I posted this image today on my Instagram and smiled, remembering the first time I saw it.
I was 22 and a recent graduate from college. I took a job in a different state, away from my friends and family. I was in a fast-paced environment, absorbing information like a sponge, and working in a field that I envisioned myself in since I was a teenager. Yet, I still felt anxious, as if I was not doing enough. “This is what you’re supposed to do,” I told myself after taking my leap of faith. “You’re 22, you have plenty of time to figure things out.”
A few months into my Jordan year, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to skip this decade entirely. You see, no one tells you that 23 can be a rocky year, especially for those of us who are high-achieving, degree-toting millennials; thriving off completed checklists and meaningful relationships.
Although I was making new friends, and delved myself into my work, church and gym; I still felt unbalanced. I felt like something was missing, but couldn’t put my finger on it. The only people who really could relate to me were my tribe of 23-year-old friends who were experiencing the exact same thing.
I noticed we were all singing the same tune of the “23-year-old blues”. We were too old for the college activities, but too young not to be fabulous and fulfilled in every aspect of our lives. Our conversations became a constant rotation of the following lines:
Do I need a master’s degree?
These student loans though.
They got engaged?
Who had a baby?
Did you see him/her on Facebook?
I came to the conclusion that it was an epidemic.
Some of the most talented tenth in my circle were stuck — but we weren’t without faith. Life still went on and eventually we found our footing. Now, at the boss age of 25, I look back on the amazing ride it has been in the past 730 days. Literally, everything has changed.
I’m at a new job, making new friends, bought a new car, moved to another state, and am working on my master’s degree. Is life perfect? Absolutely not, but it’s shaping beautifully.
I wish I could reassure my 23-year-old self that those growing pains are strengthening her for the life ahead.
For all the recent grads entering the workforce, let me warn you: 23 can be a whirlwind in many ways, but relax and hold on. Here’s a few tips:
Meet as many people as you can
Become politically awakened
Fall in love
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Start your business
Do community service
Don’t be fooled by social media (most people don’t publicize their struggle)
Become good with your money
The fake friends eventually drop themselves off, you’ll figure out how to make a few good meals, and the times of uncertainty that you feel and don’t tell anyone about won’t last forever.
You will bounce back and you will thrive.
Be sure to GROW through it and enjoy the ride, we’ll see you on the other side.
Once called "The Hyper Millennial" by a colleague, Vannesia is excited to take the world by storm. Here to impact all she encounters, she strives to use the inspiration God gives her to encourage the world one person at a time.
Keep up with Vannesia on Instagram and Twitter...
When Time magazine and subsequent publications dubbed millennials the "ME, ME, ME" generation and claimed that they are overconfident, lazy, and self-absorbed, they forgot to assess the claim against the work of young black people. Though it has been a tough and exhausting year to be young and black — for one, the daily anxiety that one will sign in to any social media platform and find yet another video of a young black person killed — it has also been an incredibly inspiring and illuminating one. Young black people have done great work; they have organized and moved many young people across the nation against many social ills. They have mobilized against police brutality, black-on-black crime, campus violence, threats and intimidation and the confederate flag, among many others.
However imperfect in their tactics, young black people are asking and demanding that America immediately negotiates what past generations believed were immutable truths of this nation. These young people are insisting: the power of the people and self-preservation above history, empowerment of all marginalized groups of people and identities, responsibility for one’s narrative, healing amid constant struggle, simultaneous visibility, exposure and protection.
Young black people might be incredibly ambitious in the nature of their demand for a more just and equitable world; they are providing answers to questions the world has not even ventured to ask of itself. And perhaps older journalists and analysts are unable to neatly categorize millennial demands and as such do not properly contextualize it, or simply miss the gravitas of that which millennials ask for and demand on social media.
We see this clash of old thought against new angst most noticeably in the structural changes young black people fought for this year. Outside of physical demonstrations and protests, young black people are making demands of institutions that seem preposterous and self-righteous to those who assume that institutional history or institutions are immune to or incapable of structural change. For example, this year, some students at Harvard Law School were called “anarchists” because they demanded the removal of a seal bearing the coat of arms of slave owner, Isaac Royall Jr. One legal historian and visiting Harvard Professor, Daniel R. Coquillette, said the following on the issue:
"I understand why the students are upset, but this is just a fact of the school. If we started renaming things and taking down monuments of people linked to slavery, you would start with Washington..."
But it is this presumption of “just a fact” or history that young black people, from Bree Newsome to students the world over in South Africa to Harvard, believe is threatening. Rather than revisionist or destructive, such conversation on the power of institutional symbols and monuments is incredibly powerful and optimistic. Just as images and symbols have incited hatred and violence toward others in the past, young black people believe their removal heals and that they have a responsibility to put in their place new images that educate and serve the basis of a more-equal society.
