If you listened to the most recent episode of the Nurah Speaks podcast, you heard me talk about the frustration I experienced observing someone littering on the MLK Day of Service in my local community. As great as it felt lending my time and serving the community, it was equally disappointing seeing this behavior, in particular by individuals who belong to the community - and especially since this is not an uncommon observation.
But it is not just residents who use our streets as trash receptacles. Camden, like many urban areas has long been the dumping grounds for its neighboring communities who export their trash into our communities. It is unfortunately not unusual to find piles of used tires, furniture or appliances dumped off of highway exit ramps by businesses who refuse to properly dispose of their waste. When the annual country and western concert comes to the waterfront amphitheater, the trash left behind by out of town concert goers is atrocious and ridiculous. But not only do outsiders dump their inorganic waste in Camden; they also bring the rejected living refuse from their own communities, sometimes by the van loads. These are often addicts, repeat criminal offenders or nuisance homeless who are dropped off with a stern warning, “Don’t come back!”
As unfair and outrageous as all this is, what outrages me much more more is our own indiscriminate disregard within our own community.
We have neighborhoods wherein residents will not pick up the trash just outside their front doors, sweep their own sidewalks or pick up their pet’s waste. It occurs to me that there there must be a serious disconnect for one to arbitrarily drop or ignore trash on the sidewalk or toss it out of the car window in his own community.
It is apparent to any observer that our communities are neglected and mistreated by many of us who interact within it. Personal accountability should compel us to be responsible residents and neighbors. After all, how one manages his home and community tells a lot about what he thinks of himself. But our general lack of accountability is indicative by our apathy for the deterioration of our neighborhoods which we observe largely without intervention and interruption.
Keep Britain Tidy is a UK based independent environmental charity. The organization’s position is that, "Litter is one of the first signs of social decay. If we don’t care about litter on our street, in our parks or on our high streets, we are unlikely to care about other environmental issues that negatively impact on our lives, our communities and society.”
Littering and the acquiescence to it can be described as a ‘gateway’ to other communal ills. Litter begets litter. According a national study on litter by Keep America Beautiful, “One of the largest factors affecting a person’s decision to litter is the condition of the physical surroundings. Individuals are substantially more likely to litter into dirty or already littered environments than into clean ones … the difference is often as much as 2‐3 times as much litter in dirty environments.”
The study showed that litter is more likely to occur:
In other words, the worse an environment appears, the more neglected it is, the higher the likelihood those who interact within the environment will litter. We should also know that clean communities are safer communities. When communities are dirty and unsafe, residents are more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle which contributes to preventable health conditions. Studies also show that dirtier communities contribute to higher rates of anxiety and depression.
This means that there is a lot more at stake in ensuring our communities are clean. We have a great imperative to address the mentality that accompanies the tolerance of these conditions and in that mentality is the disconnect we must repair.
There has to be a changing of what we find socially tolerable. If we decide that we will not accept our communities as we see them currently and do the work to clean them up, we will create conditions that are a deterrent to littering and neglect.
We must have a restoration of pride and self respect. We make the case weak for others to respect our communities when we are indifferent towards them ourselves. No nonprofit group, no social service organization, no economic initiative can repair what is broken within the hearts and minds of a people in regards to their own pride and self respect.
We did not arrive to this indifference by ourselves, but this is absolutely an issue we must tackle ourselves. This disconnect is repairable and the answers lie within new behaviors we must model today. Our minds will follow these new behaviors and our children will copy our example.
Simple ways we can restore pride in our communities:
1. Clean outside our homes.
Do not let trash collect there. Clean up every day if necessary. Let your neighbors and children see you caring about your community’s appearance.
2. Clean up in front of our neighbor’s house.
The trash in front of your neighbor’s door will eventually make its way to your door; get ahead of it.
3. Host block cleanups.
Get your neighbors involved. We do not need outsiders to come into our communities to host cleanup campaigns. We can do this ourselves and create pride in doing so.
4. Encourage young people to dispose of trash properly.
Encourage them to take pride in their community. Teach them that they do not deserve to live in communities littered with trash. Give a positive word to them that will be a seed to sprout later.
5. Don’t run away.
Make our own communities clean, safe and desirable. We cannot outrun our broken mental condition. If we are broken in one neighborhood, we will take that brokenness to our next address and create the same problems there. Engage in proud behavior and a proud mind will follow.
Keeping our communities clean is not just aesthetically pleasing but is good for our overall health and mental wellbeing. There is no monopoly on good living. We are just one great decision away.
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When I founded Enlightening, Empowering, Engaging: E3 for Young Women and Girls (E3); it was because I wanted to develop a platform to help our young ladies in their individual personal development.
I’ve attended numerous professional development and empowerment conferences and one trend I continue to see is that many adult black women are still trying to overcome feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy and low confidence. No matter our degrees, titles or accomplishments, we continue seeking validation of our greatness.
I believe that we are conditioned early in our lives to seek importance from without instead of within. I also believe that we are trained not to comprehend our own divinity.
With this conditioning, our focus remains outward, not inward. It is often expressed with chronic followership, envy, or resignation of one’s inability to attain position, assets, or status that we admire of others.
My objective is to attack this very conditioning, that impacts my adult peers, within our younger generations. I believe if we can eliminate these painful traits of low confidence, inadequacy and poor self esteem in youth, we not only empower them but also catalyze their evolution.
It is unnecessary for our young ladies to wade through self doubt and uncertainty only to discover at 35, 40 or 50 years of age that they are not only sufficient but divine.
E3 is broken into three components: Enlightening, Empowering and Engaging. In enlightening our youth; they are provided not only the truth of their people’s history but also the truth of themselves and others.
For example, teaching our youth that their people’s most significant historical impacts occurred during the civil rights movement or even in the construction of the pyramids is misinforming them. They must know that their people’s history extends to the Creation by The Creator. They were thought of in the Beginning and their creation was a Divine plan. Our youth must know they are not here by accident or mistake. There is nothing trivial about their existence nor of the impacts they can make today and tomorrow.
Enlightening our youth includes informing them of marketing schemes targeting them every second they live. We must expose advertising committed to creating and magnifying personal insecurities to ensure a dedicated consumer base. In so doing, we show them how to trace our consumer habits to our inadequacies.
Once enlightened, they must be empowered to express that which is within them. We have to encourage them to get out there and give themselves ‘permission’ to walk tall in their excellence. Remember, they are conditioned to doubt themselves. We must help them in removing that weighty doubt and transforming to an empowered mindset. Instead of, “Can I?” I want to help them shift their language to, “I will because I can!”
The final phase of E3 is guiding our young women in their engagement with their school, work, family and social settings. This includes helping them develop communication and presentation skills.
One of our greatest hindrances lies within our inability to express ourselves clearly. When we are unclear, we leave people to have to ‘guess at’ what we are trying to say or leave them to come to erroneous conclusions. Therefore, teaching our young people how to say exactly what they mean is important. We cannot suffice ourselves or them with the silly idea that speaking well is a ‘white’ thing. No, no. It is a ‘success’ thing.
But in addition to good grammar, public speaking is a skill I believe is essential for our young women to practice. As most people have some anxiety with public speaking, I believe it is important to help tackle this right away. Our young ladies have way too much genius for their brilliance to be imprisoned behind the walls of insecurity.
My motto is “Competence Breeds Confidence!” It is impossible to move forward when we are trapped behind barriers of fear. All our young people need is a little help removing these barriers. To assist them in liberating themselves, I help them accept being uncomfortable temporarily for a lifetime of freedom.
This is E3 in a nutshell. I am grateful to God for the privilege of working with our young ladies. And I am rewarded beyond measure when they come back to say how much E3 has benefited them.
E3 in a math equation is this: Self Knowledge + Self Empowerment + Self Expression = Self Liberation.
E3 is delivered via keynotes or interactive workshops. If you are interested in learning more about how E3 can benefit your organization, school or group, email me: questions@NurahZaheerah.com.
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Inspiration! We love when it hits us! It strikes as lightening, igniting our souls on fire!
Our minds are laser focused. Our vision is clear. We suddenly know exactly what we MUST do!
Inspiration can be the spark that starts the fire. But as with any flame, it can burn out.
