What a daunting question? What a risky question? What if my employers read this? Or what about my coworkers? Well…frankly, that’s exactly what it’s like to be black in America.

It means to constantly be concerned with what someone else thinks; with what the majority thinks.

My brother and my mom…Don’t judge a book from it’s cover. He’s actually completed post-secondary education and is far from a thug…and my mom is a minister.

It means a state where assimilation is not an option, but if you’re too far on one side, you’re too ghetto, and if you’re too far to the other side of the spectrum, you’ve sold out.

And then there’s that middle. You’re not exactly where you stand. Okay with appreciating the so-called finer things in life, yet hurting for those you’ve quote/unquote left behind.

I hurt for myself. I hurt for the Michael Browns. I hurt for his family and his parents. Because no matter how much we protest or demand justice, Michael will never walk the face of this earth again.

I hurt for the Eric Gardners…who some say “well he did commit a crime” as in that’s justification that he lost his life over something so senseless.

I desire to shed tears for my brother…my black brother…who has unkept dreads…or has previously worn a do-rag… thus fitting some description of a thug or a black who isn’t to be trusted or who doesn’t deserve to be part of the upper echelon.

And who writes the laws of the upper echelon any way?

I mean…when will we really have our chance? I don’t mean a chance here and a chance there, but our chance.

Everyday, the struggle is real.

If I’m not struggling financially, I’m struggling emotionally, physically, mentally, or politically.

In some way, form or fashion, I’m reminded that I’m black.

Whether it’s through the shooting of a teen – and for that teen and his family, my heart bleeds.

Or if it’s through the corrupt political and judicial system, where prisons are being built based on 3rd grade test scores instead of programs instituted to provide encouragement and positive reinforcement.

I’m reminded that I’m black but not black enough because my speech is proper.

Yet not assimilated (white) enough because my speech isn’t proper enough and because I could care less about baseball or hockey.

And, of course, my hair.

I love wearing different hair styles. It’s part of my culture and personality.

Whether you mean it as a compliment or simply a comment, I GET IT; I chance my hair A LOT. It’s part of African-American culture. We pride ourselves in our hair and it’s versatility. I love my braids and I may wear a weave. The natural may come our and one day it may be short and the next day long. PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT MY HAIR AND HOW YOU CAN’T DO THE SAME THING…and NEVER ASK US HOW WE GOT OUR HAIR CURLY.

You know what it’s like to be black in America?

It’s like being a book that’s judged by its cover.

It’s not okay to insinuate you’re okay with me as a black person because I’m not like someone else you know. That other person may just be my brother and we may be more alike than you know.

And if you think we don’t stick together…well history has done everything it can to not only tear us apart, but tear us DOWN.

We have never been good enough. Never been smart enough. And never been pretty enough.

If this was your reality, what would you resort to?

You have the competitions between good hair and bad hair…and light skin vs. dark skin? You have competitions between the education vs. the quote/unquote uneducated. And now we have the classism. Talk about the wheels on the bus going ’round and ’round.

And are we angry? Ummm…yes!

If you continuously saw everyone around you suffering in some way, would you be mad? If you had a classification of a “language” as ebonics, wouldn’t you get mad? And if you saw systems set up directly to create roadblocks and failure, I think you’d be mad.

If you had dreams, but by the age of 12 began to think that reaching those dreams were unrealistic, you may be mad. People telling you to reach for the stars, but only giving you a telescope instead of the rocket. You can see it but have no idea how to get there.

So let’s do the math. (as I saw on a documentary)

Black people were slaves…not citizens for 400 years. They were stripped of their heritage. Names were changed. Families torn apart. And language taken away. AND BEATEN! We were treated as livestock.

Said grandma. Isn’t she beautiful. You’d never know she had the super hard life she had. She’s totally spoiled by her kids. And she taught us the notion of hard work and positive work ethic.

Then, they were freed…without training or a plan…only to enter a system of segregation and Jim Crow laws. During this time, many still worked on plantations picking cotton and so on. Many didn’t finish school —I mean dropped out before 6th grade — to help at home. (BTW..school was one building with one classroom housing multiple grades.) Then they got married and had kids early. Plus this was the time where they watched what may has well been their brothers and sisters get lynched, hosed, and so on. And they saw their biggest leader assassinated. And they were afraid out of their minds. *Hard life? Absolutely?* A reason to have underlying anger and fear. Absolutely. They were second-rate citizens.

