I have often been told since childhood by my family in particular that I have an old soul and for a time such as THIS, I would normally talk with my dad. Our elders have an insight & wisdom and THIS is not new for them.
What do I mean by THIS? They are not new to seeing Black men and women killed by officers of the law, seeing protest, seeing riots, seeing justice not be served, seeing people benefitting by a life of priviledge, entitlement and inequity, and so much more. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, & Breonna Taylor and others are to today what Emmett Till, Chaney, Goodman & Schwermer, and Fred Hampton were to our elders.
Today I talked with my uncle, my dad’s younger brother with whom I often love our engaging conversation. In the midst of anger & pain in our nation, our elders have a calm observation yet perspective that I respect and find valuable. They have done a lot of the work to get us here and in many ways things have changed, but in many others, things are still the same.
After the Zimmerman verdict, I took to non-violent protesting in our Chicago streets and I respect those that today are allowing their voice & actions be instruments to activate change.
Since 2013/2014, I’ve recognized that my own calling & contribution to change has evolved to a different format & medium.
I write to inform and inspire, and at times I use my creativity to change the narrative that fans the flames to maintain inequity, injustice, and systems that hinder change. However, most importantly one or my roles has been to take the wisdom of our elders and what they have seen and done and connect that with our youth to empower them to continue the fight. That has become one of my greatest means to use my position & gift to create change.
Wisdom & experience + innovation & passion..being the bridge to evoke a difference.
10 years ago, ‘Design For Change’ was just one program through which I could educate & empower youths’ voice to contribute to what needed to happen.
To see in the days ahead & this coming summer be even more significant for youth voice as well as youth being civicly engaged and uplifted to be leaders is my passion & mission..
Today, tomorrow and continually, there is more work to be done. I appeal to ALL, in whatever way to use your gifts, your work, your abilities..use it for the change that is long overdue.
If we can be ALL IN during a pandemic to stay and keep each other safe, we can apply that to an epidemic (yes racism is a disease) in this country that has been taking place over centuries.
In case you didn’t catch the Erykah Badu Verzuz Jill Scott on Saturday May 9th, you missed what I described as “a celebration of sisterhood, musicality and beauty of two phenomenal Black women”. If you were not previously aware of the ongoing series called Verzuz by producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, this latest sensation comprises of Instagram battles between 2 djs, producers, and/or various other music artists. This one was the first where two women graced this increasingly popular platform.
The Verzuz series typically is preceded by predictions by fans of either or both artists of who will win the battle based on the artists’ catalogs and the ErykahVsJill was no exception. As the date of the event grew closer, we saw many declare themselves as either #TeamJill or #TeamErykah, though personally I couldn’t choose as I find them both talented and possessing bodies of music that I find equally amazing.
As the event unfolded, these two women took us on a journey. In between the back and forth exchanges of their soul-stirring repertoires of music. they also exchanged many pleasantries, compliments, memories, and true admiration and respect towards each other.
The vibe of the afternoon became not one of a battle, but of a 2-hour melodic experience including snippets of their lyrical prowess’s, stories of their how songs were birthed, as well as shared womanly wisdom.
One thing that stood out so remarkably profound about the interaction between these two queens, that I personally love and desire to see more of is how subtlety it was a defining moment of the beauty of the nature of relationships between Black women that our society has not acknowledged as much.
I KNOW how much Black women uplift, admire, and relate to one another. Unfortunately, what we tend to see highlighted publicly or among media portrayals are representations of women including hyped-up drama & fights, verbal and social media “beefs”, and often individual or even fan-based competitions pitting women against each other.
Jill and Erykah made this Verzuz remarkable in the sense that despite previous expectations of what the event would be and how it would turn out, these two women created a unique moment to redefine the narrative of Black women. These two shined a spotlight on the fact that Black women have grace, class, gifts among which they share as well as value in each other. And with Erykah & Jill demonstrating that fact, many of us that tuned in, not only were reminded of it, but found it refreshingly invigorating while also being able to celebrate and share in that genuinely “sisterly” connection. #BlackQueenMagic
With all the preparation for school-aged children to not have school for the upcoming weeks, businesses closing temporarily, people working from home, many may find themselves isolated and unsure of how these coming days will be. As a result of COVID-19, I’m already seeing and hearing people dreading and being uneasy about the idea of being confined to home and not able to go out to many places.