We must bear in mind that surging inspiration will set our focus on a level ten, but eventually the flame becomes a flicker and our focus can wither to a level one. It also happens that in chasing our goals we run into circumstances, challenges and missteps that can be demoralizing or spirit crushing. We may even get caught up in our own feelings or in the cynicism of others.
But if we are serious about reaching our goals, consistent, daily action will always be required on our part. When we take daily action, we are always in forward movement, no matter how we may feel.
The following six tips will help keep us on track when our passions are ebbing instead of flowing:
1. Define our goal. Be specific. Differentiate if it is a long term or small term goal and set a target date. The target date can change, but a due date is important because it helps to create accountability.
2. Determine right away what small action steps are necessary to achieving the greater goal. And do them day after day.
3. Develop discipline. Inspiration can be a forceful driver when it is high…but it can wane. Having a daily, weekly, monthly and annual schedule for tasks and targets is necessary. When we give ourselves structure, the absence of inspiration will not interrupt our productivity.
4. Set a guiding principle. Establish the ‘why’ of our goal or mission. By keeping the ‘why’ in the forefront-we remind ourselves of the larger picture.
For example, a ‘why’ that I have is to help coming generations of our girls and young women navigate the land mines placed intentionally to destroy their confidence and self love. Specifically, I want to help them realize their beauty, worthiness, value and capacity.
This is my ‘why’ which outweighs any personal doubts, hesitation or external skepticism. Helping our young women and girls recognize their brilliance is greater than any apprehension or self doubt I could ever have. It is the most important thing. It is everything. It drives me!
Our ‘why’ will help keep our goal in focus.
5. Keep yourself around positive people who are also engaged in a personal mission. Friends and family who are satisfied with life ‘as is’ may not understand your mission focused behavior. They may placate any rising angst or insecurity. Someone who is also on a mission will encourage you to push beyond what you think are your barriers because they too are pushing beyond theirs. They can hold you accountable, when you struggle to do so yourself.
6. Avoid doubters. Family and friends who encourage us to be ‘realistic’ with our vision will never push the buttons to help us expand beyond what we think is capable for us. Since they have not exceeded what they see as their own capacity, they are inexperienced to help us do such. Those who want us to play ‘safe’ (out of genuine concern or genuine jealousy) will try to limit us as they have limited themselves. It is ill advised to take guidance from someone who is not on a journey or who hasn’t journeyed to where you strive to be.
These tips are only a few and certainly not exhaustive of practices to prevent derailment of our goals. There are other activities that can help us stay on task. Feel free share your techniques in the comments section.
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The oak does not lament the transition of seasons which causes its leave to change colors, wither and eventually fall away. Nor does the falling away of its leaves cause the death of the tree itself.
We can learn a lot in our study of nature. In doing so, we observe that spring comes forth to reward the oak with fresh, new leaves to adorn its branches.
In this, we should understand that some people and circumstances can come into our lives for only a season. Grieving something that once was, can be painful. This is suffering and we are not here for suffering.
When our circumstances change, we must accept what is new. Overlooking our current reality looking back for one that has passed may cause us to miss the gifts that our present circumstance is trying to give us.
Each spring brings the renewal of fresh leaves.
Let’s look for the renewal within our changing circumstances. This means that we must desist from searching out the dead which has fallen away from us.
We cannot find life in the same place we seek death.
It is also necessary to remember that change does not mean the death of us. We can bring the lessons we've learned to the next stage and grow with our newfound wisdom.
Burying ourselves in pain, feelings of worthlessness and defeat are not self serving. Burying ourselves hinders our growth and casts a shadow on our potential.
Like the oak, we don’t die with the falling away of the dead. We thank God for the changing of seasons and look forward to the spring which always brings a renewal of growth.
This message can be particularly difficult to apply in the face of a recent loss. So we must prepare ourselves in advance with the understanding that life will bring with it change. Circumstances will not always be what we are used to, comfortable with or expected. This is the cycle of life.
Some consider it cruel but in fact, it is what we make of it.
Spring brings the renewal of fresh leaves.
Look for life. Look for opportunities of growth. Appreciate what is now and live for today.
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Moving to another stage in life requires enduring the stretch that life circumstances puts on our hearts and mind.
Self improvement will not occur without personal change, new habits, consistent effort and vigor to meet one’s goals.
For many, struggle halts forward movement, even when it appears early in one’s effort. We have a culture that is accustomed to abandoning goals when objectives are not easily met.
But having a will to succeed and an unyielding vision for one’s future is necessary for any amount of success.
Sometimes when the going gets tough (or seems too overwhelming to even start) we tell ourselves stories like, “Success is for that other guy in that other neighborhood from that other family.” We accept the myths created in our mind and resolve to remain in our current station a lifetime.
It does not have to be that way. Anyone of us can create the vision we have for our future if we possess absolute belief.
Absolute belief does not absolve us from groundwork and real effort. Creation requires tenacity, knowledge and the development of skill sets relevant to our goals. With no work behind it, belief is nothing.
If we spend too much idle time watching television, we become disillusioned to reality. There is no such thing as an ‘overnight’ success. There are many, many, many months and years of overnights that bring about success.
These nights are often long, sleepless and can be lonely. The journey is not as sexy as the outcome. But that is okay. It is what it is.
We have to push and push and bring our ideas from vision to visible.
We should expect that life will present circumstances that will challenge us morally, financially and otherwise. This is not a signal to quit. This is the indication that we are likely on the verge of something great and should take dedicated action now.
We must also remember never to compare ourselves to the highlight reels in our social media feeds. Comparison can be a killer. We have to assess ourselves based on the metrics of own circumstances, not others’. Whether it be family dynamics, career success or social status-we lose sight of what is real for ourselves when we constantly poke our noses over our neighbor’s fence.
Life is a journey of unstopping twists, turns, hills and valleys. As we set our goals and work to establish our vision, it is important to remember to enjoy the journey. Studying our own experiences and growing in them will help us in subsequent stages of our evolution. Enjoy these hard moments. Enjoy these long nights. Be grateful for discovery. And keep plodding forward no matter the resistance.
Just Keep Going!!!
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Growing up, I was very blessed to have women in my life who modeled character, hard work, unselfishness and sacrifice. These women shaped who I am today and my gratitude is expressed, in part, in how I pass on that example to others.
One of the greatest assets our young people have are those who’ve gone before them who share of their experience and wisdom.
Our young ladies should not have to ‘figure it out’ on their own. We mustn’t leave them alone to navigate the rugged terrain of modern life without guidance and counsel. The notion of, ‘I got mine, so you get yours’ is selfish and limited. Neglecting them is neglecting ourselves and ultimately destructive to our community as a whole.
On the other hand, we can influence generations of young women and girls to maximize their potential by the habits we model for them. Some of these habits include:
In the late 1990’s through the early 2000’s there was a campaign by some women entertainers proclaiming to love themselves in spite of their large size. “Big is Beautiful” became a slogan.
In all circumstances, women must love themselves and this does not exclude healthy eating habits. Obesity, a major contributor to disease, is on the rise in the Black community and sadly occurring at alarming rates among our young people. Healthy food choices should be demonstrated and talked about in general conversation. Our young people should know the real effects of food choices on our health, our mental clarity and overall well being.
The wellness of any community is determined first by what happens in the kitchen. Vegetables, fresh fruit and water should be essential parts of our daily diets. And since 'health is our first wealth,' we should make eating well a lifestyle priority.
Fitness is not just for athletes. Fitness, like eating well, helps us maintain our mental and physical health. Our young women should see us having an active, non-sedentary lifestyle. This includes disconnecting from cable or internet programming and getting outside. Sun, or the lack of sun, has a real effect on our mental health. Let’s encourage them to put down their devices, get outside and get moving. If we make it part of our lifestyle, they will be influenced to do the same.
There is a greater conversation for us to have regarding money other than just how to make more. Mismanaging an abundance of money can be as crippling to our financial wealth as not earning enough. We are very closeted about money, especially since it is incorrectly used as a measurement of our social ranking. But it should not be a taboo conversation with our young people.
