It’s Time to Grow (Paraphrased)

Let me get in front of this and say I took this title from my pastor’s sermon this morning (I’m writing this on Sunday night). Really, I’m just going to paraphrase what he preached on today. To get the full scope, click and watch/listen the link below and begin at 30:30.

As my friend and pastor Dr. Byron L. Benton prepares to transition into his new role as Pastor of Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, SC, he spoke to the fact that, if there is no movement, there is no growth. Now, whether you’re religious or not, you can’t refute that. Though it may be challenging to let go of your comfort zone, you have to do it. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Serve the purpose you’re meant to serve for the season you’re meant to serve it in. But do yourself a favor and move when it’s time.

I hope you start this week with this message and contemplating how you need to prepare to move to the next place in your life. It’s imperative that you grow not only for yourself but for others. It’ll be painful at first, just like all growth is, but it is a part of our human experience.

Dr. B said a lot more during that his sermon about what to do during your sedentary seasons. Check out the sermon here. You can start at the 30:30 mark if you’re not looking to capture the worship side of things.

 

Make growth a priority.

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Fear of the Three C’s

Yesterday, after getting a great night’s rest, I woke up to my go to morning newsletter to find out that Amazon passed up on RDU for HQ2. With 20 finalist locations, Amazon opted to split the wealth between two finalists: Northern VA and Long Island, NY. That’s all well and good but, once again, North Carolina missed out on a major bid. Now, let’s talk about why.

Southern comfort is a thing. No, I’m not talking about the whiskey. I’m talking about the twang when (some) Carolinians talk and our hospitably sweet diabe-tea when you visit. But it’s cool, right? Folks come from up north and think our slower lifestyles and “fast” moving traffic is neat. Well, so do we. In fact, we love it so much that it’s become a hinderance.

According to a poll, only 43% of local citizens strongly supported Amazon HQ2 being located in the Raleigh area. So, you mean to tell me that you’re not in favor of 25,000 new jobs with an average salary of $150,000? Why is that? Sounds crazy to me. No, excuse me. It’s not crazy. It’s fear.

News flash Carolinians: A large number of us are afraid of the 3 C’s. You’ve never heard of them so you don’t know what they are. That’s ok. I just realized it this morning but I’ve known it my entire life (which is why, as much as I love home and will be back, I’m getting the hell out of here for a while so I can be around some less fearful people). The three 3’s are *drumroll* change, commute, and competition.

I’ll start with the most obvious, which is change. In the south, people fear the unknown because, it’s unknown. This is why Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp can run an openly racist campaign advertisement saying he’ll take the role of ICE into his own hands and still (almost) win an election. Non-white immigrants represent change and the south likes things slow, steady, and at it’s own pace. This is why they fought so hard to keep slavery, Jim Crow, and mandatory minimums that look like everything they have always known. Change is scary. Amazon represents progress that non-Southerners will bring and that progress will require North Carolinian culture to change. That’s C1.

C2 is the commute. In North Carolina, we like our cars. We like our trucks and our sedans and our sports cars and our nice cars (say it with a thick southern accent and you’ll see where that speedway in Charlotte got its name). Automobiles are status symbols. ‘Round here *Memphis Bleek voice*, we drive by people who stand at bus stops with our noses up in the sky. In more developed cities, that doesn’t happen. I’ve been on the subway in New York and LA and seen A- or B-list celebrities on there too. It’s normal. But, for some reason, N.C. would rather continue fixing our messed up, pothole-filled roads and destroying the atmosphere with gas guzzlers instead of figuring out a sustainable and reliable transit system.

Therefore, you know what another reason of those who weren’t strongly for Amazon being located here is? They say we don’t have the infrastructure to handle it. That’s code for they don’t want to deal with the traffic. I have family members in central NJ who catch a train to NYC daily for work and then back. We’ve been spoiled when it comes to our commutes and now we don’t want to forego that.

C3 is competition. For some reason, we don’t feel like competing with the outside world. We don’t want Amazon flying in their “foreign” (from other states but still American citizens) team to take jobs that North Carolinians should have. What sense does that make? Now the “foreigners” aren’t here and neither are the jobs, which means neither is the growth. When companies like Amazon come to places like Raleigh, multiple industries boom. But, when they over look us, professionals who would’ve come here and started new business go elsewhere. Students who would’ve come to one of the Triangle’s over ten colleges and universities will now look elsewhere to get their education. Homes that should be built by our construction workers are going to be built in Northern VA and on Long Island. When we don’t want to compete, what we’re really saying is that we don’t want to win. We don’t want to be the best. We just want to be left alone to live with our Southern comfort.

Folks, Carolinian or not, take this as a lesson. You don’t want to be like present-day North Carolina. Hopefully, losing this bid isn’t what wakes us up. Let’s be honest with ourselves: we probably would’ve lost to a bigger city either way. What should wake us up is our attitude to even being considered for the bid.

Oh, and since we’re talking about Amazon, go grab my long-time friend Joe‘s new book, #ClosingSZN. It just went live last week. I got mine in the mail from Amazon today (I’m a hardcopy kind of guy but you can get the digital version and dive in right now if you want).

 

Make embracing the 3 C’s a priority.

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.

The Long Weekend

Just came off a long weekend. While I wanted to take it to travel, I stuck around. And you know what I realize? You can have an adventure in your own area, especially if you live near a major/mid-sized metropolitan area. So, what do I suggest you do with your day off?