Though I often seem to be doing something, I actually enjoy making time to “be still”. Time to reflect, self-assess, gain clarity, enjoy the seemingly little things in life, and simply rest is very important to me. In the society we live in, it is challenging for many to be still or not have the freedom to go out to socialized, be entertained, or “stay busy”.
Honestly, these coming days are an opportunity for us to connect with ourselves, our loved ones, and get back to those simple things, as well as a means to rejuvenate and get in touch with new thoughts, ideas, and actions that can feed our humanity in a much needed light.
While we all distance and quarantine ourselves, here is a list of some things to consider for the upcoming days and weeks ahead: (many can apply to youth, adults, singles, couples, families, and more)
1) Write. Journal. Creative writing.
2) Read. A book, Kindle, online articles, etc.
3) Start that blog, vlog, podcast that you had been thinking about.
4) Family tree and ancestry research and project.
5) Crafting, jewelry-making, woodwork or fun projects.
6) Cook. Try new creative dishes or new recipes.
7) At home work out. You’d be surprised the exercises you can do with a chair, couch, on the floor and in a open space at home. Squat, sit-up, push-up challenges and more. Yoga & stretching.
8) Practice that instrument that has been collecting dust or warm up those vocal chords with singing.
9) Games. Family board games, video games, online games, etc.
10) That business idea that you have been putting off. This is the perfect time to start putting together a plan of how to actually do it and start working on it.
11) Winter to spring de-cluttering. Organizing and swapping out the winter gear for spring and summer wardrobe. Take items to Salvation Army drop boxes.
12) Puzzles. Grab a 1000+ or 3D puzzle to put together.
13) Home fix-it project that you may have been putting on hold or a parent/spouse has been asking you do do/finish.
14) Bake, make cards or small gifts for the people on your block to drop off on porch as a pick-me-up or uplifting message for you neighborhood or community.
15) Music. Organize all the music on you hard drive, create new playlist, check out new releases.
16) Get creative…especially if you have children but even if you don’t..drawing, coloring, grab some glue and make something fun with paper, markers, crayons, paint, etc.
17) Model cars/planes…believe it or not these are fun to put together.
18) Do your hair. Braid, twist, try a new style. Brothers, now is a good time if you don’t already know how, to practice or try cutting your own hair.
19) Do your nails.
20) Spa day at home with music, candles, and a nice long bath.
21) Organize phone pics, computer files, documents and things that you’ve likely long been wanting time to do.
22) Take a walk.
23) Work on your taxes. We have an extension until June 2020.
24) It’s Women’s History Month. Read, learn, research a woman from history that you didn’t know about. Do something to honor women.
25) An online class or webinar.
26) If you haven’t already done a vision board, its not too late.
27) Create a list of 2020 goals or now is a good time to assess one’s you have already set and create your plan for accomplishing them with the remaining year.
28) If you miss watching sports, Youtube popular past games to watch and reminisce. Yeah, I’m going for the Bulls Jordan flu game vs. Utah Jazz.
29) Blast some music for an hour and have either your own personal dance party or anyone in your household party.
30) Call to check in on family and friends. Host a conference call (Freeconferencecall.com) with a fun or interesting topic and invite 5-10 folks to discuss.
31) Cleaning and organizing your home.
32) Update your resume.
33) Update, organize or clean up your social media LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
34) Start learning a new language.
35) Have a family talk.
36) Start a family Facebook page for family updates.
37) Plan a post-Corona family or friend gathering. Even a social distancing gathering is possible.
38) Volunteer to watch/care for a friend’s or family member’s child that is out of school but parent has to go to work. Online volunteering, letters to elderly, essential workers, drop offs to colleagues, workers, hospitals.
39) Help a friend or neighbor with one of their projects.
40) If you have a yard, it’s a good time for yard work & outdoor projects.
41) If you have a computer, its a great time to learn (if you don’t already know certain apps, programs, etc) or share your knowledge. Ex: Using Gmail, do you know Sheets, Docs, Slides, create a classroom, ex.
