Black Women: Stop Going Where You Are Not Welcomed

Photo Cred: Shutterstock

I usually don’t write about pop culture but this story caught my attention for many reasons. Yesterday, I came across an article on Yahoo by way of HelloBeautiful. The post talked about an incident that occurred at E11even, a nightclub in Miami. A group of black women was waiting to get in and apparently being bypassed by the doormen. Cardi B approached to make an appearance and the women advised her that they were being discriminated against. After being made aware of the situation, Cardi proceeded to “advocate” for the women by chanting, “Let them in!” until the men at the door relented.

Although we can all appreciate the Latina rapper stepping in to make sure these women were able to drink, dance, and party the night away, I definitely experienced some secondhand embarassment as a black woman. Before I get into the reason for that, I would like to say first that Cardi B has no obligation to stand up for me or you or anyone. With that said, instead of leading a “Let them in” chant, I would have preferred she left a club that refused service to any people of color and took her talents and fans elsewhere. But I digress.

Black women throughout history have fought for the right to be seen, heard, and treated fairly and equally. We have protested for the rights to vote, read, write, against police brutality, escaped the horrors of slavery, and came out of Jim Crow and segregation. We have come from some of the worst circumstances to become who we are today. The stakes have been high and we have always risen to the occassion.

Today is a new day, though. Collectively, black women are becoming well-aware of their worth no longer settling for mediocre treatment, and foregoing inclusion in spaces that make us feel like an outsider. Whether it be a job that is devaluing us, a relationship where we are settling for less than we deserve or establishments that make it clear that we are not a part of their target demographic, we are just saying no. So it astonishes me that a group of grown women stood in the face of rejection with such low stakes and collectively begged to enter a nightclub that did not want them there.

I get that human beings have an overwhelming need to be accepted. According to this thoughtco.com article explaining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings have five requirements to be happy in life:

  • Physiological food, shelter and drink. These are the basic things you need to survive. WIthout meeting this need, nothing else matters.
  • Safety – the need to feel safe from harm and have stability in a predictable environment. Without feeling safe and meeting your basic needs, it’s difficult to consider less pertinent necessities.
  • Love and belonging – this applies to romantic relationships, family, friends and social circles. People have to feel loved, accepted and included.
  • Esteem – self-confidence and feeling good about oneself along with being valued by others. We need to feel that we matter and that our contributions are valued by others.
  • Self-Actualization – the feeling that we are walking in our purpose; the idea that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.

Assuming that the women that pleaded to be granted entry in this nightclub had their physiological needs met, my guess is that their actions were taken in pursuit of love and belonging and esteem. From code-switching to attempting to meet Eurocentric standards of beauty, black women have long felt the need to fit into spaces we were never intended to be in; despite what we thought about ourselves we felt forced to compete with the barrage of non-black images inundating our daily lives and labeled the epitome of beauty. Even with our black features and vernacular in high demand, these attributes were still unacceptable when paired with black skin. A lot of progress has been made and black women have decidedly shown up authentically wearing natural hair, full lips, and covered in black girl magic. Even still, there are many of us that want to be accepted into circles that are not interested in us. Some of us want to prove we are special by getting validation from places that have forsaken us in the past.

These ladies waited outside in the December cold, overlooked and ignored, imploring a woman who has allegedly been colorist toward women that look like them in the past to throw them a lifeline before being admitted as a negotiation to secure the presence of said non-black woman. I cannot. Perhaps they felt the need to be included in the social circle that E11even represented or maybe they felt that entering this business would prove to everyone around them that they were among the women that were considered beautiful by the patrons and staff. Either way, it was a sad sight to see. The disappointment I felt in my heart for these women that settled for being treated like second-class citizens while contributing to the offender’s bottom line was heavy.

I will sit in my house alone for the rest of my life before I allow myself to be marginalized, disrespected, or mistreated anywhere. But I don’t have to. There are people and places that respect and appreciate black women. There are social circles that you will be welcomed into with open arms; cultivating your sense of belonging and boosting your self-esteem by connecting with people that wholeheartedly believe that black is beautiful.

Below are a few resources with black businesses to frequent and support. A simple Google search will turn up many more. We no longer go where we are not welcomed and in the words of the amazing High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone, “You’ve gotta learn to leave the table when respect is no longer being served.”

Thirty Black-Owned Restaurants Throughout the US

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27 Black-Owned HairCare Brands

Is it “Imposter Syndrome” or Gaslighting?

Photo Cred: Shutterstock

Over the past several years, the term “Imposter Syndrome” has inundated social networking platforms like LinkedIn. Imposter Phenomenon was first introduced in 1978 in an article entitled, “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. The idea behind imposter syndrome or imposter phenomenon is that despite overwhelming evidence that you are competent, you doubt your skills and abilities and have a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud. You attribute your success to luck or the ability to deceive people into believing that you are smarter than you actually are. Wikipedia provides a detailed description here. Imposter syndrome is usually used to refer to women in the workplace but also occurs in men and in interactions outside of work.

