What is Service?

Yesterday was the day that America honors the life and sacrifices made by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the world’s most impactful leaders. As opposed to being a day off, it is supposed to be a day of service. But that leads me to ask a question of us all: What are we doing to help humanity on a regular basis? Could you imagine what your relationship would be like if you only celebrated your significant other once or twice a year? How would you feel if your parents had only acknowledged you quarterly? They would just be meaningless displays from people looking to check off a box.

Just as people need to be loved every day, we should be doing something good for someone else on a daily basis. Maybe it’s letting the person at the stoplight know (s)he left the gas tank open. Maybe it’s stopping by your local co-op to grab a hot meal for the homeless person on the corner. Maybe it’s donating some money to keep Bennett College open. But we have to do something if we truly want to honor the legacy not only of Dr. King but the spirit of what America claims to be. And everyone shouldn’t know you did it. Just do it. If you are recognized for it, great. If you’re not, great. Either way, you did something beautiful for someone who can do nothing for you except pay it forward.

Oh, and, by the way, I found that cool graphic by following one of my favorite accounts on Instagram, The 9 to 5 Podcast. Check them out by clicking here.

 

Make embracing a spirit of service a priority.

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What’s Better Than One Billionaire? Two.

“I’ll be damned if I drink some Belvedere while Puff got Ciroc.” — Sean “Jay Z

Do you know what I took from “4:44”? (Well, I took a lot but this is my favorite lesson.) That I must support those in my circle so that we can grow and build together. Is that always going to be supporting by buying? No way. If your product is garbage, I’m going to tell you your product is garbage but I’m going to tell you how you can improve it.

Example: Desirée had some idea for menswear the other day that just wasn’t appealing. I told her that I, as a man and therefore a part of her target market, didn’t find that idea to be worth my money. But I said, “What if you adjust it this way? I’m sure more brothers would willingly pay for this as opposed to that.”

Support isn’t always found in the form of dollars but also in critiques that lead to dollars. If I love you, I’m going to do one of two things: critique you or spend money with you/bring you customers. I want to keep my dollars in my circle, in my community, and in my family. “Nobody wins when the family feuds,” so why not get on the same page and support one another? Stop competing. Start working together, building, and watch what can come if, as opposed to a two way street, everyone’s lane builds a highway.

 

Make commUNITY building a priority.

I’m Your Pusher

 

Yes. I admit it. I’m guilty. I am a pusher. Not a pusher of illicit substances but of an unpopular point of view. I am a pusher of black positivity. I believe that, historically, barriers have been set up that force Americans of all races, black and otherwise, to look at people of African descent through less than favorable lenses. Negative or less-than-sophisticated images of black folks are spread across the world, affecting the global views of us. Often, at worst, we are stereotyped as violent, undisciplined deviants. At best, entertainers. Though portrayals have changed thanks to shows like Grey’s Anatomy, the black doctor, lawyer, and professional are still viewed as anomalies while the black prisoner or athlete is seen as the status quo.

There is nothing wrong with being a rapper, singer, or ball player. Nothing at all. I have respect for anyone who does these things and uses their talent to uplift the community. But there are other options. As a professional, it is sometimes challenging to walk into room after room after room and meeting after meeting after meeting where I don’t see anyone who looks like me. So I have to change the narrative. I have a responsibility to myself, my family, my community, and my nation to provide true facts of the positive impact that blacks have every day on America, as opposed to the alternative facts that we are all murderers, drug users, and dependents of the welfare system.

Yesterday, I went out of my way to make the point of associating positive image of with the hashtag #OmegaPsiPhi on each of my social media accounts. I didn’t do it because I have great friends that are Ques or because my football coach from high school is a Que or to go viral. I did it because they, like  Alpha Phi Alpha (my fraternity), are focused on doing positive things across this nation, specifically in the black community, and anyone feeding positivity into my life deserves to have me do the same.  Secondly, negativity associated with any historically black fraternity is not good for any of us. Hiring managers probably do not know Alpha Phi Alpha from Omega Psi Phi from Iota Phi Theta. They just know that Steve Stephens was apart of one of those black step groups and his organization got bad publicity as a result.

