and share the link with others. Help them buy back the block, one establishment at a time.

The Perfect 2021 Playlist

Is your life a never-ending soundtrack? Consider this, have you ever stood outside your shower, butt naked, with the hot water running as you scroll through YouTube for the perfect shower playlist? How about standing at your front door with the door ajar, while you stare intensely at your phone searching for the perfect song to carry you across the threshold? If you answered yes to both questions, congratulations, my friend, your life is a never ending soundtrack! Or, like me, you suffer from the occasional bout of depression. I don’t know about you, but I thank God for music because it literally soothes my soul.

They say music can soothe the savage beast, so perhaps it can provide aid to soothe the beast 2021 has already proven to be. If Hagrid can use it for Fluffy, I definitely think it can be applicable here. For those of you unfamiliar, that was a Harry Potter reference and Fluffy is a huge three-headed dog that Hagrid used to pacify the beast. I guess you could say he used a bit of musical therapy.

While researching about music therapy, I came across an article by the American Music Therapy Association where Jodi Picoult, author of the bestselling book Sing You Home was quoted, “Music therapy, to me, is music performance without the ego. It’s not about entertainment as much as its about empathizing. If you can use music to slip past the pain and gather insight into the workings of someone else’s mind, you can begin to fix a problem. ” I have found that a lot of artists today are moving beyond that constant state of ego. Having said that, the list I have cultivated today, is not what would be considered certified musical therapy, but to my generation, predecessors, and generations to come, music is therapy. I do believe that within the context of what Picoult said, it can act as an aid to emotional stability in emotionally tumultuous times. As we stand on the cusp of Black History month, I feel that it’s my duty to introduce you to some life giving tracks, from The Internet’s Hive album, to Sampa The Great, and Chaka Khan that you can find on music platforms such as Pandora, Spotify, Soundcloud, Pandora, YouTube, or Apple music that are perfect for the year ahead of us.

  1. Marvin Gaye- What’s Going On?

This song speaks to the activist in me. Gaye was a story teller with his finger to the pulse of society. His well-layered vocals and melody reverberate through my soul and his somber lyrics still resonate today. The numbers for Covid-19 are rising and there is still a very clear line of fear and injustice running rampant through society. The mere reaction to Black lives matter protests versus the storming of the Capital are highlights of racial injustice and civil unrest. What’s really going on? This song may not be as uplifting as you may have hoped, but some truths are uncomfortable, but necessary to face.

2. Alicia Keys (feat. Khalid)- So Done

This is the most recently produced song on this list and the first time I heard it, I knew immediately that would become a favorite. The chorus repeats “I’m living the way that I want” almost like a mantra. It’s a mantra I can live by. 2021 is the year that I manifest all the things I desire to see this year without the censorship of others or the need for approval. Let’s live the unapologetically authentic life we want this year.

3. Solange- Things I Imagined/ Down With the Clique

I remember the night this album dropped very clearly. It was midnight in 2018 and I was in bed at my dads when I saw that she dropped an album. I was ecstatic and I stayed up past midnight to finish the entire album in one sitting. For anyone who is a fan of Solange and her work on this album, you understand the importance of experiencing the album all at once. This song, however, stood out to be because at the time, I was just beginning my study of manifestation and visualizing the life I want to see. It was like I was receiving a sign from Spirit that I was well on my way.

3. SZA- Good Days

SZA’s Good Days is a sad girls vibe. This R&B gem is a bluesy pick me up. A reminder, if you will, that good days are ahead, even if they only exist in our minds. We may not be able to get out and move as freely as we once were, but maintaining a healthy mental space can do wonders for one’s approach to life and she highlights the struggle of that beautifully with this song.

4. AWA- Like I Do

Self-love has made its way to the forefront of the conversation in 2020 and this song is the perfect personification of that. Every lyric in this song emanates the line she sings, “I’m gonna love me loud”. Sometimes we as woman forget who we are. We forget our value in relationships, especially romantic ones, and this song acts as a reminder that we are all the love we need and anyone else’s love should be an addition to the love we give ourselves.

5. The Internet- Roll (Burbank Funk)

Every playlist needs a fun song and Roll Burbank Bounce is that song for me. It has that classic roller rink feel that gets me all nostalgic for childhood days at Branch Brook Roller Rink in my hometown of Newark, New Jersey. When I play it, I can’t help but tap a toe, nod my head, groove to the beat, or all three at once. I think you’ll do the same, you’ll thank me later!

