“What are you harboring in your heart that you have yet to forgive them for?”

I was watching The Shack the other day; that’s when I heard these words. “Who have you not forgiven?”

These words stuck, possibly even stung… Yeah they stung. They hurt. So much so that I can still feel the piercing at this moment.

“Who have you not forgiven?”

The thing is…I pride myself in the ability to forgive and move on. If you were to ask me about grudges, I’d tell you that I don’t hold grudges. But maybe there’s  difference between holding a grudge and offering forgiveness. Maybe not.

When I heard the question, “Who have you not forgiven?,” I searched my heart. Lo and behold, there was a person who I had not forgiven. This is a person of the past. A person who I severed ties with physically but failed to sever ties with emotionally. Not because I still loved or was in love with that person. Instead, it was because there were damaging pieces of the relationship that still follow me today.

Pieces that cause me to question my motives. Pieces that trigger the thoughts of clothing choices. Pieces that make me question my interactions with men.

The words and emotional responses from this man literally made me question who I was. Made me question my loyalty. Made me feel so bad about myself and my choices to the point that I said I’d never allow myself to get into another relationship like that.

This weekend, I decided to forgive him. I decided to no longer allow these things to harbor in my heart, and per the example in The Shack, I’m making it a point to forgive him over and over again. Not because I’m not a strong and confident woman, but because it’s the right thing to do. And not just because God said so, but because I’m understanding the power of forgiveness.

While writing this post, I feel a lightness — an airiness — a feeling of overwhelming and unmistakable peace that (from experience I know it) only comes from God. It’s a feeling that says that I have now let go. I am now able to move on. That I am now experiencing my healing.

Over the past 7 months, I have experienced a brokenness like no other. Moreover, I’ve lived in a state of perpetual anger over the last two years.

This weekend has been a moment of “no more.” All because I’ve decided to let go and forgive.

Today, I leave you with the same question. What are you harboring in your heart that you have yet to forgive? What is stealing your joy or taking up a space where so many other life-giving sentiments could dwell? I encourage you to search your heart. All you have to do is be willing to forgive. God will help you do the rest.

If you haven’t seen The Shack, take a moment to check it out. It could be life-changing.

Love you. Until next time,

Gina

Connect or shop:

IG: @affirmeddesignsrrp

FB: facebook.com/affirmeddesignsrrp

Etsy: affirmeddesignsrrp.etsy.com

One week before my birthday, my boyfriend and I broke up. (Sidenote: It’s feels really good to be blogging). Anyhoo, like I said, a week before my birthday, my boyfriend and I broke up. It wasn’t unforeseeable, yet, I didn’t see it coming. Not 100%. We were in that odd spot; that spot where we had previously gone looking at rings, yet hadn’t made any moves toward marriage. The spot where I began to put the pressure on…either it is or it ain’t. The spot where the hours where the patience was growing shorter and comprimise had thinned.

We were at our make or break moment. It was in that moment that we broke.

And it hurt.

And though not 100% related, life was coming to a head in the midst of that moment. At the tip, a life-changing trip to Mexico City.

I’d scheduled this trip while I was still in my relationship. He didn’t know I scheduled it, but I knew that I had to get away. Not from him…but from life. There were so many things stressing me out. Things that I was holding in for months; holding my tongue to try to be more PC. Holding my tongue to be a suitable mate. Holding my tongue because I no longer wanted to be known as brash. (BTW…I hate that label. Stop saying it to people.)

Being away from home, yet not far enough that it felt foreign, I had a change to gain a bit of clarity. The weather was warm. The sun was out. I spoke enough Spanish to get by (smile), but not enough to totally understand what was going on around me. I was literally able to have some time with just me.

For the most part, I experienced peace. I had moments where I laughed. Moments where I chilled with hip hop in the park. Moments where I shopped. And no one was bothering me. No one was asking me for anything.

That’s when I realized, I’d gotten into a state of giving too much without a ton of reciprocity.

Some would say you don’t give with the expectation to get something in return. They’re right. Though, wisdom has taught that you can’t give and give and give without having something put back into your tank. I was not putting back into my tank. And no matter how much my boyfriend wanted to or even tried, he wasn’t even filling the tank to the needed capacity.

The reality is that I was giving much more than I had to give.

I was drained. And I was on what seemed to be the verge of a mental breakdown.