And then there was the great migration. When we uprooted from the south to the north for a better life…for those of us who left. – Another level of instability, yet a place of hope. Though…I can’t say everyone had a plan when they left. They just left. And who knows the detriment this caused?

Fast forward to the 1980s. This may be THE FIRST DECADE where blacks were actually beginning to get more credit as citizens and the remnants of segregation was less visible. However, just because they’re not visible doesn’t mean they’re gone.

And this is the world we live in today.

I actually think there was a time when it was a bit better. I’m starting to think it’s getting worse.

Why…because being black in America is confusing. It’s divisive. And we have a true lack of a sense of belonging.

This is not our country. We just happen to live here.

We don’t have a place. Not a place to really call home.

Only when we’re around each other is when we really feel like we’re at home. Displaced, yet the closest thing to home we’ll find. For us…home really is where the heart is. And our hearts are bound by a common, misunderstood…*if it’s even desired to be understood* history.

How I work? Making faces is my thing. You’d probably never guess I that I have a Master’s degree and work for a multi-billion dollar international organization as a marketing professional from this pic. Never judge a book by its over.
Yup. I wrap my hair when I workout and to sleep.
My curly hair. Just another style.
Another face…it has nothing to do with my real personality. I was just trying to be funny. Never let an online pic dictate your perception of a person. It could be all in fun and games.

Boy, was I on an emotional trip. I was truly freaking out.

Here’s the thing, I’m not used to not knowing where I want to go in life, nor am I used to not knowing what get’s me going. So when the conversation of goals, future and career planning came about, I freaked…and I mean for about 3 days. I couldn’t get it off my mind. However, after I wrote this post, it all became so much clearer.

Let’s start with the epiphany: I don’t live for my career? I was not put on this earth to merely be a marketer, have fund and make and spend money. No! That is only a means to an end; a small piece of the puzzle. Instead, purpose is what drives me. I may not think of this purpose every day and it may not always be in my mind, but it is the reason why I’m on this earth.

At a high level, my purpose is to create change. I noticed years ago that when I’m involved in something, that something is in the midst of a change. At work. At school. At church. Even in extracurriculars. And while change is often annoying, it’s a catalyst for progress.

Don’t get it twisted. I can’t say that I always like change. It takes time. It can be frustrating. You have to go through forming, storming, norming, and performing…and so much more…and just when you think you’ve gotten to a good spot, it’s time for more change. Frankly, change can be downright uncomfortable.

However, as stated earlier, change is needed to light the fire under progress. Like Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Yep…I totally used a cliché. It was so appropriate.)

And this is where I come into the picture. I come to challenge the status quo and inspire young men and women of color to be a better them. I am more than tired of seeing African-American men and women living substandard lives. I feel like if I – the girl from the ‘hood who had a goal of being a mom by 18  – can make it, so can you.

It’s true, the struggle is real, as the saying goes, and you often become what you see and hear. And if you have constant reinforcement of “struggle”, then what else should you believe? I want to share a different story; a different experience to inspire youth to believe in their potential. To not succomb to teen pregnancy, dropouts, drugs, single parenthood, and so much more. But to showcase their INTELLEGENCE, STRENGTH, BEAUTY, KIND-HEARTEDNESS, THOUGHTFULNESS, and LOVING NATURES. Because that is who they really are – because that is who they are. (DO YOU HEAR ME. THAT IS WHO YOU ARE!) And the only way this message can be conveyed is by doing literal show and tells of the reality of today’s African-American.

We don’t all struggle. We aren’t all victims of violence. And NONE of us are stupid.

You do have a future.

Let’s face it. The world is full of inequalities. We’ll most likely living this reality our entire life, whether it’s racial inequality, class disparity, or gender inequalities. But it’s still your life and we all deserve as much as we can get out of it. And after you’ve seen what can be yours, it’s up to you to believe it and go get it. There are plenty who will walk with you. But even if you have to walk alone at times, it’s still yours. So go out there and get it. And don’t forget to reach back to help someone else while you’re fighting and after you’ve “made it.”

**please clap as loudly as you like as all graduates cross the stage**