Friday, July 30, 2010

Say What You Got to Say

Why do we resist saying what we really want to say?

So, I’m wondering: why do we as people, seem to resist saying what we really want to say? I’m sure at one point or another, we have all been there. Whether in your personal life or your career, you have found yourself at a juncture where you’ve decided NOT to say what you wanted to say. Or insisted on saying what you thought the person wanted to hear. We have all let our egos, fear and even judgments keep us from speaking up or speaking out. For instance, have you ever resisted telling a friend you were disappointed in them? Missed someone you continue to neglect to call? Have you ever wanted to be held by someone you were afraid to admit you needed? Or watched someone be disrespectful to another individual without speaking up?

Why do you think we do this? Is it our desire to conform socially and need to have others ‘like us’? Is it the fact that we fear the others reaction? Are we avoiding confrontation? Are we being too ‘nice’ and resisting telling others of the ugly behavior we’re observing? Do we convince ourselves we ‘just don’t care’ about the outcome, situation, or individual? Why do we resist telling others when they have hurt us? Or request a hug or word of encouragement during a moment of struggle? Why don’t we ask our parents the answers to questions that have bugged us since childhood? Or tell our friend the impact their absence has had on our lives? Why not share?

I think we don’t speak up because we fear. We fear social isolation or the loss of our relationships. As human beings we have an innate desire to belong and be loved. Our desire to cover our base needs creates in us the desire to preserve what we’ve obtained. Whether or not the relationships are healthy or serve us any longer, we hold on to them. We also fear change. We fear the unknown and hold onto the familiar tooth and nail. Why not share with the ones we love? Why don’t we say what we truly feel, share from our hearts, from that vulnerable place inside of us all? Fear! Fear stops us. While I get it, I have had my own experiences of it, and can empathize with others struggling to work through their fear, I say take the next step anyway. I say walk through the fear, not away from what scares you. What is the worst that can happen? In the end we are all much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. And once you have stood and faced your fears, you realize just how fantastic and resilient you are. In the end, allowing for vulnerability in the face of fear, takes true bravery. Why not be courageous and optimistic, and go for it!

Here is what I propose. Let’s stop acting like conversations will kill us. Let’s stop running from our true feelings, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with those around us. Let’s bring the heart, soul and love back to communication. If you have been missing someone, go call them please. If you have unfinished business with someone dear to you, go have that conversation. If there is a situation at work that is affecting your happiness, please go talk to the person who can do something about it. Having trouble with a co worker, then invite them to lunch and hash things out. Whatever it is that is on your chest, that has been weighing on you, consuming your thoughts, causing you stress, release it. Have a conversation not only with yourself, but the other person at stake. We are all one. I am you and you are me. The division we create between us isn’t real, its self created, it’s a machine, a lie we’ve bought into and now perpetuate. Let’s talk. Let’s talk like we understand that there is no real division. Let’s have those conversations and remember we are not so different from one another. Our individual perspectives don’t separate us nor define us. Love is what defines us as human beings. Let’s remember the love, get related, and talk.

I’m sure many of us have someone, even if it’s just one person, whom we owe that phone call. Well, Go Call!! Let’s talk. Let’s talk while we still have the opportunity to have the conversation. Let’s talk before we let too much time and distance erode the ties that bind us. Let’s talk because we still have time to create change and promote growth. Let’s talk now, with love in our hearts and pure peace on our minds.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Beautiful...Beautiful...Black Men...This is for you!!!!!!

Originally I was going to blog about something else, but I was sitting here daydreaming about my husband and that triggered something inside of me.I have a deep sense of love and appreciation for brothas and I figure, hey, why not let the world know.

Lets start with the great and the obvious. Black men in every shade is just beautiful. The poetry that lives in the skin, swagger and style of black men is what makes me smile and melt every time.They come in all professions, some legal, some not and some of them are self employed but anyway you a slice it, a hard working brotha is just a beautiful sight. Lately I have been reading all these different posts, and articles about the death of the black man, and forget black men because they only want to exploit sistas, and  how they are always in jail and so on and so forth. Although there is some truth in there about the tribulations of SOME brothers, NOT all of them are bad, on trial and should be thrown away.

This blog is dedicated to brothas period! I don't know what it's like growing up as a Black man in America. I do know though that wherever brothas grow up, there is a stereotype that follows. If he's the sole brotha in a milky white town, he's either the savior or the devil in someone's eyes. He can never just be him, out of the scrutiny of someone. Brothas growing up in the hood, now we all know the stereotypes there; He's bad. He's going to do be bad if he don't stop hanging out with these bad boys. Or the opposite for the quiet and studious ones. He's a nerd, he too quiet, maybe he gay. Lastly, if he's really cute then he's too conceited or he's a player or some girls are always going to fight over him. Can a brotha just live?

