When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I wasn't sure of much except that God was real and at some point in the day I would watch The Little Mermaid for the 50th time on VHS. As an adult, only a few things have changed since then; I know slightly more than I did when I was 8, and I have The Little Mermaid on DVD now. The God thing, however, is a little more complicated.
I grew up in the Christian faith, going back and forth between the Seventh-day Adventist life that my grandmother followed and the Sunday Bible church time that my mother inhabited. Both were Ghanaian-led and denominations of Christianity, but they couldn't have been more different.
As a Seventh-day Adventist I had to wear skirts and dresses to church (trousers for girls were forbidden), I wasn’t allowed to wear earrings, and we were there on a Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It was like a full-time job, even though as a kid I spent most of the day hanging out with the other kids, singing in the youth choir and daydreaming about boy bands whilst the grown-ups prayed the time away.
In Sunday Bible church there were still dresses, but there was also jewelry and perfume, gospel singing and dancing, and only a half-day of church on a Sunday followed by a family dinner.Even though I had a best friend on Saturdays at my grandmother’s church, I think I preferred my mother’s because it was shorter and it gave me more time to watch Disney films (it should be noted that Disney ruled most of my childhood and shaped the slightly unrealistic person that I am today). But I never really knew what any of it had to do with God.
I went to Sunday (and Saturday) school and knew all the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the Whale etc., but these stories were taught as different lessons depending on which church I was attending. On Saturdays, Eve was the evil temptress who ruined not only Adam's life but the lives of all the generations to come; especially women’s lives because we were told she was the reason we would have painful periods (to pay for her betrayal — reading this back I can't believe I ever accepted such misogynistic rhetoric). But on Sundays, the same story became a parable about following God's word and not your own free will, because he knows what's best. Ergo, if you don't do as you’re told, you will be punished.
Both versions of the story brought me to the same conclusion however; that God exists and He is terrifying. Thus followed years of childhood and then adolescent guilt just for existing as an imperfect human being, hoping that one day I would do something that didn't disappoint Him, despite never truly believing that was actually going to happen.
As I got older, my experiences naturally expanded, as did my mind, and I began to give in to the doubts I had had about my religion for years. I still almost desperately wanted to believe that God was real and ever-present in my life, but it became harder and harder to do so. Yet somehow, in moments of high distress and depression (especially in my early 20s) I still prayed to that elusive all-powerful, all-loving God, hoping that He would come forth and show Himself to me. In a way, it helped to relieve my stress to think that somewhere out there was someone looking out for me, even if it felt like no one else on Earth was.
And you see, that's the thing about growing up in religion and losing the faith that isn't always clear to those who didn’t grow up that way.
When you lose your faith, it's not necessarily God that you stop believing in; rather it’s the God that has been created by the men and women around you, following rules and regulations made up by men that came before them.
Suddenly you might see the pastor that cheats on his wife, the sexual abuse of young children in the church, and the self-professed "Prophets of God" who steal from the congregation, and you think, "if there really is a God and these are His messengers, that is not a God I want to follow," or "if there is a God, why doesn't He punish all these people?"
It doesn’t happen as simply or as quickly as that of course, but for me, when I lost my faith, I lost it in people. God hadn't changed in my mind — He was always a projection of whatever other people wanted Him to be and what they told me He was. I had no real proof that He was or was not who I was raised to believe in; I only had evidence that people weren't who they said they were.
So I lost faith in them first, and the original idea that I had about God changed and morphed into something else until eventually it dissipated completely. The hardest thing about losing my faith was losing the construct of God that I held in my mind. Because despite all the church hypocrisy I witnessed, I slept safe in the knowledge that God still had my back; that I still had my own personal bodyguard. But losing that reassurance that once kept me so warm at night was one of the coldest and loneliest feelings in the world. I wouldn't even wish it on my worst enemy.
Perhaps that’s why I still wonder at that belief I had, at the faith I tried to nurture without much positive reinforcement; I’ve noticed I still grasp for it. And I'm trying to figure out who left who first and what exactly went wrong between us — me and God that is.
Maybe I'll never know and will always be hoping that one day we'll get back together again. Sadly, I fear that I have already become one of those people who had a life-changing but ultimately failed relationship, but who still wonders about The One That Got Away.
Want more personal essays? Sign up for our daily...
If you believe in God, you know the wonders he'll do when you let him use you. That is exactly the story of Briana Babineaux, whose powerful voice radiates and gives listeners goosebumps as she belts out Deitrick Haddon's "He's Able" in the video highlighted above. The video was uploaded in May and has recently been making rounds on social media.
Babineaux, a 21-year-old college student and Louisiana native, has been singing in church choirs since she was young, but she never pursued a career in music. It wasn't until a friend uploaded a video on YouTube last year, as she sang "Make Me Over," that the idea of a music career became a reality. To date, the video has over 1 million views and upon it's release, Babineaux was met with a number of recording contract offers to take her voice to the next level.
After signing with Marquis Boone Enterprises, LLC, Babineaux released her debut album Keys to My Heart earlier this year, and was met with instant acclaim. Briana's devotion to her faith is the key to her success and the reason behind her debut album's name. On her website she writes: "I allowed God to have total access to my heart and once I did that I was able to release all the hurts I’ve experienced. I named the album ‘Keys To My Heart’ because each song is a testimony from an experience that I faced whether it was good or bad."
