Repost: Michelle Alexander on Recent Shootings and What We Are Called to Do

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Last week was an extremely challenging week on a number of levels. As I continue to process my own thoughts and embrace longings for love to prevail and supersede the hate that is deeply ingrained in our country I share this commentary by Michelle Alexander – one of my absolute favorite authorities on social justice in America. 

I have struggled to find words to express what I thought and felt as I watched the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being killed by the police. Last night, I wanted to say something that hasn’t been said a hundred times before. It finally dawned on me that there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said before. As I was preparing to write about the oldness of all of this, and share some wisdom passed down from struggles of earlier eras, I heard on the news that 11 officers had been shot in Dallas, several killed from sniper fire. My fingers froze on the keys. I could not bring myself to recycle old truths. Something more is required. But what?

I think we all know, deep down, that something more is required of us now. This truth is difficult to face because it’s inconvenient and deeply unsettling. And yet silence isn’t an option. On any given day, there’s always something I’d rather be doing than facing the ugly, racist underbelly of America. I know that I am not alone. But I also know that the families of the slain officers, and the families of all those who have been killed by the police, would rather not be attending funerals. And I’m sure that many who refused to ride segregated buses in Montgomery after Rosa Parks stood her ground wished they could’ve taken the bus, rather than walk miles in protest, day after day, for a whole year. But they knew they had to walk. If change was ever going to come, they were going to have to walk. And so do we.

What it means to walk today will be different for different people and different groups and in different places. I am asking myself tonight what I need to do in the months and years to come to walk my walk with greater courage. It’s a question that requires some time and reflection. I hope it’s a question we are all asking ourselves.

In recent years, I have come to believe that truly transformative change depends more on thoughtful creation of new ways of being than reflexive reactions to the old. What is happening now is very, very old. We have some habits of responding to this familiar pain and trauma that are not serving us well. In many respects it’s amazing that we endure at all. I am inspired again and again by so much of the beautiful, brilliant and daring activism that is unfolding all over the country. Yet I also know that more is required than purely reactive protest and politics. A profound shift in our collective consciousness must occur, a shift that makes possible a new America.

I know many people believe that our criminal justice system can be “fixed” by smart people and smart policies. President Obama seems to think this way. He suggested yesterday that police-community relations can be improved meaningfully by a task force he created last year. Yes, a task force. I used to think like that. I don’t anymore. I no longer believe that we can “fix” the police, as though the police are anything other than a mirror reflecting back to us the true nature of our democracy. We cannot “fix” the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society. Of course important policy changes can and should be made to improve police practices. But if we’re serious about having peace officers — rather than a domestic military at war with its own people— we’re going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects.

Consider this: Philando Castile had been stopped 31 times and charged with more than 60 minor violations – resulting in thousands of dollars in fines – before his last, fatal encounter with the police. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Man-shooting-death-hand-cop-st….

Alton Sterling was arrested because he was hustling, selling CDs to get by. He was unable to work in the legal economy due to his felony record. His act of survival was treated by the police as a major crime, apparently punishable by death.

How many people on Wall Street have been arrested for their crimes large and small — crimes of greed and fraud that nearly bankrupted the global economy and destroyed the futures of millions of families? How many politicians have been prosecuted for taking millions of dollars from private prisons, prison guard unions, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, tobacco companies, the NRA and Wall Street banks and doing their bidding for them — killing us softly? Oh, that’s right, taking millions from those folks isn’t even a crime. Democrats and Republicans do it every day. Our entire political system is financed by wealthy private interests buying politicians and making sure the rules are written in their favor. But selling CDs or loose cigarettes? In America, that’s treated as a serious crime, especially if you’re black. For that act of survival, you can be wrestled to the ground and choked to death or shot at point blank range. Our entire system of government is designed to protect and serve the interests of the most powerful, while punishing, controlling and exploiting the least advantaged.

This is not hyperbole. And this is not new. What is new is that we’re now watching all of this on YouTube and Facebook, streaming live, as imagined super-predators are brought to heel. Fifty years ago, our country was forced to look at itself in the mirror when television stations broadcast Bloody Sunday, the day state troopers and a sheriff’s posse brutally attacked civil rights activists marching for voting rights in Selma. Those horrifying images, among others, helped to turn public opinion in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps the images we’ve seen in recent days will make some difference. It’s worth remembering, though, that none of the horrifying images from the Jim Crow era would’ve changed anything if a highly strategic, courageous movement had not existed that was determined to challenge a deeply entrenched system of racial and social control.