I have often wondered though what a brotha thinks about when he is encountered with these plethora of stereotypes daily. I wonder if some of them ever make him cry and want to get away from all the hype. I think of the ones who walked down the wrong path and wonder if it would have been different for them if they could do it over again. I wonder if some of these young guys feel terrible when they are on trial for murder, they must. I truly believe that everyone is born with innocence and something corrupts that innocence and they take a less than desirable path.Is there enough nurturing for young, black boys? Recently I read a case about a father punching his six year old in his chest because he couldn't fall asleep. He punched him repeatedly until he had a seizure and died, all the while his father screaming "Man up" at him. Could that be the issue? Young black boys have to man up because their environment says that they have to before their times? Just questions I have in my mind.

The black men that I have in my life are pretty stellar. Many of them are amazing fathers and husbands. They have beaten the odds of going to prison and dead at a premature age. They hold down careers and are constantly improving. They support their communities by mentoring and giving monetarily. I am grateful for that reality. I honor these men because they have gone above and beyond to make sure that they are not a stereotype. They have satisfied their own personal goals and have made their families proud. These brothas did what they knew was right and I am proud to know them. There are the other brothas who took a path that lead them to a lifetime of Central Booking, prisons and running from the police. I could say they make brothas look bad, but it's not about looking bad at this point. It's about supporting the little ones who are at a high risk of falling into a criminal lifestyle. Those same brothas who made it out of the hood or who made it out of the suburbs with a clean or not so clean police record have a duty to mentor a young boy who is at risk. It will alter his world, not just because a brotha is in his life, but a brotha with the same circumstances but chose a successful path.

I know not every brotha will be like the ones in Tyler Perry's movies but those men do exist. There are those brothas who do some unpleasant things for a number of years and then something changes in their lives and they change for good. Then there are those brothas who lose their lives to prison, drugs, crime and eventually death. Despite where in the spectrum brothas fall, we still need to show them love and honor them. We meaning sistas. I know some people will say that brothas play games, and they play sistas and they are no good and they are dead beats. However, what we need to remember is that they were not always that way, nor were we. At some point in time there was a beautiful coexistence between brothas and sistas and something happened. Something happened that divided the Black family and we turned on each other. We even hated each other and it has become very evident from the way that we speak to each other. Based on speaking to both men and women I have concluded that both parties want the same thing. To be loved with no judgment, not to be confused with to be loved and NOT taught. Both brothas and sistas want these things from each other, but somehow some sistas think that brothas don't have the courage to give them that and some brothas think that sistas are too far removed that they don't even bother.

STOP IT!!!!!!! Everybody needs to stop fronting like they don't need love. Both parties, sistas and brothas. We have all these groups that have popped up placing money over each other and blasting the message that brothas/sistas ain't shit. Really? So if we are all hating on each other, but still desiring a relationship then how do we expect that to happen if everybody is fronting like they hate each other? I understand that there is pain in everyone's past that has probably left some damage in your heart and spirit but one has to remember that not every man is the same. No and I will repeat that, not every man or woman is the same. If you really think about it, if YOU keep encountering the same thing time after time and YOU keep ending up with the same end result and if the common denominator is YOU then could it possibly be that YOU are the same, and YOU have not learned from your previous mistakes and YOU are looking to recreate every relationship to fashion the first? Brothas and sistas, whether it's going to take growing up, altering your thought process and realizing that we are here for each other something must be done. We cannot continue saying that we do not need each other, YES WE DO. The Black family unit is looking to make a strong comeback and we need more younger couples to make that happen.

I was guilty in my former years of saying that brothas weren't worthy. However, a few of my brothers were my reality check on brothas and I realize that I am the source of everything in my life and I had to alter ME. Once I got that I had to clean up my mental and shift my thoughts towards the positive for whole world opened up. I met all kinds of great brothas, and not even for dating, but just meeting to have conversation. When I met my husband we had great conversations. We talked about past relationships, the black family unit, and we were real with each other. No masks, no hiding, just kept it 100% through tears, truth and sitting on the hopes of creating a very strong, structured family. It is possible for everyone if they allow themselves to be vulnerable and at peace with the chatter in their minds. This blog is about brothas but I cannot possibly write about brothas and not include sistas. We need each other. We need that family unit once again. We need to raise our kids in unity and not every man for themselves. We need to build dynasties again, so that our children can stop dying before their times.


Dedicated to my husband, Mr. J.Sylvan : )

Friday, July 9, 2010

The People vs. The Police: A Peaceful Solution

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was walking towards the West Side of Manhattan and I read in headlines that the four cops who fired 41 rounds into unarmed, 23 year old Amadou Diallo was acquitted by a jury. I did not know Amadou personally, but that pain felt personal. I was stunned. I remember standing and staring at the news scrolling across the news ticker and it seemed like everything around me was just frozen, this must be the twilight zone, I thought. As I continued walking, and looking at the faces of my fellow New Yorkers, no one else seemed to have been affected by this tragedy. I was dumb founded, hurt and sick to my stomach.