And try they may, at this time, I didn’t need people. I needed Regina to be strong and get her priorities straight. I did this by putting things in proper perspective — what I was stressing over vs. my health. I went with my health.

I temporarily closed my Etsy shop. Though it was only supposed to be closed for a week, I closed it for a month. And I didn’t tell many people because it wasn’t their business.

I stopped stressing about my Etsy orders. I have a full-time job and lead a pretty demanding ministry at church. If an order was late, the most they could do was write a bad review, report me or I would need to refund their order. In the scope of what I had on my plate, that wasn’t a big deal.

I dealt with the issues that were stressing me at church. I’d been holding on to some things for close to a year, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to be very transparent with leadership what I’d been feeling, which was undervalued and not trusted. The reality is, I felt like a middle man and not a leader in some instances, and anyone who knows me well, knows that I don’t play that role well at all. I’m either all in or I’m not in at all. Don’t give me a label if you don’t want me to strive for the level of excellence I believe we deserve.

I’m now at a place of contentment in those areas – well, as content as a person with anxiety can be.

On the other hand, I still have a ton of things I’m dealing with. Frankly, I’m dealing with loneliness and sadness. This is a daily journey. I don’ t have much hope for my romantic further though I want to. I just don’t. I’m angry often, bitter and a little hopeless. And that’s the honest truth.

I miss my boyfriend like crazy. I have a broken heart. And I am really just trying to get by.

And on top of that, I’m not sure where the people who look like me who aren’t married are. I love my friends, but I just need some melanin right now. I’m kinda missin the people from the hood too. Life was simpler and more fun then.

So to the age old question, does money buy you happiness? No.

And to what I started with, “am I okay?” No, but I know today is not where my story ends.

It’s okay to be the tortoise, the hare is done with the race entirely too fast. – RP

It all started with one question. “If I were to sell scarves, would you buy them?” Enough people said yes that I went ham with my crochet needles and my incessant trips to the yarn aisle at Michael’s. I was in a crafting woman’s heaven. So many colors and textures. And so many people in love with my designs, I’d felt like I made it.

I researched Etsy, found out what was popular, decided pricing. I even opened a store.

And today, several sales later, I have a thriving design and stationery business.

Wait, but I thought you sold scarves. I did. I do. Well, kinda. I guess.

That’s where the lessons begins.

Lesson 1: Just start.

I believe the biggest hurdle for entrepreneurs is getting started. So many people say it, but so many of us don’t do it…and I’ll go on a limb and say that we who have an advertising or business background may be the biggest offenders. Our day jobs are to keep the organizations we work for — those with multimillion (or billion) dollar budgets — not only from failing, but thriving.

We have all the right recipes. Understand the psychology of people, the science of marketing and ind and outs of communications, accounting and HR, so much so that we can’t help but to approach our itty bitty startups the way we approach the companies that have been around for over 100 years.

We don’t give credit where credit is due, noticing that these businesses also started somewhere. They didn’t become the conglomerate that they are today overnight.

And neither will your or my business…and it definitely won’t become anything if we don’t just start.

Lesson 2: Your beginning is not your ending.

Back the beginning of this story. When I started this new business, it was not supposed to be a design business. I was going to sell scarves. And I was going to design and sell a planner. The Work/Life Balance planner. That was it.

I had no idea that I was going to fall in love with photoshop and design and want to spend my spare time thinking up and forming designs almost daily. That just happened. And I happened to be okay at it. Maybe, I should say I happened to BECOME okay at it.

And people eventually liked my designs..and they bought my stuff. And they liked it when they got it. And that made me happy.

That was enough to keep me moving.

Lesson 3: Keep moving.

When I started Affirmed Designs, I had no clue what I was doing. Pricing items and marketing were the pieces that I was the best at…and that’s because I have a background in marketing and strategic business. (Did you hear me…I wasn’t even great at design!)

I had no clue how to put a planner together. I had no clue how to add plugins to photoshop. I had no clue how to ship items. I had no clue what to charge for shipping. I didn’t know the best supplies to buy. Heck. I didn’t even know the final name of my business.

The only thing I knew — and was committed to — was to keep moving. Regardless of how hard, tough, or confusing it was I kept moving. I lost so much money trying to figure things out. There were bad print jobs Bad cut jobs. And so on. But I just kept moving.

Lesson 4: Things will fall into place.

