Change Is In the Air: Prince, Lemonade and the End of Coursework

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Beyonce and Prince

A lot has happened over the last two weeks. As many across the world mourned Prince, I sat closely watching with awe at how many lives he has touched through his art, philanthropy and mentorship. He was such a complex man, a talented musician and a ground-breaker in ways that many never imagined or had the courage to face. Prince redefined manhood and artistry – doing this in such a way that I never even questioned who he was, why he wore eyeliner or heels or even bothered to wonder about his sexuality. He was just Prince – doing his own thing and many of us accepted him as so.

Just a few days after Prince’s death, Beyonce released Lemonade. I didn’t watch the visual album on the night of its release, but didn’t wait too long afterwards to indulge in craze. As a non-Beyhive member :-), I watched simply to see what all the talk was about. I found it hard to pull away from the first viewing and convinced that I’d missed something monumental, I watched Lemonade again on the same night.

There is nothing new that I can add to the seemingly endless praises, critiques, analyses, dissections, accolades, and affirmations. What I will share is that Prince’s death and Beyonce’s release of Lemonade came at a time when I was closing one chapter and opening another. For those of you who have been following me for the last four years during my academic journey, you’ve read about my many revelations and realizations; challenges related to attempts to find balance in my life, practice self-care, excel academically, sort out personal and professional relationships, recreate my voice, honor who I am … it has been a long FOUR years! But on Friday, I celebrated a HUGE milestone. This semester marks the end of my time taking coursework fulltime (four to five classes); it marks the end of evening classes and late night commutes; it marks the end of the academy controlling 70%-80% of my schedule with required courses, homework, and papers. Yes, I still have one more elective and my dissertation but no other semester will ever be like those I have experienced over the last four years.

I am in no way comparing Beyonce to Prince, but what I am doing is gauging the inspiration I gained from both these events. Prince’s legacy lives on in my life as a reminder to JUST BE ME. There are no boxes, no limits, not constraints on who I am and exactly how I perform in my me-ness. Both artists remind me that my platform – writing and teaching – is not for my own success or celebration, but as a gift to the world: to shape, recreate, define, alter, and inform those who I reach.

I approach this summer like many of previous years with grand plans, long reading lists, a quasi-schedule and high hopes of being renewed along the way. But this summer is also a little different. I am starting a 21 day vegan challenge on tomorrow, attending a 10-day silent retreat in July and aggressively attempting to regain control over my physical health. In their very own ways, both Prince and Beyonce gifted me over these last two weeks: they gave me an extra bout of courage to move forward, press on, and be me authentically … without apology. They also reminded me – yet again – that I can’t give or serve without first caring for me. Let’s see what the summer brings … stay tuned ;-).

Re-Blog: When A Sanctuary Isn’t Safe: Commentary on the Charleston Church Shooting

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Thursday, June 18th marked the 3-year anniversary of my blog! I wanted to write a celebratory post; reflect on the experience of blogging consistently for 3 years; write about how refreshing and renewing this has been. But instead, I was saddened and literally heart-broken as I watched the events in the Charleston Shooting continue to be uncovered. I’ve struggled for the last few days to find just the words to say, etching out only snippets of thoughts on Facebook and reposting much of what family and friends shared. On today, I am thankful for my friend and author of After the Altar Call for her eloquently written post. I am re-blogging it here:

Hello World,

By definition, a sanctuary is a safe place. And a church sanctuary, a place dedicated to God, should be, just ought to be the safest place on earth to dwell. And so when I heard about the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina late Wednesday night, the fact that a church sanctuary is no longer the safest place on earth was my first thought. And if you cannot be safe in a church sanctuary, well, there is really no place else to go except to Heaven…

But I’m not ignorant of American history. American black churches have long been terrorized by racist acts…

Ku Klux Klan members, planted a bomb at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and killed four girls, Addie Mae Collins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14 on Sept. 15, 1963.

On June 16, 1964, Ku Klux Klan members, who were targeting white civil rights worker Michael Schwerner, burned down Mount Zion Church in Longdale, Mississippi but not before beating the church members as they left the church.

Within hours of the election of President Obama in November 5, 2008, three white men torched Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts.

And these are just a few of these terrorist acts…

And for American black people, churches have historically been much more than houses of prayer which is why black churches have been targets for racist attacks throughout the years. Aside from endeavoring to usher black people to Heaven, black churches also contributed to the betterment of their members’ lives on earth by being havens as slaves hid themselves along the Underground Railroad to escape slavery, establishing schools at a critical time in the nation’s history when education was often denied black people and affirming our humanity by refusing to allow members to be second-class citizens in their houses of worship…Below are just a few contributions of black churches to America…

First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia was a stop on the Underground Railroad as underneath the lower auditorium floor is another “subfloor.” Only four feet of height separates the floors.

Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga. is the birthplace of Morehouse College which began as Augusta Bible Institute in 1867. The name of the institute was later renamed Morehouse College, moving to Atlanta in 1879.

According to the Emanuel A.M.E. website, “in 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church’s founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston…During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshiping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning ‘God with us.’”