Thank you @billboard ... #Brination never give up on your dreams!!! If God said it, that settles it. #BrianaBabineaux #marquisbooneenterprises #TyscotRecords #billboard #newartist #KeysToMyHeart
A photo posted by Bri (Briana Babineaux) (@simply_bebe_) on Apr 6, 2016 at 9:33pm PDT
Babineaux's heartfelt voice has garnered her a legion of fans known as the #Brination, which includes Drake and Rihanna. It's safe to say that the timing of this video and it's impact on the hearts and minds of listeners is sure to increase her fan base and act as a source of strength in these very troublesome and tiring times.
Through and through, Briana Babineaux is a talent that we should definitely make sure we get to know because we probably will be hearing a lot more about her very soon.
Want more content like this? Sign up for our daily...
"...And with God all things are possible," he said bringing his fiery message to a close. For the first time in my eight years of life, I was able to draw my focus beyond the performance to the actual words. I was moved to tears. At a core level, I recognized them as truth. I felt inspired, invincible, ignited by the idea that I, too, fell under the jurisdiction of this wonderful, infinite, miraculous God that he spoke of. That moment sparked in me an unprecedented zeal and appetite for life. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. The more I read, the more I understood my charge to demonstrate love, compassion and service. I was fearless. I believed, in the most literal sense, that all things were truly possible.
I would later learn that there were caveats to this belief.
The promises that he spoke of were true, but only within certain context and only for those who followed the rules. And there were tons of rules. Rules that changed from one person to the next. Rules that flexed and bent without notice. Rules piled so high on top of rules that contradicted themselves and rendered null the ones that preceded them. They were impossible to keep up with, let alone follow. They were designed in such a way that the pride induced by their mastery was, in itself, against the rules. These rules chipped away at the unyielding certainty I had once possessed and ultimately stifled the very faith they claimed to uphold.
The question of faith, in my opinion, is one of the most personal and profound that anyone will ever address.
Today, mine is far less complicated than it once was. In fact, my faith isn't complicated at all. It's not about anyone's judgements, opinions or rules. My ultimate charge is to demonstrate love, compassion and service, and in the spirit of my 8-year-old self, an unyielding belief that all things truly are possible.
The transition into adulthood isn’t an easy one. Navigating relationships, managing workplace politics, hitting those milestones on schedule— don’t be fooled, no one knows what they’re doing. There will be all kinds of fumbles, blunders and awkward missteps along the way. If you’re constantly wondering to yourself, “Am I doing this right?” Welcome. This is just the place for you.
Want more articles by Ebony F? Sign up for Blavity’s daily...
With the Democratic National Convention around the corner next month, supporters are excited to see Hillary Clinton elevated as the presumptive party nominee. Even though this will be both a big day for Clinton and a historical moment for women, she's not the only person making history at the DNC.
Dr. Leah Daughtry, chief executive officer of the Democratic National Convention, will make history in more ways than one. Dr. Daughtry serves as a strong, unapologetic political figure helping change the trajectory of an event almost as big as the inauguration.
This week in #stopaskingpermission, we highlight the black woman behind the DNC and give you 11 things you should know about her mission.
1. She is a Reverend.
Coming from a strong religious background, Reverend Doctor Leah Daughtry is a fifth generation pastor. She is known to be an outspoken, Pentecostal politician who uses her faith as her foundation.
2. She is an Ivy League graduate.
Dr. Daughtry is a 1984 graduate of Dartmouth College. During her time in undergrad, she realized that her faith would serve as a foundation for her political career.
3. Daughtry's parents gave her an early start in politics.
Her father, Reverend Herbert Daughtry, is well known for being not just a minister but also a civil rights leader. He taught his children early on the importance of being involved in the democratic process.
"When we were kids we went to Albany every year to meet our representatives," she told NBC News. "You can't make people vote. You can't tell them who to vote for. But we grew up with this awareness of who our elected people are, and that they had authority over our neighborhoods — where the parks are going to be, what time the trash was coming, whether there was a street light or a stop sign."
4. She's worked with Reverend Jesse Jackson.
As a senior at Dartmouth, Daughtry led Reverend Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign in New Hampshire.
5. She's been leading the pack for years
Daughtry has held several senior posts at the United States Department of Labor such as Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Chief of Staff and acting Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management.
6. Daughtry has previous experience with Clinton campaigns.
In 1992, Daughtry worked on the Clinton-Gore transition team. Daughtry is one of very few people who has worked with both the former President and First Lady in their Presidential capacity.
7. She has a push to combine religion and politics.
“Martin Luther King, by his life and example, seamlessly weaved these two seemingly divergent interests,” Daughtry said in a 2007 interview with Dartmouth. “I have spent my life trying to do the same.”
8. Daughtry influenced the Democratic Party in reaching out to the faith community.
Daughter founded Faith in Action, the Democratic Party's outreach to the faith community.
Daughtry told NBC BLK, "Everybody accepts that black Christians are Democrats. I know from my work with communities of faith -- Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, people of every faithful persuasion who are part of the Democratic Party -- and they don't often speak loudly or forcefully about it, but their faith also drives them to be Democrats."
9. She pastors her own church in Washington D.C.
As pastor of House of the Lord Church, Daughtry believes that we should treat the needs of people as holy.
10. She is the FIRST to ever manage the Democratic National Convention twice.
In 2008 Daughtry was CEO of the Democratic National Convention and will serve in the same role for the 2016 convention. No other person has done so.
"I could not be more excited to lead the Democratic convention team,” Daughtry said. “This is an exciting time to be a Democrat, and we have an important opportunity to build on the progress we have made over the last six years, and to nominate, and help elect the 45th president of the United States. The road to the White House will begin right here in Philadelphia.”