The poem below, originally written in 2014 after the shooting of Mike Brown and revised with more recent developments, is in essence a reflection of this thought and these questions as we head into the new year. The spirit of the poem stems from the etymology of the word: amok. According to sources, “Amok originated from the Malay/Indonesian word mengamuk, which roughly defined means “to make a furious and desperate charge.” According to Malay/Indonesian culture, amok was rooted in a deep spiritual belief. They believed that amok was caused by the hantu belian, which was an evil tiger spirit that entered one’s body and caused a heinous act. As a result of this belief, those in Indonesian culture tolerated amok and dealt with the after effects with no ill will towards the assailant.”
Young black people have seen their fair share of “furious and desperate charges” this year. The future threatens more: we face deeper, more complex questions, and what appears to be divergent paths ahead. Some say that this is the most divided the country has been since the Civil War. The heart of our social malaise is a deep traumatic past, whose spirit runs amok as Fear. Yet, in spite and perhaps because of the demands of a time such as this, the inherent value of each person is more pronounced. It is in this belief of hope, value and optimism that we must all do our best work ahead.
Hantu Belian: Fear, runs amok
Dear Black men,
(Dear Black people)
In this nation, Fear, runs amok
He is in Fruitvale Station, the streets of Ferguson, Chicago, Baltimore
A corner store in Staten Island, a mall in Ohio, in a home in Harlem, the halls of Harvard Law, the noose at Ole Miss, threats at Mizzou, the rhetoric of Trump’s Islamophobia
Unfettered, he is seen both in the light of day and the black of night
He is in the forums and comments, the thoughts and breathe behind the veiled screen
He is with history in his eyes, service on his lips
He is directionless, but not aimless
He appears ever present
More so than in years past
You are there by chance or by posture
And Fear sees you; some exchange occurs
Then, you are in a chokehold for not responding readily, briskly
A knee jolted deep in your back for speaking without regard
Bullet to your head for a move made without contempt
He is state sanctioned violence, state repression
He is the Dark Vader of belligerence
He is post racial self-censure, intimidation, the burden of perpetual self valuation
He necessitates that you juxtapose your "thug" image to a "civil" one
That you plead for nuanced media representation
But you see him as he is
As both dangerous yet impersonal
He will kill you, but is not after you
He is himself, but is not a person
He is 300 years of a traumatic past, and not just this moment
He is a system and you are a people
People change systems, and systems change people
In this nation, one nation, we are all equal by terms, but not yet all free
But a majestic sense of self was never predicated on emancipation
You still are who you were before Fear defined you
You still are virtuous, inherently so.
Bridget Boakye is a millennial writer, editor, poet, business creative, among other...
We live in era where getting in contact with your friends, family, and followers is easy as a click of a button on your mobile device. However, with that accessibility, it's very easy for your message to get lost in the shuffle. Blastchat is trying to solve that problem by living up to its slogan — Mass communication done easily. I've used their app for the past week and their founders might have solved a problem I didn't even realize I had. Check out the interview below to learn more about Blastchat, the team, and the future of mass communication.
BLAVITY: Who is the team behind Blastchat? What is the background of yourself and your fellow co-founder Jhamar?
BLASTCHAT: The Blast team is comprised of two individuals: Darrian Collins and Jhamar Youngblood. We have been friends for nearly six years; both having graduated from the same high school, The Patrick School, in Elizabeth, NJ.
Jhamar D Youngblood: After graduating with a finance degree a few years ago, I decided to launch my first startup, Socialnate. Socialnate was a website similar to eBay, but instead of the proceeds of each auction going to users pockets, it went to the charity of the user’s choice. After working on that for two years, it failed and I decided to attend Dartmouth College and pursue a master's degree in Globalization Studies. There I joined some friends from China in starting a music startup. That startup failed as well. A few months later and having learned so much from two previous failed startup attempts, I decided to work on my third startup, Blastchat.
Darrian Collins: A current student at Rutgers University studying Marketing and Public Affairs. I joined Blastchat when the company was just seven months old. At Blastchat, I am currently the head of user acquisition and increasing brand awareness, especially with college and high school students. I have always been intrigued with how young kids like myself start multi-million and billion dollar companies. I always wanted to be a part of something like that, so when I got the chance to join Blastchat, I was thrilled.
BLAVITY: High level and in your own words – what is Blastchat and what problem are you trying to solve?
BLASTCHAT: Blastchat is fairly simply, send one message out to your respected audience and receive individual responses/reactions a second later.