But as our predecessors knew way back when that we have to realize right now is: Until we get Heaven (if that is where you are headed), we have to live right here in this once slavery allowing, gender pay gap perpetuating , Kim Kardashian breaking-the-Internet glorifying, Honey Boo Boo paying, ozone layer puncturing, obesity causing, transracial entertaining, God’s name in vain taking, black lives minimizing, racist white police officers excusing, school shootings fostering, prosperity gospel teaching, government stalling, election stealing, God increasingly marginalizing country of ours…And I’m sure you could add to the list…In other words, no place, not even black church sanctuaries, is safe no matter what we would like them to be.

So what are we to do on this day June 19, Juneteenth and going forward?

As simplistic as this may sound, first of all, we have to make our souls are sanctuaries. Unless, we purge the hate from our hearts, even our souls are vulnerable to the attack of the enemy which I know is the spiritual force that influenced this most recent terrorist Dylan Roof ,who was allowed to come into Emanuel A.M.E. Church’s Bible Study where he subsequently murdered nine innocent people. Ironically, the Bible is the blueprint for the saving of our souls.

Secondly, we have to acknowledge that racism is still here in 2015 despite our black president and all of the other accomplishments black people have amassed in recent decades. In fact, and I may be mistaken, the election of President Obama seems to have galvanized racists in a way that rivals the terrorism of white supremacists decades ago.

Thirdly, black people, white people, people that love people, all people need to find ways to promote racial reconciliation whether that be in politics, churches, in school systems, at the grocery store, etc.

In big ways and in small ways, we have to REFUSE to succumb to the prevailing notion that we are different. People may have different ways of expressing themselves and we can celebrate and should appreciate our differences, but underneath it all, we are all creations of God no matter how He grouped us.

I don’t know if my words will make a bit of difference, but this is my commentary on sanctuaries, church or otherwise, in 2015. There are none and never have been except the ones that we create within our soulds through God and take with us when we die and return to God.

At the very least, please pray for the friends and families of those slain by this terrorist…And if you live in the metro Atlanta area, there will be a prayer vigil to demonstrate solidarity with those grieving in South Carolina on Saturday evening, 6/20, at 8pm at Stockbridge City Hall, 4640 N Henry Blvd, Stockbridge, GA 30281.

We’re Growing

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3 years seems like forever ago – but it was during that time that I finally committed to creating Carter’s Blog Corner and just a year later that the concept of Crazy, Sexy Wellness (CSW) came about. It would take another year to complete the foundational concepts and test the program aspects. This year I was finally ready to hire a graphic designer to pull create an image that embodies what CSW currently is and will continue to fully grow into.

After a very unfortunate first-run with my initial vendor selection, I was paired with an artist who displayed professionalism, courtesy, efficiency and knowledge of the industry beyond simply creating my logo. I am forever grateful to K-WUD Multimedia LLC for this work.

Keep a look out this summer for additional updates to my blog – we are growing slowly, but surely ;-).

CrazySexyWellness_Original

Being Black …

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http://blackartinamerica.com/

http://blackartinamerica.com/

It’s the end of the semester and I so badly want to celebrate, but how can I??? I find myself struggling daily to find hope in what seems to be a season of despair and hopelessness. As I continue to watch responses to the Eric Garner verdict and ongoing responses to the Michael Brown grand jury verdict, I am convinced that there are some people that just don’t get it. While I want more than anything to join my former classmates in a die in, I am stuck finishing homework so I write instead. Sidebar: I am reminded that life is a series of choices. Last week friends gathered to protest but my mom was visiting and at home sick. Today I have chosen to stay at home and finish my homework – I have mixed emotions about my choices and often wonder where I would’ve been during the 60s. If the whole aim is to interrupt, do we not gather in spite of our regularly scheduled programs (schedules)? Food for thought …

My hope is that someone who really wants to understand a different perspective will take a moment to read this post.

I am a 30-something year-old Black woman. I have 3 college degrees and am working on a doctorate. I DO NOT have a criminal record. In spite of the aforementioned, this is what it is like for me to be Black in America:

  • There are neighborhoods that I refuse to drive through after dark.
  • While traveling with my family, friends or white colleagues, I get nervous if we eat at restaurants in neighborhoods that are not diverse or stop in stores that I fear are not accustomed to seeing and serving Black clients.
  • I have entered a room after completing a phone interview and am pretty sure that the people did NOT expect a Black woman to walk through the door.
  • When I travel home to visit my family I am EXTRA cautious about obeying all traffic laws and being at or close to home afterhours for fear of being pulled over by the cops and any subsequent results
  • I often struggle with when and how to comment in class with an acknowledgment that I may be labeled as the “angry Black woman”.
  • I have been the only Black woman in several classes and felt very strongly that the aforementioned is true.
  • I enter high-end retail stores with a presumption that I will be looked at and treated differently because I am not wearing a particular (or often visible) label or other physical status symbol.
  • I often dine at restaurants and wonder if another table will be treated differently than mine or if our service will vary because the waiter/waitress believes that “Black people don’t tip.”
  • I believe the American education, legal and healthcare system has failed Black people on multiple occasions.
  • I THINK ABOUT RACE, THE IMPACT OF MY ACTIONS, HOW I AM PERCEIVED, WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I AM INVOLVED IN SOME SORT OF LEGAL INFRACTION OFTEN!!!