1 – Go to the park. I went to Pullen Park, one of Raleigh’s most notable public parks. It’s a great family place and, for me, it’s a pretty neat place to take photographs. From the children’s train that runs around the perimeter of the park to the pond at the center, I was able to capture some pretty great shots. And, even if photography isn’t your thing, the landscaping was beautifully done and people were having fun. It’s not Disney World but it’s a pretty happy place to be.

2 – Have lunch somewhere new/with a friend. I ended up at Setti, a Lebanese restaurant off Wilmington Street in downtown Raleigh, where I met a good friend for lunch. We chatted about stuff we don’t always have time to discuss during church service on Sundays and enjoyed some pretty great food.

3 – Go to a museum. I went to the North Carolina Museum of Art after lunch. It was on my way back from Raleigh and though I’d been before, since I had nothing to do, I said I’d stop. But I had no idea there was an outdoor component to the museum. The additional exhibits were pretty neat. I’ll be back when the weather is nicer though because the chill kept me from exploring the entire property.

4 – Have a drink. Once I arrived back in Durham, it was around 4PM and I had been wanting to check out this pretty swanky looking bar downtown called Alley 26, so I did. I went, ordered their proprietary drink, the Alley Cocktail and enjoyed the experience of being in a bar that had a lack of televisions but no shortage of good conversation.

5 – Read and write. I’m moving out of order because I started my day by reading and blogging but Friday was even cooler because I had time to write a lot more (even though I really write as much as I want every day I just felt like I was able to explore more places to read and write at.

Other things I wish I’d done/would have done were the weather nicer: Gone to a library. Taken a swim. Taken a hike. Played some basketball. Rented a bike and gone riding. Had a picnic. Wrote a poem. Gone for a run.

I had a pretty great and relaxing day off. And it was much cheaper than my anticipated trip to Charlotte would have been.

 

Make taking care of yourself a priority.

Be Open

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to serve as the official photographer for my first major event. Mind you, I don’t claim to be a photographer. I own a camera. For my birthday, my wife got me (us) an additional lens. I’m very much a novice. But I’ve taken a liking to the hobby and developed a bit of raw skill (see yesterday’s post, Raw Material and Raw Potential), so she decided she would invest in my happiness (sidebar: invest in the dreams of your significant other. It will pay off tenfold in you all’s collective joy.)

Anyway, I digress. This weekend, I was able to shoot Berean Community Center‘s Abolition Day service at Shaw University. The Community Center, a branch from my church, The Berean Experience (also known as Berean Baptist Church), had North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Dr. William Barber as the keynote speaker (you may recall him from this video at the 2016 Democratic National Convention), United States Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield as the master of ceremonies, and Supreme Court of North Carolina Justice-elect the Honorable Mike Morgan speak on the historical perspective of the event. All in all, it was a powerful celebration of black freedom, black excellence, and America’s bite at the apple of redemption. And I was there for it all. From the private meeting of these and other names that are known locally and nationally to capturing moments from angels that everyone else was unable to see, I was present and ready. Why? Because I was asked to serve. I had no idea when we got the camera that I would fall in love with the attention to detail required to shoot a manual shot and get it just right but I’m glad I did. My hobby allows me to serve in church on Sundays, keeping me both engaged and active, but it also is opening doors for me to meet people who have changed the social fabric of our nation and communities. That is important to me.

During his time at the pulpit, Justice-elect Morgan said, “When you find yourself surrounded by excellence, it can’t help but become a part of you.” The funny thing is, you never know what it is that will put you in the room with greatness so be open to more than one avenue to success.

 

Make professional development a priority.

Be Ready to Lead

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to represent my institution, Duke School, at the Durham Chamber of Commerce‘s executive luncheon which was hosted by the local ABC news channel, ABC11 WTVD. I had an awesome time meeting some great leaders from around the area and discussing the impact that WTVD has on the Piedmont. After the business portion of the luncheon, all of the guests had the opportunity to have some fun in the studio and meet the journalists that many of us see every morning before work.

Now, yesterday, when I was asked to attend the luncheon, I’ll be honest, I was looking kind of rough by my standards (which may be decent for others but I certainly wasn’t at my best). As you may have read in last week’s blog post on beard season, I’m letting my beard grow for the winter but that doesn’t change the fact that I must keep a professional appearance. My barber, Jennifer, at Rock’s Bar And Hair Shop has been out for the past week and I was extremely worried that she wouldn’t be there before I had to go to this luncheon. Thankfully, I called yesterday right after agreeing to go to the luncheon and, thank God, she was back in the shop. So, I asked for a low fade and, as always, Jennifer did an exceptional job.

What does this have to do with being ready to lead, you ask? Well, if I hadn’t had a haircut, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable volunteering to be the anchor for the luncheon’s mock news report and my institution wouldn’t have gotten recognized online by the Durham Chamber of Commerce nor ABC.

Durham Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Lunch hosted by ABC11

So, this post is about two things: 1) always look your best, especially when you know there is a chance that photographs will be taken (or, in this case, when you’ll be on TV) and 2) when given the opportunity to strengthen your brand and the brand of your employer, take it. Someone else could have stepped up to the plate but I knew that Duke School and I could benefit from the exposure. Don’t run from the camera. Run to it and, when it’s cut on, smile.

Some Durham Chamber of Commerce members and the ABC11 news team.

Now, time to head to the Chamber’s Business After Hours event. If you’re local, and looking to better brand yourself, this is a great group to be a part of.

P.S.
I will leave reporting the news to the experts.

Make professional development a priority.