8. Big K.R.I.T.- Energy

I came across this song on my YouTube one day and instantly fell in love with the melodic riffs of Jill Scott. That woman can sing like no other! If the song was her on a loop and nothing else, I would’ve been satisfied, but I was then pulled in even further with the message: intention and direction of one’s energy. If you like Houston rap with a message, this is certainly the track for you.

6. Chaka Khan I’m Every Woman

This song is like the perfect wake up and go song, the family reunion song, the go to girls night karaoke song. I mean it’s Chaka! How could you not love her? Her songs inspire so much nostalgia for me and this one in particular reverberates a frequency of power and feminine energy. I love it!

7. Sampa The Great- Energy

In the same vein of feminine energy, I had to include another song titled Energy. Both songs were created by spiritually in tune artists, but this one brings the feminine energy to the forefront of the conversation. She praises the female intuition and ambition, as should you!

9. Toni Jones- No Is Bae

My mom was beyond excited to share this affirmations album and after hearing this song, I wholly understand why. After taking an Enneagram test today, it confirmed a prior personality test I took that said I am a caregiver. This outcome translated to me giving of myself almost to my detriment when I don’t establish boundaries. If you have trouble saying, “no” and telling people what you can and cannot do, this track is certainly for you. I can not tell you how vital learning how to say “no” has been in my life. The lesson of self-assertion has been instrumental in maintaining my mental and emotional health. The establishment of healthy work boundaries allows me to be the best version of myself for those who employ me as well as my family and friends.

10. Koffee- Toast

Gratitude is a running theme in my life and marrying that theme within a reggae song is the cherry on top. The whole song is a vibe. Life may not be perfect, but it is worth living and the best way to live it is with gratitude. You can start by opening a window for some fresh air and follow that up with being thankful that the weekend is finally here! Cheers!

Colorism in 2021

WARNING! If you ever hear a conversation begin with the words, “I just think it’s funny how…” you’re in for a long-winded dissertation on all the ways this person did not find the actions or words in question funny.

I just think it’s funny how colorism is still alive and kicking across the globe. Today, however, I will be discussing the colorism of Black women in the United States. It’s been a problem since slavery and it’s still an issue today. We’re living in the 21st century and the blatant disrespect and distrust have got to end. There’s a level of accountability that must be taken by women of both fair and darker complexions in the Black community. We are all responsible for how we approach and respond to our difficulties in this life. I find it easy to acknowledge my privilege as a woman of lighter skin because I see it as a way to help myself and my highly melanated sisters. If I can get a foothold in the right door, I can reach back and pull someone through when I’ve crossed the threshold. I am a firm believer that my complexion shouldn’t be celebrated as higher than another, nor should it be torn down by my dark-skinned sisters when it is celebrated. Why is it so difficult for all hues of Blackness to be acknowledged and celebrated equally? Is it an internal or external source of contention?

I believe this is what our ancestors marched for; equity regardless of color or creed. The equity I presently speak of pertains to the fair treatment of people regardless of skin tone. This equity should start within the community before it branches out. Colorism is ugly. All differences should be celebrated not exploited. In my school days, I excelled in academics, athletics, and the arts, all of which were celebrated, but I’ve also been disliked for the same reasons among others outside of my control. I learned to cope with being picked on because I was tall and thin and I ignored the girls who didn’t like me because I was a tomboy who hung out with all the cute boys. I did, however, have trouble digesting the words, “You’re not Black enough” as pertains to my complexion or “You’re light-skinned” as a dismissal of my Blackness and relation to the conversation at hand. The words were said jokingly by a classmate, but they left me puzzled and furious.

I’ve been called many things in my life: Sunshine, Ali, Light Brite, Track Star, Ciroc, Babe, Baby girl, “You with the red shirt!” and all of these names were given affectionately and were well received. To be told, however, “You’re not Black enough” by another Black person based on skin tone, or to receive the backhanded compliment of “You’re cool for a Black girl” is something else entirely. It’s mind-boggling how truly ignorant, insensitive, and dismissive people still are. By saying I’m not Black enough, they’re dismissing my human existence as a Black woman. My experience as a lighter-skinned Black woman may differ from that of a darker-skinned Black woman, but it can not negate my ancestry or experiences within this culture.