11. She channels the spirit of Fannie Lou Hamer.
"I go into the hall the night before it opens. I go at about midnight just to walk and there's no one there — except a few media people poking around -- and I feel their spirits. It's like 'OK Miss Hamer. Here I am, and I'm in the place where you should have been.' … I thank them and I honor them because without them I wouldn't have this chance. I wouldn't have this opportunity."
No matter your denomination or faith, we can all agree that Dr. Leah Daughtry is one to be celebrated. She is strong in her mission to bring faith to the table and is on a mission that includes making the needs of people, something sacred. To celebrate her and not follow her lead in voting would be pointless. So let's stop asking for permission to change the world and follow in her foot steps of pushing for change.
Loving Blavity’s content? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss a...
My father died when I was 13 years old on a cold night in Colorado Springs. Our mother called my sister and I home early from choir rehearsal with the news that he was taking his last breaths. When word got out that he was on his deathbed, it seemed like our house was filled with the entire church. He was the Head Deacon, the pastor's right hand, and my mother was a missionary, the Head Usher, and the head of the Nurse's Unit. As it stood, our family was looked at as "church royalty," and so the blow of his death was cushioned by the strong support of our church family.
It wasn't until I was 17, sitting in Sunday School at our new church in California, that I worked up the courage to ask the question that I had been toiling with: If people are judged when they die, but when the rapture comes "the dead in Christ shall rise first," what happens in the interim? I asked this question because Sunday School was supposed to be a safe space. A space of learning. It was different than Praise & Worship service, where your testimony would inevitably be judged by someone. In Sunday School, we could wax philosophical on the bible. We were supposed to... right?
The pastor answered, telling me that when people die, they await judgement in Abraham's bosom. I then asked if Abraham's bosom was like a waiting room, and was it nice, because it didn't make sense that people who were going to be sent to heaven would wait in the same place as people who were going to be sent to hell. He kind of just stared at me with disdain, shook his head, and moved on to the next person. My mother placed her hand on mine. She knew that I was angry and confused, trying to find clarity about death in the religion she had raised me to believe in. I didn't stop believing all at once, but that was the start.
Shortly after that, the same pastor told me that I couldn't be a choir director if I wore pants to choir rehearsal. I smirked at him, relinquished my post as choir director and wore pants to the next rehearsal. He then instituted a rule that no woman could sing in the choir who wore pants to choir rehearsal. I quit the choir. Church, which I had once loved, cherished and looked forward to attending, had become a hostile environment. It wasn't just the rampant misogyny proliferated by the men (and women), it was the looks of disgust when I went natural, the sighs of annoyance when I became more militant (and questioned why the church was no longer a forum for discussing social issues affecting the black community). I was a sinner for being nappy, for wearing pants, for daring to question random scriptures given boldly as answers to questions that I shouldn't even be asking. They told me I needed to pray for anointing. I told myself I needed a break.
One of my mentors saw me struggling with my choice to separate myself from the church. I associated church with God, and I still believed in God, but I had no standard regiment outside of church traditions to connect. He gave me a book called The Four Agreements. I read it and felt less lost. It simplified principles that I was taught by my mother (and by the church) for how to behave in life, but it took the fire, brimstone, shouting and falling out of the equation. It also challenged me to question what I was taught by my mother, which was difficult until I remembered a story she'd told me. During her time in college, she'd been tasked with studying different religions and writing a research paper about her experience. I remember her saying that visiting a Buddhist temple was her favorite part. "It was so peaceful," she'd said. So, I gave myself the same assignment. How were other people experiencing spirituality in the world outside of the black church?
I studied Islam with my friend Ismael, read books about Buddhism, I attended services at the Church of Religious Sciences in Oakland, and listened to the thoughts of some Atheist friends on their decision to forego belief altogether. I asked questions about Yoruba to my friends who practiced, and learned about the Orishas. This year, I lived (vicariously) as a yogi through my college roommate, observing how meditation recalibrated her energy. Somewhere along the way, I stopped believing in organized religion. After all, what religion(s) or forms of spirituality did Africans practice before the Middle Passage? I gave up the idea that there are only certain ideals that make one worthy of connection to a higher power, that there are only certain portals through which that higher power will listen to me or speak back, and most importantly that there are only certain people with whom that higher power is willing to connect. My church sabbatical (or praise break) turned into a transformation toward open spirituality.
That transformation brought me peace about my father's death. Whether he is in some arbitrary spiritual waiting room, reincarnated as someone I'll never meet, or simply vanished from this plane, he was here. No one can deny me his existence. No scripture can diminish my remembrance. I knew him on earth. So, I've stopped looking for praise, tradition, or religion to tell me who God is, how I should behave, and the definition to the meaning of life. Spirituality is a tool to discover and transform into my highest self. One method among millions to set myself free.
Loving Blavity's content? Sign up for our daily newsletter...
Suffering has been a formative topic in the black community since we were taken captive by white slave owners during the mid-15th century until now. As I've watched the suffering of black families and friends across the world, I've been brought to reflect upon my own suffering. In tandem with this reflection on suffering, I've been forced to also think about my faith and how it has saved my life.
I always say that my life story starts off with my mother. After listening to my mom’s story of suffering, one would think that I shouldn’t have been born. In 1954, my mom, who was 3 years old at the time, was sitting by her kerosene heater in a North Carolina home when she found herself consumed by flames; 85% of her body covered in third-degree burns. I could personally never imagine going through that, nevertheless, it was this pivotal moment in my mother’s life that would set the ground for her own faith in God. Fast forward to 1992, when my older brother — who was hit by a Charlotte state truck driver and told (by an all-white jury) that he can just see out of the other eye — found himself in a cop car facing a very bleak future. He had murdered a young woman. Again, I couldn’t imagine going through such great suffering. She ultimately lost her job and many of those in her life distanced themselves from her. All of this happened, unbeknownst to her, while I was being conceived.