I wasn’t aware of the term in my early twenties but clearly recall the first time I doubted myself. I was working in a Payroll department with no manager so decided to apply myself and take on manager duties. The CFO of the company was happy with my performance, so much so that they decided not to hire a manager for over a year. As the company grew, the need to expand the department became obvious, so the role of Payroll Manager was opened. I had performed all of the duties and done them well, but to my surprise, an external candidate was selected and I was completely overlooked. To add insult to injury, I was enlisted to train the new manager to take on the duties I was already performing. When I got up the nerve to confront the CFO, I was told that although I could perform the job, they were still (after two years) trying to determine whether or not I was a cultural fit for leadership at the organization. As the only black woman working in a company full of white men and sprinkled with a few white women, I read between the lines and understood that I was too black to be promoted.

Despite understanding what had gone unsaid in that situation, I began to overthink every single action I took during my tenure. Maybe I should have gone to lunch with co-workers more. Could I have smiled more? Is it possible I could have handled even more work? Was I “angry” or “aggressive”? Perhaps I was not as smart or talented as I thought I was. Despite being fully aware that my skills and abilities in payroll were exemplary and receiving confirmation from numerous outside sources, that self-doubt stuck with me for several years. I would refrain from applying to positions I was qualified for and stay in roles I was overqualified for, constantly working above my title and pay grade. I was afraid of rejection; scared of finding out that I was stupid and didn’t know it. Even after realizing my worth, I continued to battle with “superiors” who wanted to keep me in my place throughout my career.

I believe the term “gaslighting” originated from George Orwell in his book entitled 1984. If you haven’t read it… Whew! You really need to. But a great explanation of gaslighting can be found in this NBC news article by Sarah DiGiulio. The article defines gaslighting as someone manipulating another person into questioning their own perceptions, recollections, and reality. The manipulator is essentially telling the victim, “Don’t believe your lying eyes.” It’s a form of emotional abuse and usually occurs in relationships, whether professional or personal, where there is a power dynamic. Sometimes imposter syndrome starts internally. Other times it is imposed on you by outside sources. External gaslighting from those in positions of power can cause you to believe that your success was a fluke or that you are pretending to be something that you are not.

Imposter syndrome is not an equal opportunity condition. As a matter of fact, according to this Equality Matters write-up by Sheryl Nance-Nash on BBC, women of color (specifically Black and Latinx) are impacted by this far more frequently than their white counterparts. With less than five percent of corporate board seats held by women of color and virtually no black women heading up Fortune 500 companies, it’s no surprise that there is an overwhelming sense that we don’t belong when considering roles in leadership or submitting our candidacy. Even more often, we are allowed to do the work but denied the recognition and compensation associated with it.

It is vitally important to differentiate between authentic imposter syndrome and being gaslighted into believing you are an imposter. A feeling of self-doubt prompted by being the only one, the first person that looks like you to be in the position, coming from a non-traditional background, or being unable to relate to the people around you is normal and can be overcome with self-work and personal counseling. But the latter, being told that you are unqualified, not ready, or not a “cultural fit” despite exhibiting competence and living up to expectations is downright abusive. Determining which is afflicting you is important and whatever the cause, taking action is necessary. If your self-doubt is self-imposed, seek help. If you believe that you are being used and abused, speak up and remove yourself from the situation. Your feelings are valid nothing is more important than your mental health. Know your worth and protect your peace.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health crisis, the CDC offers connections to various resources here.

If you believe you are being/have been discriminated against in the workplace or subjected to disparate treatment, contact the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

The Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict: 3 Meaningful Ways to Support Your Impacted Employees

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Photo Cred: Shutterstock

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last year, you’ve likely heard about the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. On August 25, 2020, the 17-year-old traveled from his home in Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin claiming to be there to protect businesses during a protest against police brutality due to the shooting of Jacob Blake. I won’t go into all of the details, but you can read up on it the Rittenhouse case here.

As expected by most of the Black people I know, just a couple of hours ago, Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges: First-Degree Reckless Homicide, First Degree Reckless Endangering Safety, First-Degree Intentional Homicide, Attempted FIrst-Degree Intentional Homicide, Possession of a Dangerous Weapon by a Person Under 18, and Failure to Comply with an Emergency Order. Even though acquittals of white men who murder Black people and our allies are par for the course in the criminal justice system, it still hurts. We all know that had Kyle been a Black teen, he would have most likely been acquitted.