After all the trial and error, things eventually began to fall into place. After tons of research and playing around, I realized what I wanted my business to stand for. It wasn’t just pretty designs and stickers for planners. It was more than that. It was about speaking affirmation and positivity into the lives of women. It was about creating something that they could look at and feel like they belonged in the world. Like they could reach their goals. Like they had a purpose, even if they’ve never felt that before. Affirmed Designs was birthed to create a place a of strength, to act as a piece of my overall personal mission.

But I didn’t know that until I’d bumped my head, cried tears, and made so many mistakes. The grunt work had to be done before the beauty was revealed. But once the beauty was revealed it was smooth sailing…kinda.

Lesson 5: Set real, but kinda stupid goals.

Number one. I’m a procrastinator. Number two. I like the creative process more than I like the fulfillment process. So it was all fine and dandy when I was on the computer creating items, but I kinda dreaded having an order come through. I tried many things to make that better. I tried writing thank you notes in advance. I set up my “production studio” to create a better flow for fulfillment. I even ordered return address stickers. All of those things made it better, but it was not right…mainly because I HATED CUTTING ITEMS BY HAND. The problem with this is that I had the electric die cutting tool by hand. So to overcome this horrible problem, I took down my Etsy shop and set a personal goal; I’d turn my Etsy shop back on once I’d learned to use the die cutting machine. This meant that I couldn’t take orders for the majority of my products (i.e. make money) until I’d learned to use the machine.

Needless to say, I learned to use the machine. This quickly spurred into creating inventory…and for some reason sales picked up tremendously.

Lesson 6: Learn from your mistakes…QUICKLY.

Two things about mistakes. Mistakes cost money. And mistakes cost customers…which essentially is money. And I don’t like losing money.

Being horrible at (and hating) fulfillment, I would miss shipping dates. This resulted in less than optimal situations. 1) I refunded a customer money because I’d miss the date so drastically. 2) I had a customer report me to Etsy.

In a nutshell, I was bad a customer service. It was essential that I learned from that quickly. To overcome it, I went back to lesson 5 and made it a goal to ship on time. And this wasn’t a mental goal. It was a goal that I’d written out on my monthly goals spreadsheet.

Learning to use my die cutter helped tremendously. I’d also made it a point to create inventory. Those things together have helped me reduce my shipping time from 1-2 weeks to 3-5 days. (I also think this is a factor in sales picking up.)

Lesson 7: Be okay with being the tortoise.

I looked at the number of sales I’d achieved on Etsy over the course of the year and was a little discouraged. But then I thought about it. I accomplished so much over the course of the year. I created and defined a brand…one that I feel can stand up over the course of time. I became pretty solid in my digital marketing approach.I streamlined my fulfillment and shipping processes.  I progressed SO MUCH in m photoshop skills. I still found a balance in my life and work. (I’m very involved in church, have a full-time job, and I’m inn a long-distance relationship…where we travel to see each other 1-2 times a week.) I expanded my product offering. And I did almost all of it by myself. In essence, I set what I feel to be a firm foundation for a solid business model.

Bonus Lesson 1: Pat yourself on the back.

There will be many days where no one will pat you on your back. That’s okay. You’re gonna feel like you’re doing it alone and when you’ll feel like you’re not as good as the one next to you…or measuring up to the invisible stick only you’ve created. And that’s okay too. Those are the days you’ll have to reach your hand  behind your neck and pat yourself on the back. Only you know the time, energy and money you’ve put into your business. And for that, you deserve a pat on the back…and likely a glass of wine.

Bonus Lesson 2: DO NOT COMPARE.

If there is anything I can’t stress more, it’s this one. I once read that comparison (or competition) is the thief of joy. *rolls eyes* THIS IS SO TRUE. More than that, it’s the one thing that can get you off your rocker quicker than anything else. It’s one thing to research and to know the market, it’s another to use someone else as your measuring stick. When you compare, you have the potential to lose sight of what you really stand for and, worse, become depressed and/or become a really nasty person. It is true that there’s enough room for all of us, and like stated in Girl Code, no one can do it like you. Stand on that. Keep your eye focused on your goal, and try to leave this world better than when you came into it. There’s enough cattiness and nastiness in this world. Let’s be better and do better. I believe in you.