42) Help run errands for elders in your family (groceries, mail, etc).
43) For small business owners or home base business owners, its a great time to assess, re-organize and enhance current business.
44) Scrap-booking, organize photo books, photo collage making.
45) Sewing, knitting, crocheting, wood working or try some new hobby.
46) Work on project for upcoming holiday (Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc).
Check out below for part 1 of an interview series I did about being a triathlete. Thank you to Something Wonderful Videos, Honey Stinger, Chicago Athlete Magazine, Infinity Multisport, and USA Triathlon.
It is just over a month since the passing of Kobe Bryant and I wonder now that the world has had time to process the shock of such a tragic event, what has and will be the sustaining impact.
To see the tears, emotions and humanity of men, in particular men who are known for their toughness, has been beautiful and powerful to see. Men expressing love for a man so revered, as well as the pain and vulnerability of their shock and hurt, is something that we need more of in today’s society. I often think when we say everything happens for a reason, we think that is so cliche, however, the loss of Kobe, his daughter, and 7 others is something to examine and digger deeper into the why for us individually and collectively. What do we take away from this.
We have seen the continual sharing and posting of people emphasizing to appreciate our loved ones, to not take for granted our days as tomorrow is not promised, and various similar messages. It’s easy to think and focus on, in the days immediately following such a momentous loss of life, however, as the days turn into weeks into months into years, how do we not allow the very things that people have taken to heart, as a result of this impactful moment, to fall to the wayside as we return to the day to day of our lives?
By choosing to intentionally honor not just the lives of those lost, but also the meaning we have taken from having them taken from us so unexpectedly. And still, to take that and apply it to that which we still have and the opportunities to spread and act out or shall I say ‘live out’ that meaning.
I’m sure that there are things that Vanessa Bryant and the loved ones of others killed that day would want to say and experience with those that they have lost. However, there are still the family members, friends, and close loved ones that they still have and have the opportunity to share those things with them. And if not recognized previously, now a light has been put on the chance they have to say, do, show, and cherish the days, the time, the people they still have. And that is something we ALL have been afforded…a reminder of what and who we still have, as well as the moments we may not have with those that are no longer here, but rather the moments we have with those that are still amongst us.
It’s easy to take for granted that or whom we have until we know longer possess that. Tragic events are often a reminder of such, however, it’s important to be intentional on building upon that message. These are a few things we can ask ourselves daily to be intentional.
What would you do or say today if you learned it would be your last? OR
How would you make today different/unique if you found out you would not see tomorrow?
If you’ve no longer have a parent, sibling, child, etc, the things you would say or do with them if given another opportunity, are you doing or saying them to those who are in your life now?
What will you do today to make it a great one or to seize the moments it holds?
What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful for and do they know/feel it?
Many blessings to you as you step into this new year of 2020. One of my usual expressions is “a new day, a new possibility” and in the spirit of that expression, today I’m excited to launch “Creations by Fredi Nyashia”!!
“Creations by Fredi Nyashia” are unique and custom crafted pieces made by me that represent my artistry, athleticism, as possibly more (as it grows) aspects of who I am. These are typically wearable pieces sold online and in the future at select events and physical locations.