Money management is the main determinant of our financial comfort. Our young women and girls should understand interest rates, banking, credit, living within their means, spending less than they earn, etc. These conversations are essential so that they are not underprepared when lenders and others seek to take financial advantage of them.
Let’s open up these conversations with them. If we lack financial education ourselves, we can learn together right alongside them. There are many free resources available, some for women in particular. We can take advantage of these and even have financial literacy classes for the young women and girls within our circles.
Sisterhood cannot be overrated. There is something special about the bond between women who support one another. There is never any personal cost to true sisterhood; it is all benefit.
Media wants us to think that we should be in competition, and not unity, with one another. That said, I will admit that my closest friend and I were in serious competition for nearly a year. Our competition was in who could meet her savings goal first. She won but I was on her heels! We continue to challenge and inspire each other AND we share in one another’s wins.
Media and marketers encourage us to compete for men, money and acquisition. The truth is, there really is no competition necessary. Each is blessed with her own predetermined blessing, if her output is right. No one can get my blessings nor can I take any sister’s blessings that are meant for her.
Energy does not work that way.
So we needn’t waste time and the valuable resource of sisterhood competing with each other. Instead, when we encourage one another, push one another, hold one another accountable, promote one another, celebrate one another, share with one another, we open up pathways for all of us. But the ability to engage in sisterhood is predicated on the habit that follows.
Self love is a practice that each of us must have and that which we must model for our young women and girls.
What is self love?
Self love is knowing one’s own worthiness to exist and thrive in a world occupied by billions of others seeking to thrive themselves. Self love is looking in the mirror and loving what we see reflected (and improving on what we don’t love.) Self love is understanding that one is inherently great, made in the image of the Almighty, with no additives necessary. Self love is taking action to preserve and protect one’s body and mind. Self love is investing in the inner self through education, training, counseling, healthy relationships and spiritual enlightenment. Self love is sorting those who seek entry into one’s personal space like one sorts beans from pebbles to determine those who bring enhancement from those who carry negativity.
When we love ourselves, really love ourselves, it is easier to love those within our lives who we are supposed to love; especially our sisters.
The above is not an exhaustive list of habits good to model to our young women and girls, but it is a start. Let’s continue to be assets to our young people. Let’s be informing, engaging, loving, caring and sharing. When we do this for them, we empower a generation coming behind us with the confidence and wisdom that they will later impart to the generation behind them.
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Last weekend I, and a few of my Muslim Sisters, had the tremendous opportunity to attend a 'Breakthrough Breakfast' presented by Girlfriends Pray. Girlfriends Pray is a Christian ministry founded by Dr. Dee C. Marshall with the goal of bringing women closer to God through prayer.
I could tell that some of my associates were surprised that we, Sisters in the Nation of Islam, would promote and attend a Christian function of this kind. So I will take this moment to inject understanding in the way of this explanation:
We will not be divided.
Now more than ever, there is a great need for unity at all levels within our community. Amongst our greatest concerns are economic disenfranchisement, educational attainment, employment opportunities and justice. The least of our concern should be our religious affiliation.
There is nothing that will keep me disconnected from my Christian Sister.
Our needs are too common and they abundantly exceed what our differences may be. It is in this spirit that I will not be divided from my Christian Sisters when called to work collectively in service.
Some have the thinking that I, being a Muslim follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, have no desire or interest in the needs and interests of my Christian Sister. The truth is - the needs and interests of my sister are my own. I am of the mindset that my sister and I are One.
It is our needs that unite us. It is our suffering that unites us. It is our history that unites us. It is our wins which unite us. And more than anything else, it is our God Who unites us.
The fact that I say, “Allah,” and my sister says, “Yah, God, Jah or Yahweh,” is of little significance.
My love for my Christian sister has no limits.
In fact, my practice of Islam implores me to unite with those among my people who enjoin good and forbid evil. This is my standard for discernment.
I know that it is the enemy who wishes for our division. Our separation is his victory and I will not forfeit our salvation over anything as insignificant as a religious title.
As the leaders in our community, we must be examples of working together, if we ever hope to reach the hopeless. Our youth are caught up and crippled literally and figuratively in gang wars in these streets. Unfortunately, often the gang mentality (division) has been modeled in our religious houses.
If our youth are ever to get beyond the bondage of disunity, we must be examples of unity.
Our needs are too great, our suffering too long, and our potential too powerful.
As I said, Girlfriends Pray is a ministry with the goal of bringing women closer to God through prayer. It is my belief, that the better we know God, the better we know ourselves. The more we know ourselves, the more we will love ourselves. And in loving self, we are compelled to love each other.
It is really that simple.
Good is universal. If my sister practices goodness with God, and I practice goodness with Allah, we will never find conflict with each other that cannot be overcome.
Our God is One God.
Let’s focus on what we have in common. My Christian sisters’ desired outcome is the same as mine: Peace. Freedom. Justice. Salvation.
We, Muslims, often explain it this way: 2+5=7, 3+4=7 and 6+1=7. Our outcomes are the same although our journey to the outcome is different. The beautiful thing is that, for many of us, our journeys parallel each other anyway.
So let’s work together. Learn together. Grow together. And love each other.
The love I felt in that room with my Christian Sisters this past weekend is beyond what I have felt in a long time. In fact, the last time I was overwhelmed with such love is when I convened with an special assembly of my Muslim Sisters in Chicago this past March.
Unity is more powerful than an atom bomb.
This is what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us. We can and will accomplish much in the way of our unity. He also teaches that no nation will rise any higher than the condition of its woman. Therefore it is imperative that we rise up - and rise up in Unity. For it is us, Women, who ultimately will lead in the deliverance of our people. Therefore, I will continue to be neither shy nor apologetic about my love of Islam and of my love of my Christian sister.
I know there are some who fear this Unity, who are alarmed of our love and coming together. So as my sister said Saturday, “Devil…let this be your notice!”
Thanks to Dr. Dee C Marshall and the beautiful Sisters of Girlfriends Pray for hosting an amazing event of women covering one another in love, sisterhood and prayer. I already cannot wait until next year!
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"Imitate the person today that you want to become tomorrow."
Many of us day dream about the person we want to become. Successful business owner. Elected official. Graduate student. Social changer and influencer. Marathon runner.
Know that in order to become that person, we must do what that person did and does.
If we want to be an influencer, what do influencers do? How did they achieve a status in which people listen to them? How hard did they work? And what did they sacrifice?
This also applies to other examples. If we dream of one day finishing a marathon, how long do marathoners train? How hard did they work? And what did they sacrifice?
We know that polishing off a half dozen donuts won’t cut it. Surely not.
We must mimic the habits and traits of success.
A successful business owner was someone who started with an idea. They acquired the resources (financial as well as informational) to give birth to their idea. But before they were a successful business owner, more than likely they were a struggling business owner. They had to sacrifice much to grow their business. They endured lean months and possibly years before turning a consistent profit. They hung in without quitting or letting the fear of failure interrupt their journey.
An elected official had to gain recognition and political experience before formally entering the political arena. It is likely he or she started as a campaign volunteer, possibly doing menial tasks like stuffing envelopes, making phone calls or knocking on doors. They had to learn the political landscape and the issues. He would have had to develop social capital garnered by having a committed presence within his community. This entails much sacrifice and enduring severe castigations on his character.
Many of us have the unsavory habit of cheapening the success of others by crediting their accomplishments to luck, cheating or favor. No one rises overnight. In fact there are many ‘overnights’ in which that person put in the work, study, training, investment and energy that we do not see.
Those who put in the work create their own opportunities. They favor sacrifice over play or laziness. They develop tunnel vision for their ultimate desire.
There is no magic to success. And success leaves clues. So in any goal that we seek for ourselves, it is advisable to imitate those who have already achieved what we want to achieve for ourselves.
This is not to say we dissolve our individuality to become a copy cat. No, but we should copy the hustle, tenacity, study and personal investment of those before us required to bring our dreams to life. We do this while infusing our unique personality into the development of our goals.
Curbside dreaming or bar room gossiping about those we secretly admire will not get us what we want from life. Ideas become nothing without movement behind them. There is nothing gained from inactivity except weight and disease.