If there’s one thing I obsess about more than anything else outside of race relations is marketing. The numbers, the language, what makes people tick, colors, used, what’s new, what’s shiny, what’ll be gone tomorrow and what’s here to stay. It fascinates me because it’s amazing how predictable a person will react based on a varying amount of factors. It’s also fascinating because so many underrate it.

Don’t get me wrong, many companies know that making “noise” will garner attention. But they stop there…especially small companies (and larger companies too). And what they fail to realize most is that the organization’s marketing (place, product, price, and promotion) create the perception of a company. Good or bad, those 4 Ps together work together to create a lasting impression of the organization.

While I’ve had a bit of experience in place, product and price, much of my career has fallen in promotion — the communications side of marketing. The last 7 years have been specifically in the world of digital marketing – social media, email marketing, ecommerce, website content development and management, etc. I’ve even done a bit of consulting around it all. That’s why I must admit, this weekend was a bit painful.

This weekend, I saw both of my obsessions go head on into one catastrophic crash.

The situation

A young man by the name of Marcel Price of Grand Rapids, MI was assaulted by a bar tender and told that he would not be able to enter a local bar, Tavern on the Square because he was black. Marcel recorded the event on his phone and shared it via social media. This happened very early Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, this had turned into a social media nightmare; one that I wished I was getting paid the big bucks to consult on because it could’ve been avoided.

This is a textbook case of crisis management.

  1. Bad thing happens
  2. It blows up publicly
  3. Organization responds…quickly

But this is not what happened at all. Tavern on the Square failed to respond quickly. In fact, they just responded on their Facebook page, yesterday. They allowed over 24 hours to pass before responding to a racially sensitive topic in a city that has been publicly responding to racially sensitive topics over the last few weeks; you know with the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile events and Dallas shooting and all.

What made it worse was that Tavern on the Square had every opportunity to respond.

Having a bit of “inside” knowledge and knowing how to get the attention of an organization on social media I reacted 4 ways:

  1. I responded as a black woman who is super sensitive to racial issues as of late.
  2. I responded as a writer who has an understanding that the words I convey have power.
  3. Most importantly, I responded as a digital marketer.
  4. I encouraged others to respond. And not only did I encourage them to respond, I leveraged my digital marketing knowledge, providing clear details on how to respond including who to tag and what hash tags to use.

Taking all these angles to me was super important. I was observing every step of the way. I wanted to know how my friends would react. I wanted to know how people in private groups would react. And most importantly, I wanted to know how Tavern on the Square, Experience Grand Rapids, and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. would react.

The outcome: Two case studies on what not to do, and one case study on a team that got it kinda right.

Responses

Experience Grand Rapids. Within hours or a day, Experience Grand Rapids responded with a boilerplate response and suggested that I contacted them offline.

  • The good: They quickly diffused the conversation and stated that they were open for additional conversation.
  • Opportunities for growth: I would’ve preferred they responded much faster. I also would’ve appreciated a more personalized message. Finally, it would’ve been nice if they would’ve inboxed me or or at the least left an email address or phone number. When a person has a concern with your organization, you should go out of your way to learn more vs. asking them to do the work to get in contact with you. In this instance, the company has more to lose than the customer. Remember bad news spreads fast and it takes 5 new customers to replace 1 lost customer. That’s a very expensive scenario.

Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. I would say “I’ll wait”, but I won’t. They haven’t responded and I don’t expect them to respond.

  • The good: N/A
  • Opportunities for growth: Downtown Grand Rapids is perceived as a locale that doesn’t have the African American community in mind. Weekend after weekend, you see people of the majority young and old sprawling through downtown Grand Rapids. Not so much for people of color.. And Tavern on the Square is downtown…so anytime Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. communicates “come downtown” this includes go to Tavern on the Square. Yet, when asked about how they would handle it, they didn’t respond at all…and this is regarding an event that effects the black community, which represents 20% of the city’s population. This is a great way to put a blemish on all the work Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. has done in getting people downtown. But then again, are they even talking to black people?

Tavern on the Square (Tavern). Good old Tavern on the Square. There’s so much to say. So again, I’ll start with the good.