Two problems we noticed:
1. Facebook/Twitter are the "best" one to many messaging platforms but the visibility rates of tweets and Facebook post are extremely low ~5% because the platforms are SO BIG! There is too much noise!
2. Our generation does NOT like signing up to email newsletters!
So we created an alternative for each problem. Send private blasts to friends and family or send a public blast to your followers.
The fundamental belief is the information you care about should come directly to you and you shouldn't have to search noisy platforms to find it! This is what is at the core of our revenue model, (adding buy buttons to blast, adding a classifieds section: jobs, auto apartments).
BLAVITY: Jhamar – What inspired you to create Blastchat?
BLASTCHAT: One day while at Dartmouth, I woke up and wanted to play tennis. And tennis isn’t really a sport you can play by yourself, so I needed to find some friends that wanted to play as well. I had about 30 or so friends on campus that I could ask to play, the only problem I had was getting in contact with all 30.
Here were my options:
Starting a big group message with 30 people in it.
Sending the same message to 30 different people via text message.
Send an email blast?
Write a post on Facebook or Twitter.
I wasn't putting 30 strangers in a group chat, we all know how annoying that can be. I wasn't going to copy and paste the same message and send it to 30 different people. I have never sent an email blast in my life and I wasn't going to start on that Saturday morning. So I decided to post on Facebook and tweet: “Anyone at Dartmouth want to play some tennis around noon?”. No one replied! Then I thought there had to be an easier and more effective way for me to reach my respected audience. Two weeks later I came up with the name Blastchat. Three months after that I had a working MVP and three months after that I had a co-founder, Darrian.
BLAVITY: Darrian – What were your first thoughts on the initial roll out of Blastchat and what made you want to join Jhamar in this start up?
BLASTCHAT: I was amazed that somebody close to me came up with such a unique idea that can be very impactful for our generation. My relentless effort to find a business to be a part of to gain business experience made me want to join Blastchat. I saw a great opportunity to get business experience and help a close friend make the idea of Blastchat successful.
BLAVITY: "Mass communication made easy” is your tagline – Why is mass communication chat so important right now?
BLASTCHAT: We believe mass communication has always been important since day one when primates wrote the first ever message on a rock and shared it throughout their community. I’m not sure if that actually happened, but I’m sure the experience was similar. Or even with the invention of the printing press. Throughout history, humanity has always figured out a way to make mass communication easier. We are simply enhancing it in our own way.
BLAVITY: Tell us more about the technology behind Blastchat and how it works.
BLASTCHAT: We have two main products: Blastchat Private and Blastchat Public. With private blast, we read everyone in your device’s contacts with the Blastchat app and import them over to your Blastchat contact list. There you can send one message to as many people as possible. After that, all recipients of your blast will receive your message a second later via push notification and when they reply they will reply to you and only you via iMessage. So the initial blast happens in the Blastchat app and all responses continue in iMessage. You can blast links, pictures, videos or simple messages like “What is everyone doing tonight?” All recipients will then have 24 hours to respond to your blast, after that all blasts will be permanently deleted.
You can also follow people on Blastchat and receive their content in real-time via push notification. This is great for companies, brands, celebrities or anyone that wants to share real-time life updates. So right now Darrian has 150 Blastchat followers, so he can send one message and 150 will receive push notifications with his message. This is good for bars sending out daily specials, bloggers and others.
We are also experimenting with a feature called Blastchat Classifieds where you can send classified ads to anyone that is following your school on Blastchat. This is aimed to replace bulletin boards on college campuses.
BLAVITY: The social networking ecosystem is crowded to say the least. A lot of overlap of in services and everyone is competing for the same users. How do you plan to differentiate yourselves?
BLASTCHAT: We differentiate ourselves by adding value to people’s lives. We are solving two problems that not too many people are solving. 1. There aren't many effective ways to contact your core audience (friends/family) in real-time. Group chats can be a hassle and annoying and Facebook and Twitter are too noisy and big. 2. Our generation doesn't sign up for email newsletters or any marketing emails. Email marketing is still effective, but not for the younger generations. What will marketers do in 5, 10, 15 years when we grow older? Try to convince us to use our email more?
Another thing is, your messages are only visible for 24 hours! This is different from many other communication networks where it becomes more of a diary more than a communication hub.
BLAVITY: Jhamar – Your posts on Medium talk a lot about your desire to stand out as black founders in tech, but at the same time the struggle that comes with not fitting in and being understood. Tell us why it's so important for you to stand out.