Over the past several years, we have watched as murderers were given the benefit of the doubt when killing black people. The Trayvon Martin case reiterated to us that we are exempt from claims of self-defense and subject to harassment based solely on our skin color. Breonna Taylor’s killing confirmed to us that Black women’s lives do not matter no matter how much you accomplish and that the same Stand Your Ground laws that have repeatedly been applied to white men who slaughter people of color would not be applied to her boyfriend. There have been too many cases like this to count, but one thing remains consistent; the legal system was not meant to protect Black people and it is working as intended.

The trauma inflicted on the psyche of Black people is compounded by the routine dismissal of our rights and the absence of justice in the face of clear and intentional murders and assaults. I’ve sat at work time after time, crying at my desk in between meetings and unable to focus because of the emotional toll of the news of yet another unjustified homicide or unwarranted acquittal. I could have used some support in the workplace but found that oftentimes, these matters are avoided and business continues as usual. I want to change that, so here are 3 ways to support your impacted employees.

  • Cancel Work Obligations – One of the most difficult things to do is put on a happy face while dealing with devastating emotions. One of my first jobs was as a 9-11 operator. When we took a stressful call, the center would offer the opportunity to debrief afterward and take the remainder of the day off. This offer was not just extended to the employee that took the call, but everyone in the center who beared witness. The ability to stop and process emotions is important for the mental health and healing of your affected employees
  • Onsite Support – Most companies have EAP programs to assist employees in personal situations. Allowing access to this support is important, but should be paired with onsite help during major incidents. Form a team that is aware of circumstances that can potentially negatively influence your workforce and proactively set up the resources needed to address those needs
  • Monitor & Address Workplace Chatter – Whether your organization frowns on political conversations or not (sidenote: silencing your employees is a bad idea), they are being discussed. I can recall multiple times race matters spilled in to the workplace, causing conflict between black employees who felt betrayed by the system of justice and white employees who considered the outcome to be fair. These communications should be monitored and discussed transparently and any resulting discord dealt with fairly and effectively.

Regardless of your opinion on the case, if you are serious about diversity, equity and inclusion, it is your duty to create a safe space for your employees to express anger, grief, and empathy. Ignoring these matters continues to compound the scar left on your Black employees by generations of unfair treatment and discrimination. Be an empathetic leader, listen, understand and take action to keep toxicity, exclusion and racism at bay in your business.

A Blessing or A Lesson? 8 Ways to Turn Life’s Losses into Wins

“I never lose. Either I Win or I Learn.”

NyRee Ausler
Women WInning – Photo Cred: Shutterstock

I don’t know who originated the quote above, but throughout the years, I have made it my own, internalizing it and applying it to every aspect of my life. I strongly believe that everything that happens in life is either a blessing or a lesson. Every success is an opportunity to celebrate and every failure is a chance to learn a valuable lesson; I consider both epic wins. This mindset has been pivotal in my ability to bounce back, reinvent myself, and create new opportunities. I have compiled a list of 8 ways to always win in life, even when it feels like you’re losing.

Change Your Perspective:

In times of challenge, it’s easy to see the glass as half empty. Early in my career, a company I was at suddenly made the announcement that they were shutting down and laying everyone off. I immediately started to panic but when I settled down at home that night, I realized that I no longer had to endure a three-hour daily commute, had run out of opportunities for advancement, and was only there for a paycheck. I enrolled in training courses and secured a higher-level position that paid more, offered growth and provided continuing education opportunities. Every time one door closes, another one opens. You just have to decide on which door to try.

Self-Analyze:

It’s easy to blame other people when things go wrong. Having the ability to be introspective and identify how you contributed to a failure or an unsatisfactory outcome is important in turning that loss into a win. No one is perfect, so there should always be something that you can find to improve on or do better next time. The fact that you survived and are able to look back at the situation is a success in itself.

Empathize:

I used to believe that any time I lost, someone else had to have won. In my mind, there was always a supervillain behind the scenes praying for my demise and celebrating when that prayer was answered. Okay, that’s a little extreme, but you catch my drift. As I’ve grown, I’ve found that there is not always a clear winner and loser in every situation. Sometimes it’s a win-win and in others, everyone is mourning a loss. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes can help to ease anger and emotional baggage, freeing you to find the lesson and blessing.

Stand Up for Yourself or Someone Else:

I’ve always been a fighter. I stand up for what I believe in and refuse to stand by idly watching as another human being is treated unfairly. But when I started my career, I toned it down; as a black woman at work, I was careful not to be labeled as “aggressive” or “angry”. I wanted to fit in and not make waves. Every time I stood down when I should have stood up, I went home and almost couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. It wasn’t long before I decided to be myself; no more going along to get along, no more code-switching or smiling in the face of disrespect, microaggressions, or disregard. Standing up for myself and others taught me to deal with my emotions and conflict effectively, what motivates others and what circumstances to avoid in the future.