As a Black woman in the U.S. who has participated in many of the things that other  think guarantee equality – higher education, work force contributions, extensive travel in the U.S. and abroad – I am WELL AWARE that on any given day I AM Mike Brown. I AM Eric Garner.

Bitter Sweet

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Ferguson1

The last 7 days have brought on a flurry of emotions! Just last week as we were at the gym, I remained glued to the television screen: “Ferguson Grand Jury to Announce Decision”. I vacillated between wanting to stop my workout and head home and not wanting to get in the car for fear that I’d miss the reading of the decision.  8pm CST the decision was to be read. We sat there … 9pm EST … 9:05 … 9:10 … 9:15 … the minutes seemed like hours. And finally, the county prosecutor arrived and began reading. As I sat there it almost seemed predictable – the setup was so clear – but I held on. And there it was – no indictment. My heart dropped. Just as I’d hoped for a different outcome with the Zimmerman trial, here too I wanted something different – I longed for an ounce of justice for the family and for this young man whose life was taken way too soon.

I watched the news for hours, literally unable to peel myself away from the screen or social media.  I tried my best to listen to and read both sides of the story, but was unable to bear many of the racist and insensitive remarks. I watched protects spark and unnecessary looting – graciously caught by the media, but remained thankful for the thousands of peaceful protects not only in the US, but across the globe!

On the days leading up to Thanksgiving when I thought I’d be relaxing and enjoying a much awaited week off from classes, I grieved. I grieved and continue to grieve for a country that seems lost. I grieve as the evidence continues to be released and I am further convinced that this process was not followed properly or orthodoxly. I grieve for those who dare not take a second of their day to even attempt to understand what it is like to be Black in America. I grieve for those that believe that money, education, or a reputable job somehow creates a color blind society. I grieve for those who think that a young man who allegedly commits petty theft deserves to die and lay dead in the street as a spectacle. I grieve for those who remain voiceless and opinion-less on matters of justice. I grieve for those who think this is an opportunity to exclusively focus on Black on Black crime and not address police brutality, the policing of Black and Brown bodies, the use of excessive force or the criminalization of Black men! I grieve for those who dare not protest for one day and stay at home to share solidarity on Black Friday. I grieve for those who remain unbothered and unchanged by what is happening all around us. And I grieve for those whose hearts are not the least bit softened by a mother and father who have to spend the holidays without their son and watch replays of an interview with an officer who seems not even the least bit remorseful.

In the midst of all of this we did have dinner with our family on Thanksgiving and on yesterday we attended one of the most beautiful weddings I have witnessed in a long time – the marriage of my very dear friend to her long time sweetheart. So in the midst of tears, anger, resentment, confusion and chaos, I also found solidarity, love, celebration and thanksgiving. Truly bitter sweet.

Speechless.

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Like many others, I continue to watch as this story unfolds. I’ve spent a great deal of the week thinking of exactly what I want to write, what thoughts and feelings I’d like to share and what my closing comments would be. However, I remain overwhelmed with so many expressions that any sort of quasi stream of writing is difficult. Instead, I am posting this picture in hopes that it truly is worth the thousands of words that it truly does represent the thousands of words that I am unable to write at this time. 

Running in Circles

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Circles2I started my weekend by celebrating with the people that I have spent a great deal of the last two years of my life with – my classmates. We had an amazing time and by the looks of the smiles and laughter, I believe that our time together on Friday night was a much needed stress release.

On yesterday and today, I spent time with women I have known for 15 years – my sorority sisters. And once again, our time together was filled with laughter, tears and memories of past moments together.

As I traveled to and from events this weekend, I kept thinking about the circles that form my life. I have my (biological) family circle that quite extensively includes my parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and surrogate people that I either grew up with or had the pleasure of being mentored by while away from home. I have my Morris Brown family – those fundamental years when I was learning so very much about myself and all that I wanted to become. It was also during this time that my Greek Like family was formed – people that I have kept in contact with up until this day, who continue to add an incredible richness to my life. My Peace Corps circle is comprised of a group of people – much like the others – that I can never forget. Many, many miles away from home bonds were created with strangers that I’m not sure my path would have ever crossed with otherwise. My USC circle, my Vegas circle, my PLT circle and now my Emory circle have all added to my life in immeasurable ways.

As I look toward the immediate days ahead, another birthday this year, and even the fall with all its anticipation, I am grateful for so many ways to see the world. It is through these circles that I have wrestled with who I am, what I am and exactly what I am doing here.  These are the circles that keep me striving to be the absolute best that I am be, while also reminding me of the simple pleasures in life. These are the circles that make me whole. I am thankful for each and every one of them, even as the blessings of life allow me to create more.

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