My mom was 40 when my brother went to prison and was considering aborting me due to the health risk that comes with birthing a child at that age. My brother saved my life. He told her that “if you don’t have him and you die, I’ll be alone in this world." He saved my life. After that, her outlook changed. She said that I saved her life and that God gave her another son so she wouldn’t have to be alone.
Shortly after that she began to start her journey of faith.
Those two turning points, those two moments of intense suffering and pain, set the foundation for my own resilience and my own faith.
As a child, I grew up in a single-parent household, moved from place to place and was physically and verbally bullied from 6th to 8th grade. Thus, I was ultimately facing the trials that come with being poor. The toughest realization of our poverty came in 2008 when my mom lost her job. My mother and I soon afterward fell into limbo and were homeless. We moved from one state to another. We were forced to live on $368 a month. During that time, an aneurysm was growing in my mother’s brain (she didn’t find out until later) and she was listening to TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, anything on Trinity Broadcasting station and, of course, diligently reading her bible. She was always saying, “God is going to bless, He’ll make a way." We were in Florida at the time and things were tough. We needed to leave. Soon thereafter, my mom received a check in the mail and we were on our way off to Atlanta, my hometown.
Then another obstacle arose — college. We were dirt poor and still homeless. After much prayer on my mother’s part and mine, and support from the wonderful educators at Therrell High School, I found myself to be a recipient of a Posse scholarship to Bard College. I still suffered, still felt the effects of poverty, still felt my blackness, but one lesson that has been consistent throughout my life is that faith is the balance, the antithesis of hopelessness in suffering. The Posse scholarship is a full-tuition leadership scholarship that is given to a group of 10 young leaders with vast potential. The scholarship itself amounted to $200,000 of support! This would eventually open a plethora of opportunities for me, both academically and socially.
My mother and I are still homeless, as in we do not have a home we can call our own, however, we both still have faith. Faith is what keeps us going. Faith is what pushed me to serve as a camp counselor for seriously ill children at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. "Heaven on earth" is what those who have experienced the camp call it. My faith has led me to serve a three-year stint with AmeriCorps as a City Year AmeriCorps member, and as a teaching fellow for Citizen Schools. I have been able to touch the lives of dozens of black and brown children on a deeper level than most, due to the fact that my mother and I have suffered greatly. Suffering gives a person insight, while faith helps a person utilize it. Faith is what has also allowed me to graduate college, get into my preferred M. Ed program at Boston College, and become a member of Boston Mayor Walsh’s ONEin3 Council.
Both suffering and faith have brought me an incredibly long way. And while suffering will always remain a harsh reality, faith will always remain a constant, a reminder of things hoped for but not yet seen.
How has faith gotten you through a time of suffering? Let's get the conversation going, and share this post on Facebook below!
READ NEXT: How taking a leap of faith led to success for this...
Melanated women are dynamic. It’s great to see us finally claiming it with hashtagged phrases such as #blackgirlmagic and creative masterpieces like Beyoncé’s Lemonade, an ode to melanated women’s spirituality. Yes! It's time and on time as the divine feminine, in all her glory, has risen. For some, this means a walk in the part of the new age parade dubbed the Goddess movement, but for others it's a walk in a reality that speaks to the way we exist.
There is hardly ever any credit given to our contribution as melanated women to all of humanity on a mainstream scale, largely because we don't acknowledge it ourselves. There are small circles of us who gather and share this truth in quiet, careful not to scare or anger anyone. Let us scream it; we are the mothers of humanity. We are the embodiment of Goddess herself.
In an earlier article, I offered 10 ways to know one is an actualized woman/goddess. The list included everything from confidence to full embodiment of sexuality. What I didn’t add is the knowing that you are what God is. I don’t mean this in the sense that you personally are all-powerful and mighty over the universe and everything in it, but that you are the highest authority over yourself and that women collectively are vessels of life, love and mysticism.
Love Coach and Metaphysician Kenya K. Steven eloquently articulates this point in her article, ""The Metaphysics of Lemonade & Beyonce’s Polyamory." After reading it I was thankful all over again for Beyonce’s courage to use her art to remind women how to journey ourselves through life’s happenings that might otherwise keep us stifled and small. I began thinking about how many of us do not fully 'innerstand' the necessity of accessing our own spirituality or process for self-healing, growth, and learning beyond a system that requires relinquishing of personal power and magic, a system that seeks to place its subjects in a subservient position to borrowed power.
It's time we embrace ourselves as giants of our own lives, saviors of ourselves without any feelings of doubt or concern for disturbing the collective agreement of the status quo. Claiming the throne from those who have been wrongfully seated on it will never be embraced when there is still confusion about where the throne belongs.
Though they are strong, my words are laced with love and filled with truth. We know that often the truth hurts when served on a plate of denial. The denial in this case is western, patriarchal culture — it’s a false depiction of beauty as portrayed via media has too many of us swimming in fatal delusions as well as its religious narrative, which has placed father God and his son at the head of the spiritual and earthly realms while diminishing the role of the mother. I think we can no longer afford these stories. They’re actually bad for our health.
The truth is religious traditions placing male Gods at the head of any throne while willfully dismissing the role and honor of his divine mother and wife is blatant disrespect to the divine, sacred feminine, creation, life and all of humanity. Don’t just take my word for it. Dive deep into the research of master scholar Mama Zogbe in her book The Sibyls: Demystifying the Absence of the African Ancestress: The First Prophetess of Mami (Wata). What you will find is evidence of a powerful tradition stolen from the foremothers of Africa and claimed as the traditions of Abraham and his lineages. Kings weren’t crowned nor were Gods created without the blessings of women.