Identify Opportunities:

I was once working as a payroll specialist but doing the work of a supervisor. When the supervisory role opened up, I figured I was going to be selected; I had proven I could do the job and do it well. My manager thought differently. She hired an external candidate and asked me to train her in her supervisory duties. I asked about why I have been passed over and was told that it was because I didn’t have a payroll certification. That day, I signed up to take the certification exam and began studying. After passing a few months later I moved to a supervisor role elsewhere. I decided that no one would ever be able to hold the lack of credentials over my head again. Even in times where you know you’re being treated unfairly, there are things that you can do to eliminate that roadblock going forward.

Find Clarity & Direction:

One of the first places that I worked for several years was at a cell phone provider. For years, I received accolades as a top customer service rep. I had built my phone persona and no matter how many customers cursed me out, yelled at me, and disrespected me, I stayed in character and did everything by the book. The company loved me. After a few years, employees were notified that the organization was relocating and I got offered a chance to move with them. I recalled the dread I felt pulling into work every day and the willpower and self-control it took to listen to people verbally assault you in one call after the next. I declined and dedicated my efforts to my payroll and human resources career. Sometimes we are well aware that we are not happy with the status quo, but need a push to move in the right direction.

Take a Break:

Nothing is more important than your mental health. In a culture where accomplishments, titles, and wealth rule, finding the time for self-care is hard. As many know, I left a “good job” six months ago. The pay was good, but not what it should have been for the work I was doing. The company was international so I was online early in the morning and late at night to meet with co-workers in various time zones. I had no job lined up and didn’t care. I needed a break. Since then, I have pampered myself, grown closer with my family, rediscovered my love of writing, and released years of stress. You can’t win in life without your health and mental wellness. Your first priority is to take care of yourself. Don’t sell out your God-given talents to make a buck or fill the emotional tanks of others while yours is running on empty. Plan, prepare and take a break when you need to.

Let it Go:

I used to hate when people told me that forgiveness is for me and not for the person being forgiven. I always felt as if I were being too passive by moving on from the transgression. However, the person that had wronged me would be past the situation and living their best life as if it never happened. I finally recognized that I was staying in a negative place and inflicting further suffering on myself. I began to practice the art of letting go. When I encounter something that I consider to be a bad experience, I ask myself two questions: Can I change it? If not, is there a lesson to be learned? If I can’t change it, I take the lesson and move on. If there is a lesson to be learned, I write it down, meditate on it to avoid a recurrence, and move on. If I can find no lesson in it, I stop the proverbial bleeding and move on. Either way, I move on. Erykah Badu famously said, “Bag lady, you gone hurt your back… dragging all them bags like that…” in one of my favorite songs, Bag Lady. The message was about moving on and not carrying excess baggage with you. So change things if you can, take in the lesson and lighten your load.

Whether the loss of a loved one has taught you to love your family while they are still here, you are starting out new with a fresh outlook on life, or you have simply cut your losses and kept it moving, every situation in life has been a stepping stone to get you to where you are today: alive and of sound mind with a world full of endless possibility at your fingertips.

The Inclusion Illusion: Black Women Are Opting Out of Corporate America

Photo Cred: Shutterstock

Last night I dreamed that my teeth were falling out. The dream was so vivid that when I woke up, I ran to the bathroom fully expecting to see nothing but gums when I opened my mouth. This prompted me to search do a quick Google search for the interpretation of this dream. I came across a post by Delta Dental. To summarize, this dream is associated with starting anew and insecurities surrounding embarking on an unfamiliar path. The dream analysis seemed to represent exactly where I am in life.

I always felt smart. I read early, got good grades, and when I finally took my first job in Payroll and Human Resources, I expected to work hard and climb the ranks to the top of my field where I could really make an impact. I did my part; I worked hard, learned something new when I identified an area where I was lacking, and always worked well above my title and pay to prove I had what it took to be promoted. In my naivety, I believed that the playing field was even and that everyone that worked hard would be rewarded. The truth hit me like a ton of bricks.

I first became aware that I was held to a different standard than my colleagues in my early twenties. I was working a hybrid role as a Human Resources and Payroll Specialist. I caught on quickly and was “rewarded” with more work but my title and pay remained the same. The company grew and decided they needed a manager in my department. Although doing the exact work for over a year and receiving accolades, I applied for the role. I was overlooked and someone with less experience was hired into the role. After it was decided that they could not keep up with the workload, the organization came back to ask if I was interested. I wasn’t so I moved on.

That was not a unique situation. My career progression has come at a staggering cost. Many times, the only way I could be promoted was to apply for a new job. I always hoped that new leadership would see my value and give me the opportunities I worked so hard for. I cannot think of a time where that was the case. My leveling up has always been a hard-fought battle, leaving a bad taste in both mine and my employer’s mouths. They believed I should just be grateful to work for them while I believed I should not have to work two times as hard as my peers in order to be valued.

