Our legacy outlives our days on this earth. One's legacy is typically shared through storytelling from one family's generation to the next, but sometimes, it's shared on an even larger scale through a platform that reaches a local community or even the world. In a month where we celebrate our collective legacies as African-Americans, we honor our successes. We hone in on the results, but maybe the true victories are in the journey. I'll share a story with you about a woman you likely know whose journey may be less familiar but nonetheless inspiring:
In the early 1920s, she was born in the gateway to the west, better known as St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother and father's turbulent marriage ended in divorce when she was just three years old. Her parents sent her to Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother who owned a thriving general store during a historically challenging time of the Great Depression and World War II. Stamps was a segregated town that introduced her to hatred and racism. The experience challenged her identity in ways that jarred her with rage and self-loathe. Due to the traumas of her adolescence, she remained practically mute for five years. Some believe that it was in these years of silence that she gained a keen understanding of human behavior and developed a deep love for literature. Through the help of a wise woman she dearly admired, and her belief that "poetry was music written for the human voice", she reclaimed her own.
She eventually moved to San Francisco, California where she studied acting and dance at the California Labor School and attended George Washington High School. Momentarily, she dropped out of school and became the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. She resumed school and graduated at the age of seventeen. Shortly after, she gave birth to her first and only son.
By the mid 1950s, her hard work and diligence began to payoff as she landed a role in the opera Porgy and Bess. She developed a new stage name at this time that was a combination of her childhood nickname and a shortened version of one of her ex-husband's surnames. In 1957, she appeared in the musical, Calypso Heat Wave, and released her first album titled Miss Calypso. She later appeared in Jean Genet's play, The Blacks.
She spent most of the 1960s living overseas in Ghana and Egypt where she worked as a freelance writer and editor. She also became close friends with Malcolm X and helped him form the Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964. Upon Malcolm X's assassination in 1965, the organization was disbanded.
James Baldwin, a fellow writer and close friend urged her to not shy from her personal journey, but to embrace it through her craft. She took his advice to heart and wrote the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In 1995, she was honored as a record setter for remaining on The New York Times' paperback nonfiction best-seller list for two years.
By the 1970s, she earned a Tony Award nomination and Emmy Award nomination for her role in the play Look Away and her contributions to the television miniseries Roots, respectively. She also published a collection of poetry that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize called Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die. In 1972, she was the first black woman to have her screenplay, Georgia, Georgia, produced as a film.
In 1993, she was invited to recite an original poem, 'On the Pulse of Morning', at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, in which the audio version won a Grammy Award for best spoken word album. She spent her later years between Harlem, New York and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At the age of 86, she passed away on May 28, 2014.
If you haven't figured it out already, this is the legacy of the phenomenal woman herself, Maya Angelou. She was an American author, poet, screenwriter, dancer, and civil rights activist. In truth, this story reflects only a small portion of all that she experienced and attained in her lifetime. Her story plagues me to ponder about my own legacy and what stories will be passed about me from one generation to the next. Angelou said, "In the flush of love's light, we dare to be brave, and suddenly we see that love costs all we are and will ever be. Yet, it is only love which sets us free." Surely, the journey makes us what we will be.
For assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."
You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
BeYoutiful, keep life sweet, & never stop feeding your soul. -xo
Making new year's resolutions has been a tradition for nearly 4,000 years that began with the ancient Babylonians. By holding to their word for the year in passing, they believed their obedience would bring great spiritual favor for the new year. Today, we oftentimes want nothing more than to be a better version of ourselves than we were the year before. Even so, our pursuit of self-improvement can wither as life takes its course, and by year-end, we're left pondering on the resolutions we never quite resolved.
Take a moment and reflect: What goals did you set for yourself last year? What plans did you put in place to take action toward your goals? Consider one significant goal that fell through. Have you given up on that goal? Are you ready to pick back up from where you left off? Let's encourage one another to start again. Let's go after that one goal we let fear and self-doubt derail. Our hearts and desires are known to the One who created us. Trust that we do not journey alone as we strive to start anew.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and the young stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
BeYOUtiful, keep life sweet, & never stop feeding your soul. -xo
The very thing that was meant to enhance our lives and help us stay connected with one another, is also the very thing that disconnects us from reality. We use Facebook to connect with long-distance relatives and friends, yet Facebook can become a distraction from what we intend to accomplish. We use Instagram to share our greatest moments, but we also use it as a means for comparison. We use Snapchat to capture the essence of an experience and twitter to share our truths, but there’s always this other side to social media that keeps us from embracing the season we’re in with focus and gratitude. Why not delete our most commonly used social media apps every once in a while? What could it hurt to take a few days away from social media? Consider what we could gain. We could all benefit from being more present.
BeYOUtiful, keep life sweet, & never stop feeding your soul. -xo
Yes is coined the magic word. It's agreeable, non-problematic, and safe. We associate it with embracing new adventures and opportunities. On the surface, saying yes is an optimal decision, but does it bring you peace?
