Why I’m Not Celebrating 5 Years of Service With My Employer

“Wake up one morning you realize/your life is one big compromise/stuck in the job you swore was only temporary/feel like the world is passing you by/Never done all the things you wanted to try…You ask yourself there’s got to be something else/something more/more/more”

-Laura Izibor

I was given an award at work today to celebrate 5 years of service to my employer. It came in a shiny gold folder but it made my heart as heavy as lead. 5 years is an accomplishment, right? I mean some people can’t keep a job for 5 months let alone 5 years. So I should celebrate! The people in the room with me chimed in and testified that I had trained a number of them—including my current boss. They all agree I am good at what I do.  Before working here I was a full time student at the University of Alabama—Roll Tide!! I created and left a legacy there. As I sit here pondering the 5 years I’ve given to my employer what legacy will I leave here? I am a firm believer that when I leave a place I should have a legacy that speaks for me even if no one knows my name.

I walked away and almost cried. Where has the time gone? How did this happen? When I came here I gave it a year and a half. I had dreams and ambitions that were and still are bigger than this place. Nonetheless, I’ve been coming here doing the same job for the last 5 years.  The part that makes this milestone so difficult is that I’ve arrived here with no notable accomplishments or contributions. I come to work and complete the same mind numbing tasks every day. This has had a debilitating effect on my creativity.  I mean my world has become less and less colorful. I am an artist and creativity in my role is not celebrated or valued. I refuse to celebrate this. I will celebrate the fact that even though my dreams have been deferred they have not dried up like a raisin in the sun.

So, I will resume actively working to make Kuumba—my vision for a community art center—a reality.  I will again pick up my Rebel and capture all the moments I will never be able to recover once they’ve passed. I will continue to provide accountability, support and resources for artists who have a specific goal in mind but a need a little extra push. I will sleep with my shoes on and chase my dreams—Thanks for that @TraceySHINECEO. Here’s to knowing there’s something else, something more! Here’s to leaving a legacy even at my place of employment.  And here’s to original, productive and constructive ideas!

“Let the sun shine on your face/ don’t let your life go to waste/ Now is the time/got to make up your mind/let it shine on you/let it shine on you”

-Laura Izibor

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Natural Hair and Corporate America

I’ve made a very intentional decision to discuss black beauty only in terms of physical beauty and its relationship with corporate America. There are numerous things that make my people beautiful. Some take pride in the strength of character and resilience of our people. Some take pride in our innovation and ingenuity. This discussion does not negate any of that. Because our physical beauty is always under attack in some way, I am focusing on our outer beauty and how we choose to express it or hide it. This is where I’d like to start.

“Black is Beautiful.”  We’ve all said or thought it at some point in our lives or at least we’ve heard or seen it. I often wonder if we really believe it though.  It seems that some people can’t decide if they think black people are beautiful or not. If I asked you to “share” this post if you’ve ever heard or said “Black is Beautiful” I’d have a lot of shares today. I think others like our features, just not on us. Sometimes we don’t even like our features on ourselves and we fail to see our own beauty. But, I guess it really doesn’t matter what others think as long as we can see ourselves as beautiful. I wonder if some of us say things like “Black is Beautiful” and wear the t-shirts because we think it makes us stand out or that helps us fit in? Either way is a dilemma for me.

I have often heard black people complain about not being accepted by mainstream America, i.e. white folks or black people in positions of power. In the past I’ve participated in discussions about how assimilation in various forms seems to be a prerequisite for moving to the top, professionally and socially. For some of us this struggle is most evident in the way we choose to wear our hair. (Disclaimer: This is in no way bashing my people that rock brush cuts and perms.) Some of us work afros, some us rock locs, and some of us ladies work brush cuts. I got cut and dyed last week so currently I rock the latter. How many of my sistas with afros fought with themselves about straightening their hair for a job interview? I did. How many brothas cut their locs in an effort to be more attractive to potential employers?  Unfortunately, straightening and cutting usually wins. And sometimes, we decide against wearing natural styles all together because we’re not sure how it will go over at work or with our friends and family. How many of us were nervous on that first day at work with your new natural style? I know I was.

But the complaint remains that we aren’t accepted or respected when we walk into a corporate environment with our natural styles. So, I ask these questions:  if those of us who wear braids, afros, locs continue to assimilate how can we expect to be accepted? And why should we be accepted and respected in the workplace with our natural styles? I and many others like me would like to see things change. However, we have to be the ones to take the chance and initiative to challenge what our bosses, HR professionals and CEOs see when they encounter us in our natural beauty.

Do we not think ourselves worthy of acceptance and respect? Do we find this fight to be futile and so refuse to put any energy into it? As long as we continue to assimilate, we will continue to assimilate. May I submit to you that we are worthy of acceptance and more? Furthermore, we are due and we deserve and this.