Historically this mother/woman has always been dark, black, melanated. She is the beginning and the end. There is no life without her and yet we’ve somehow slipped into a reality that seeks to tell us differently and wonder why we experience life as hardship and pain. But we are out of order. Beyoncé reminds us via Malcolm X on her song, "Don’t Hurt Yourself," "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman." I’m going to apply this statement beyond America and proclaim this is true all over the world.
I believe one of the reasons this is happening is because we’ve forgotten how to worship that which is our mother, that which is ourselves. Many women only worship men and their sons, which creates disharmony when there’s no praise and worship for women, too. We’ve forgotten the ways of our own spirituality, women’s spirituality, one that reminds us of the power of nature, of our blood, our intuition, communion with the spirit world and reverence for our ancestors. This is what some call African spirituality. It is what I call indigenous medicine.
Just as black people can't claim full possession of ourselves in a world shaped by white supremacy without first knowing ourselves outside of that construct, melanated women can't expect to access full capacity of ourselves within a patriarchal spiritual belief system. If you are a melanated woman and your only God is male, you might feel out of order.
Women, because we exist as a portal between life and death, embody the divine. We are what God is, we've just forgotten.
So let's remember! Start here.
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
READ NEXT: Why I identify as a...
My entire life has been centered around working as hard as possible to accomplish the goals I've set for myself. I've never been able to accept the constant reiterations from friends, family and coworkers that claim that the way to get what you want out of life is to let the things you want go or forget about them.This way of thinking seems extremely counterproductive to me and results in the immediate glazing over of my eyes. Typically, I'll offer noncommittal words such as, "hm," "oh," or "yeah." Flat and distant but respectful of their opinions. I lose interest in the conversation and internally try to come up with ways to steer the topic elsewhere.
I, on more than one occasion, refer or default to my upbringing to answer questions about myself as a young adult today. The paradox of sitting idly by instead of chasing the object of your affection and expecting these things to come to you by some cosmic gravitational pull is foreign to me due to the way my father raised me. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe in having faith and spreading good karma to get what you want out of life, but I have been genetically modified to ignore this when it comes to goals.
From a young age, it was clear that nothing in America would be handed to me.
As a Jamaican immigrant, America represented a multitude of things, one of them being the chance to live out our dreams. My father wanted us exposed to an environment that would promote growth and opportunities. If I wanted to achieve something, I needed to work twice as hard as my counterparts and there was no rest for the hungry. My father was the only consistent adult I had to learn from, and if you want to know what hard work looks like, he's it.
I find that I am immensely more satisfied when I reach my goals or achieve what I’ve been grinding for if they are obtained through the blood, sweat and tears of my work ethic.
Something about me seeing the physical manifestation of the work I put in to achieve success makes the victory that much sweeter. The sleepless nights, writers block, millions of to-do lists scattered all over my desk and technology — it all reminds me that I am competent enough. I am important enough to have a say in the outcome of my life. I can drive for results, and as long as I am able to draw breath, I always will fight, chase, obsess over what I want. Of course, there are always multiple ways to view something. And although I will never tell my best friends to not go after the man, woman, job, life, or income they desire, I am fully capable of understanding that not everyone is built the same. Some of us can easily hand over the keys to the car so that God or whomever you celebrate and follow can take the wheel. That kind of faith is beautiful, it’s just way too paradoxical for me.
Do you agree? What are your thoughts on going hard and chasing your dreams vs. when to surrender your work ethic and drive to give space for cosmic intervention? For those of you who prefer letting go to gain it all, make sure to check out the article below!
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here.
READ NEXT: How I learned to gain it all by letting...
The term 'black privilege' was created in disparaging response to the concept of white privilege. Peddlers of the term range from non-intersectional liberals to the "we want our country back" crowd.
We've all heard the argument. It's the idea that because black Americans have an entire month dedicated to black history, a television network focused solely on black entertainment and, of course, our very own black president. Then apparently not only is racism over, but black people are the privileged ones. This line of reasoning asserts that the modicum of surface-level progress has somehow balanced the scales against the societal inequality built into the very framework of this country that benefits white people — often at the expense of people of color. White privilege has produced social and educational advantages, generational wealth and, in some instances, a smug sense of entitlement that summons the audacity to feign offense when people of color dare to celebrate themselves despite this adversity.
GIRL. I said Black. https://t.co/8xS6omS7UE
— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) October 16, 2015
This black privilege argument, in all of its contemptuous glory, conveniently glosses over the abject discrimination, demeaning imagery and historic lack of positive representation that creates the need for things such as niche marketing, decidedly positive black images and legal protected classes.
The incremental advancement of a small percentage of black people does not privilege make. Further, the election of this black president, so frequently touted as the ultimate symbol of black privilege, has actually placed a national spotlight on the blatant racism, hate, obstructionism, scapegoating and random racist outbursts that every person of color has experienced on the job.
The term black privilege was designed to do what all victim blaming, racial scapegoating terminology seeks to accomplish: Invalidate our experiences while intimidating people of color into silence and conformity. Although I recognize the trickery at play here, I will say that the recent resurgence of the topic has me thinking about the term black privilege in the purest sense of the term.
Are there special benefits to being black?