Sometimes we convince ourselves that our goal is too big for us or unachievable or that success is for other people. Untrue! This is the social conditioning we receive by marketers who want us as consumers instead of creators.
Instead of drenching ourselves in a self defeating mentality, mimic the directed energy, effort and sacrifice of the examples of those whose lifestyles or careers we want to emulate.
I repeat: Success leaves clues!
If we are alert, we will find them. But they are not on the couch, at the bar or on the television screen.
This is an important lesson we should give our children. If they want to make varsity or get into the honor society, point out the characteristics of those who are where they want to be.
There is a trend in these individuals' behavior: consistency, commitment, presence, work ethic and sacrifice. It is never raw talent alone that keeps some at the top. We've seen it repeatedly demonstrated that hard work beats out talent when talent does not work hard.
Conversely, we should also point out the characteristics of others who are not where they want to be and analyze their behavioral trends. There are commonalities here too.
There is no fast track or easy road to anything great that’s worth having. Even diamonds and gold have to be labored for to extract from the earth. No mystery. No magic. Pure work.
Know this for sure- success and achievement will always be possessed by those who work in measure of what they want to receive.
If we do not put movement behind our dreams they will always be visions we’ve seen only in our minds or in others’ lives - but never our own.
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When we give attention to Doubt, she usually overstays herself and invites her country cousins: Fear and Shame, who invites them boys: Insecurity, Indecision and Stagnation.
These know no boundaries and have no respect of ambitions. They trample our ideas and dance all over our dreams.
Before long, our passions are tattered on the floor no longer resembling how they arrived to us.
But our visions, our goals, our dreams - they must stay protected from doubt, her cousins and all their friends.
If our minds are fertile ground with the ability of being impregnated, they are also able to give birth to the dreams they produce. However, just as the womb is a sacred and protected space, so too are our minds sacred and needing protection.
Within the wrong environment, we can intake poison in the way of our thinking that cross the barrier and harm the budding life (idea) inside. And before long we spontaneously abort our idea because we are now convinced that it is too big for us, or that we are unworthy of it, or that we are unqualified, or that we just…can’t.
Or our idea is still born…meaning that no inspiration or life was breathed into it to manifest our vision.
When our ideas come, we must seek every means of bringing them into fruition. It has become a habit that we raise doubts soon after being hit with a great vision of ourselves. And unfortunately, we are so accustomed to our doubts that we think they require real consideration. We lend more consideration to our doubts than we do to our possibilities. This is a crime we commit to ourselves.
Our dreams are our own possessions to care for and cultivate. We wouldn’t be talked out of tending to and nurturing our own children. We needn’t be talked out of tending to the aspirations developed in our spiritual womb, our mind. And like children, our dreams are both gifts and challenges-rewarding and compelling.
But be aware that doubt gets in the way. It is an interruptor. So we must stay vigilant that we do not be the advocate of our doubts, especially in greater measure than we are of our dreams. If we do, we can remain paralyzed in fear right at the gate of our success, never breaking that barrier.
Sometimes we are doubtful because we’ve never before accomplished the like of our particular goal. That lack of experience is okay; and it actually means we’ve not yet developed bad habits on our journey that we need to later unlearn.
Indeed, the journey to manifest our goals is a personal one but not one that we must undertake alone. There are people who can help us. There are usually others who have accomplished something like what we desire. These people can be our mentors and coaches. We can take classes and trainings, if necessary. Those who have gone before us can serve as great advisors if we are humble. Plus we can learn from mistakes they've already made and save ourselves that time (and money.)
We needn't let our own insecurities and doubt be our roadblocks to our accomplishments. Nor should we allow pride to be our stumbling block.
I teach my children never to deny their dreams and that while others may have similar ideas as them, only they can lend their unique expression to their ideas. No one else can impart their personality into the development of what is in their hearts and minds.
We have been conditioned to be easily discouraged. While we sit on our dreams, we remain only consumers to the dreams of others. If Allah, God, found us sufficient to implant an idea, He would also know we are capable of bringing it forth.
Doubt is like a no good, do nothing friend. Spending too much time with it and we find ourselves hypocrites to that which we dream, love and desire. And before long, we will find ourselves doing all that is in opposition to our dreams and blaming others (or make-believe insufficiency) for never moving forward in a real attempt.
Therefore, let us remain encouraged with what has been laid in our hearts and minds. First appreciate it. Then seek a means to develop the thought into a reality. This is us being creators or gods, children of the Most High God, by bringing something from nothing.
Do not invest in predictions that do not empower us. Stay around those who will be encouraging, even in the darkest hour. Stay away from anyone telling you to be ‘realistic’. No one who accomplished any major achievement did it by being ‘realistic.’ Think big. And eliminate others around you who will not.
You and I are the stewards of our dreams. Know for a surety that there are unlimited possibilities for us. Carefully, navigate the landmines of doubt and fear and dodge the grenades of skepticism tossed by friends and family who neither believe in themselves nor you.
If a person had the capacity to recognize their own potential, they would be able to recognize yours.
Do not be angry at them. These people are deeply conditioned and their conditioning makes them a prisoner in a cell of hesitation, indecision and disbelief. Our best help for them is to go after our own passions and be an example of all that is possible when we do not succumb to doubt.
We must know this. And we must teach this to our children so that they do not cut short their own brilliance because they allowed doubt to rob them of their dreams.
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I came across a headline some time ago, ‘Miley Cyrus Wants to Be White Again’.
An older article written of her said, “The twenty-one year old, after performing ‘Party In the USA’ simulated giving oral sex to a backup dancer dressed up like Bill Clinton." One music video showed her sitting naked atop a wrecking ball. And yet written in another article, “Miley Cyrus left her Melbourne audience stunned when she took her wild antics a step too far, flashing her private parts, legs akimbo, staging a mock orgy and straddling a giant hotdog at her Bangerz concert.”
Had these incidents occurred during a white hiatus? And if she indeed ceased being white, what was Miley when she was in the midst of her smutty marathon?
The implication - she was ‘being Black.’
I take exception with this. I find no parallels in vulgar, druggy, hyper-sexualized behavior with Blackness or Black culture. Further, I believe some of the journalists who lambasted her so-called ‘cultural appropriation’ actually co-signed her raunchiness as that of Black culture.
What I saw in Miley’s shameless antics was similar to Madonna’s provocative persona decades ago. When Madonna released a coffee table book ‘Sex’ which depicted her naked throughout (including multiple images of her simulating sex), she was called the ‘Queen of Obscene.’ No one associated her behavior then as anything other than an artist testing boundaries, pushing limits and simply being outrageous. Madonna was not ‘being Black.’
25 years later, Miley comes along also using shock as entertainment as others have done before her. She was simply a young entertainer trying to dominate headlines as entertainers do.
Equating her brazen behavior with being Black is unfounded. Sure there are provocative Black entertainers, but there are also plenty who aren’t and we do not define the whole by a part. And to suggest that a Caucasion woman’s scurrilous actions are “being Black’ is defining the entirety of Black culture as just that.
We must not give our children (nor accept ourselves) the designation of Black culture as obscene, derogatory, demeaning or profane. Not only is this inaccurate but it negates our unlimited capacity utilized in the establishment of North America.
I’d promised months ago that this blog was forthcoming. The reason I took so long before publishing is because I always want to be clear in my writing. It is important to me that I exhaust every possibility for the reader to truly understand the intentions in my words. Therefore all of what I write undergoes multiple revisions and seldom am I truly satisfied before publishing.
So, I want to be clear, this is not an ‘anti white’ article. I have no time to waste on that sort of content. But this is an article to bring attention to the ways in which we, Black people, allow ourselves and our culture to be defined.
I teach the youth in urban areas with which I work that there is no monopoly on good living. Therefore, the Asian store owners in their communities are not the only ones entitled to thriving businesses in their communities. The neighboring communities with clean streets and the absence of drug ravaged addicts mulling about do not have exclusive rights on peaceful communities.
But when we accept the assignment of dirtiness, inferiority and vulgarity to Black culture-we not only discard our group pride but we collectively assume a substandard regard for ourselves and our condition. And this is unworthy of respect.
My grandmother always taught me that I had to respect myself first before expecting others to do so. And if we lack respect of ourselves, we compel no one else to do such.
