#BlackExcellenceSaturdays: A Lifestyle Movement

We can never go back to where we were before the death of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Mike Brown.  We knew that we were in trouble.  It was evident by the economic stress of many within our communities; the changes in Federal regulations that disqualified many minorities and low-income families for Parent Plus loans, the amount of debt that students are graduating with, along with the leveling of pay for professional careers despite inflation increasing the cost of everything.  The lack of trade schools or opportunities to learn trades in high school.  The cost of early learning programs for our children have skyrocketed.  Our mental health and substance abuse resources continue to be defunded, closing programs that are vitally needed in many communities.  The writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time before the pot boiled over.  So here we are, in the middle of an uprising with a heart for change with the need for sustainable plans to continue the path to progression.  Hence the birth of #BlackExcellenceSaturdays.

My goal is for us collectively to take control of our narrative and stop waiting on someone outside of our communities to tell us how to rebuild our communities.  We know how and we can do the work together.  Here is a way in which we are going to work together to support and connect with Black businesses:

  1. The 50 people that I have ultimately connected with will help me find 3 Black owned businesses in their city.
    1. An eating establishment/bar/lounge
    2. A business that provides a good or service
    3. A cultural/health focused activity
  2. We are going to use our social media connections to promote these 3 businesses/activities and encourage participation on that designated Saturday of the month.
  3. We are going to do this for 12 months.
  4. We are going to show up on that designated Saturday and support that businesses with our dollars.
  5. We are each going to bring our family and friends and ask them to bring their family and friends.
  6. We are going to network with each other and share our personal business ventures.
  7. We are going to rebuild our community connections in person and have knowledge of the businesses in our community and those who may be able to help us in our own ventures.
  8. We are going to build the movement by posting pictures on our social media outlets using #BlackExcellenceSaturdays

The goal of this initiative is to eventually subconsciously patronize Black owned businesses and local businesses in our community that support our community.  We hope to inspire and encourage other entrepreneurs to open and establish businesses in our communities because they know that they will have our support.  This is not an organization but a lifestyle.

Suggested Attire:

Whenever possible, we encourage those attending to be dressed to the 9s, including our children.

Purpose:

  1. To bring positive attention to the movement
  2. You are more likely to compliment and easily connect with someone who is dressed up
  3. To honor our ancestors who used every opportunity to celebrate our beauty

Follow us on Tumblr

Here are some suggested looks but we encourage you to celebrate with us however you feel comfortable:

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MY Plan to Change the World

Over the past few years I have been trying to hone in on the direct changes that I want to see and how I am going to make them happen.  I am very passionate about so many things and I know that I cannot change everything, but I can make a major difference somewhere.  So today I decide to write down my list and work on them constantly.  This is my plan and I do not expect anyone to join me, but I know along the way I will find kindred spirits who can help me build on this foundation.

Here are my goals:

  1. Educate the community on their legal rights. 
  2. Engage and encourage the community to participate in local politics.
  3. Support Black owned businesses that invest in their local communities and eventually build an association that has the power to control the Black spending power in America. 

Writing down your goals and plans helps the universe center the resources you need to make those things happen.  I know that everything will not happen overnight, but eventually I will find opportunities that align with my goals.  When I set my focus on something, there is little that can stop me from achieving positive results.  I cannot tell you how I am going to get it all done, but I will.

I am not asking anyone to adopt my agenda but to create one of your own that empowers, educates, and encourages a generation to be DOERS! Many hands makes for light work. We need all hands on deck at this pivotal moment in our lives.  We need everyone to use their talents, gifts, and passion to change the course of the current path we have been on for a very long time.  If you are passionate about art then take a weekend to teach some children how to express themselves artistically.  If you are into fashion, volunteer at organizations that help the less fortunate to prepare for job interviews.  If you are into math or science, find an organization to tutor with and inspire children by example.  Whatever if is that you have to give, please share with the world.  You cannot take anything with you and your talents will be better used here and now.

Fight the good fight.  Fight the power.  Power to the people.  Be you. Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Buy Black #BlackFriday now #BlackDecember

Invest in our community.  Support our own.  Black Friday is an opportunity to show businesses the power of our pockets! Check out these sites, apps, and organizations that #support #blackowned #businesses:

 

Apps

Around the Way App: Find Black Owned businesses in your area

This app is not very good and I hope that it either improves or someone comes up with a better option.

 

Lists

List of Black Banks across US

Houston Directory of Black Owned Businesses 

Black Dollar Project (Houston)

Huffington Post Article, Old but still relevant: Buy Black Friday 

Another list of Black Businesses by Nerdy Girl Swag 

40+ Black Owned Businesses to Support

101 Independent Black Owned Businesses to Support

Mad Black Girls List of Black Owned Businesses  

38 Black Owned Businesses in Nashville 

Blackout Black Friday List of 12 Fab Boutiques by Mommy Noire

25 Black Owned Online Stores for #BlackonBlackFriday   

Organizations that Support Black Owned Businesses 

Support @ablacklifeLLC: They market and support black businesses.