The answer for me is – absolutely! It would have been impossible for us to have survived our struggles without adapting certain beneficial skills and characteristics. Although historically we have had to apply all of our energy and aptitude toward surviving, when we redirect this power toward thriving rather than merely enduring, we are unstoppable! It is from this perspective that I have identified seven areas of distinct advantage — honed by our struggle — that black people should use unapologetically to our benefit on a daily basis:
Our survival has hinged on our gut instinct letting us know when to trust and when to be guarded, when to move forward and when to be still. Sprinkle this inner knowing with logic and strategy, and watch how far it propels you.
Our faith looks different, which is why we tend to praise differently. Our faith is more than just cerebral, philosophical or theoretical, it is REAL. Our collective stories are laced with miraculous just in the nick of time narratives of supernatural feats, inexplicable by conventional logic. It is this faith that has delivered us from crisis, carried us through struggle and planted us stronger on the other side. When we give ourselves permission to apply this power toward purpose, nothing is impossible.
It's said that happiness is based on favorable circumstance while joy radiates from within. Our ability to extract comedy, even amidst grueling pain and suffering, is unparalleled. #BlackJoy is a revolutionary act. Our ability to tap into our interior reserve of laughter has been the therapy that has fostered us through generations of mental and physical abuse.
Though the stereotype of the strong black woman (man or child) has been harmful in many ways, the truth is that our history has honed a certain fortitude. This is not to say that we should deny or suppress our vulnerabilities, but there is nothing shameful in owning our strength and using it to our advantage. It is a HUGE advantage!
Our ability to understand and share the struggles of others never ceases to amaze me. We know what it feels like to marginalized, bullied and victimized. Our collective empathy, compassion and protective instincts are unbelievably strong.
We know how to code-switch to fit into any environment. Whether or not it's fair that we should have to do this is another argument, but the ability to flex to our surroundings can definitely be used as an asset.
We know how to make something out of nothing. The same talent and ingenuity our ancestors used to convert undesirable scraps of food into flavorful delicacies is now being used to create groundbreaking technology, forge unique business opportunities and set all the popular trends. Why do you think everyone wants to appropriate this?
People of African descent have defied insurmountable odds and prevailed in the face of crippling adversity. So yes, we will be owning and cashing in on our black privilege, which is redefined as the invaluable inheritance of supernatural favor hard-earned through free labor, persecution and injustice. We got this!
Comment below and let us know how you shine!
READ NEXT: These powerful quotes from #BlackGirlsRock 2016 should be heard...
Over a year ago, I resigned my successful and lucrative role with a global Fortune 50 company to pursue my passion for writing full-time. Although I realize that dreaming about pursuing one's passions isn't unique, the willingness to put everything on the line to actually do it is — and with good reason. It's not a game out here in these entrepreneurial streets. If you're already out here or considering taking that leap, I offer up, in full transparency, the 17 phases of my transition from corporate professional to full-time creative:
To be perfectly clear, I'm not sharing this from a place of mastery or authority. I'm still very much in the building phase of my writing career, and although I know that the underdog narrative is usually told from the perspective of its triumphant ending, I don't yet know how this will end nor do I have the benefit of hindsight to color this experience with rose-colored tint. I'm not some wise sage or all-knowing guru with the answer on how to “do life” or realize one's dreams. What I am is a creative empath with a passion for words and humanity, and a talent for recognizing, articulating and stimulating greatness in others. This is my experience, in real time, as I find my way on this journey in pursuit of purpose. So even as my ego rails against the notion of exposing myself at this juncture, I recognize that this is precisely the reason that I must. Well, that and this overbearing internal exhibitionist of a hype woman.
Who hasn't fantasized about what they would do if given the opportunity, if they had the freedom, if they weren't afraid? This is the part where you decide if you're going to keep if-ing or if you're going to take that leap of faith. There is no wrong answer. It's about what works for you.
This process ain't for the faint of heart, so if you're going to do it, then you'd better be in love with it. Simply put, I love to write. Not sometimes write, not hobby write, but write-for-my-life write. When I pour my whole self into writing, wonderful and inexplicable things happen. Platforms present themselves, the content resonates with people and audiences shows up. Writing is what I was created to do. "So, why on earth would I ever want to stifle that?" asks my instinct.
"Because it's completely irrational," answers logic. Herein lies the conflict. I am not naive to the fact that forgoing that coveted rung on the corporate ladder in pursuit of something as precarious as writing sounds crazy. I have endured countless we're concerned looks from my tribe of well-meaning loved ones, and trust me when I tell you that no one is more concerned about my life than I am.
Having worked in HR management for some very successful corporations, I have had a hand in shutting down major facilities and laying off hundreds of people. Folks who put in their time, checked all the boxes and did everything right. This experience taught me that the notion of job security is an illusion. Everything, save faith, is a gamble. I happen to believe that we are all endowed with purpose — a special gift that is uniquely ours — and it is our job to operate in that calling. I believe this so much hat I'm willing to bet my life on it.
When you have that "wake up in the middle of the night, work at it at 4 a.m., dedicate every weekend to it" kind of passion, you know that the gift is bigger than you. You are a small part of a much larger picture. The whole team benefits when everyone plays their position.
Because society assigns significance to certain roles, I spent a lot of time pursuing goals that weren't even my own. In my former career I strategically positioned myself for promotion every couple of years. My perception of career success hinged on incremental advancement in a corporate environment so I worked hard, got on my grind and bossed up whether I wanted it or not. I was on auto-pilot. I had to get truthful with myself about why I was doing what I was doing.
The best answer I could come up with was, "this is just what people do." I had to blow up my entire hierarchical concept of success and embrace the fact that I might not fit into that template. That mold might not work for me. Not wanting what other people want doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, it just means you're YOU. Relax...Individuality is okay.
There's usually a social penalty for taking the road less traveled, but if you want to be successful, you can't worry about what anyone thinks. Put on your game face, gather your cocky fresh and prepare to go HARD!