The beginning of the end of my Payroll and Human resources career came this year. I came into an organization because I believed the CEO was a true ally. This time would be different; he understood the plight of black women in the workplace and was doing something about the inequality, or so I thought. After a year and a half of working at a Director level while being paid and titled as a Manager, I left the company. Right after leaving, I heard the CEO discussing issues such as mine on a podcast and decided to reach out on LinkedIn. I believed that by sharing my experience, I could help to make the company a better place for those that came after me. I thought he cared and would appreciate my insight. Instead of simply thanking me for my feedback, I was given first-hand experience with performative allyship. Although proclaiming his support publicly, this leader became defensive, even going as far as to blame me for the experience (more on this in my upcoming book, The Inclusion Illusion). The experience was so shocking and traumatic that I spoke with the company’s legal team but opted to end discussions as I wanted to maintain my right to speak out about what happened to me. Far too often, people that look like me are offered severance pay in exchange for their silence allowing these problematic employers to continue inflicting damage on others while sucking the lifeblood out of them.

Since leaving that organization early this year, I have been involved in a plethora of job interview loops. I have sat in many Zoom interviews, explaining to people that did not look like me or relate to me why I am a good fit for their organizations. There have been times that I made it to the end, but another candidate was selected. In those situations, I have asked for feedback and been told repeatedly how great I was and that the only issue was location although each role I applied for was remote. Other times, I have discovered red flags about companies that have led me to drop out of the process. The thought of getting into another role where I am overworked and overlooked creates extreme anxiety in me and I am no longer sacrificing my mental health for financial gain.

Then yesterday it hit me. On a plane ride home from my grandmother-in-law’s funeral, I had the epiphany life is too short to be unhappy. I already knew that, but told myself that I had put so much into my career and could not just throw it away. It was familiar and stable but it was not my dream. I realized that although I had left one workplace, I was still constantly interviewing for roles that would put me right back into the position that I had so desperately wanted out of. I accepted that Corporate America was not set up for black women and that it would be a long time, if ever before we found ourselves on equal footing. With that, I went home and canceled all of my upcoming interviews. I immediately felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and a true sense of freedom.

The decision to walk away from something I have dedicated my whole life to was not an easy one. It takes financial preparation, a clear sense of direction and self-worth, confidence, support from family and friends, and most importantly a sense of exhaustion with the status quo. My dream about losing my teeth represented all of those things and came right after I made the life-changing decision to let something that I have worked so hard for die in order to give life to my true calling. I am not alone in this. Black women are leaving Corporate America in droves. We are tired of working twice as hard, proving ourselves repeatedly, and going unrecognized. We are exhausted with ignoring microaggressions, silencing ourselves to keep the peace, and being overlooked. We are opening our eyes to the possibility of successfully launching our own ventures when we stop asking for a seat at the table and decide to take a seat at our own.

Black women are starting businesses at breakneck speed. With organizations refusing to do something tangible about the lack of equality in the workplace, the economic landscape will change drastically over the next decade and that is not necessarily a bad thing. We will do what we do best; survive, overcome and thrive. But the absence of black women in the workplace will have a negative impact on companies for many years to come.

The Black Marriage Movement

“Something For Everyone”

Heidi Henderson-Lewis
Photo Cred: The Black Marriage Movement

According to a study conducted by Pew Research Institute, over a third of black people twenty-five and older have never married. This number is four times higher than in 1960. Some of the reasons for this drastic drop in our marriage rates are mass incarceration, a disparity in education between black women and black men, economic hardship, and ineffective communication. Nearly half that do get married eventually end up divorced. Terrence Lewis and Heidi Henderson-Lewis are on a mission to change that.

Over a decade ago, Terrence was working for the Fatherhood Program in conjunction with the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative. The focus was on building healthy relationships between fathers and their children and strengthening the institution of marriage in the African American Community. Heidi was working as a Marriage and Family Therapist and as Executive Director at the Boys and Girls Club in Seattle.

Terrence first created the Seattle Fall Ball as a special night for men and women raising families together to celebrate and connect with others. The evening left Terrence and Heidi believing there was much more they could do. As the Lewis’ reflected on the success of the ball that evening, The Black Marriage Movement was born. Both Terrence and Heidi had been supporting families and couples in the Seattle community for years, so the progression was a no-brainer. The realization that more inner-city children had seen funerals than successful, healthy marriages reinforced the need to push forward. In deciding what they wanted to accomplish with this movement, the couple came up with three tenets: celebration, recreation, and education.

Since its inception, The Annual Seattle Fall Ball has grown from just a few couples to over 350 couples. The elegant affair features a talented emcee who provides continuous laughs throughout the evening, a live band whose harmonious melodies keep the mood light and energetic, and a delectable dinner of salmon, steak, or chicken coupled with sautéed vegetables and creamy mashed potatoes. Dessert is a romantic adventure as couples share cheesecake topped with strawberry sauce and a chocolate cream pie.