I believe that we do a great disservice to our culture when we parallel debauchery with Black culture. There was no appropriation in Miley Cyrus’ behavior. Well, there was no Black appropriation.
Therefore the intention of this article is to remind us, Black people:
1. to be discerning in that which we assign and accept as ours
2. to reject as openly and loudly as necessary any and all mis-assignations to our culture.
In doing so, we cause others and ourselves to qualify that which is attributable to us. Because, without any quality control, we permit our culture to be the dumping ground of any incendiary actions other groups refuse to accept as their own.
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We must be careful not to put the weight of our life’s disappointments on our children by pushing them to live the dreams that we didn't make come true for ourselves.
Sure, we want to teach our children of their great potential. We want them to know that they can do anything they set their minds to doing. But we cannot use them as a depository for all of our failures. And we mustn’t push them to take on goals that we didn't meet for ourselves in our lifetime.
I don’t suggest that we do not want them to become ‘better’ than we are. I just mean that we should teach them to create goals of their own and encourage their pursuit of their own achievements.
Sometimes in parenting, we pour our dissatisfaction at the feet of our children. Not only do we tell them all the things we wanted to do, we also give them our excuses of why we did not. Often in these discussions, the causes of our failures are other people or circumstances. A spouse was unsupportive. Our parents didn’t enroll us in the right school. The coach didn’t play us. The criminal record got in the way. The bank didn’t approve the loan.
It is uncommon that we admit that the actual hindrance was our lack of concerted effort, consistency or personal investment. No. We seldom admit that our goals were only clever ideas that we never built the foundation to attain. We place the blame outside of ourselves.
One of my favorite quote states, “Excuses are tools of the incompetent which build monuments of nothingness and bridges to nowhere. Those who specialize in these tools of incompetence seldom become anything at all.”
We cannot help our children get anywhere on excuses. We show them not only that excuses are acceptable, but that we actually possess little responsibility and authority in the trajectory of our own lives. We teach them that other people or circumstances possess a greater influence in our success than our own self determination and hard work. But this is untrue.
When we indulge in excuse making, we make the case for our own helplessness, dependency on others, the perfect circumstances or just plain luck. Instead we should create our own luck and teach our children to do the same.
Inadvertently we can create dissonance in our children by telling them they can do anything or be anything and then tell them of our unattained goals at the behest of others. Then they too may look for opportunities to bow out when circumstances aren't ideal or if the process isn't easy.
Many adolescents blame their shortcomings on their teachers, classmates, coaches and parents. They become paralyzed when prodded to answer what their contribution could have been to have had better outcomes. At young ages, they are very comfortable excusing their action or inaction based on others. And often, we parents, enable their excuse making because we do our own.
If it happens that we did not fulfill our dreams, there is no harm in sharing what they were. This can be its own source of inspiration for our children. We can create teachable moments recounting the action steps we didn’t take or the fears that hindered us from reaching our goals. Yet an even better teachable moment is showing our children the second chances we give ourselves by trying again.
It's never to late too get a high school or college diploma or try to develop our own businesses. There is no expiration date for self advancement. And when our children see our spirit of possibility, they can be encouraged in the development of their own.
They can be inspired by our continuous effort to actualize our goals. In this, we set a standard of being accountable for all that happens to and for us. And we create a base of liability for them to do the same.
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The first teacher. The first doctor. It is within the power of the Woman to determine the ultimate course of any community (nation.)
This is especially important for our young women and girls to know because their value is commonly associated with their ability to pull sexual attention. But honestly, this is no hard-won feat. Nature has preinstalled mechanisms for the sexes to attract each other. This is as involuntary a condition as respiration.
Think about it; when we arose this morning, we did not have to preset any special conditions to trigger breathing. Whether we like it or not, this mechanism is automatic. That is the same as with attraction. We only need to be seen and nature is triggered to cause the inclination of one to the other.
The woman’s real power dwells in her ability to manifest something physical from something theoretical, immaterial or even imperceptible. Every idea, need or development was produced by men and women who were born of the womb of a woman. Like the earth that receives a seed, and returns a flower, so it is with the woman. She can bring to birth any idea which she has or receives. This can be manifested in beautiful and inventive ways that advance societies. It can also be manifest in destructive legacies that damage society.
The woman has a power within that is often understated. Physically, she can nurture an embryo to a fully developed baby which is in itself a miracle. Expectant mothers are warned about the intake of drugs and alcohol because they have the ability to cross the placental barrier and impact the developing baby. It is the same with thought and emotions of an expectant mother. Anxiety, stress and fear in the mother causes the release of stress hormones into her bloodstream. These too cross the placental barrier and affect the baby. Therefore the thinking and emotional wellbeing of the mother has a direct impact on the child.
This demonstrates a woman’s unique ability to impact the future even before birth. The saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world” is ever true. However, this power of influence is not only isolated to women who are mothers because all women represent that role of mother. All women are key influencers. This is manifest directly as in mother to child or indirectly as teacher to student, boss to employee, minister to parishioner, politician to electorate, wife to husband or board member to board member.
Within the woman lies a very special ingredient that we mustn't overlook or we can easily miss a key piece of our greatness. While men may build societies, women civilize them. Men may construct houses, but women make them a home. Our power is inherent in us and it is much more than Delilah seducing Samson. It is the wisdom of the Prophetess Deborah, the character of Ruth and the resolve of Queen Esther.
Today it is essential that we encourage our young women and girls to invest in character building in excess of their investment in artificial or skin deep beauty. It is the beauty within the woman that enhances the community. It is the intelligence within the woman that informs our society. And it is the love within the woman that preserves the culture’s spirit of goodness.
The mind of a woman can be a catalyst for change and this quality affects the physical and spiritual environment around us. We must be made aware of the significance of our power because within us lies the success, health, advancement and happiness of our families and ultimately our communities. Without this knowledge we can unknowingly leave a crucial key to our prosperity untapped or worse, ill-used.
I begin this conversation with thought, consideration and sensitivity due this subject. And after having weighed it greatly, I think it is time for us to begin this dialogue.
This is a conversation about motherhood.
On this Mother’s Day morning, I called many to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day. But one call brought me to this writing. My great-aunt, someone I admire greatly, complimented me on the mothering of my two sons. She told me that I had raised the bar on mothering and joked that I've 'made a career of motherhood'
I thanked her dearly for her compliment, knowing that my work is not even half finished and that I can easily think of other mothers whose wisdom and success I am striving to match.
But something else came to mind for me in this conversation. In my ‘success’ and effort in being a good mother, the greatest component of motherhood, for me, has been in maintaining a healthy marriage to my sons' father.
Those who are married, or were married, can attest to the challenges involved in any marriage. There are no Cinderella stories; fairy tales simply do not exist.
I have once said that one of the greatest of all life’s challenges is to be in and maintain a marriage. Here you have two people who have their own separate perceptions, personal goals and unique histories. And these two have committed to a lifetime union, before a community of witnesses. And within that lifetime, ideas change, goals shift and family, career, financial and a score of other challenges arise. Yet the commitment is to maintain the union.
Consider how many times we change our minds, leave difficult job situations or dissolve friendships that sour. People are ever growing and ever changing. And in all circumstances we reserve the right to make a different decision.
But in marriage we have committed to togetherness through ‘good and bad’ times. We commit to oneness in ‘abundance and poverty’ and through ‘sickness and health.’ This is no easy feat to accomplish, especially in modern America.
How does this relate to motherhood?
Motherhood is defined simply as the state of being a mother. Yet there is nothing simplistic in it at all. In motherhood, our obligation is not just to rear our children by feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating them. Motherhood involves exposing our children to that which is healthy and progressive and protecting them from that which is damaging. The fullness of the child is dependent on the completion of our duty.
We must be careful not to exclude the provision of fatherhood as an unnecessary or extra option. Fatherhood is as necessary to a child as is a good education, wholesome nutrition and safe shelter.
Motherhood means ensuring our children have access to all that is necessary; this includes a father. Marriage is the course which ‘best’ ensures fathers parent their children. Obviously, fathers may pass away while their children are young and there are other unfortunate circumstances such as divorce, incarceration, abandonment and addictions which may preclude a father from actively(daily) raising his child.