PurchaseBlack.com 

DC Black Pages 

 

Organizations that Actively Support the Community

Concerned Black Men (DC) 

 

Products

B Nude Essentials: Natural Spa and Bath Products

Eden Body Works

 

Apparel/Accessories 

Ingenio BoutiqueUnique woven items

Coliseum Apparel: Quality HBCU and other Apparel

Black Girls are Magic Tees/Sweatshirts

Superior Co., DC based business Apparel and Accessories 

Abysnia: Beautiful handmade jewelry with a unique touch:

Because of Them We Can 

 

Services

Photography 

Wana Image LLC: Amazing photographer and videographer in the DMV area

Wedding Vendors 

Pantora Bridal  by Andrea Pitter, NYC (Brooklyn)

The Flower Guy Bron, Richmond, VA area

Legal

The Law Office of Steven E. Bullock, Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Corporate/Business, Entertainment

 

MORE TO COME

Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

It is No Longer Just the Cost of Living but the Quality of Life

I am getting older and I am longing for a change of pace.  Although I live in the “suburbs” of DC, I still feel the pressure of the rat race every single day and it is exhausting.  I am longing for a simpler life that we can afford.  I want to expose my son to everything the world has to offer, including being apart of a tight knit community where people know your name.

We have been discussing moving to Houston even before we had our son and now it comes up in conversation more and more.  Houston is a great place if you have never been but what I love most is how every neighborhood has everything you need.  You drive outside of your suburban community and you arrive at the shopping center that houses your needs in a 4 block radius; Target, Krogers, Marshalls, Nail salon, Chuckie Cheese and great food! Although these seems like nothing, it helps to center the activities of that community into one central location.  You go to the same grocery store every week and you begin to connect with those who work and shop there.

I love DC and all it has given me over the past 11 years but something here is missing.  I know that every where we go there will be traffic, weather to complain about or disconnected aspects of a community but DC does not give me a feeling of being home.  The growth of the city is focused more on the young, hip and rich and less on working class families.  At one time I felt like I did not belong any place else, suddenly I feel completely out of place.

Some of it has to do with having a kid.  Strollers don’t fit into these cute shops and restaurants and people aren’t interested in hearing your baby have a temporary melt down in their cool, chic eatery.  Some of it has to do with having student loans.  I owe a mortgage in student loans and the pay off date doesn’t exist in this decade or the next or anyone close to that.  Some of it has to do with coming full circle.  Although I was born in Connecticut, my formative years were in Houston and I still have so many friends there.  I felt home when I was there and when I go, it always brings a breath of fresh air.

At this point in my life I am no longer focused just on the cost of living but on our quality of life.  Even if Houston is not our next stop on our journey, I know that our current location is coming to an end sooner than later.  I have accomplished more in these 11 years than I could have ever dreamed but there is so much more in the world and I think I could get a better view from a different place.

The book of life is full of chapters and subchapters.  This chapter of my life in DC has been long and filled with so many amazing memories.  I sense that it will be closing soon with all of its many subchapters finally coming to a complete end.

A new beginning is on the horizon and I am ready.  I don’t know when.  Maybe not today or tomorrow but soon.  Be you.  Do you. Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Suicide Isn’t For Black People

I sadly believed this statement up until I began working for Dr. Donna Barnes at the Mental Health Center at Howard University.  At that time, I had never personally dealt with suicide, and I had only heard of a situation that occurred on campus the previous summer.  That incident was discussed more as an accident than a potential suicide.  I wrongly assumed that this was not an issue that affected people who looked like me and therefore I did not have to deal with it.  Working with Dr. Barnes on Suicide Prevention on campus and learning more about suicide changed my outlook and way of thinking.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall, but the 3rd leading cause of death in persons aged 10-14, and the 2nd leading cause of death in persons aged 15-29 (CDC Vital Statistics 2011).  Suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death among young black males from 2001-2010 (CDC Report 2010).  Comparatively, African-Americans commit suicide at a lower rate overall,  but there still remains a concern amongst our Black youth.  Black youth are affected by suicide at a higher rate than Black adults, and on average, die from suicide a decade earlier than White Americans.

The numbers may not be alarming enough to make people wake up and realize that we have an issue on our hands, but the reality is that we cannot wait any longer to discuss this topic.  Now is the time to begin to look at the root of the issues that are affecting our youth.  Suicide is not a comfortable conversation to have.  As a health care provider, I have never become comfortable asking someone about their mental health status.  It is a very private and personal topic that very few feel comfortable sharing.  Understanding suicide, the warning signs, and knowing where to go for help, may not be able to save every single person, but may be able to teach us how to reach someone who may need our support and save a life.

The first thing we have to do is stop putting a face to suicide.  We see suicide as a White issue and that barrier prevents us from taking the time to discuss, understand and recognize suicide as our issue.  Secondly, we have to be ready to relinquish the idea that we have to be strong to survive.  Yes, our strength and resilience can be an asset you our success, but it also can be a trap that leads to someone feeling overwhelmed trying to live up to that image.  Lastly, we have to support each other and check-in on one another.  Many times someone crosses our mind and we brush it away, instead of picking up the phone and reaching out.  When people say things that show that their troubles are beginning to overwhelm them, we have to express empathy and patience, instead of ignoring or sweeping it under the rug.