Well, in 3 days it will be done. At the end of October, I embarked on the challenge of not drinking coffee for the month of November. Not that I’m an obsessive coffee drinker, I wanted to reset my body. Over the last few months, I noticed an increase in my coffee drinking. It’s funny how I used to not really like coffee and then would occasionally partake in the last few years. I’m very much a tea connoisseur. However, with early and long days, awkward sleeping or minimal sleeping habits and at times increased crunch time with my work, I found myself starting to drink coffee 3-4 times a week in the last weeks. I know for most that is not a lot, but I found myself not wanting to create a dependency on needing or wanting coffee to get me through my mornings or days. And with the fall/winter drop in temperature, it became very likely to pour or purchase a cup of coffee many mornings. So, upon the close of the month of October, on came “No Coffee November”. Why am I sharing this? Well, for a few reasons… Some of you may be wanting to cut coffee or something else and to share insight on how I’ve been succeeding at it may come in handy. I also want to share what that journey has been like, as well as why. First and foremost, when “giving up” something, as it relates to eating, fasting, changing eating habits (temporary or permanent), I like to have the mindset of focusing on what I can have so it’s not seen as a negative. Finding alternates to that which I’m changing works for me. There were 3 things I considered which include 1) having hot drinks for the cold weather, 2) fulfilling the creamy taste I get from the types of coffee I would drink (ie vanilla latte, mint mochas, coffee with hazelnut creamer), and 3) fulfilling the caffeine or “kick” I would get from coffee. So these are the alternatives I’ve been drinking: 1) Mint tea with chocolate syrup (replacing the mint mocha) 2) Vanilla chai tea with almond milk (for warmth, creaminess and caffeine) 3) Hot cider 4) Hot chocolate 5) Other various teas (for warmth) To be honest by day 6, I was thinking, hmm, maybe I will just do a week, because I really wanted some coffee by then. However, another thing I did was to tell people at work and various friends about my challenge. This way it forced me to be accountable. Yes, I could sneak and drink coffee anyway and it’s not like anyone else was really holding me to doing it, but I find that when I share things with others, it’s easier for me to hold myself accountable. One, I want to serve as an example, to encourage and inspire. Two, I have a strong sense of integrity in doing what I say I’m going to do, in particular when I tell others. And three, well, you know what they say about the power of the spoken word. I put it out into the universe. Towards the second week, I started to not miss coffee at all. I was having fun with making my different concoctions and having the diversity of tropical teas, honey-bush caramel tea, and other flavors. I even thought to try green tea for the caffeine, however, I’m not a fan of the way it tastes. Now as to why? These last few weeks I’ve been relaxing more, eating, and enjoying my 2019 post-race season. I’m preparing to start my winter training, which means getting back to a more disciplined scheduled and cutting back on some of the things I’ve been enjoying (food & drinks). To get me started, I decided to temporarily eliminate coffee. In the next weeks, I will be decreasing or limiting some of the other things (ie. alcohol, sweets) so this past month has been setting me up for the mindset to do so. As we enter the holiday season, it’s easy to get carried away eating all the celebratory dinners, indulge in many holiday parties and events flowing with food and drinks, and then of course to enter the new year with resolutions. And it’s great to enjoy this time of the year, the food and celebrations. However, why wait until the new year to refocus on goals, reset, and start building habits to get you towards your goals.
I remember the first time I saw my dad shed tears. I was 11 years old and laying in a hospital bed. A few days before, I had fallen off my bike and unbeknownst to us for days the impact of my handle bar hitting my side has punctured my liver and I was bleeding internally. The realization that if we had waited much longer to go see a doctor, I would have died was likely overwhelming for my dad with the thought of possibly having lost his baby girl. I was moved and in his tears I saw love.
My older brother Darrick for years had struggled with addiction both of alcohol and drugs. It started to show to me when he was around age 20 and I was 10. It wasn’t obvious or talked about with me around, but even as a child I could sense he was dealing with something. Times when he “messed” up and lost a job or wasn’t really around, though I didn’t know fully what was going on, I could sense his shame, as well as his struggle to get back or stay on the right path. I didn’t see tears, but when certain things happened, sometime he held his head low or he’d disappear for a while. Despite the highs and lows, our family loved him through his struggles.
My father was not tall in stature, but rather quiet but commanding, devoted, and a pillar of strength. And my brother was jovial, lovable, and yet intriguing from the viewpoint of a younger sibling. Growing up having witnessed 2 of the men closest to me in vulnerable moments, actually seemed not just normal, but I realize it’s impact allowed me to embrace it. In their vulnerability, I saw personal battles, despair, seeking help, fear, relief, as well as love. And what I most appreciate about having seen those things in Black men, was their honesty and authenticity while being able to relate and have compassion. It wasn’t until most recent years that I realized that my view of Black men’s vulnerability is very much the polar opposite of the popular society’s view.
I write this because of the following Facebook post that I found refreshingly honest and felt led to share and try to dig deeper.