I began this saying that it is with great sensitivity in which I write because as mothers, we can often be sensitive and/or defensive regarding this subject. And while I observe our sensitivity, I also must note our accountability.
We have the greatest influence on our children that anyone can ever have. Motherhood entitles us to this gift. As such we must always stay mindful of the best structure to produce the best outcomes.
And this is marriage. And as hard as marriage may come to be at times, it is a worthy expression of motherhood.
I had a conversation with my older son once. He heard an NPR report about child custody and said that it was unfair that just because parents break up, fathers cannot see their children. It was the perfect opportunity to teach him about reality.
I told him that marriage is hard work and just like he and his brother do not always like each other, parents go through the same challenges. And just as he and his brother make amends, so do parents. It is what happens in a family.
I explained that parenting is a like a group project. Each has their own contribution to the project to create the best outcome. When one party drops out, that leaves an unfair burden on the other and there is bound to be a shortage somewhere that cannot be made up. That is parenting in a marriage.
Motherhood is glorious! It is also hard work and not exclusive of creating conditions that encourage a father's presence.
I realize this writing will certainly have its detractors. And I welcome that feedback as I would any positive feedback. However know in advance that I make no apologies for the above. I was not raised by either parent; mother or father. And I am very familiar with the identity issues, emotional issues and other psycho-social issues for a child who lacks a parent (or both.) Therefore, it was my decision early on in life to minimize this, if I ever had children, by exhausting every effort to maintain my children in a two parent household.
I am also aware of unhealthy or dangerous circumstances that prevent a father from actively parenting his children and by no means am I suggesting any mother remain in such. That is antithetical to motherhood.
Still I am under no illusion of the victimhood some single-mothers promote of their situations. Some parents tag out of marriage because it’s easier to change their minds than endure the challenges. Tagging out is an option for all of us although not all of us take advantage-in part because of the whole child we are striving to develop. I know of other women who irresponsibly/accidentally become co-parents with a man never having had an intention of securing a family. And I observe many of these women presenting themselves as single-parent martyrs to their children and others…
Motherhood is a challenge in any condition. It is a very big job with many components that mustn't be overlooked. How great it is to have a partner who is just as invested in the active parenting of our children. This is a blessing for our children and for ourselves.
My ninth grader recently had to write two essays as part of an application to attend a STEM program at a local university.
Unsure of himself, he said, “I’m not great at writing.” My reply was, “You don’t have to be great; you only have to be able.”
When he’d finally written the essays and emailed them to me for my review, I was impressed, very impressed. I told him that besides punctuation errors, the essays were wonderful. I watched him stifle his smile when I told him he was more than able; in this case, he was actually very good!
I share this story because knowingly or unknowingly, often is the case that we erect our own barriers to great opportunities. When an opportunity presents, we can be quicker at finding ways to disqualify ourselves than to secure our moment.
Insecurity is a beast.
That is why I say, “You don't have to be great; just be able.”
Having the capacity to complete a task, in this case write an essay, is the only requirement. Use of grammar, knowing how to write an introduction, body and conclusion are the basics of essay writing. Writing that compels the reader to action, emotion or a yearning to learn more about the writer are simply wonderful bonuses. But this comes with practice-and sometimes just natural raw talent.
In any case however, we must each have just have a basic skill set in commonly required tasks such as writing, interviewing and public speaking. We can always improve to become better but just being able is foundational.
Let us change the way we think. Instead of thinking that we must be exceptional; it’d be less pressure to simply know that we must be able. And to become able, we must have practiced the skills. This way, when we are asked to write or speak; we needn’t worry ourselves with repetitions of, “I can’t speak in public,”, “I don't interview well” or "I'm really not that good." With practice, we can gain a competency of most things and eliminate any excuses or disqualifications. Our mantra will then be, “I can because I am able!”
As it happens, my ninth grader is an avid reader. I’ve always told him that to improve his writing, he should just keep reading. And he has. Turns out, he has decent writing skills. But the commotion in his head convinced him otherwise.
Many of us already possess the experience and skills that qualify us for the opportunities that open to us. We mustn’t let our doubts and insecurities convince us that we are misaligned when we are well able and sometimes, even great!
I encourage anyone who is reading this to give themselves grace and teach our children to do the same. Let us recognize that a basic skill set is good enough to get us going while we grow to greatness.
We must never ‘wait for great’ before capitalizing on favor.
A Crippling Disease
Jealousy is one of the character flaws that I think is among the most detrimental. Jealous individuals often have a bitter focus on others (and their accomplishments) with a deficit of focus on themselves. They become resentful of the talents, relationships, social status, possessions and abilities of others.
Jealous people want for themselves, what others have. And often they are gravely offended by the bestowal of blessings to those whom they find both undeserving and unqualified.
The jealous person often looks upon others and resolves to himself that they are arrogant or conceited in their fortune, even when such is not the case.
The jealous person can become so disturbed in his own sour feelings, that in his mind, a new and fictitious narrative develops. In the narrative, the blessed person has neither earned his fortune, nor worked hard or sacrificed. The narrative states that the talents of the gifted are not so special at all and that the praise and fame has come from fraud, deception or just pure luck.
Additionally, and in support of his narrative, the jealous person begins using innuendo to suggest to others that the blessed person is not who they represent themselves to be at al. He suggests that by cheating alone could one be so successful.
A jealous person is someone who is so poisoned in his own mind that his mindset perverts his actual reality.
He sees himself as mistreated or somehow victimized by the praise and recognition others receive. He asks why no one is noticing him and answers that there must be some conspiracy against him. He sees others as favored over him due to nepotism or bias on the part of others.
The jealous person does not consider or accept that the blessed person is genuinely gifted in the field in which he shines. Often he will discount his own accolades, praise or accomplishments as small in comparison to what he perceives of others.
A jealous person can become so insane in his mind that he may bargain with God to cut short the favor he sees unfairly granted to others.
Jealousy is an extremely toxic feature in a person. Moreso, it becomes destructive because seldom does the jealous person confine his animosity to himself. He campaigns to sway others to his way of thinking by spreading slander and rumors.
A person is vulnerable to jealousy when he or she lacks a strong foundation in who and what they are. Jealous people are typically insecure, fearful, lacking in confidence and have a poor self image. When we have a firm knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses, and ACCEPT who we are; we don’t do easily entertain the negative emotion of jealousy. Jealous people compare and compete with others instead of seeking to live well and thrive because it is simply the right way to co-exist.
Jealous tendencies start in childhood. This is why it is important that we rear our children with a strong love of themselves AND an appreciation of others. We should always point out their own gifts and talents as they manifest. But when we do so, it should not occur in comparison to their peers or siblings. We must intercept the notion they are in competition with others but rather that they are in competition with their own personal best.
In this way, we help them focus on their own character, talents and areas of personal improvement.
In Islam, we are taught to want for our brother and sister what we want for ourselves. I append that statement. “We are to want for our brother and our sister what we want for ourselves--even if we have not attained it yet.” It is easier to support other’s gains when they have not yet surpassed our own. However, I've often noticed people’s pain over other’s accomplishments simply because they’ve attained them first. They feel ‘beaten’ or ‘left behind’ and grieve for themselves. But we must recognize that it is in our community’s best interest that we all succeed and thrive in whatever order it occurs. When we each strive to do our best, it helps us all.
Jealousy is a blinding and crippling disease. I’ve watched others make themselves sick with hatred for their brother or sister’s success. It has no place in progressive culture. Still, it is a hurdle in character which is hard to overcome.
Because of this, I believe we must inoculate our youth early by helping them take accountability for their own gains and failures and encourage them to support the success of their peers. By being examples ourselves in supporting those amongst us who are progressive, the battle is already halfway won.
I recently attended a premier conference hosted by Happy Black Woman. Rosetta Thurman, founder of the company, is the sort of black woman that I love. She is a woman who wants for her sisters, what she wants (and has) for herself. She is extremely unselfish and incredibly generous.
Rosetta’s story goes like this: She was born the daughter of a teen mom who struggled with financial limitations. Her father was estranged, then died early. Rosetta grew up achieving and after graduating college, went on to work in the non-profit sector.