Here we are, a little over a decade later and not much has changed when it comes to cops getting off with light sentences or acquittals. Although Oscar Grant's killer was filmed and watched live by hundreds of people as he shot his gun into the back of  a handcuffed, unarmed Oscar Grant  he was ONLY convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Which means that he can get off with a light sentence as probation or the maximum of four years in prison. There were several things about this case that bothered me from the beginning. The day after Oscar grant was murdered I remember reading about his rap sheet and how he's been arrested before and he was possibly going to fight on the train and in my mind, I am wondering, what the heck does this have to do with him being shot in the back? Oscar's killer claimed that he was going for his taser but used his gun instead. Why would you taze a handcuffed person anyway? I am furious, along with hundreds of other people because the simple fact remains, how can a police officer not know the difference between a firearm and a taser? Furthermore, if you cannot tell the difference then you should have never been given a gun and a badge to begin with. That in itself is a tragedy.

Here it is, the day after the trial and what sense of justice is there? Here in NYC there has been NO mention of Oscar Grant in the newspaper or on our news. Nothing. CNN had breaking news about where Lebron James will be playing ball next season but never mentions the trial and the outrage that Oakland residents are feeling. Interestingly enough, when Sean Bell who was shot 50 times by NYPD on his wedding day, many people across this country never even knew about the story and that too is tragic. However, we all know that the tragedy was worsened by the fact that his shooters were also acquitted.

I gave three popular examples of death by cop and I know there are hundreds more and I am saddened just thinking about it. However, the thing that breaks my heart the most of all is the apathy I have noticed in our communities. After the Sean Bell verdict I expected the NY Riots to go down, precincts to burn, curfews imposed and for the people to take the streets with chants and call backs of "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE." Instead...silence. Al Sharpton said a little thing, the family expressed outrage but the community just shook their heads and said, "Yeah, NYPD wins again." WHAT??????? Now, I am certainly not advocating for a riot by any means, however the people taking the streets to have their voices heard is what I had in mind. At least a very loud outpouring of community support that would at least show the NYPD that we too can be unified and have each others backs. No such luck. Yesterday people were too caught up with Lebron to pay attention to Oscar Grant, but how many more of us can the police kill and we just sit back and just shake our heads? What has happened in our communities that we are no longer willing to organize ourselves, march to precincts and demand answers? What is the point of marching through the streets of any borough without the community having a sit down with the politicians and the police, so something can be done about these excessive bullets going into the bodies of young men of color?

The bottom line is that the cops are scared of the residents in the communities that they patrol. As tough as the community can be, they too fear the cops. We have a cycle of fear, mixed in with hundred of illegal guns on the streets, in addition to the rookies who have their firearms...that is a recipe for death to be rampant in our communities. Death by cop. The NYPD shot and killed one of their own last year. A young black man named Omar Edwards was mistaken for a perp and he was shot in his back and side by one of his own. It wasn't until EMS arrived to attend to his bleeding and handcuffed body that they realized he was one of them, but it was too late. Something has to give. This is about every police department in every major city vs. the people. That is a dangerous combination where communication and trust is absolutely void. It doesn't help when Mr. Sharpton makes every single thing about race and persecution of cops. Playing the blame game has never been a great source of relieving tension. The  cops who patrol the streets should have a sit down with the people in the communities that they see daily. It would be in everyone's best interest to at least know the name of the officers who are always in your building and vice versa. Is this possible? Can this dialogue happen? It can but are both parties willing?

Fuck The Police cannot be and is not a solution for peace. Cops shooting unarmed kids in the back is also not a solution. Relatedness and willingness are the key instruments to achieving peace between cops and the people. Life would be easier if the community did not fear the people who are there to protect and serve. It would also make the cops' lives easier if they actually got to know the residents in their community. This is not the end all be all solution, but it is also more than an ideal, it is indeed a possibility but the everyone must be willing to work towards a peaceful existence or more people will die, cops and the people. I feel incomplete here because I know there are huge strides that need to be made to get this thought process into an action process. I will be reaching out to community leaders and seeing what is possible. I am also willing to speak to top cops and whoever needs to get spoken to so that we can all talk together. I am not willing to just express outrage at another verdict and then do nothing about it. I can't and I won't, I need support. Who's with me?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why Do People Settle...In Relationships?