As the couples that have been married the longest are presented with gift baskets you get the feeling that if they can make it, so can you. After eating, everyone heads over to the ballroom for dancing, drinks, and good music. If you have a sweet tooth, there is even a bar filled with candy to satisfy your needs. So whether you came to dine, be entertained, reconnect with old friends, meet new friends, step in the name of love, or just sip on apple cider, there is something for everyone.

Throughout the year, The Black Marriage Movement holds workshops and facilitates meetups where they provide educational materials that address the unique challenges faced in our community. In addition, they bring in speakers, plan group outings and give couples Marriage Maintenance Activities to build connections, solve common relationship problems and strengthen communication. Because of their openness and authenticity, Terrence and Heidi help overcome the stigma associated with letting others in on marital issues. They assure us that we are not alone in this and that there is no reason to be perfect in public while falling apart privately.

You don’t need statistics to tell you that The Black Marriage Movement is working. It’s evident in the newlyweds that show up for the first time every year and in the attendance of mature ‘ride or die’ couples that amaze us with their longevity and inspire us to do better. But most of all, the success can be measured by the husbands and wives that have come back from the brink of divorce and dysfunction and are now helping others to do the same. With a will to give back and the experience to lead by example, it’s no wonder that under the guidance of Terrence and Heidi, black marriages in Seattle are standing strong.

My husband and I are looking forward to the world getting back to normal and attending the next Seattle Fall Ball.

5 Tools to Finally Finish Writing Your Book

Photo Cred: Shutterstock

Many people have a unique ѕtory buried ѕоmеwhere in a drаwеr, a file on their computer or in the back of their mind. Since I released my first book back in 2016, numerous people have reached out to ask how I did it in hopes of some inspirational tidbit that will help them complete such an insurmountable task. They come to me as if I am some kind of magical sage with a special ability to make up stories for entertainment. The truth is that everyone has a story to tell and with the right tools for success, anyone can bring what is in their hearts to fruition and share it with others. Hеrе is five tools that can assist you in finаllу соmрlеting your book.

Dеdiсаtiоn
Writing a bооk tаkеѕ a lot оf time. Whilе уоu dоn’t need tо gеt уоur nоvеl writtеn in оnе mоnth, уоu dо nееd tо be able ѕit in front of your computer or at your desk consistently and for long stretches of time. Thе mаin соntrаѕt bеtwееn a dеѕirе аnd аn оbjесtivе iѕ an obligation with a duе date. Instead of dreaming about writing a book, make the task an unequivocal dutу that you work toward on a daily basis. A community of writers that I joined for inspiration is Nanowrimo.org. The name is short for National Novel Writing Month, which occurs every November. The site offers tools, word counters, writing camps, etc. to help to push through getting your book done.

Use S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Nо one саn writе a book in оnе dау; nоt еvеn thе bеѕt writеr in the wоrld. That iѕ exactly why you must ѕераrаtе your objective of finishing your book intо mini-objectives. Rаthеr than reaching for the overwhelming task of finishing your entire book in two months set a goal of completing a chapter a week or one thousand words a day. Doesn’t that seem much more manageable? Truth tо bе told, words quickly become paragraphs and paragraphs become chapters and before you know it, you have a finished project. Be sure and track your daily word or page count to kеер уоu оn target. Your writing goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to your book project, and have strict time-based deadlines. A couple of tools that my family has used for planning are Monday and Smartsheet. These project management applications can help with breaking down tasks into steps for ongoing progress.

Plаn Your Day Religiously
The most difficult part of writing is finding a way to fit it into your daily plans. Thеrе аrе a milliоn things to you could tо bе dоing. Trust me, between working full-time as an entrepreneur, a spontaneous husband, and highly active kids, writing takes some serious planning for me. One thing that has helped me tremendously was planning out my days in advance. Furthеrmоrе, everything I plan on doing on a daily basis is laid out in advance and my schedule is adhered to as much as possible. An awesome resource that my entire family uses to share is Cozi. This app allows you to create daily agendas and is visible to the entire family to prevent scheduling conflicts and missed obligations. You can also create and manage grocery and to-do lists and it is simple enough for your entire family to use. So set a schedule and barring a life-and-death emergency, stick to it!

Utilizе free timе
Your day nеvеr hаѕ еnоugh hоurѕ. Thеn аgаin, when I do have free time, I admittedly have not been as productive as I could have been in the past. I was either watching television mindlessly or spending time on social media for all the wrong reasons. I finally realized that rather than watching others who have been successful in their craft, I could be cultivating my own success. You will bе аѕtоundеd whаt you саn finiѕh when you decide your dream is the most important thing in your life. I found this free time calculator that can help you to visualize how much extra time you have in your day that you could be taking advantage of.