Inside her heart and mind though, was a real desire for entrepreneurship. She had a yearning for more than the daily 9-5 grind, even though she was very good at her work.
She began blogging and her content was compelling enough that she became a sought after speaker. When it became clear that her day job was an obstacle to her ultimate freedom, she left and has not worked for anyone but herself since.
Early on Rosetta was chided for naming her company ‘Happy Black Woman.’ Critics said that black women didn't have the money to be profitable clients. They even said 'happy' black women do not exist. Well Rosetta has proven both statements false.
She attests that her journey has had both hills and valleys, yet she has not regretted going on her own. Rosetta’s ‘Happy Black Woman’ has already earned over one million dollars and she is successfully living a location independent lifestyle and answering to only herself.
The most beautiful part of this story is that she is helping other black women do the same.
When you attend a ‘Happy Black Woman’ event, you do not get hype and fluff. Rosetta is pragmatic and efficient. Her content is the same. She is a skillful listener and very capable of helping women identify their strengths and weaknesses. And with her insight and prompting, she helps women clarify their own thinking and identify next steps. I’ve watched her do this live.
Rosetta shares her own journey and admits that training, coaching and mentorship is a must as she herself has mentors and coaches. She also encourages the women at her events to partner with each other, not only for services but also for accountability partnerships.
At the latest Launch Your Business event I met amazing women from across the country who are doing great things. Over the three day conference we developed friendships and support networks realizing that what Rosetta has ultimately created and given us is a sorority. Because of her love of black women and desire to see each of us free and prosperous, she facilitates wonderful programs where we not only learn but we connect with other like-minded, 'happy' women.
I especially love the way in which Rosetta empowers black women. Personally, I am very guarded against the ‘independent-don’t-need-no-man’, ‘I-can-do-bad-by-myself’ black woman messaging that is so pervasive. I believe this has been detrimental and ill-serving to our communities. But this is the very opposite tone of Rosetta’s programs. She wants black women to have it all-in whatever way they define that.
Wanting for her sisters what she wants for herself allows no room for competition, only accountability. Therefore Rosetta impresses upon women that laziness, self pity and limiting mindsets are not features of a woman who wants a different life than that which she is living. To have something different, we can’t continue with the same habits and to be better, we must do better-this is part of her message.
I am grateful for Rosetta Thurman and Happy Black Woman. I am grateful for her boldness and conviction to choose such a wonderful name for her company and for her absolute love of black women that makes her strive to empower them with the information, tools and resources to truly live freely.
You might say that I am in the Rosetta Thurman fan club. I admit that you would be right. I am a fan of any black woman who walks her talk in the way of genuinely supporting other black women and girls. Rosetta is clear on the socio-economic impacts in our communities. She understands our history. And with this knowledge, she stands strong against suggestions both open and subtle that impose limits on the success black women and their families can achieve.
Rosetta connects women to resources who could help them beyond her own skill set. She does not presume or pretend to know it all and therefore she gladly shares her stage with others who are experts in their particular fields. And this- to me- is love.
If you ever have an opportunity to attend a Happy Black Woman event, it would be a gift that you give to yourself.
In the meantime, visit HappyBlackWoman.com and check out the Happy Black Woman podcast on itunes or via the website. Then you too, will be in the Rosetta Thurman fan club.
Allow me to take the liberty to share my latest-created phrase and its meaning: The Hindsight Guru.
The Hindsight Guru is the individual whose life has been compromised by repetitive error. This individual is typically 27+ years old (but can be younger) and is not living close to his potential -nor is he in progression to living his ideal life.
The Hindsight Guru can be male or female and can present in a variety of ways. They can be found in low wage pay, if employed, but earnings are not sufficient to live comfortably. Another presentation of the Hindsight Guru is as a person with one or more children, with one or more partners but no satisfying long term partnership or marriage.The Hindsight Guru may also be battling disease, incarcerated or is an ex-con.
The most defining trait of the Hindsight Guru is the wisdom he shares (often unsolicited.) Despite their habit for redundant blunder, the Hindsight Guru has nearly all the answers to living a successful, healthy and prosperous lifestyle. And despite the effectiveness of the knowledge they share-when applied, it is currently unapplied in his own personal life.
Although never self employed, the Hindsight Guru, will advise entrepreneurs. Despite multiple failed relationships, the Hindsight Guru will give counsel to engaged or married couples. The Hindsight Guru may even try to coach budding student athletes or critique organizations, despite having never participated in sports or structured group activity.
And when the Hindsight Guru is asked where his wisdom is reflected in his own lifestyle or history, he will often begin explaining the historic socio-economic conditions that prevented him from engaging in said wisdom. Or the Hindsight Guru who is an expert in relationships may begin explaining how all of their previous mates were ill-suited for a happy partnership. And the Hindsight Guru who is an organizational expert will clarify that people rarely appreciate his genius and are often jealous of him.
It is easy to look back and recognize mistakes and missteps and how they’ve impacted our lives. And it can be instrumental to share the lessons of one’s experience with others. However, there is always a cautionary tale with the Hindsight Guru to which we must pay attention.
As a parent, no one wants the guidance they give their children wasted in the gutter of youthful rejection and experimentation. And no parent wants their children to have their clearest vision come as a result of painful consequences and inactivity.
But as much as parents exhaust themselves in providing the best in access, resources and information; ultimately the choices children make with their lives are not in our control. And this is something with which we must come all come to peace.
As a mother of two teenage sons, I observe them navigating their world as the tether I have to them lengthens. They are surrounded by positive influences and opportunity. Still, as young black men, they are also targets of both active and passive influencers of mediocrity. Distractions clutter their path to encourage recklessness, indifference and failure.
These distractions and influencers, near and far, are among the greatest enemies of purposeful parents. Therefore, truth and its consequences continue to be refrains in my dialogue with them. I warn them profusely of the distaste of Hindsight Gurus, who didn’t and couldn't utilize their wisdom in their own youth.
I recognize that credible messengers have their place. But just as there are messengers with records of failures, there are also messengers with records of success.
And I, like all other parents, want them to study the wisdom of the successful in their present lives to foster bright and beautiful futures for themselves and for others.
There is a saying, “When you teach a man, you teach an individual. When you teach a woman, you teach a nation.” This states the power of the woman in the fate of civilization.
BUT…..before they become women, they are girls.
And it is these hearts, minds and souls that will shape the future. As such is the case, how important is it that we pay careful attention to the development of our girls?
Digress with me for a moment.
Think of the grains of wheat that would be our bread. And think of the expansive field in which they grow. We would not dare allow anyone to use that field as a dumping ground. That field would be protected, cultivated, watered and tended to. After all, it is the wheat from this field that will be milled into fine flour for the bread that we eat.
Naturally, when we understand our health’s relationship with the field and its crop, we aren’t cavalier about the corruption of either.
This is an illustrative way to help us understand the significance of our girls. It is they who will nurture a future generation. And their capacity to do so is greatly dependent on the environment and preparation of their childhood. So it is important for us to keep in mind that their states as women can be directly correlated to their childhood.
Let’s stay mindful of the unique challenges they face in a consumer society in which the acquisition of ‘things’ is a determinant of one’s personal value. Let’s stay mindful that our girls, as never before, receive an unrelenting barrage of devaluing messages. And let’s stay mindful that their protection, education, fulfillment and self love will determine outcomes just as their vulnerability, neglect and self hatred will.
The raising of our girls cannot be outsourced to television, social media or smart devices. Our concern must compel us to actively invest in their wellbeing, as these are they who will literally give birth to the future.
And lastly, remember this as it pertains to women:
She cannot give love if she doesn’t have love.
She cannot give value if she doesn’t have value.
She cannot give wisdom if she doesn’t have knowledge.
The cultivation of all of this starts in childhood.
In whose hands do we want our future placed?
Credibility is trust and is developed based on one’s combination of knowledge, experience, longevity and most importantly, RESULTS. Credibility has nothing to do with how much a person speaks on any given subject.
For example, it should be obvious that the person married for 30 years is a more credible advisor for a newlywed than the serial divorcee. Shockingly though, this is not obvious to far too many people, especially if the divorcee is conspicuously loud and riotous.