I've never encountered any serious issues with saying yes until recently. There's something about yesthat gradually deflates my spirit once I realize just how much I don't want to do what I agreed to do. It sounds ridiculous, but think about the last time you agreed to do something only because you felt pressured to say yes. Am I referring to peer pressure? No. This is about why we say yes when we should say no, and why we should strive to get it right the first time.
why boundaries matter
There's something about the word no that's unsettling, and it often prompts others to inquire why. While saying no comes to mind in an instant, the reason as to why no is indeed no and not a maybe, requires careful deliberation. Should you say no along with a reasonable or unreasonable rationale, you can expect a counter argument as to why you should just say yes. Maybe by the end of the conversation, your no becomes a yes or a maybe. Regardless, do you have peace with what you agreed to do?
My reservation with saying no is that I don't want to explain why. I purposefully say yes because I know it's easier. However, this isn't practical for two main reasons: (1) I then have to follow through with the agreement despite my lack of interest in doing so. (2) I may have to rescind my decision because I can't justify why I agreed to do it in the first place. Ultimately, option one is detrimental to my well-being and option two puts a strain on my relationships.
After some self reflection, I realized that I naively value being liked more than I value being respected. Turns out, respect is what gives me peace, which means that no is a pretty powerful word. I've learned that when I feel my time, energy, and interests are respected, then my peace is secure, and my mind is at ease because I'm agreeing to do things that fit within my boundaries. Don't doubt yourself. Your boundaries do matter.
WHY WE SHOULD GET IT RIGHT
While I know my truth, speaking my truth doesn't come as easily and sticking to it is even more of a challenge once all of the counterarguments work their way into my conscious. The purpose of honing in on the power of no lies in knowing that it's ok to reject an offer. Saying no doesn't make us unlikable and saying yes doesn't make us likable. Speaking our truth the first time around is significant for two reasons: (1) YOU matter! How you allocate your time, resources, and energy impacts your being significantly. Our willingness to voice no the first around protects us from future worries, when in actuality, there's nothing to be worried about. (2) Other people matter as well. Remaining consistent in your decision prevents you from inconveniencing others and from sacrificing your accountability.
you've got the power
This is a topic I've been wanting to tackle for months and I haven't been able to put it into words until now. My biggest obstacle has been removing the idea that the integrity of my relationships depends on my response. The reality is that people ask you to do things because they need to know whether or not you are willing to do them. It's not about your response, it's about them getting the information they need. Own your no. Know that peace is in your no.
I hope this serves as a little inspiration to not stretch yourself too thin, to remember that saying yesshould never leave you wondering if it was worth it, and that you have the power to protect your peace. As always, beYOUtiful, keep life sweet, and never stop feeding your soul. -xo
Some people love their good old fashioned television networks, while others can't get enough of Hulu or Netflix. I have a special place in my heart for YouTube and more specifically, #YouTubeBLACK. I can't get enough of those beauty, fashion, and lifestyle content creators and vlogs beat reality TV shows any day, if you ask me. I think of it as a more personal extension of social media. It's a way for me to connect with the lives of like-minded people from all around the world that I wouldn't have access to otherwise. In fact, YouTube helped me get through one of my toughest seasons, and it's something worth reflecting on in hopes that it helps brighten whatever season you're journeying through now.
IT WAS A TYPICAL DAY
I had just finished attending classes at my university and I was ready to relax. Like usual, I grabbed an early dinner and searched YouTube for new videos from my favorite channels. I decided on Jamie and Nikki as they always remind me that this world is still filled with much love. During this particular vlog, Jamie highlighted quotes from the #YouTubeBLACK Social Summit. This particular quote resonated with me:
Everything is born from a second of stillness. Every new idea comes when the mind is quiet. A noisy mind doesn't do anything but cause sickness, sadness, and disconnect from the present. The less thoughts, "noise", you have, the more able you are to see the world.
ONE STEP CLOSER TO A BREAKTHROUGH
One day, I couldn't take it anymore. I did what I believe anyone in a similar or worse situation should do- GET HELP. However, help looks different for everyone. Maybe you just need to open up to a friend. Maybe you need a mind, body, and spiritual lifestyle change. Maybe you need to seek medical advice. Regardless, let help be your breakthrough. Let it change the way you think, the way you live, and the way you see the world. Let help bring you back to a quiet mind so that you can be present.
I decided to share this particular story because even though it was one of my lowest seasons, it was also one of my best, but only because I sought help. During that time, I was finishing my last semester as an undergraduate , and the one month that I spent dedicating my life to healing, I was was able to love my present. I started to see the relationships in my life become stronger. My grades improved. I met so many new people and gained exposure to new opportunities. I began to feel alive again and see the world differently than I had before.
Being present doesn't mean that everything is perfect or that things are going your way. It's just simply listening to every part of your being and responding accordingly. It's knowing that when you become overwhelmed, you may need time to meditate. Or even better, add it into your regular schedule. Being present is not allowing unforeseen circumstances to ruin your plans or throw your emotions all out of whack. Being present is seeking healthy ways to heal from painful experiences. Being present is loving yourself and others. It's simply seeing the world.
Honestly, I hope you can't relate to this post, but if you can, I pray that you've found stillness and peace with living in your present. Until next time, beYOUtiful, keep life sweet, and never stop feeding your soul. -xo