  • The good: You responded. You also stated that you’re all for diverstiy (even though there were only 5 or less people of color in your establishment at closing time). You even said that you are looking into it and would be providing sensitivity training to your employees.
  • The bad:
    • This person wasn’t fired though he stated he wouldn’t let him in because he was black. Even if it were closing time and that was the real reason, simply confirming that he wouldn’t let him in because he was black is grounds for firing. No other reasons needed. That’s now blatant racism.
    • This person wasn’t fired though he clearly smacked the phone out of the person’s hand. I may let that one slide if there was some punishment associated. He can’t just go jack free. But maybe he needs a different role, because clearly he’s endangering others…even if he was provoked. If Marcel never put his hands on the bouncer, the bouncer should have never laid his hands on Marcel’s phone.
    • Tavern on the Square did not take responsibility nor apologize for the action
    • The owner alluded to the fact that it was a big deal because of social media
    • It took the organization over 24 hours to respond on social media. I looked over and over again. Comments flooded in. No response for hours. I even wrote posts to bring attention to the fact that more than just “complaining” was happening. Here are my very public posts:
      • So this video was recently taken at Tavern on the Square GR. GR of all colors, it’s time to make a difference with your dollars. Don’t look the other way. Instead take your dollars elsewhere. And make some noise about it too. Share, tag them, tag the owners, share the owners names. Let them know this isn’t the GR we stand for. This is unacceptable.
      • So the Tavern on the Square GR voicemail box is full. Nice job GR. I say keep calling. (616) 456-7673 They have yet to post a response…not even “we’re looking into it.”

        I can’t find an email address on their website because their website is now one page…that includes a link to a testimonial, phone number, and location info.

      • Forgive some of my grammatical errors (you have to be a grammar freak to know what they are). Here’s what I’ve posted on the Experience Grand Rapidsand Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. pages.Tavern on the Square GR has just added a smudge to the city’s resume. After a bouncer’s blatant act of racism and several calls for a response, the establishment has yet to respond…not even in the easiest spot…it’s social channels. (I’ve checked FB and twitter). We are now calling an official boycott of the establishment from people of all colors. I’m sure this is not what Grand Rapids wants to be perceived as, and we’re asking that you, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., help drive the importance of formally responding to such complaints…both publicly and privately. This is a continuance of the Grand Rapids perception of racism, and I’m sure this is something you’d like to see eliminated.This, along with Propaganda Donuts’ most recent lack of sensitivity shows the face of those who not only live in the metro area, but represent the face of this city’s economy. If nothing is done, we’ll begin calling for boycotts of bigger events that have garnered substantial revenue to the city.
      • I hate being on a digital team, knowing it takes all of 5 mins to respond to a complaint with a “we’re working on it,” yet we’re still waiting to hear fromTavern on the Square GR. The fact that this could’ve been remedied and not gotten so large (i.e. News 8) is a shame. [friend’s name], we need to add crisis control to the offerings because obviously people don’t know the importance of it.
    • Tavern removed most of the website with the exception of contact information and a link to a testimonial from 2010. (unless they never actually had a full website)
    • You can no longer post comments on their FB page. This looks guilty as heck (or insensitive at the least).

How to Avoid a Social Media Crisis Focused Around Race…or anything else

I’m glad that you stuck with me this far…or skimmed to this point. Either way, I’m okay because this is the most important part for small businesses or businesses trying to figure out how to staff for and manage social media and digital marketing communications. Here’s the gamut:

  1. NEVER think this type of thing wouldn’t happen to you. Even if you believe you operate in tip top shape, humans love to complain..and one of the places where they love to to it is on social media. Even if they aren’t trying to get your attention, know that one small spark (complainer) can set the fire ablazin’. It may be something as small as you using 1-ply toilet paper, be ready to respond to even that nonsense if it looks like it’s about to ignite a forrest fire.
  2. Have a crisis plan in place. You shouldn’t be figuring out how to handle a crisis when it hits. Make sure everyone knows what to do if media calls (i.e. what person or department should they be directed to? Can they talk to media or not?). Who should they make aware of the issue? What is the first line of defense? In the event of a complaint, how long should it take your team to respond and what should that response be?
  3. Equip your team. Ensure social media and web content managers are equipped to respond to comments. Make sure they have a who to call list. Also craft a few boilerplate statements that your team can use if they have to respond quickly. You have no idea how much scripting can come in handy here.
  4. Empower your team. If your team has to go up a chain of command before posting or responding to posts, you’re already a step behind. However, don’t leave it just to the person behind the screen. Make sure leadership is in the loop and ready to step in and help if necessary.
  5. Rules of engagement. There is nothing that can make a company more vulnerable than social media. So before you decide to enter the world, create rules of engagement. Decided whether or not you’ll allow users to post on your page. Determine how you’ll respond to complaints. Determine how you’ll respond to hateful and malicious comments.  (Complaints and malicious comments are 2 different things.) For example, some news sites allow racist comments while other companies wouldn’t allow it all.
  6. Hire competent people. Many people think that interns or cousin Pookie are the right people to manage their social media channels because they’re good at the tech stuff and “in the know.” Wrong. You need someone who knows your organization well, is a great communication and understand the difference between doing social for personal reasons and managing social accounts as an extension of the brand.
  7. NEVER take down your page. Exception: If you go out of business.
  8. Sensitivity gauge. Ensure your team has a sensitivity gauge. There are certain topics that should either be supported or not discussed for the majority of companies. Politics. Race. Sexual-orientation. Ethnicity. Nationality. War. (Yes, race, ethnicity, and nationality are all different things.) Some of these things (not all) are perfectly fine to comment on on personal accounts, but not for business accounts unless your brand is the Republic or democratic national conventions. (smile)
  9. Take responsibility. If you or one of your employees did something wrong, own up to it. Then talk about what you’re doing to fix it. If you didn’t learn anything from Steve Harvey’s fiasco, this was one of the greatest takeaways. He owned it…and got offered the job for another year. There’s a certain level of respect that comes with self-accountability.
  10. 24/7. When you work in the digital world, you have a 24 hour, 7 day a week job. That means that if something happens at 2am, you need to be responding by 2:05am. I’m blessed to work for a global company with people who monitor accounts while I’m sleeping. I’ve also had a past role where I had on-call duties.
  11. Turn on notifications. It’s not okay to just monitor your social channels when you’re on your computer or checking your facebook account. No…it’s time to turn on your notifications and check them EVERY time they come across your phone. Is it annoying? Yes. Will it be helpful in the time of a crisis…absolutely.

To be honest, if you practice these steps as normal business procedures, then it won’t be so stressful when a crisis arise. It’ll be business as usual, but with a few more people involved. Hopefully in the end, you can say “crisis averted.”

Until next time,

Gina

“You are the source of my life. You are the source of my strength. I lift my hands in total praise to You.” – Richard Smallwood

America. We stink.

I thought of several short essays I could write for this post of affirmation, but this is what resonates right now.

I could’ve written an eloquent letter to my black men letting them know just how much I loved them; how I admire them for their poise and persistence during this tumultuous time.

I could’ve written a letter to people with fairer skin about the plight of the people and why it’s time that the message of Black Lives matters started to resonate.

I could’ve written a message full of anger and and hate. But that’s not my style.

It hasn’t been for quite some time.

THE PROVERBIAL CHIP ON EVERYONE’S SHOULDER

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about getting past the “b” word. I allowed people to assume what the “b” word was. In reality, the “b” was for bitter.

I’m not sure if bitter ever has a place? In food, it’s hardly ever regarded as a positive note. In life, it’s what we like to call people who seem to have this everlasting chip on their shoulder.

And that’s what we’re seeing today. A lot of bitterness living out loud.

People are bitter – standing with the presumptuous chip on their shoulder. But the reason for the chip is different.

Blacks have a chip on their shoulder because from the day the majority of us were brought to this country, we’ve had to fight. We’ve had to fight to live. Fight to eat. Fight to get married. Fight to rest. And for centuries, we’ve been fighting for equal rights.

Generation after generation, we’ve run, hidden, fought physically, picketed, marched, and staged sit-ins. In the midst of all this, generation after generation, we’ve continually been told we’re not good enough. We’re ugly. We’re only good enough for sports. We’re not smart. We’re stupid. We are not the elite. And when we finally do something for ourselves, we’re told we’re racist and separatists.

No homie. We’re just trying to survive.

This is survival, yo.

And then there are people who don’t look like us who have a bitter chip on their shoulder for multiple reasons: Some think we’re taking their jobs. Some think we’re not good enough for the sons or daughters. Some think we shouldn’t have the same rights. They think we’re inferior.

Then there are those who think we should “be over” the “slavery thing.” Some think we haven’t worked hard enough; they think we’re riding on a free pass. They think our men are dangerous or drug dealers.