Rеlinԛuiѕh Flawlessness
It’s hard tо соntinuе writing withоut bасkреdаling аnd ѕесоnd-guessing уоurѕеlf. There is always that burning desire to go back and edit or rewrite what you have already written. If that is the case, уоu mау nеvеr соmрlеtе your book. First drafts are never perfect! The purpose of the draft is simply to get your story out. After you have gotten it out, you саn backtrack аnd imрrоvе it. One way to limit grammatical errors and help you to feel more confident in your freestyle writing is using Grammarly. This writing assistant technology helps to identify errors and write clearly and integrates easily. Evеrуone’ѕ initial drаft iѕ fаr from flawless. Cоnѕidеr it a bеginning ѕtаgе or step one. It’s the foundation on which you will build your amazing story.

Bonus Tips

I tend to make the assumption that most people that have a desire to write have chosen or are aware of the appropriate medium to use. But you know what they say about assumptions… Just in case you have not, I have included a list of writing resources below:

I won’t lie; writing a book is not the easiest task in the world. If it was, there would a bigger number оf people writing than thinking about writing. You are here so my guess is that you don’t want to be among the overlooked аnd unseen. Gеt your book соmрlеtеd and оut intо thе wоrld! Yоur ѕtоrу deserves it.

Stay tuned for tips on what to do after your first draft is completed.

The Problem with Being Strong, Black & Woman

Stressed out black woman
Photo Cred: Shutterstock

For as long as I can remember, I have been groomed to be the strong black woman I was intended to be. After all, my parents had survived poverty as children in Arkansas and started a family of six kids together as teens; all while raising my mother’s six siblings. They were the epitome of strength and endurance.

I was eleven years old the first time I remember being fully aware that the expectations of me were completely different from those of my five brothers. I was in the middle with two older siblings and three younger ones. My maternal grandmother has passed away and my parents were driving two hours away for the funeral. None of us kids had ever witnessed death, so they decided to just take me since I was the one that “could handle this kind of situation.” I did.

After that day, I began to notice that I was treated as a responsible adult while my siblings were allowed to make mistakes, have failures and be irresponsible at times. I was proud, though; I relished the idea that my parents believed that I could handle anything that life threw my way because I was smart, mature and strong. I was trusted to be where I was supposed to be and do exactly what I was supposed to do. When my brothers left the house, my mom was concerned over all of the possibilities of what could happen to them. When I departed our home, everyone assumed I would make the right choices and avoid any real trouble. They were wrong.

At fifteen years old, I lived out my parent’s worst nightmare and became a teen parent. To make matters worse, due to several health issues, no one was aware that I was pregnant until I gave birth, sending my entire family into a tailspin. My baby was perfectly healthy and went home with my parents two days later, while I remained in the hospital for several weeks. Concern overcame my parents’ initial disappointment in me. They knew that black women were two to six times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than their white counterparts. Although worried, they knew I would be okay because I was “strong”. Even when everyone began to suspect I was going through postpartum depression, they told me to shake it off and keep moving. I did. I worked, finished school avoided any extracurricular activities and became a full-fledged single parent at fifteen. When I decided to press my son’s father for help, my mother told me not to beg (he had been undependable) and to buckle down and figure things out on my own. I did.

The biggest display of my ability to stay strong, even in the worst of situations came at seventeen. My brother who was just eleven months older than me was shot and killed at my high school. My entire family was devastated and fell apart. Empathetic to my parents’ loss of a child, I did what I had become know for doing best; I met with funeral directors and insurance agents and planned my closest sibling’s funeral. There was no time for me to fall apart because I had to be the person that made sure everything went as planned. That had long been accepted as my job. After my brother was laid to rest, I took a moment and allowed myself to collapse in a heap of tears and screams on our kitchen floor. Confused by my sudden display of weakness, everyone assured me that I would be okay and I pulled myself together.

Since then, my life has been a constant exhibit of strength and resilience. I have taken pride in exceeding expectations, having the answers and keeping it together any time my world came tumbling down. I have always felt a responsibility to stand up when I feel someone is being mistreated. I have been called “brave” and “courageous”. This image is something I have cultivated and taken on as my identity. It has been good to me; helping me to make it through the best and worst of times and to bounce back from rock bottom. But being a “strong black woman” has been a double-edged sword.

People calling to check on me is a rarity. Most of the calls I receive are based in a need; money, advice, resources. Everyone assumes that my life is going well and never asks me how I am doing. When I am mistreated, empathy is hard to come by. The belief that I can get past anything has created a scenario where my pain is not taken seriously or even acknowledged. I observe as the most toxic and dysfunctional people in my orbit are handled gently and given multiple chances to make mistakes without repercussions. I don’t get that luxury. I am expected to be empathetic, forgiving, loving, concerned, engaged and responsible in every aspect of life while avoiding making anyone feel uncomfortable by sharing my emotions. I am expected to be strong without being intimidating or perceived as “angry”. I am not alone in this. Black women all around me have the same experience and we are tired.