In 2012 some parents feel the need to teach their sons/daughters that their blackness is something to be turned on, off, up, down according to where they are and who they’re around. Is this really the message we want to send the next generation? How can one turn their blackness on, off, up or down?! To whose definition of “black” have we subscribed that makes us feel it’s something we can and should control with a cultural remote control? We are a colorful people. Color wakes up a dull room. It opens up small spaces and even brightens your mood. Why would we want to hide this? Why would we want to cover up and hide something so beautiful?

I bet some of you are thinking this is easier said than done. I agree. I understand that sometimes we feel like we have to compromise. I’ve felt that way too. For my last job interview I didn’t straighten my hair but I did wear it twisted. I was very concerned that my hair would get in the way—that  I wouldn’t look professional enough and thus be overlooked for the position. I’ve walked into my office countless days concerned that my boss, VP or HR manager would pull me to the side and try to discourage my expressions of black beauty. But, they haven’t done that . . . yet. Everyday more and more of us are stepping up and bravely rocking our afros, locs, braids and other natural styles to work. May I encourage those of you that are still apprehensive to join in and demand to be respected and taken seriously no matter how you express your black beauty.

I am that chic . . . or not!?

Every now and then something happens that forces me to sit down and evaluate or re-evaluate a particular area of my life.  That happened twice this weekend.

Confession: I am a love junkie and in the words of Andre 3000, “[I] could be an organ donor the way I give up my heart.”  There are 2 men I’ve dated and loved fiercely in my adult life, David and Nathan (No, those are not their real names). At some point, marriage was a topic with them both; however, I knew I’d never marry Nathan.  A few years ago I watched David get married. The wedding came long after our break-up, my healing and right at the start of a new romance of my own. So, don’t think I was jealous 🙂 I was actually there to be the bride’s personal photographer. It was a beautiful wedding!

Recently Nathan stopped by to tell me he, too, will be getting married. I congratulated him as well and I am sincerely excited for him and his wife-to-be. But, yesterday it hit me . . . the last 2 men I’ve loved have moved on to marry other women and I had that awful thought… Am I that woman people write about?! Do I give too much or not enough? Am I too easy going or maybe too harsh? Needy? Excessively independent? What could possibly be wrong with me that no one has put a ring on it?! I mean, am I doomed to love a man only to lose him and watch him marry the next woman he dates?! This is for the birds!! Of course, human relationships are difficult to navigate and there are numerous factors that I won’t discuss here. I will share this though, I was ready when Nathan wasn’t and by the time he was ready, I couldn’t. So, maybe this boils down to readiness and it’s not a testament of my marriage worthiness. And, yes, I am the lover, nurturer, supporter you want in your corner.

The thing I love about writing is that it forces me to face myself, my contradictions and to think more deeply about things. Ladies, often times we ascribe value to ourselves according to our experiences with men. Take my ramblings above for example. No one has asked my hand in marriage, so I couldn’t be marriage material. But, what I’ve learned and what we all must learn is, sometimes the men we’re involved with ain’t marriage material—not to say David and Nathan weren’t. And, even if they asked our hand in marriage, it would be in our best interest to decline the proposal. By listening to pop culture, friends, parents and even our elders we become obsessed with proving we are worthy of marriage. But, if the man you’re involved with isn’t trying to prove to you he’s marriage material and if marriage is your goal, pack your bags and move on! You are that chic, but just maybe not for that man.

Love: The First Year

One year ago today after a little less than 12 hours of labor I laid eyes on Benyamin Adeal Nehemiah Porter. I remember. . .. I woke up, placed my feet on the cold, tile floor and my water broke. I remember thinking I’d peed my pants. Life had already changed so much because of the pregnancy. But now, now the real work would begin starting with the pain of labor contractions. I wasn’t scared. Although, up until that point I had been TERRIFIED of being in labor and giving birth with no pain medicine!! But that day, fear was gone. I was ready, ready to give to the world what had been given to me—a son. I was ready for Brian to see him, hold him and love him more than either of them could ever imagine. Yep, I was ready to get the show on the road and hold the child that captured my heart long before I ever saw him or felt him move. I’d stare at my belly swollen with life. I’d stare and be amazed that my body was working 24 hours to create a brand new, tiny human being with fully functioning parts. I was thoroughly amazed. Amazed that I had been chosen to give birth and be a steward over this single life that would soon impact this world by sheer virtue of the fact that he exists. I remember…Love!!!

6 Word Stories

What up good people. So, I’m taking a break from being so introspective..I need to lighten up a bit. Well, I follow a blog for writers, thewritepractice.com  The other day someone introduced me to the idea of 6 word stories. I loved it. These can be so fun to write. Anyway, my stories are below. Enjoy!! Feel free to add your own or leave a comment in the comments box!