As a child, one of my favorite songs from the Schoolhouse Rock was “The Great American Melting Pot“. I appreciated the catchy cadence of it in my youth, but as an adult, I can’t help but appreciate the vision of a land where people came to achieve their dreams while marrying their culture with that of this country. My great-great-grandmother on my father’s side was Scottish, while my great-great-grandmother on my mother’s side was one generation away from slavery. Without the combination of both lineages, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today: a 5′ 10” Black woman of light skin with deep brown eyes and curly-coily hair that takes a reddish hue under the care of the intense summer sun. I am American and I am Black. As a child of divorce, I was raised by a single mother who gave me and my brother as much love, emotional support, and stability as she could. I haven’t been the direct recipient of physical violence from racist bigots, which may attribute to my complexion, but I have borne witness to the verbal assault on my mom from a narrow-minded older White woman in the streets of Burbank, CA in 2016. The assault started on the corner as we crossed the street and continued all the way down the sidewalk toward the downtown Burbank mall as other White witnesses stood by and did nothing. They said nothing as I hurried my mom away from the soon-to-be battered woman as quickly as possible. I’m not the type of person who argues. Neither is my mom. We are women of action, and I was a broke grad student, so I quickly calculated the situation and saw there was no alternative to getting the heck out of dodge. Looking back, I had to watch this situation through two lenses. First, the lens of a black woman, and then I had to step outside of myself to envision what the white woman saw; my light skin versus my mom’s caramel skin. In this situation, my mom became The Provoked and I, The Witness. Both experiences are valid and both roles are traumatizing. Racism is alive and kicking in the 21st year of the 21st century, Black women shouldn’t have to be traumatized by colorism too.

Unfortunately, it seems like the head on this pimple is about to burst because people just keep picking at the issue every time something arises. On the flip side, all this public discussion could be good? For the first time, I saw the issue of colorism being addressed in a TV show a few years ago. I don’t know if you watch the TV show Blackish, but I vividly remember the pain I felt as I cried during the first few moments of the episode called Complexion. Those first few notes of Kendrick Lamar’s song “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” were all I needed to hear to know the direction and tone of this episode. The song oozes self-love and affirmations while it addresses the colorist issues within the Black community. It took me back to a time in college where a teammate told me after months of having known me, that she wasn’t sure if she was going to like me, to which I replied, “Because of my skin tone.”, which was more of a statement because this wasn’t my first encounter with colorism. She responded, “Yes” and the moment was bittersweet because here she was telling me that she misjudged me, but I also felt honored because she respected me enough to tell me at all. While watching the Blackish episode, I noticed how they touched so many necessary topics that have been pushed under the rug of Black society for scores. They mentioned the light skin men are “softer” versus dark skin mention issue as well as the light-skinned women, who are most likely to be mixed, “aren’t really black” versus dark-skinned women “aren’t that pretty” issue. I have to make note that even within the context of this episode, the men’s conversation follows the vein of whether their complexion makes them more manly while the woman’s conversation had more to do with aesthetics and racial identification.

In addition to watching that episode, I’ve also watched YouTube interviews with Jorja Smith where her complexion was addressed in a conversation. Before seeing this interview, I saw thumbnails of other channels discussing how she had replaced artist Amia Brave on the remixed version of the song “Peng Black Girls” by ENNY. The comment section was flooded with Black women’s distaste for the decision to remove the other artist from the song. Many women drug Jorja’s name through the mud saying that she was chosen over the other artist because of her complexion, which is very likely considering the way the music industry operates, but Jorja is also a very talented singer, so I find their basis for bias to be lacking. My biggest issue, however, was that any comment of praise for her talent and contribution to the song was lost in the sea of discontent. Following this disheartening experience, I decided to watch Jorja’s Lost & Found, Colourism, and “Pretty Privilege” interview with Apple music.

I understand. I get it. I’m a conversation starter.