The grind is real, my dude...I'm talking laser beam focus, AM to PM, no days off, get out there and hustle - REAL. A year, five months, several bylines, one blog launch and an LLC later and I'm still out here grinding like Kerm hyped up on triple-caff boosted tea.
Without itemizing the miraculous sequence of events, provisions and opportunities that have unfolded since leaving my job over a year ago, I'll just say that supernatural things happen when you fully engage in pursuit of purpose.
As momentum builds, people and partnerships perfectly aligned with the vision will begin to appear at precisely the right moments. Opportunities and platforms start to pour in from nowhere. It is the most amazing and exciting feeling to witness the dream taking form.
As you start to accumulate wins, be sure to pause and absorb these moments. Breath them in. Celebrate! You're going to need them to get you through the murkier periods. Taking periodic inventory of your progress will affirm that you made the right decision and strengthen your resolve to take your grind to the next level.
Don't get it twisted. It's not all glitter and fairy dust. It's a constant tug of war between ego and purpose, optimism and practicality, complete confidence and debilitating insecurity that can be utterly maddening. You might want to warn your loved ones to prepare for a tad bit of neediness. Get a solid support team in position. You're going to need them.
15. Identity crisis
I was shocked at how much of my identity and esteem were based in my career. I had not accounted for the effect that not being on call, not having anyone depend on me for business results, not having to check up on my locations or not being a boss would have on me. I missed the importance of my position, but channeling that energy into my own goals helped me to move beyond it.
Flexibility is mandatory. No matter how well-mapped your plan is, there's no template for purpose. There will be dips, curves and collisions that you never saw coming. You're going to make mistakes, really awkward and embarrassing ones...and you'll accumulate some rejections along the way. Expect the unexpected. Your plan will evolve and evolve and evolve some more.
At the center of this narrative is a conscious decision made daily to give dominance to the inner voice that pushes toward a destination for which there is no road map or GPS, only an internal compass that operates primarily on faith. Let nothing deter you, the only way you'll miss your destination is if you stop moving forward.
Everyone's path will be different, but no matter who you are or what you want out of life, there's no escaping the process.
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here.
READ NEXT: Why being single doesn't make you a...
Growing up in the church, we were always taught to have faith in God. There were some times when I felt faith was not enough, and again I was told pray more, trust more. But one day my grandma, who raised me from birth, made the decision that maybe faith alone was not enough and sent me to therapy. That one decision, I believe, has been instrumental in my life.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love God for loving me, Jesus for saving me and The Holy Spirit for guiding me daily. But I do believe there are some people in the world who need a relationship with the Trinity and need a relationship with a licensed therapist/counselor/life coach whatever you'd like to call them, as well.
Purpose for faith
Now, there is a time and a place for your faith, which is all day every day. We need to seek God at all times to guide us and order our steps as he would see fit. We should always know that we are not meant to live alone, but have help from our heavenly father and those he set us up to interact with on Earth.
When you are struggling with finding your purpose, questioning if a choice in life is right or just how to feel about another person, God can be who we lean on for advice first. If you want to know if the person you are with is meant to be your spouse or if you need a financial breakthrough, again God will put you on the right path if you put your faith in him.
Purpose for therapy
But on the other hand, there are some things we need to have an honest conversation about regarding our struggles. Why is therapy so taboo of a topic, especially in the African-American community? Why do some in the church shun therapy?
Consider this, God allowed medical doctors to help heal the sick. He gave them the desire to help heal, he gave them the aptitude to retain all the pertinent education needed to diagnosis a patient and God gave them the skilled hands to save lives. So why wouldn't he do the same for psychiatric doctors to do the same thing with the mind?
Therapy is the opportunity to talk to someone outside of your family and friends who is unbiased and just wants to hear your concerns and help you to organize and resolve those concerns. Normally if you have a problem, you would go to a friend or family member or a minister or deacon who you could chat with a few times. But there are some problems that you might be too ashamed to discuss with people you know. It could be as simple as acknowledging that you don't know how to organize your life, or moving into heavier topics of battling depression, an addiction or even abuse. For all these things, a therapist can help.
Life coach — A life coach is a form of therapy to help you organize your life and career. You can go to them to help provide structure or advice on how to get the most out of life.
Counselor — A counselor comes in many forms in our lives. Students have a counselor at school to help with making the process of learning more effective when problems arise or when you need educational advice. You might go to a marriage or family counselor when you need to learn skill sets to better communicate with the most important people in your life if all parties don't align on how to resolve issues.
Therapist/psychologist — A psychologist might deal more with clinical issues that appear due to environmental circumstances or might be hereditary, such as depression, PTSD and other issues. They will work to put together a program that, over time, can help resolve or allow you to maintain a healthier outcome to better handle your struggles. Now sometimes you might need a psychiatrist, who is similar to a psychologist but can prescribe medication if your case warrants it.
You don't have to suffer in silence if you are ashamed. There is someone who is bound by law to keep your secret, but also help you figure out how to get past your shame if you just raise your hand for help. You can even find a faith-based therapist who will use their acquired therapeutic skills in tandem with the scriptures of the Bible to heal your soul.
Therapy and church
I went to an event where a friend was one of the panelists on a round table about women dealing with life. When they opened the floor to the audience, a mother who had brought her teenage daughter with her spoke up. She mentioned they did not have a great mother-daughter relationship and thought bringing her daughter around some successful women might help her and her daughter. Of course, the panel recommended the women utilize community resources (i.e. church, pastor, and the panelist offered to further help as well).