This nation was founded on the idea that some lives don’t matter. Freedom and justice for some, not all. That’s the foundation. Yes, progress has been made in some respects, but it hasn’t come easy. There’s an unfinished revolution waiting to be won.

What Have I Been Eating?

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I’d planned to blog today about what I have been eating during my raw food detox, but woke up today to somber news about Alton Sterling. I’ve wrestled much of the day with my sentiments about the incident and the state of affairs in our country. While I continue to process my thoughts and feelings, I have decided to proceed with my original post.

I have been eating raw 99.9% of the time 😉 for the last six and a half weeks. In addition to the typical “where do you get your protein” question, several people have asked me if I have only been eating salads. The answer is no! For breakfast, I typically have some sort of smoothie – they vary day to day and week to week. I also made my own almond milk  :-)! Because it’s summer and it’s super hot here, I have been eating a variety of salads with homemade salad dressing. For dinner, I’ve tried an assortment of raw meals including zoodles (my first time), raw hummus with veggies, and cashew cheese also paired with veggies. Below are a few low-quality pictures of meals I have made and a few recipes from my Everything Raw Food Recipe Book. I also included a pictures from two of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta that serves raw meals. Enjoy!

Part II: My Experience with dHerbs’s 20 Day Full Body Cleanse – 1 Week Post Detox

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It’s been exactly one week since my dHerbs 20 day detox ended. As mentioned in my previous post, I postponed my long awaited cheat meal to figure out how I’d like to proceed in re my eating habits and overall diet. But before I get to that, let me update you on how I am feeling. One week after I stopped taking my supplements I still feel wonderful. I still feel extremely full on much less food than I imagined. I still feel light and refreshed after my meals. And I am still experimenting with new recipes. I am not sweating as much which affirms that a part of the elimination process was increased perspiration. I miss that … I miss knowing that my body is eliminating in multiple ways on a regular basis. The photo below is me after a moderately intense workout.

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But otherwise, I have no regrets about the detox and highly recommend it for anyone who is serious about pressing “restart”.

I stuck with raw food through the week and up until last night when I finally had a cooked, vegan meal. After deciding that I was finally ready for a cooked meal, I visited Green Sprouts Vegetarian Restaurant. I read the reviews in hopes of making the best choices related to my meal. My spring rolls were delicious and so was the Mongolian “beef”. I didn’t care for the acclaimed “chicken” drumsticks or my Empire “chicken”. In spite of this, I still enjoyed my meal. The sauces were amazing and having steamed brown rice after weeks of no refined carbs created smiley faces in my mouth 🙂 (meals pictured below).

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Nonetheless, I am back to my raw meals today and this week. So … what’s next?

I began experimenting with following a vegan diet in 2000 – 16 years ago. Up until that time I’d never even heard of anyone following a vegan diet or thinking of not eating meat. There aren’t many vegans in rural South Carolina 🙂. I enjoyed my phases of transitioning from vegetarian to being vegan. I was surprised at how many alternatives there were and how satisfying my meals could be even without meat. Enter Peace Corps and living in a remote village in West Africa and there went me following a vegan diet. But I didn’t feel bad about my choice. I knew exactly where my food was coming from; eating the same food as my host family allowed me to eat with them on a regular basis; and meat was considered a side dish – not the main staple of a meal. I returned to the U.S. in 2003 and maintained a vegetarian diet until I relocated once again in 2005. Since that time my diet has fluctuated from being completing vegan to eating almost everything under the sun. And unfortunately, my weight has followed these same fluctuations – not exclusively because of me being vegan or not, but because of how I tend to approach food overall when I’ve not followed a vegan diet.

After giving some serious thought to my experience with this detox, my overall health and what I have learned over the course of 15 years as a health educator, I am returning to a vegan diet. I’d like to emphasize that I am not returning to a vegan diet because I think it is the only way to maintain a healthy lifestyle, nor am I returning to a vegan diet because I think it is the best decision for everyone else. I wish I could say that I am joining the ranks for people who protest on behalf of animal rights or only buy vegan leather goods, but that is not a part of my present journey. I believe in compassion towards all beings, including animals, but that is not the main focus of my journey. I believe in a holistic lifestyle and perhaps that is the foundation of how I live much of my life – this overflows to how I spend my money, how I wear my hair, the products I purchase and use on  my skin and even in my home so it only seems right to complete the circle and allow this same care to overflow to what I eat.