Jorja Smith, Lost & Found, Colourism and “Pretty Privilege“, Apple Music, June 24, 2018

Jorja Smith, the Walsall, England born artist, is the daughter of a Jamaican father and English mother. When I heard the words she spoke (as quoted above) I was taken aback because I had never heard a summation about our complexion so elegantly put. Our complexion, light skin, is a conversation starter. It was mentioned how she would like to be seen as an artist first, and that resonated with me so deeply, but unfortunately, that’s not how things work right now. When someone sees me before I’ve even had the opportunity to open my mouth, an assumption has already been made and an internal conversation has begun about my character. I become the sum of my melanin and it is so disheartening. I still feel the pain of being a Black woman, but the difference is that my antagonizer tends to be within my own community and sometimes in my own family.

As a light-skinned woman, who I am, my character, and flaws should not be calculated or summarized by the amount of melanin in my skin. My ancestry and life experiences link me to my African American and Western European identity. Both pieces exist in harmony. So who would have the authority as an outsider (of myself), to tell me who I am and if my melanin is enough to sustain my “Black Card”? If anything, it should be revoked because I’m coming up on 30 and still haven’t gotten the hang of playing Spades. All joking aside, I’m tired of having to bear witness to social injustice online, hold first-hand accounts of racism, and suffer colorism from my own people.

I’m not entirely sure just how long it’s going to take to unpack the years of colorism and self-hatred that’s been ingratiated in our DNA, but I am hopeful because I see the slew of self-love posts on my Instagram from other Black women. The journey has begun and I believe that one day my lighter tone won’t be seen as better than darker tones, but the differences will be celebrated equally and moving forward, we will share open-hearted discussions when tensions arise. I’ve caught a glimpse of a beautifully harmonious future. It will be a bumpy journey, but the destination is worth it! There is a timeline where darker-toned men will not intimidate whites on sight, and lighter-toned women will not inspire distrust in dark-skinned women regarding their men. It’s out there and we’re well on our way. I can’t wait to meet you there!

A Better Dream

2021 has been such as been such an eventful year already. Who would have thought that Wednesdays could provide us with so much history and terror? Two weeks ago, on Wednesday January 6, 2021, I was on the road with my boyfriend for a celebratory staycation in the city of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia, PA), when he got a call about white protestors marching to The Capitol. We got a play by play of how they proceeded to take it by storm under the guise of a “revolution”. Mind blowing right? What was even crazier was that we were scheduled to go Washington D.C. two days following this protest. Thankfully, our trip went well and the only thing we suffered from was disappointment because we were unable to see the sights while everything was locked with a vigilance that should have been in place two days prior. I digress… This Wednesday, January 20, 2021, however, was full of moments that will be ingrained in my mind for years to come.

I watched my Instagram feed provide gifs and stills of Trump’s underwhelming departure, streamed the inauguration of our new President Joe Biden live from YouTube, and I celebrated the birthday of a friend via FaceTime (Thank God for technology). It was a truly glorious day! Big moments aside, what I loved the most, were the little things, the moments within moments. Within the presidential inauguration, I witnessed three things: 1. The unbotheredness of Bernie Sanders, which has become a meme unto itself, 2. The array of color amongst the women present, and 3. the moment where I was gripped by the very presence and words of Harvard alum Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first African American youth poet laureate. It was these three things that highlighted the dream of a promising future for America.

Unbothered Bernie

There aren’t too many pictures, I feel, that represent my mood for 2021 so concisely. The year came in, ignored my “Dear 2021…” post, and began to wreak havoc in ways that myself and other members of the African American population knew it could. I can assure you that on Wednesday January 6, 2021, most of us sat in our respective homes and watched the news with the exact face Bernie has in the picture below. There may have been exclamations of shock and reproach, but I’m sure there was one person in the room who sat back and said something along lines of, ” That’s some white privilege” and “That’s none of my concern” because they stopped peaceful BLM (Black Lives Matter) protests with mace and tear gas, but allowed a storming of The Capital for reasons I believe are all too obvious… They were White. Anywho! Let this Bernie meme be our mood all 2021: Prepared and unbothered. May our masks be raised high, and our stress levels low.

Monochrome!

Do you see what I see? I see a moment from “The Wiz” where all the people danced around the television for the Wizard. The comparison is uncanny! It was glamorous, vibrant, and monochromatic. I LIVE for a monochromatic moment! There is such a strength, stability, and confidence that comes with wearing monochrome that I am certain that this fashion choice was the right one. It spoke loud and clear of the vibrancy that lies ahead for this nation. Watching all these fabulous women, I felt like it was a representation of the people waking up from a dead sleep under the #45th administration. It was like they woke up and decided to put on their “Sunday’s best”. I loved every moment of it.