BLASTCHAT: This is really hard because all entrepreneurs need to stand out in order to be noticed. But for us, we stand by default, simply because we are usually the only black people in the room and are asking old white men for money. So it’s like how do we stand out while also showing these older white men that we are just like the thousands of white men they invest in every year? But we realized that is none of our concern. We will continue to be true to who we are and build an amazing product; that’s all we can control at this point.
BLAVITY: Darrian – Your post on Medium also really hit home about the struggle of transitioning out of a traditional path toward entrepreneurship. How are you and Jhamar using the struggle to fuel the success of Blastchat?
BLASTCHAT: As cliché as this may sound, we are using the struggle to motivate us. We face many obstacles trying to make Blastchat successful, but we just let those struggles make us even more determined to create a successful product. Jhamar always told me how much effort and sacrifice it would take and I never believed him until these past few months. So the Medium post came from a place of me finally realizing what it meant to be an entrepreneur, a black one at that, in a space where we aren't really accepted. But as the famous modern philosopher Jermaine Cole said, “it’s beauty in the struggle” and we try to find that beauty every single day to keep us going.
BLAVITY: Where do you guys see yourselves 5-10 years from now?
BLASTCHAT: In ten years we see Blastchat as the most effective way to send any mass message to your respected audience. Amber alerts, government alerts, school alerts, company updates, stock updates, job postings, car postings, coupons, limited-edition merchandise, the possibilities seem endless. However, it's important that we don't think too far ahead because we will lose our focus on what needs to be done five days from now.
BLAVITY: What recommendations would you give to the Blavity community of black millennials who are interested in entrepreneurship?
BLASTCHAT: Firstly, this will probably be the most difficult thing you will ever do in your life. The reason being is there are little-to-no resources available for us and support isn't easily accessible. Because of this we have to work a million times harder than everyone else. But that’s ok because it will only make us better in the long haul. Our history has shown us that we are a resilient group of people and we overcome everything! Our ancestors gave their lives so we can have the opportunities that we have today. We owe it to them to keep fighting in order to push our culture forward. They really sacrificed their lives for us, the least we can do is look the racism in this industry directly in its eyes and say we will never give up! Secondly, unlike other cultures, most of us are not lucky enough to have access to resources or connections from family and friends. We don't have inheritance money to use for new ventures. But we did inherit swag from our ancestors. So use this swag and get together with other black entrepreneurs and build something people want. This is probably the most important piece of advice. Then when you build the MVP, talk to the users or customers consistently about how you can make your company or product better. Lastly, you can't do this alone! Connect with other black tech entrepreneurs and try to be of value to each other. Individually we may see occasional success, but united we can make a big impact and change things around here!
BLAVITY: I personally really enjoyed the Blast Life episodes. It was entertaining and a great way to meet you guys and understand your story. Do you have more episodes coming soon? Please tell me you guys are still not working in the park?
BLASTCHAT: Yes! More episodes are definitely in the works. Those episodes are meant to put a face behind our brand and show kids from the urban city that there are black people that are cool and fun who start tech companies. Being black in tech has been stigmatized for so long. You were always called a nerd if you participated in anything STEM related. So now it's like, yeah we are “nerds” but we still will kick your ass on the basketball court. Or as you see on the episodes Darrian can out-dance you (maybe not!). But you get the point, we are lit! And it's a bit chilly these days but we're trying to get into an accelerator that just opened up in Newark. I hope we get in. How sad would it be if the only two black people in Newark with a tech company don’t get in? We’ll be forced to take our chances and move to San Francisco.
BLAVITY: What’s been the most difficult part about growing your business and what are you doing to overcome that?
BLASTCHAT: I think we all know how hard it is to be black in the tech industry. There have been times when we've had investors walk away from us while we were pitching to them. Literally, just walk away from us while we were pitching. That was a daunting experience. We are able to laugh at it now, but the lack of resources and support makes this seem nearly impossible, but the respect and acceptance that we receive from our users balances it out and it motivates us to keep going. Our solution to this is simple, keep listening to our users and keep building and making the product better. Something good will come out of it, eventually.
Another difficult thing to overcome is changing human behavior because most people are followers and do not have any foresight whatsoever, they sit around and wait for the cool people to lead them. There have been times when would pitch Blastchat to content creators, letting them know that they would be able to get content in their respected audience hands faster than many other platforms - and we get responses like “We use Twitter. We are happy with our content distribution strategy.” And we are like HOW? You have 11,000 followers, 75 percent of them are either bots or haven't used the service in years, 15 percent haven't used it in the past two months and 5 percent use it once a week. So in some cases having 100 loyal Blastchat followers is better than having 11,000 bot followers on other platforms. The solution to this is simple; stay persistent and keep pitching. These days it’s easier to convince content makers to use Blastchat because we were able to get All-Star point guard from the Cleveland Cavs, Kyrie Irving, to join and send blasts to his fans. One of the most amazing people out there; he’s one of those cool people.