For many, the ‘realest’ or most authentic person is determined by who is the most boisterous or who attracts the most attention with their incessant talk. It’s as if we determine that the loudest in the room must be the one who is the most qualified.
This is misguided; and in most circumstances, this can be counterproductive thinking-especially, when we are looking for leadership or for partners.
This is a must-have conversation for the Black community. Historically, we have been a people who operate largely on emotions and unrestrained passions. Too often, we are led by our feelings and decision-making is directed by what moods we are in.
This is not just based on my own observations. This is based on social science. We have been researched and studied and it has been concluded that what we ‘feel’ is what will lead us.
Take the example of matters of social injustice. We are known for exhausting ourselves in marching, boycotting and protests in response to gross racial mistreatment. And in the yelling and rallying, we are aroused and excited. However, weeks, months and even years later, - after the emotions have subsided - we rarely have significant policy change that will prevent further injustice.
This is why I absolutely love the example of Baltimore, Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. In the wake of the apparent unjust treatment of Freddie Gray, she pushed forward with a prosecution based on the facts and evidence of the case. The goal was to secure a conviction of those she deemed responsible for his untimely death. In the end, there was no conviction, but the indictment and prosecution brought significant policy change within the Baltimore Police Department.
This is a great example of being effective, rather than loud. We must give people an opportunity to demonstrate their efficiency and mastery in a field before we get behind their leadership or partner with them. I was taught, before reading any book, to first study the author. This will afford a broader perspective because one will be more acquainted with the writer’s history, values and ideals.
We must be reminded in the Black community to be impressed by more than just a speaker’s volume or babble. We have to be discerning. We must listen for content. We must listen for wisdom, intelligence and logic. And we must get familiarized with the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) that the individual’s wisdom has borne.
If we look for results behind the volume, we will quickly learn who is who and what is what. This type of discernment will save us time, and possibly, our own reputations.
Be very careful to whom you hitch your wagon!
I watched the video of the Asian beauty store owners attacking the black woman who they accused of stealing eyelashes.
Before the video played, I knew I’d be offended. But I was not fully prepared for the outrage and total disgust I felt when I watched it.
I advise anyone reading this to watch the video; it can be found on Youtube. But if you cannot bring yourself to watch it, I will briefly describe what happened.
The owners of a beauty supply store, one male and one female, accused a black woman of stealing something. There was someone off camera talking, repeatedly telling the woman to just let them check her bags. She forcibly denied taking anything.
Quickly a confrontation escalated to both owners going after the woman physically as she tried to hold them off. While trying to avoid their reach, the man kicked her. Then he grabbed her and pulled her around until she fell. After getting her to the floor, the female owner grabbed an arm while the man put her in a choke hold. She continued to yell that she did nothing wrong while both held her.
The man appeared to be squeezing tightly until the female store owner lets the arm loose and tapped him repeatedly, while speaking a foreign language. It seems that she may have been telling him to get off her neck. He didn’t comply immediately. Then he released the choke hold and attempted to hold her down by wringing one of her arms behind her back.
I stopped the video at that point.
It was painful to watch the humiliation that black woman endured being thrown to the floor and held in a choke hold by a man.
The idea that throwing a woman on the floor and choking her as a means to deal with alleged theft is simply unbelievable.
And so I wonder, what conditions exist that would make store owners think that resorting to violence for alleged theft-of cheap eyelashes-was appropriate?
And further, what compels a man to put a woman in a full out choke hold who is of no threat to him?
My answer: the refusal to acknowledge the humanity in the black woman- by many.
Some may deem this an over generalization and that may be their opinion. In my blog, I only express my own.
Despite repeat patronage by black women being necessary for any business to thrive in the black community, we are treated as nuisances. It is black women who have the majority spending power in the black community. So it us to whom they advertise; but in their stores we are harassed, followed and frequently treated with disdain and contempt.
We are simply a lucrative annoyance.
And what do these Asian store owners know of us? Do they interact with us and our communities? Are they sponsoring the little league football, baseball and basketball teams? What about the dance and cheer squads, do they sponsor them? Do they visit our churches, mosques or temples? Do they live in our neighborhoods? Or are they reaping the benefits of our spending and taking their earnings to their own communities, far from us?
One would think they would need to engage the community since we overwhelmingly support them. But they show no interest in us beyond the consumer/seller experience. And this is because we do not demand that.
Think of how they have their stores in our communities that sell us unhealthy foods, cigarettes, blunts, liquor, wigs and weaves through cages as if they were serving animals in a zoo. And it is us who keep these business profitable.
In general, we do not demand respect or dignified treatment and therefore it is not given. The saying, “You teach people how to treat you” is applicable in this case. These vendors have treated us this way for as long as they have been in our communities. And I believe that the disdain has degraded to what we witnessed in North Carolina.
We say amongst each other, “shiiiii... Black people can’t get together to do nothing!” But I beg to differ. We are expert consumers. We just do not employ this expertise amongst and with each other. And others recognize this weakness and take advantage of it. However, if we do not recognize what must be done, we cannot expect others to treat us better than we treat ourselves.
If we want better, we must do better.
Whether this man apologizes or not should be immaterial.
The key is the change that this man’s maniacal actions will spur in how we serve ourselves.
Otherwise, once our emotions from this terrible incident fade...as the social scientists know and can always predict...we will back at the door looking to cop that Cambodian straight virgin weave or that Malaysian kinky curly weave.
If we can buy from others, we can buy from ourselves.
I attended a national track and field championship event recently where there were athletes competing from Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, New York and other neighboring states.
At this multi day event,I was abundantly pleased to see the great number of black female athletes sporting their natural hair. Some with braids, some afros and headbands, some twist outs and up-do’s…
I remember a time when the idea of being called ‘nappy’ or worse, ‘black and nappy’ was terribly painful. Now these young sisters, high schoolers to as young as 6 or 7, were rocking their nappy, kinky hair with ease and confidence. And it was intentional, not a mistake based on no time to press n comb.
These young women weren’t making any obvious political statements in their hair styles either. It just seemed to be the trend on certain teams... gorgeous chunky afros!
Although there was the occasional weave here and there, it was rare. The pleasure and pride I felt was immense watching our girls embrace a natural part of themselves that had been (and remains for some) a horrendous source of conflict, inner and outer.
It appears that we, as a community, have arrived to a time where the acceptance of natural blackness is trending.
The ‘freedom’ enjoyed by black girls wearing their own cultural hair styles shouldn’t need to be a cause for celebration...however in understanding our American history, it MUST be recognized as progress. The decades and generations we have spent being cultured in black inferiority requires that we celebrate and recognize acts of self love, major and minor.
For most nationalities, it is uncommon to relate to the mindset of self hate sustained by blacks in America and blacks abroad. For most nationalities other than black, they have had the freedom to bask in their own heredity and physical traits as beautiful.
Thankfully, this is gaining traction in many of our communities.
For some readers, there may be the question, what is the big deal with black women and their hair?
For those readers, I say this: consider looking in the mirror at your hair texture, the shape of your nose, the thinness or thickness of your lips, the hues of your skin and eyes and the build of your body....now imagine that each feature is a handicap, an ugliness, a source of derision, scorn and mockery...these features not so easily hidden or changed are targets of hate by people with influence and power...you cannot outrun the ugliness you were born with and everywhere you go, people remind you of it...so you are attached to the source of your pain, inherited from your parents who have these very same unsightly traits that you will also pass on to your offspring…
It is unbelievable the degree of effort employed to make blacks hate themselves. Therefore, the effort must be even greater to restore our love and admiration of self.
This is the movement I love. This is the trend I am witnessing.
And it is not all about natural hair; it’s just that the embracing of natural hair can be a sign of us embracing ourselves more deeply.
The struggle is not near over however. Many black women often hit roadblocks in employment when their natural hairstyles are outside of employee appearance guidelines where perms and weaves are favored.
So this does remain an ongoing issue...but if what I witnessed in the confidence of those young girls was any indication, things may be changing at a quicker pace than in years past.
Nurah strives to enlighten, empower and engage her readers with the wealth of knowledge she has gained from her own experiences and those of others from whom she has learned.