The Hill We Climb

Amanda Gormon, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, is a Los Angeles native whose words have won her invitations to the Obama White House and to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and others. She also has work available for purchase, “Change Sings” and poetry collection “The Hill We Climb”, both being released by Penguin Random House this September. In addition to all these accolades, she is stunning! Her gorgeous melanin, complimented by her bright yellow trench immediately grabbed my attention as as she read her piece, “The Hill We Climb“. It reminded me of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that inspired the nation, but there are so many unknown quotes from him that still resonate.

“But ever since the Founding Fathers of our nation dreamed this dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself.”

“The American Dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. , July 4, 1965

With the momentous sightings of Wednesday January 20, 2021, a palindrome mind you, I feel so hopeful. Hopeful that our fear-driven society could become one of love and peace and justice. Things have been so disjointed towards minority groups in this country since its conception that it will take time to maneuver and eradicate some of these things. People have been avoiding the darkness of this country for so long that they forgot it existed and now is the time to shed some light on it. The most powerful words uttered by Amanda in her piece pertain to light.

“There is always light is only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”

“THE HILL WE CLIMB”, AMANDA GORMAN, JANUARY 20, 2021

If we can be the light that we seek, maybe the nights won’t be as dark, and if we remind ourselves of Joe’s quote from The Bible in his inauguration speech, “Joy comes in the morning” we can spread hope and love (light) instead of fear and hatred (darkness). Dr. King’s words and his life’s work may not have been fully realized in his time on Earth, but I believe we can achieve that dream in this new day and age. You’ve made it to the weekend, so have an amazing Friday my loves!

How to Mend Miscommunication

Have you ever walked away from a conversation understanding one thing, but found out later on that the whole thing was misconstrued? I have multiple times and I’m here to tell you that even though the feeling of discomfort doesn’t completely go away, you can grow from each experience. There are so many layers when diving in the well of miscommunication and it can seem overwhelming. One misspoken word can be the end of a beautiful relationship or business partnership. Mending those broken relationships and exploring conversational rifts are intentional work that takes time, but here are a few steps to get you started.

Open Your Heart and Mind

When addressing miscommunication, you have to remember that each individual is coming into the conversation with their own perspective and a set of points that they want to get across. It’s not easy to be the bigger person, but if the relationship is of value to you, it would be in your best interest to be the bigger person and open your mind to their perspective and calm your heart when you hear their frustration.

As humans, we come into this world with these intense emotions that most of us have learned to regulate as we’ve gotten older. These regulated emotions are what keep us from flying off the handle at a moment’s notice or screaming obscenities at our neighbors for letting their dogs poop freely in our yard for the upteenth time this month. We have to remember that empathy is a necessity, no matter what, so listen intently to their concerns without the overwhelming desire to respond. Digest their words, mull it over, and respond accordingly.

Ask Questions

There have been times in my life where I didn’t ask enough questions or the right questions. Who am I kidding? There are days where I still don’t, but I now have a better frame of reference for when and how to ask questions. In my youth, when I would take trips to the doctor, I never inquired further about things pertaining to my body because I was of the mindset that they had already told me everything I needed to know. I thought, “They’re the doctor, they know what’s best. Case closed”. I saw no reason to press the matter further. In high school, I had moments where I was given an assignment where upon first review, things seemed straightforward, but upon further review, I found that all the requirements weren’t clear and I would struggle to complete the assignment that night. My mom would then ask me why I hadn’t asked more questions, and my answer would always be that I didn’t know I needed to ask more questions. I had walked out of the classroom thinking I had all the understanding of the subject that I needed, which time and further analysis proved false. It is within these crucial lessons that I’ve gained the understanding that sometimes, we are so uninformed on a topic that we don’t know what questions we should be asking. If you find yourself on the receiving end of miscommunication, meaning that your words were misconstrued, please practice empathy and remember that you too desire patience and understanding where proper communication is involved.