People of all races, we must change the narratives surrounding non-whites in America. All blacks are not here to either rob or entertain you. All Jewish people aren’t here to be your lawyers or manage your money. All Latinos aren’t here illegally and looking for migrant work. All Middle Easterners aren’t looking for an opportunity to commit acts of violence. This is the point in history where we have the most access to the most information but we are regressing as a society. So, just as all white domestic terrorists are categorized as either mentally unstable or “lone wolves”, let’s start placing the same designation on non-white individuals whose actions are not a depiction of love for all humankind. And, when we see a group being negatively stereotyped, whether members of that group or not, we have a responsibility as good individuals to say “Not all people from group x commit the act of y. John Doe was acting as an individual and not as a representative.”

You have a sphere of influence. Change the narrative.

As a starting point, type #BlackMenSmile in on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. As J. Cole said, “There’s beauty in the struggle.”

 

Make peace and love priorities.

In The Mix

How often do you hear stories of black kids robbing stores? Or getting into trouble at school? Or participating in gang violence? For me, it’s too often, especially when there are more instances of black kids succeeding and working hard and dreaming the impossible.

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Desirée listening attentively as Michael and Madison explain why TheGifted Arts is such a necessity.

This weekend, I got to see the often overlooked personified by young people like Michael and Madison, pictured above advocating for the support of TheGifted Arts. The Mix, an event hosted at the Google Fiber location in Raleigh, NC, was a powerful display of discipline, dedication, and a genuine joy that many adults have to rediscover if we’re going to get back to loving life like we ought to.

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Brandon Foster sharing his gifted voice with us.

TheGifted Arts, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that aims to influence academic outcomes and help build confidence with our students, by utilizing character building techniques and arts access, such as through: dance, music, fashion and drama, as a means of both creative expression

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Michael letting the music move through him.

outlets and social personal development. Though it is not restricted to minority children, it was refreshing to see a group of kids who were undeniably of African descent expressing themselves freely through the arts, especially with so much negativity and desensitizing going on. When you see, without reservation, the bodies of black people, be they youth or adults being either placed in restraints like those from chattel slavery or, possibly worse, left to lie cold in the streets, you may become cold to the stories behind the negative pictures. These children and teenagers, through their various forms of art, brought back the positive warmth that I associate with my blackness. Their love and passion spoke to me like I didn’t know young people could.

On April 8th, TheGifted Arts is putting on “Anthem: Fashion with Purpose.” This is its fourth annual fashion show and is a major fundraiser for the participants of TheGifted Arts. We got a taste of these artists’ talent at The Mix and, if that’s any indication of how awesome Anthem will be, you are going to be in for a treat. So, if you’re in North Carolina on the second weekend

There’s very little that’s more important to a performer than an engaged crowd.

of April, I strongly suggest you invest your time (and dollars) in these kids. Make a night of it. Go to dinner before, catch the fashion show, and then catch some live music after. Support these young people and their intentional effort to use their energies to add hope and expression to a world and a media system that, more often than not, does not give us hope.

To buy Tickets to “Anthem: Fashion with Purpose,” click here.

Or, to learn more about TheGifted Arts, click here. And, whether you can make the fashion show or not, please donate. Even if it’s only $5, give to these students’ and their dreams.

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Make community engagement a priority.

Financial Education: Time for Reform

Generally, my #FinancialFriday posts are related to what we can do as young professionals to better ourselves financially.  But this time, I want to focus on how we can help the next generation not make the mistakes some of us made.   Too many people are living paycheck to paycheck and depressed because of poor decisions we made, ignorant of the fact that it would come back to haunt us years down the road.

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The other day, I saw the tee shirt above on Pinterest and I thought to myself, “I never use this algebra or calculus that they forced upon me but I sure did need some education on practical math like how high your interest rate will be if you don’t pay your credit cards on time.”  I say that to say this: We have to make sure our children are being educated properly.  And not just our children but also those who aren’t fortunate enough to have financially astute parents.  I was one of those kids.  Growing up, money was a taboo subject in my house.  My parents were likely trying to protect my siblings and me but it backfired on two out of the three of us and now we’re working to get back into stable financial positions.  It is being done but imagine if schools taught math that we would actually need in the future?  There would be less poverty and more sharing of wealth.

Knowledge is power.  What tools are we going to give the next generation?