Follow Blastchat on Twitter and Tumblr, and download the app...
The Frugal Feminista offers tips on how young adults can build wealth.
I grew up thinking that a college degree would be my ticket to wealth or at least entry into the upper echelons of the middle class. But after taking most of my twenties to dig myself out of $65,000 of student loan debt amassed after a B.A. in Political Science, a MSEd in Bilingual Education, and an EdM in Organizational Leadership, I realized that the correlation between a college education and building wealth is pretty weak.
While my credentials positioned me to earn more--my income nearly tripled from my first degree to the third--my degrees did not position me to save more, invest more, or be more discerning about credit use; only strong skills in money management could position me do that.
Here are six wealth-building strategies and principles that I used to build a strong financial foundation for myself over the last fifteen years.
Get organized and knowledgeable about your student loans. Part of being a millennial college graduate is being responsible and informed about your student loans. Take several weekends to educate yourself on the ins and outs of your student loans. Create virtual and/or real folders to organize the following information.
a) The type and number of loans that you have. Do you have subsidized and/or unsubsidized loans? Do you have federal loans, private loans, or both? Keep the name and number of your lender(s) in your phone, on an Excel file on your computer, and in hardcopy form for easy access.
b) The amount of the principal and the monthly interest that is accrued.You need to know how much money you owe and the amount that is accrued monthly to the penny so that your efforts to eliminate debt are grounded in accurate numbers instead of approximations.
c) The repayment loans and options. Have you educated yourself on loan forgiveness programs, the Pay As You Earn repayment plan, and the discounts applied to student loan payments for setting up automatic withdrawals from your checking or saving accounts? Researching these options can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on your student loan payments.
d) The life of the loan in years. How long will it take to repay your loan if you only make the minimum payment? How long do you want to carry this debt? What are the opportunity costs of prolonging the repayment process? Will extending the life of your loan delay purchasing your first home, quitting a job, starting a family or new business, or paying for a wedding?
"Make sure that as you pursue your passion, fight for love, find your voice, and stake out your claim, you are also building both personal and generational wealth along the way."
Live at home for as long as you can. Without the burden of high rent prices, you can start to build a 6-month emergency fund, save to buy your own home, put a big dent in your college loans, or free yourself to take low-paying, high-passion opportunities and jobs, thus preparing you for bigger, greater, and more meaningful long-term gains.
On the other hand, if living at home is not an option, scout out neighborhoods and cities that will use less than 30% of your total take-home pay. This may mean having to share your space with a roommate to keep your costs low and shopping sparingly for home furnishings.
Understand that everything has diminishing returns, including education. This may be a hard pill to swallow, especially since we as African-Americans have been historically and systematically locked out of access to higher education opportunities, but pursuing graduate studies for the sake of pursuing graduate studies or "enriching" your life is waste of money if you are not clear about the financial returns on that investment and if you are already in debt.
If you are committed to life-long learning, consider a certificate course, self-study, or one of the many low-cost or free online opportunities that some of the most prestigious colleges and universities offer until you are 100% certain that you need that second or third degree.
Aim for the 50-30-20 rule when it comes to budgeting. Wealth is a decision. It is a lifetime sum of day-to-day financial decisions, which begins and ends with tracking your spending and knowing the difference between needs and wants. If you need a budget starter tip, try the 50-30-20 rule. Use 50% of your income for your needs, 30% for your wants, and 20% for your savings and investing. If you want to jumpstart your journey to wealth, flip those last two percentages: save and invest 30% of your income and use 20% of your income for your fun, wants, and desires.
Use your youth to your advantage. While making universal mistakes, trips, and falls in the way of career and love are all a part of growing into your adulthood, your twenties shouldn't be your "throw away" decade when it comes to building a legacy of wealth. Speak to your human resources representative about enrolling in the company's 401k program, Tax-deferred annuity program, or the like so you can plan for your retirement. Speak to a financial advisor about investing as soon as possible so that your money will outpace the rate of inflation. With compound interest and youth on your side, you will not have to play catch-up when it comes to planning your post-work days.
Click here to read the rest of this post on Ebony.com.
Kara Stevens is the founder of the personal finance and lifestyle blog The Frugal Feminista, an online home for financial empowerment, girl power, and juicy living. Connect with her on Twitter @frugalfeminista.
Ebony.com is an online magazine destination with insight on African-American culture, news and perspectives. Check out the site for more great content covering trends, advice, entertainment and more.
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