Suicide is not a new issue and will not quietly go away with any one solution.  There are so many pressure points that we have to recognize, address and deal with in order to provide people with options.  We have to change the way we talk about suicide, mental health, depression, counseling and even the use of prescribed medicines.  The conversation may be hard to start but once we are honest with ourselves and each other, we can grow and empower others.

After working with Dr. Barnes I became more aware of suicide and the potential signs, but it did not prepare me to lose someone close to me.  To this day, I think of my dear friend often and I have vowed to continue the conversation as a way to honor her life and all that she was to so many.  The pain that those left behind endure after losing someone to suicide is indescribable, but I can only imagine the pain that she was dealing with that led to her decision.

On September 20th I am walking in her honor at the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, to appreciate her contributions and to continue the conversation.  Feel free to support or send words of encouragement.  I continue to pray for her family and loved ones.  We will never forget who she was to each of us. This conversation is deep and has so many layers.  This is the first installment of many that will help to facilitate the conversation.

Know that you are not alone.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Donation page: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=585209

Resources to learn more: 

http://www.nopcas.com/absu.html

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/

What is Ambition?

Dreams + Action = Ambition

Ambition can be seen as a verb.  A verb conveys an action.  Ambition conveys you to use drive, determination, perseverance, resilience, and courage to elevate and complete the steps necessary to fulfill your dreams.  Ambition is taking the dream that no one may believe in, and writing out a plan of action.  Ambition is taking the plan of action and working on it day after day after day.  Ambition is failing and still believing in yourself.  Ambition is making small success along the way.  Ambition is starting a movement with just a few friends and creating a change that affects the world.  Ambition is getting an education or a job to help your family.  Ambition is getting up everyday to provide for your family as you try to remain passionate about your dream.  Ambition is being involved in your community, reaching back to lift as you climb.

Outside forces are diluting the hard work that goes into the word ambition.  The legs, backs and shoulders that ambition stands on did not dream, wake up then succeed.  They dreamed, failed, became doubtful and then kept dreaming.  Ambition allows you to develop your craft.  Ambition pushes you when you have become complacent.  Ambition is not fancy cars, clothes and houses.  Ambition is having more than enough, being fulfilled physically, spiritually and mentally.  Ambition is being in a place you never thought you would get to because someone kept telling you that you are undeserving, unqualified or unworthy.

Ambition. The word begets a cloud of dreams when you say it. Ambition.  It brings forth hope and power.  Ambition.  The blood begins to rush through your body and adrenaline kicks in saying, “Do something now!”  Ambition is not benefitting from an activity that diminishes those around.  Ambition is not elevating while tearing others down.  Ambition is not succeeding while everyone else around you fails.  Ambition is power.  Ambition is strength.  Ambition is also grace.

Be ambitious in your words and actions.  Be ambitious as you smile through it all. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your story.  On your own terms.

The Art of Storytelling

There are so many ways to tell a story.  Some people are loud and animated.  While others are softer toned and rhythmic.  And yet some are a hybrid; they will flow from one comedic belly aching moment into a serious and powerful historical testimony of the upmost importance.  This artistic ability is one to truly be admired.

I have learned over the years that telling a story is not about just being heard, but it is about captivating the audience and making them yearn for more.  It is about creating an electric atmosphere full of an emotion that you continue to charge with your stylistic “and then,” “I said,” “she said” electrodes of power.  Some people are born with this talent, while many others learn it by watching some of the greatest storytellers around.

You always know who the best storyteller is in the room because everyone who was there always turns to that person and says, “Girl you tell it!”, while they hold themselves together, waiting for the anticipated punch lines.  Storytellers are an energy that attract many, a light that draws in the crowd, and a magnet that people can hardly pull away from.

Then you have those historical storytellers who know the history of the entire family or the diaspora.  They began to spit the facts about great-grandpa, and a great-aunt and a cousin who went to war and never returned.  Or they begin to tell you about the warriors of forgotten African Kingdoms.  They resurrect the spirits of men and women you may have never met but are proud to be connected to.  Those type of storytellers make you feel so proud to be you, proud of your name and proud of the shoulders on which you stand on.  Those storytellers are gems of the family and academia.  They remain connected because they have a charge to continue to tell the story.

I have always loved to hear a good story.  Whether from a friend, a family member or the verbal vision created by those who are deemed professionals in the art.  Somehow the story strings pieces of your own imagination with the imagination of others and you have a powerful moment full of emotion.  Just thinking about the electrical energy gives me the chills.

We have to reclaim our position as storytellers.  Storytelling builds community, builds connections and builds a human coalescence.   When you tell the story, you are in control of how everyone around you views the narrative.  In order to restore, empower and progress, we have to regain that control.  The next time you are around a group of people, take a look at the story being told.  If you see that the story is not one which will uplift and inspire, take control and infuse the room with the emotion that will make that moment memorable.

Take control of the story.  Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.