But I felt lead by the spirit to speak up and acknowledge my broken relationship with my mom and that I needed therapy in addition to my church resources to help me move forward. By no means have I bonded my relationship with my mom, as it takes two willing participants to align nor am I completely whole yet either. But my grandmother sensed the pain I held in because my mom wasn't around and my grandma had the courage to acknowledge that I needed more help to heal, even though she knew she loved and God loved me.
At the end of the panel discussion, a pastor who was in the audience who had spoken to the mother and daughter I mentioned earlier came up to me and thanked me. He said that most people in the church don't always feel comfortable acknowledging that they might need therapy in addition to their walk with God. Most feel God is all you need to survive in this world.
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19
This scripture is a completely true statement, but consider my earlier point about doctors. God does indeed supply for all our needs while we are on Earth. He gives you a mother and father or a surrogate replacement (my grandmother) to raise and train you, he gives you the opportunity to learn from others and he allows us to leverage the things others learn or have the aptitude to do, such as a doctor/police officer/teacher, etc... I was so appreciative to hear a minister, no less a black minister, applaud the use of therapy, especially because in the black community we are taught to be strong and keep our feelings and shame to ourselves.
Therapy is not just for the weak or unstable
So God allowed therapists and counselors to be here to help us when we feel we our own perspectives are too off course. All who know me would categorize me as being a lovable kind of crazy, I think. But I indeed have battled depression all my life. That's why my grandma sought help when I was young. She saw that same thing in my mom and didn't get her the help she might have needed, so she tried to break that cycle for me. I am not ashamed to admit that from time to time I battle depression, as I believe we need to be honest and transparent to help break the cycle. This has helped to provide clarity and understanding in the times I had irrational thoughts or perspectives for my friends and family to know when I need their support the most.
Also, therapy should not be labeled as something for the insane or weak-minded. For example, depression is a disease that many suffer from. Just like being a functioning addict, a lot of people function daily with depression and you wouldn't even know it.There have been moments when I felt like I've overcome depression and then there are days a single moment can bring the waves crashing back and I'm under the sickness once more. This illness is not found in just broken or abused people.
Faith and therapy
Finally, faith is very important in my life. My faith has shaped and formed me to be the woman I am today, flaws and all. My faith has made me a better person and it allows me to acknowledge that I always have room to grow. But on the other hand, therapy has helped save me too, as it helped me to put life into perspective and know what my triggers in life are. It works to provide some coping skills to combat my shortcomings.
There have been moments in my life where, on paper, life seemed perfect and I was on track for more success, but mentally I couldn't leave my house or believe my life was worthy to anyone — including myself. In these times, I would always get on my knees and pray to God to help me. And I truly believe one source of help he put on my path was therapy.
If you ever feel like life has got you down or you could use a shoulder to lean on, I highly suggest working to have a relationship with God first, but also know that there's additional help while we are here on Earth in the form of therapy to help us along our journey as well.
Spread awareness about the value of therapy by sharing this post via Facebook below!
LaDonna is a Brooklyn resident, by way of Texas. I've had a passion for good food since birth, always travel-ready for my next world adventure and have a love for God and a relationship with Him. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
READ NEXT: Hear our voices, don't ignore our cries: Why are our activists killing...
I'm not religious. Whenever I tell people this, it's always the same raised-eyebrow face that comes right before the question: “So, do you believe in God?" To answer that — yes, I do. However, the way I seek to connect is probably slightly (okay, very) different than someone who considers themselves to be religious. But first, there seem to be some misconceptions about people who say they're spiritual vs. people who say their religious. So allow me to clarify.
Just because I'm spiritual does NOT mean:
1) I'm an Atheist
Someone who does NOT believe in God or any higher power.
2) I smoke weed all day in order to be “connected.”
Spiritual or not, if you smoke weed it's because you like it #dassit.
3) I can't discuss or even understand your beliefs, even if you don't reciprocate mine.
To do this would actually be the opposite of what I'm trying to achieve in my spiritual walk.
4) I don't or have never read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Torah, etc.
Although I don't agree with a lot of aspects of the bible (in particular), I CAN acknowledge that there's truth in it...I just believe it's been tainted.
So back to being spiritual. What exactly does that mean? Everyone has their own interpretation but the general consensus is that spiritual people are those who seek a personal relationship with God (or the Creator, The Truth, The Source, The Universe etc.) outside of any religious denominations. That relationship is achieved by healing old emotional wounds from childhood, properly feeding our physical bodies and meditation and prayer with oneself. Not too far out there, right?
You might know someone who is spiritual and perhaps you've had conversations about chakras (energy centers in the body), cleansing (clearing away negative energy and thoughts), the foods we consume (raw, alkaline, organic), stones (different stones carry certain properties), meditations (finding peace in stillness), supreme mathematics (the spiritual properties of numbers), etc. Although these things can seem a little overwhelming to someone on the outside looking in, they're really not. They are simply tools that those of us who practice spirituality use to achieve balance within ourselves and maintain a personal relationship with God.
Here are a few stones that have metaphysical properties:
It's all a system of overlapping parts, which in turn complete the grand design. We consume certain foods and avoid others so as not cloud the body, we meditate and align our chakras so that our minds stay sharp and still enough to hear the voice of God (conscious) and so on and so forth. The ultimate goal is to feel rooted in God and yourself at all times. Hopefully, I provided some clarity on what exactly it means to be spiritual, though I'm sure I've sparked some questions. If you do have questions there are tons of YouTube videos on meditation and spirituality. You can also head over to www.higherperspective.com, www.thespiritscience.net or even mention me on Twitter (@SAXjetsON) with any questions you might...