Then there are some who feel they are (and may be being) blamed for the plight and hurt of people of color. So they rebel. Or maybe they harbor feelings of hurt because they can’t understand why they have to bear the burden of things that happened long before they were even born.

Ultimately, this bitterness stems from hurt, fear, pride, and rejection — sometimes all combined.

IT AIN’T JUST YOU

I know because I have experienced this bitterness. It’s a bitterness that I have to keep in check — appropriate it for the right moments, places and times.

Yes, I get ticked off when I go to work and don’t know whether the person walking the halls are friend or foe. Yes, I question whether or not a “friend” is no longer speaking to me because of my outspoken nature surrounding the Black Lives Matter campaign. Yes, I get ticked off when I think that I may not be getting a promotion or treated fairly because of my race.

But then I’m reminded of my friends who’ve brought their kids around me. Laughed with me. Joked around with me. Watched me cry. Those FRIENDS are white.

I’m reminded of the promotion and support given by my white boss. I’m reminded of the encouraging words white people have said to me as they’ve watched very vulnerable steps I’ve taken in this journey. I’m reminded of the white people – adults and teens – who joined the picket line with me…and those who stopped to simply say “we agree.”

If all people who didn’t look like us were our enemies, I wouldn’t have stories like this.

In the midst of all of this, we must stop. Pause. Remember racism is an individual thing.

Just like we don’t like stereotypes to be applied to us, we must implement the same thinking and behavior.

Finally, I’ve learned we must be willing to be vulnerable enough to share our stories and compassionate enough to hear the other side. We must be willing to speak as well as to listen, even to those who don’t share the same view points.

C IS FOR CONVERSION

If we don’t have any other example, we can think about our conversion to Christ.

There was a time when we were on the other side of the Jesus fence. We couldn’t stand Christians. We just didn’t get them. And thought, why would we give up our “freedom.”

Those on the other side of the fence knew there was so much more to gain on the other side, but we had to be willing to cross to the other side.

America. We have to be willing to cross to the other side. There’s so much to gain on the other side of hate, anger, separation and inequaltiy.

To my fellow black Americans, be righteously angry, but sin not.

To my fellow white brothers and sisters, know that all we want is equality. Not perceived equality, but one where we don’t have to worry about who is calling us the “N” word behind our back. One where we don’t have to hide who we are when we go to work…or to a restaurant…or to a club…or to the mall. One where we don’t have to worry about being “the good black.” Where you’re no longer referred to as “one we can trust.”

We should get to a point where we’re simply referred to as people. PEOPLE.

Is it going to take time to get there? Absolutely.

Will we ever get there? Probably not.

But we can get closer.

We’re closer than ever before so let’s keep moving.

HOW TO GET THERE

It all starts with you. It’s a matter of your heart. His heart. Her heart.

The bible says that what a man thinketh, so is he. It also says to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

We have a lot of things to unlearn, America. Ignoring it like a moldy leftover pot that’s been left in the sink for too long isn’t going to help. The only way we’re going to get the smell to go away is by putting in the work.

Examine your biases. Check yourself. Identify how you can make a difference. Then do the work.

If it’s by picketing, do it. If it’s by breaking down the barriers and having the tough discussions with people who look like you and those who don’t look like you, do it. If it’s by simply affirming within yourself that you won’t let another day go by living in hate, do it. Do whatever it takes to bring unity AND equality.

It’s time to start cleaning up this stinkin’ thinking and move on because #weareone.

AFFIRMATION

I will not go another day with hate and unforgiveness in my heart. It starts and ends with me. I will be the difference.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to not allow my heart to be a residence for hate. Lord, replace hate, bitterness, and anger with your joy and peace. Help me to live the life that you’ve taught me to live; one where I love my neighbors as I love myself. Lord, the world is ugly; America is ugly, but there is not one hurt that you cannot heal. Help us heal. Help us to not only cover up the bruises. Let us feel the hurt. But then let us move on. Let us do the hard work. Help us to cry in front of one another. To argue, but utltimately to not let the sun go down on our wrath. Bring unity. Bring joy. Bring genuine laughter and peace.

Lord, we will lift our eyes to you. Amen.

See you next Wednesday.

Gina

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“You are smart…you are enough.”

I was recently presented with an opportunity to work alongside a cohort of professionals on one of my organization’s internal projects. We’re in the very early stages of this project, where the foundation is being laid. Key questions are being asked and the work that is fundamental to the identity of this project is being executed.