I tweeted years ago “There is strength and beauty in vulnerability”. In particular, in a world that socializes men’s strength with being tough, hard, taking it, not crying, not showing emotion; to me the idea tying that to the vulnerability of a black man is not authentic. That is not REAL. Society associates vulnerability with only being weak, when in actuality if one shows his/her most authentic self (joys, pains, hurts, highs, lows), that is their most full and beautiful self. That is the complete picture, versus portions that people WANT to show or others WANT to see.
Interestingly enough, in a conference I attended this past weekend, the following quote was shared in a session led by my friend, Safiya Omosanya.
People have said, “Don’t cry” to other people for years and years, and all it has ever meant is, “I’m too uncomfortable when you show your feelings. Don’t cry.” I’d rather have them say, “Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you.” – Mr. Rogers
This quote begs me to ask the question, “What is it about the tears, emotions, vulnerability, authenticity of BLACK MEN that makes people so uncomfortable?”
In an effort not to turn this into a multi-page thesis, at this time I won’t delve into historical racism, various systems and other aspects of why even the mere presence or existence of BLACK MEN seems to make people uncomfortable, however, it is an attempt to answer this question from the perspective of Black women and overall we as Black people.
Often it is Black women or other Black men that have critiqued, disengaged, scorned, upheld toxic environments and contributed to Black men not having spaces to be vulnerable, but why?
One rationale is what feeds into the continual competition between Black men and women of who has it worst. With all the systematic entities that uphold not just racism, but sexism, class-ism, equity, and more that continue to impact not just Black men and women separately, they also feed into their continual divide and conquer, and as a result, us attacking as well as dismissing each other. Hence from a Black woman’s perspective, dealing with added challenges of her own, there is a de-sensitizing of compassion and understanding of what Black men deal with. That coupled with the societal’s view that “men are meant to be tough and can take it”, there is no desire to express empathy for a man when he does show vulnerability.
Historically, society seeks to and continually dis-empowers Black men and without truly understanding this, when a man is struggling to simply get a job or career, or protect his family, or provide for his family/children, if he expresses frustration, depression, being overwhelmed, those societal factors are not given consideration. As a result, the man is either blamed, dismissed as not doing enough, or looked at as if something is wrong with him for not being able to rise above these challenges.
But to look even deeper into why this is, is to look at people as a society in regards to what we accept, take in, and desire versus what we avoid. To be fake, put on a facade, hide the truth, not deal with deeper issues is easy and what we as a society embrace. Think about it. Instead of dealing with causes of illness, we address symptoms (look at cold medicine). Instead of addressing the source of depression, anger, feelings and emotions, we drink, party, have sex, use drugs, become work-a-holics and do things to numb ourselves to keep from addressing our pain and other issues because it’s easier. When it comes to our BLACK MEN and their needs, emotions, struggles, and more; to actually engage in those conversations, to listen, to face what it is they truly have to say…not only do we possibly fear that, but it may be hard to hear what they have to say especially if it shines a light on others behaviors or lack of wanting to address. To do those things is hard, so the easier thing is to just say “man up”, “what are you trippin’ about”, “y’all think you have it hard, what about me”, which ultimately deflects from going deeper, truly creating a space for Black men to be vulnerable, and actually dealing with it all.
We don’t want or like to see pain, hurt, hardship, failure and various so-called “dark” facets, but in seeing them, we are faced with needing to address them and often times it means 1) addressing those things in ourselves or 2) facing how we have and/or still are contributing or perpetuating them. And those 2 things, make us as humans very uncomfortable.
Like in many arenas, we as humans don’t like being in spaces that are uncomfortable, however, it is in those spaces that growth and change take place. To see Black men not being able to or no longer desiring to express feelings or things they are dealing with because of the reaction of others, is not acceptable. We can’t continue to alienate, emotionally castrate, and devalue their voices. Through their laughter, tears, hugs, smiles, plans, dreams, ideas, tweets, posts, barber shop & street corner conversations, and so much more, they have POWERFUL perspectives, and insights to share…if we are willing to listen and respect. To embrace the vulnerability of Black men is essential, not only for Black men, but for us all.