There have been multiple studies on the societal treatment of black women; disproportionate treatment by the school system (especially dark-skinned black girls), a misconception and we require less protection and nurturing and are insensitive to pain and a disregard of us when we are victimized, murdered or missing. We are sexualized and perceived as adults early on, robbing us of the innocence of childhood. Even when we ask for help our pleas fall on deaf ears. Over the past several years, hashtags like #protectblackwomen #believeblackwomen and #sayhername have cropped up to highlight the indifference to the plight of women that look like me. The added stress of the pandemic, the economy and the impact on families has created a need for black women in particular to be cognizant of our mental health, practice self-care and set healthy boundaries.

Over the past couple of years, I have often analyzed how I am treated in both professional and personal settings. I have taken note of the dismissal of my concerns and feelings. In addition, I have taken care to understand the intent behind all communications I receive. Nowadays, I express my disappointment when friends, family and coworkers only reach out to me only when it benefits them. I am cutting people that have a negative impact out of my life and setting rules of engagement with those that will remain. All of us should do these things religiously. Black women are strong, but we are also vulnerable, scared at times and most importantly, human. We don’t have to be the backbone in every situation. We, too, should be given the benefit of the doubt. We need a break.

I was recently on a flight and during the pre-takeoff instructions, the flight attendant advised that parents should put their oxygen masks on before attempting to assist their children. That has become a metaphor for my life. Without first taking care of ourselves we cannot take care of others. Because black women were forced to care for others during and after slavery, the expectation has never died and has worked to our detriment. But, gone are the days where black women place the needs of any and everybody above our own. We are putting our oxygen masks on first, then looking around and deciding who actually deserves our love, strength and protection. We embrace situations and people that make us feel loved, respected and protected and say no unapologetically to circumstances that no longer serve us.

The Great Resignation & How I Became a Part of it

Photo cred: Shutterstock

Ever since the pandemic started last year, people have been quitting their jobs left and right. The looming threat on the health and viability of the general public has caused so many to realize that sometimes a job is just not worth it. Others already had a growing disdain for the co-workers, bosses, the job itself or the work environment in general. That was not the case for me.

I started a new role three months prior to Covid-19. I came in excited about the role and ready to tackle the job head on. Immediately, I realized I was being titled (and paid) as a Manager, but the duties aligned with those of a Director. I decided to give the job my all anyway, believing that once I proved my value, the company would automatically recognize that I am underpaid and fix the problem.

Fast forward over a hear and a half, after several acquisitions, building a global team, working virtually around the clock, and numerous conversations with my manager I found out that instead of fixing the issue, the company had opted to give me the highest possible increase based on performance (4%) instead of doing the right thing. I decided I could not and would not allow myself to be undervalued. I left the organization and five months later, the position (now properly titled and paid) remains open.

There are employees out there that love their jobs, manager and co-workers, respect the company they work for and just want to do a good job while also being treated fairly. Employers that miss this basic mark do a disservice to themselves, exiting employees and those left behind to fill the gaps. Here are five simple things an employer can do to retain good talent:

  • Work/Life BalanceBe well aware of the staffing required to allow employees to perform the duties of the job while still participating in their own personal lives. Hire enough people and be clear about the expectations for each role.
  • Listen to Your Workers – Everyone has a perspective and an opinion. Even if you disagree with an employee’s point of view, listen and attempt to find common ground. Being dismissive is off-putting and does not inspire loyalty. Sometimes no action is even necessary; just active listening and sincere empathy.
  • Don’t Talk About it. Be About it With the spotlight on discrimination, mistreatment and police brutality, we have seen many CEOs (some known to be problematic) exhibiting Performative Allyship. They talk a good game, but do not back it up with tangible action or continue to act contrary to their public persona behind the scenes. A true ally needs to do the work to listen, understand and act when necessary; not just when the cameras are on.
  • Be Fair & Equitable – Whether employees are sounding the alarm or not, it is up to your business to audit regularly and make changes when necessary. Not only should your salaries and benefits be competitive in the market, they should be comparable across your organization. Review salary bands, employee performance and demographics regularly to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
  • Pay for the Job – When the duties for a job are enhanced, so should the pay and title. When employees take time away from their regular jobs to do diversity, inclusion and equity work for your organization, compensate them for the contribution; this is an asset to your business. That is it and that is all.

Having experienced the workplace and the phenomenon of being overworked and undervalued more often than not, I can all but guarantee that ensuring these five tips are followed will make any impending “Great Resignation” from the workplace a small hurdle instead of a Global challenge for Human Resources and Talent Acquisition teams.

A true leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.

John C. Maxwell