" I mean I love him and all but I don't really love him like that. He ain't a marrying type of dude." Says one girl to her friend on the train. " Word! I feel you cuz my man please he don't be buying me shit. At least yours be buying you stuff you need. This fool ain't worth it. But at least he can pipe." Her friend replies. Omg!!!! Overhearing that conversation was funny and sad at the same time. These girls could not have been older than seventeen (I gathered that from their school uniforms) and they already were talking about their "men" in a way that implied they were settling and staying with them for all the wrong reasons. Of course I couldn't help but wonder where they adopted this pattern.

There was a woman I was acquainted with a while back who always had the same complaint about her relationship. She wasn't happy about where her relationship was going due to their financial constraints and she disliked the fact that he still lived with the mother of his children. That story always baffled me because I couldn't understand why you would be in a relationship with someone for a decade and he still lived with his childrens' mother. A year, okay, two years, is pushing it but TEN????? Anyone else head is spinning? Her justification was that he needed to stay in the home for his daughters and it didn't matter anyway because he slept on the couch. Yes my people, this will be settling.

I told that story because my concern has always been for her daughter. Not only are you dating a man who won't sleep over at your house for a decade but he comes late and leaves early and your daughter observes this pattern. My people this is not normal nor healthy. What that young girl is learning, is that relationships are about creeping. I guess to make up for his absenteeism he would adorn the mother and daughter with Coach, Gucci and Louis bags and shoes. You would think he was handing out love and affection by the way they acted. This young girl whose father was also absent would periodically show up, give her money here and there and because she has replaced money with love she loves her daddy a great deal...well as long as that cash flow continues. Guess what though? Since daddy isn't around that often and she needs to look fly always, she now seeks love/money from men who can provide it. We all know that no one gets anything for free and especially when you have it in your head that you need cash to stay fly which will therefore make you relevant and loved, you do what you need to do. In her case, risky, unprotected sex with grown men who said I love you girl, here's x amount of dollars and she sees those cartoon dollar signs in her eyes and she does whatever she needs to do for that cash. Wow!

Is this story shocking to anyone? Sadly probably not, right? With ridiculous shows like The Real Housewives of whatever messed up city and all these shows that idolize money and not love, what are these girls to think? These girls grow into women who get very confused about their wants in relationships. They claim they want men with six figure salaries, great jobs, pushing a nice Benz, education optional and mad sexy. I know depending on the girl the criteria changes. Some women do get this and they often end up unhappy. It's like they neglect to see the bigger picture. If he is working to make a six figure salary then chances are he will be working very late nights often. So they end up settling for a very tired man who spends a lot of time at work and who wants peace and quiet when he gets home. It doesn't have to be this extreme of a case for it to be considered settling.

 You can be in a relationship with a great guy but if he doesn't satisfy you in every way then why would you stay? I took a poll on my Facebook page and I gathered some interesting feedback to that question. The one answer that jumped out was a lack of something within themselves. Due to their consistent cycle of settling they know nothing else and because that's what they know it seems normal. The truth is whatever you do one place then you probably do it everywhere, right? Probably. My mind wanders to women who are involved in domestic violence situations. They know the cycle of violence is toxic but they stay. Another answer I got from my poll was fear. Due to the fact that these women are living in oppressively tough situations I can only imagine what kind of fear consumes them. What does get these warriors out of their fearful situations is when they stop settling for fear and take on self love and courage and embrace it fully.

So in conclusion I think it makes a lot of sense to check out the cycle of the parent and see how it has trickled down to the child. It is important to remember to set standards and boundaries for yourself when it comes to dating. You have to carefully watch your patterns to see if it brings you destruction or bliss. And if you see a pattern of destruction, ask yourself why do you keep repeating the same pattern? What is the pay off here? In other words what do you get to be right about in a destructive situation? Is it possible that you get to say, Men ain't shit? Or Women ain't shit? Or that you always get hurt because you are unworthy of love? That could be some answers to the pay off question. However, the more important question you want to ask is what is this costing you? The cost would be after the pay off has worn off and all you're left with is your sadness, loneliness, suffering, grief and self loathing. Imagine how that feels. So in the example I gave earlier about that young girl, her pay off is that she gets to be right about always looking fly, having money and men always wanting to be around her. However, when she observes relationships based on love, the cost is bound to be a void of that true love. A love where she has to do nothing but be herself. A love where she is accepted for her and not the amount of stuff she can do for nice things. The cost is her happiness, her innocence and her dignity. Just writing that made me hurt for her.

It all goes back to the love of self. Once your self love is magnified and really put on blast, settling will never be an option for you. Fear can also have you do crazy things. Fear and Love are polar opposites, so they cannot exist in the same place at the same time. Fear will create a need for a pay off and a cost. Love creates more love and more love and more love and more love. Who will you choose to be? What will be your aim? Fear or Love? Either way, only you are in your head at the end of the day. Take inventory.