Respect One Another

Respect is a two-way street. It is also a form of currency. When I enter into a conversation with someone, I am exchanging my words, ideas, beliefs, and energy. The person I am speaking to is doing the same. Issues tend to develop quicker when the two individuals are on different frequencies of conversation. My ideals may not align with theirs and vice versa. For example, let’s say I am talking to a friend about getting some ice cream. I tell them I want chocolate and they say, “Yuck! Vanilla for me”. I could respond one of two ways: 1. Understand that they are expressing their opinion or 2. Take it as a personal attack and become defensive. Personally, I would inquire about why they don’t like chocolate, which allows me to walk away with a better understanding of them as a whole.

When we asks questions with respect and seek to understand one another, people tend to respond better and will be more likely to remain open in their responses. These open responses aid in getting you closer to desirable resolutions. Just the other day, I found myself in a misunderstanding. I found myself a bit flustered because I didn’t see where the miscommunication was. All I knew was that we disagreed on a matter and I wanted it resolved. I also knew that I didn’t want to respond impulsively, which could potentially ruin a great relationship. Thus, I waited, formulated a proper response that allowed me to get my point across while leaving room for an open conversation. Thankfully, the issue was resolved smoothly because I understood the importance of hearing the other person’s perspective and reevaluating it with my own. By doing this, we were both able to identify the breakdown in communication and were able to grow and move forward amicably. I have not always been as successful in my mending endeavors, but I hope to spread hope and share my experiences with the hopes of inspiring you to mend valuable relationships with those three steps. Have a wonderful day, loves!

We’ll Travel For Food

Vacations are looking more like staycations nowadays. Couples are huddled up in their living rooms with blankets, moscato, and the latest Netflix movie release, and honestly, I can’t think of a better way to do a date night in! I had however, hoped in 2020 to have a summer full of travel and delight, but was met with shelter in place mandates and disappointment. With the country on lockdown and states operating individually, it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel where travel was concerned. With states opening up, however, I have seen the light, and it came in the form of a road trip for food up the East coast to Philadelphia (Philly).

We began our food journey by doing our due diligence regarding the travel, Airbnb research, and general Covid safety measures. Sitting in the living room of our Philadelphia Sonder Airbnb that looks over the vast city landscape, I am in awe of the beauty of the city lights. It reminds me a bit of my hometown, Newark, New Jersey with the hustle and bustle and great eateries like Get Stuffed Jersey in Union, NJ. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big foodie, so finding the best food is a major part of the trip. We started our food journey with Jay’s Steak and Hoagie Joint in Langhorne, PA. We heard about this spot through JL Jupiter’s YouTube channel. You can call ahead to order and due to Covid measures they have outdoor seating, but we ate in the car. Jupiter raved about the beer dipped pretzel bread philly. That’s right, I said pretzel bread! Let me tell you, it was well worth the trip! It was utter perfection. So much so, that there was nothing left to post in the blog.

On our second day in the city of brotherly love, we continued this hunt for great food by stopping through the Reading Terminal Market. There was stall upon stall of deliciousness, but we ultimately settled for a breakfast sandwich from Smucker’s Quality Meat and Grill and a fresh squeezed cold press juice from Lancaster County Dairy, which was truly refreshing! The only downfall of this eating experience was the eating outdoor experience because it was early in the morning.

Reading Terminal Market

I was a bit full after that meal, so we decided to continue our stroll through the city down 12th street to take in the sights. What a beautiful city it truly is.

We closed this food trip with Luke’s Lobster Rittenhouse. They have pick-up and no-contact delivery options for your safety and convenience. We called ahead and ordered the chilled 4oz lobster roll, which was also recommended by JL Jupiter. I had my roll with chips and a Blueberry Lemonade, while my boyfriend ordered a lobster mac and cheese as a side, and my oh my! My beautiful readers, if you ever have the opportunity to venture down to 17th street, you should stop in this quaint establishment because it will truly bless your taste buds and your soul!

I know the world is a bit weird right now and the state of our capital is much to be desired, but I find comfort in knowing there is still some normalcy in the little things. I was able to travel safely across state lines and maybe you aren’t able to, but that shouldn’t stop you from venturing around your own city for some good eats even from the safety of your laptop. Go online, do your research, and order ahead for pick-up or delivery! There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy yourself and eat well when the opportunity presents itself. May the discounts from Grubhub, DoorDash, and UberEats be ever in your favor! Go forth, eat well!