As with any project, the work is being divvied. My friend drew the lucky straw of drafting a few statements to represent the groups purpose.

After reading these statements, I was left a bit perplexed. Thesaurus-laden buzzwords and corporate jargon had drowned out the message. I asked my friend to rewrite the statements in plain English. Though she knew I had good intentions, she was offended.

I wanted her to see that her message, the one she believed in, the one without the colorful language was enough. Adding colorful language not only took away from the message, but it made the reader work harder. In fact, I had to read the statements more than once to deduce what was being said. And in the end I was still confused and frankly, frustrated.

But this also created a great opportunity for feedback. While, my colleague wasn’t happy with my feedback, I had the opportunity to follow up with what was in my heart.

My feedback had less to do with the message and a million times more to do with what I believed, and what she needed to believe, about herself.

I had an opportunity to tell her that she was smart and that she didn’t need to rely on anyone else to tell her that. She didn’t need the “extras” to impress anyone. Simply being who she was was enough. And when she delivers her message from her heart, that would be enough.

I had an opportunity to tell her that she was, and is, enough.

 

 

Affirmation

Today, I repeat this message to you. You are enough. Give yourself the gift of relaxing the security of who you are. Stop trying to outfit yourself with the proverbial colorful layers — fancy clothes, an extensive vocabulary, multiple degrees, or the pursuit of the seemingly “perfect life” — to gain the approval of others or even yourself. Don’t water down the magnitude of who you are. Be you.

The Bible says that you were fearfully and wonderfully made. Who am I to disagree with God?

Take off those layers. Life is a lot lighter and much clearer without them.

Until next Wednesday,

RP

Tell someone they are enough.

Share this message and tag them in it. I can’t wait to hear how you’ve made a positive impact on their life. Be sure to add the hashtag #beaffirmed on IG, Twitter, and FB so I can see how you’re inspiring others.

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“I just don’t get along with females.”

The first time I heard this statement was when I was in high school…and it’s continued into adulthood. It’s a statement that baffled me for years. I thought, “why would someone have a hard time getting along with other young ladies?” Then it hit me…boys; “boys” was the only rational explanation I could come up with.

The idea of not being able to get along with females was one I didn’t get because I didn’t live, eat and breathe boys as a teenager or even college student. With (what I know now as lifelong) friendships, sports, dance, work and studies – and a pretty healthy fear of my mother – consuming my time, my brain didn’t work like other young girls. Did I like boys? Of course. Did I have boyfriends? Yes. But I just didn’t obsess over them. They were just part of the everyday routine.

But after teaching youth Bible Study to a class of high schoolers, I realized just how atypical I was…or maybe they were the atypical ones. Nah, it was me.

Our discussions often surrounded supposed haters and boys. I was constantly inundated with who was beefing with who and who was dating who and so on. And the girls…I had to keep my eyes on the girls.

They were lovely young ladies, but if an ounce of testosterone entered the building (no matter how good looking or not so much they were), these ladies about lost their minds. And it was while I had that class that I understood why women didn’t get along.

And get this, I wasn’t exempt.

As I grew older and transitioned into independence, I too felt the pains of female-to-female tension. When I no longer saw dating as a game,  but as a means to an end (i.e. dating for marriage), I allowed low self-esteem, pride, jealousy and even some controlling behavior set up shop. I looked at women as my competition. And I, ultimately, became catty, untrusting and bitter.

But that’s not who God has intended us to be.

Unhealthy competition is the antithesis to love and compassion. How can you show mercy if you’re busy trying to identify the fault? You can’t.

Instead, you find yourself in the position of adversary and foe. You waste energy envying what “they” have. You spend time tearing down the powerhouse that you were promised. You get in your own way, point blank period. And you block your own blessing.

Today, I’d like you to be affirmed in yourself. Your uniqueness. Your strength. Your personal blessings. Know that when you are affirmed as one, you can become affirmed as many.

Moreover, be affirmed in your sisterhood. Know that she is not the enemy. She is your sister…one who brings a unique set of strengths to the table. And while feeble apart, together you can change the world.

#BeAffirmed

Assignment:

  1. Share this article and include #beaffirmed
  2. Over the course of the week, reach out to a woman…young or old and let them know how they have made (or are currently making) a difference in your.

See you next Wednesday.

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