With the aforementioned in mind, I am doing this because time and experience have proven that being vegan is the best decision for me. I tend to eat better, take better care of myself, practice healthy doses of indulgence and eat more intentionally when my options are focused on whole foods. I fundamentally believe that there are some serious issues with the way food – meat and dairy especially – is produced here in the U.S. This belief has never wavered regardless of what I ate.  And I also know that in my years of educating others about healthy choices, managing chronic diseases, decreasing risks of cancer and other related matters diets focused on whole grains, fruit and vegetables in abundance and limited animal products have always been consistent recommendations.

I am doing a few things differently this time. Unlike before, my diet will not consist of an overabundance of meat substitutes. You can read more about some of my new favorite recipes at Crazy, Sexy Wellness, LLC on Facebook or DrCherryBound on Instagram. As I prepare for another wonderful birthday here is to me taking better care of myself :-). Thanks for reading and stay tuned for additional updates throughout the summer!

 

My Experience with dHerbs’s 20 Day Full Body Cleanse

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Detox

I won’t bore you with you the program details, so please go here to read more about the dHerbs 20 day full body detox.

As previously mentioned, after putting so much energy into school during these last two years I am committed to spending the summer refocusing on my physical health. I have found that detoxes or fasting of some sort gives me time to step away from the table – literally – exercise some discipline and really decide what the next steps to achieving and maintaining my ideal of optimal health will be. These practices in self-restraint have always served as a physical restart for me, but the trick is finding the right one that also fits into my schedule. This time around I decided to try something new … dHerbs’s  20 day full body detox.

I found out about dHerbs from a friend and classmate. She highly recommended the product so I made plans to start the detox at the beginning of the year. I ordered my shipment from a 3rd party retailer and after waiting for over a month with numerous failed attempts to find out the status of my order, I found myself awaiting a refund and without a detox to jumpstart my year. This time I decided to go directly to the vendor; my order arrived in less than 5 days! After my package arrived I still had about a week to review the contents, get my recipes together and create some sort of game plan.

The first week was novel – almost exciting. Each day I woke up to eagerly see if I noticed any changes: had anything different occurred in the way my body looked or felt; did I have more or less energy; what was happening with my skin; what about my weight? The second and third weeks were painful. While I had begun to experiment with more raw food recipes, I found myself craving cooked food. And my last few days seemed like a breakthrough. After planning my post detox meal carefully and excitedly for nearly two weeks – down to the dessert – I realized that a cheat meal could wait.  I wanted to bask a little longer in the feeling I’d gained from doing the detox; push myself a little harder; and sort of what the remainder of my summer would look like in reference to my fitness and weight loss goals.

The remainder of this post will focus on what the challenges and rewards were for me during my detox. While I am satisfied with my weight loss, that is not the focus of this post. You can hear more about the weight loss experiences of others on YouTube.

What I loved:

  • Surprisingly, I had tons of energy during the day. I was expecting to be tired and drained after such a drastic change in my diet, but my experience was quite the opposite.
  • I found new food choices! I have been experimenting with vegan and vegetarian food for nearly 20 years now and have NEVER even heard of cashew cheese! I made my own almond milk for the first time. I made raw hummus and loved it. I made chocolate coconut chia pudding (YUM!). I made a salad dressing that I actually found addicting. The point is I discovered and made great food … and actually enjoyed it!
  • I was a lot more satisfied than I thought. I expected to be hungry all the time. I’ve done the master cleanse, Weight Watchers, calorie monitoring using MyFitnessPal and more; I experienced hunger in all of these programs, even if only during the first week of two. It was surprising to me just how filling raw nuts, a huge salad with an assortment of veggies or even a well thought out smoothie could be!
  • I discovered new communities! Who knew there are so many raw and vegan foodies out there. There are more restaurants, Facebook groups, Instagram pages and bloggers than I ever knew – way more than my first experience with being vegan in 2000. It’s wonderful to have access to so many recipes, folks giving product reviews and simple e-encouragement.
  • With all of this focus on intentionally choosing what I ate, it should be no surprise that I felt better mentally and spiritually. I just felt and still feel a bit calmer – I am sure this is also because of me exercising regularly again – clearer and a lot more confident. I felt and feel like I am investing in myself, which just helps me feel more in tune inside and out.