-O!

“ 3:34 A.M.”

No show. No call. Worried sick!

“Touch”

She cried. His hug healed her.

“Relieved”

He finally called. She answered. Relief.

“Whiping”

Get a switch off that tree!!

“Stand Your Ground”

He hit her. Gun fired. End.

“Love”

She fell. He fell. They Married.

“My choice”

Legitimate rape led to illegitimate child. Abortion?

“Trouble”

Belt grabbed . . . didn’t I say no!

“Tragedy”

Lifetime of accomplishments ends in suicide.

“Rep. Akin”

Am I broken? Got raped. . .pregnant.

“Reflection”

September 06, 2011 life changed forever—birthed Benyamin.

“Black in 2012”

You shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

For Our Children

Just a few things some mommy friends and I would like our children to know 🙂

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

~Frederick Douglass

“While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.”
~Angela Schwindt

I will love you every day for the rest of your life, even after mine ends.

I don’t promise to be perfect, always get it right or be free of contradictions. Mommy will make mistakes—you will too. Let’s be gracious to one another.

I don’t promise you won’t have days where you feel mommy is mean and selfish. The truth is there may, well, will be, some days that mommy is being mean and selfish. I do promise to keep those days at a minimum.

I don’t promise to always have the answers, only that I will always help you find them.

Mommy doesn’t know everything. I expect there will be countless days where I’m learning from you.

I will listen to your voice. I will learn your heart. I promise to encourage your gifts, skills, talents and abilities.

I will not accept anything less than your best.

I will teach you what I know and how to research to find your own answers.

Discipline is inevitable. You are my son and you will know how to properly conduct yourself.

Mommy will do what’s best for you even if you don’t like it.

I will do all I can to set you up for success.

I won’t always tell you what you want to hear but I will tell you what you need to hear.

Some days mommy will be like sandpaper to you but know that when it’s over your rough edges will be smooth.

You are your own individual. You don’t need to be anyone else.

You are more powerful than you think.

Pray.

You have a village looking out for you. Remember that and take advantage of it.

 

Chinyere

If ever asked my great accomplishment in this world, my answer will always be you.

Mommy is supposed to be the one teaching you but instead I’m learning so much from you.

I will never tell you anything that will hurt you.

The world is yours so I will always encourage you to follow your dreams and to never take “no” for an answer.

I will always have your best interest at heart.

I never knew I could love something or someone so much until you came into my life.

I promise to always love you, be a shoulder to lean on, support you and always listen.

Regardless of how bad of a day I’m having, you always make everything better.

Lesley

Every day, loving you is teaching me how to love unconditionally.

My dreams for you are bigger than the dreams I ever imagined for myself

I’m blessed to know that God entrusted me with one of his most precious creations

One day you’ll understand why I tell you “don’t ask me why.”

What about you? What do you have to say to your child(ren) or the children you hope to have? Feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

-Ouijella

Fly Mom, The Resolution

I found her at the end of myself. She was standing there, leaning against the wall fly as ever. She confidently stood clad in some fresh skinny jeans, a fitted turquoise tank with a fly head wrap. She didn’t wear any make up though, save mascara. And, yes, she stood 4 inches taller in a pair of dope stilettos.

When I looked and realized who she was, our eyes locked. We reconnected immediately and that made us both smile. I ran to her and embraced her. I was so glad to see her again. She looked at me and said that I looked different. She could tell I had gone through some things and had grown a bit.

I let out a slow sigh of relief. Although I had forsaken her, she had not forsaken me. She had been patiently waiting for my embrace; she’d been waiting to be rediscovered. She was sure that I’d embrace her again, confident that I’d return.

So, there I was looking at myself, my “Fly” self. I hung my head in shame because I had neglected her. I separated her from my “mommy” self. I didn’t know how they could exist harmoniously. She reminded me that I should be gracious to myself. She insisted that being fly is much more than what I wear

In fact, there are few things more fly than being a mother that loves and nurtures her child…

The time will eventually come when my son sleeps through the night. I will resume regularly treating myself to dinner, rocking out at Starbucks, hanging out with the girls and enjoying some degree of spontaneity. But, today I will enjoy every moment with my son. I will hug him as often as I’d like, kiss him as many times as I’d like, and play with him for as long I’d like. He will be confident that he has a mother and a father that loves him more than he can imagine.

So, I will take her advice. I will be gracious to myself and allow for shapeless dresses, flats, sweats and t-shirts. I won’t feel shallow or less than a devoted mom when I do pull “sexy” out of the closet. I will get my nose pierced again and have my hood piercing done over. This is just the beginning of my journey as a mother, but I’m determined… this is and will be my resolution: Skinny jeans or not. Stilettos or not, I am Fierce, I am Beautiful, I am a fly MOM!

-Ouijella