What I didn’t care for:

  • If you read the product description, you know that the detox includes taking 6 rounds of supplements each day plus an activated charcoal drink before bed. While I didn’t experience any noticeable side effects from the supplements, it was a lot to take pills every 2-3 hours. I set 7 extra alarms on my phone just to help me remember.
  • THAT’S IT. Taking the supplements was the only thing I didn’t like.

Final thoughts: I feel amazing! Could I have initiated these feelings by making other changes in my life? Of course! But was this the best route for me during this time in my life? ABSOLUTELY! This was just what I needed to refocus, recharge and RESTART! I will continue blogging about my #90days2wellness throughout this summer, but feel free to follow me on Instagram @DrCherryBound or Facebook @Crazy Sexy Wellness, LLC to see what recipes I am trying, fitness routines I am dong or learn more about my journey (back) to wellness :-).

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 ;-).

I Made It!

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The closest analogy that I can give to someone outside of academia of the doctoral comprehensive exam is that it closely resembles the Bar exam for law school graduates and the Boards exam for med school graduates. A student’s performance on the exam is expected to exhibit a satisfactory grasp of the program’s major content areas. Our program’s comp exam also includes two questions related to the student’s research interest(S).  Here is what we have: three questions; responses that are 12-15 pages each; seven days to complete.

I have had a “comps cloud” over my head this entire semester. I have heard grueling stories of students writing for 8 to 10 hours per day and hitting “send” right before the expiration time.  I had no idea what my questions would be like or if I would feel confident answering them in a way that would please my committee. What would it be like to write for such a long time each day? How would I maintain my energy and commitment throughout the week? What if I had some sort of freak accident like my computer crashing my files magically disappearing?

I received my exam last Friday at 5pm. I’d outlined a generic process that I wanted to follow so how I preceded. Friday was spent outlining and gathering resources. Saturday morning at 7am I got started with writing. I also rented a place so that I could be away from home, outside of my comfort zone with minimal distractions. My plan for the next few days was to write in 2 hour blocks, with a 30-minute break in between and a much longer evening break to exercise and have some downtime. The late evening hours would be spent editing and double-checking references. My nights ended close to midnight for the first few days.

By Tuesday I was in a much better position. I took longer breaks – an hour or so – and reintroduced myself to the world 🙂 (A few friends stopped by to bring snacks and to help me switch gears to other happenings). Wednesday and Thursday were spent wrapping things up and doing some serious editing. By Friday I did three rounds of “let me look at this one more time” to make sure I answered all sections of the questions, my responses were coherent and flowed logically and the formatting was as desired and required. I hit “submit” around 3pm (exam was due at 5). I could feel the weight of the exam lifted from my entire body ~ LOL!!! I felt amazing! I’d done it! And although the written portion still has to be graded and we have an oral component as well, in my mind I still kicked butt on what I produced.

In seven days, I cranked out nearly 60 pages – including references – in a way that I never knew or imagined I could. I wrote for longer periods that I ever have. I remained focus in a way that allowed me to be completely comfortable and confident with my final product.  I know that it’s not perfect, but it is my absolute best! I MADE IT! I SURVIVED!!!

 

When It’s Almost the End

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It is late so I am going to keep this short :-).

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If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that I have been a full time student since 2012. It has been a long journey. It has been a taxing journey. It has been a draining journey. BUT I am almost at the end … of this leg of the journey at least.

On next weekend, I will start what  seems to me like a seven-day, academic hazing process: comprehensive exams. The process entails – as I have been told – eight to ten hours of writing per day for seven days. I am not looking forward to it. Two weeks later, we are also required to successfully pass the oral component of comprehensive exams. And when it is all said and done, comps successfully passed, I will commit 100% to dissertation writing … another year or two of the process.

Last week as I reached what I was sure was my breaking point and realized that I needed to take a serious step back to give myself both a mental and physical break. After a few days off and some much needed conversations with a number of people, I approached this week differently. I am moving slightly slower. I am taking deeper breathes. I am taking it one day at a time. And tonight, I paused to recognize that while this process has been and continues to be taxing, strenuous, exhausting it is a process that I chose and I am doing what I love … on most days of the week ;-). For this I am thankful. I am on a path that I have chosen. I have made a significant sacrifice in my life that I have no regrets about. I am pursuing my passions and extending myself fully by using as many of my gifts that I am aware of. For this, I won’t complain.

 

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