Escape To Miami Triathlon turned out to be my first race I’m not sure how to feel about. I mean the event was well run, organized, a great race and heck..it was in Miami. It was my personal experience and performance that I’d have to say was a whirlwind literally and figuratively. Throughout the weekend, the winds in Miami had been increasingly high from the Atlantic Ocean’s tropical storms that though they were hundreds of miles away still impacted the area. The day before the race participants are required to rack their bike and just riding 3 blocks from the bike shop to packet pick up, a gust of wind nearly threw me off my bike. From this alone I started to feel a little disheartened about the race. If you have followed my triathlon journey for the last few years, you will know that the swim portion still creates levels of anxiety for me. So, to know that the winds would not only impact swim conditions, but to see how it could potentially also create havoc on the bike, things began to look real grim. Seeing the choppiness of the water on Saturday with wind gusts from 25-40 miles per hour, I knew going into it, I would have to focus to get in the zone. Rising at 5am the morning of the race, I went through my typical prep and headed to Margaret State Park to set up in transition. We could see that the waves were still rough. I knew then I had made the right decision to do the Sprint distance instead of Olympic. With Olympic distance waves starting at 7am and Sprint distance waves starting at 8am, I had a bit of time to observe with me having a 8:30am wave start. During that time I ran into Max Fennell, the first Black professional triathlete, who I’ve had the chance to talk with at this year and last year’s Chicago Triathlon. Max had just tested out the Sprint distance swim and told me it was “quite choppy”. Needless to say, it was what I figured, however, I had to get my head in the game because unlike Chicago Triathlon where the conditions called for a cancellation of the swim, the swim for Escape to Miami was a go. By the time, I was lined up in my wave and a couple of waves in, I set my game plan to remain calm and swim boat/canoe to to boat/canoe (as Coach Mo) would say. Unlike previous triathlons where I had a running beach start or treading start, this was a jump off the pier and go (3 at a time every 5-8 seconds). Holding onto my goggles as a jumped in and went under, I concentrated on getting to surface and into a smooth rhythm. Having done South Beach Triathlon the year before, I was quickly reminded how buoyant the ocean water was. Oh, and did I mention that the water was 79 degrees, so though I’ve never worn a wetsuit, no one else was wearing one either as it was not legal at this temperature. Though choppy, I was steadfast with my bilateral breathing, just turning a little more on my right side. Eeeing the waves were coming from that direction pushing us into the shoreline. At times I could feel my heart race a little, but that self talk back to calmness was easy knowing that this was a shorter swim. It seemed as though I was swimming better than usual as I was passing people, but that was just what it seemed like as later comments from other participants indicated many people had a longer than expected swim. For the Olympic distance participants, the NE wave were pushing them in, whereas for us Sprint distance participants, we were swimming against the waves, until we turned the last buoy. Once out of the water, it was dash into transition, which took longer than I’d like as I really need to work on my transitions. I didn’t know what to expect on the bike with the winds, though they eased from the day before to 15-25mph. Things felt pretty good at the start of the bike, however, once I approached the first bridge, the head wind and the long upward hill slowed me down to 8mph. The plan of attack was whenever the wind was not gusting, I had to make up ground. By the time I hit that same hill on the way back, my legs were pretty warmed up so it didn’t seem as taxing. So much so that at point, I surprisingly got up to 31mph with the wind. The second transition to the run went smoother as usual, however, my plan of attack for the run was soon foiled. Though I got into a relatively nice pace to start around our first turn not only did we hit a bridge with a seemingly even longer uphill slope, but the head wind added to the challenge. By the time I was midway up, while many individuals were walking, instead of pushing it, I focused on relaxing so I didn’t exhaust myself or overheat. After hitting the turnaround, it was key to gear up for saving something for returning to the the alternate side of the same bridge. I tackled the hill by using other runners as goals to surpass so that by the time I reached the downhill, it was smooth sailing back toward the finish. As usual, I saved enough for a kick to the end. After reviewing my results, I saw the choppiness of the water made for an inefficient swim. My typical open water pace of around 3 minute/100 meters was a 4 minute pace. And I thought I had a pretty good pace relative to the conditions. My bike pace, as well as my run pace were also disappointingly slower, though compared to the field, it was competitive enough for a 6th place AG and 36th overall female. So, interestingly enough I really don’t know how to take this race. I missed all of my marks for what I would have liked to do, but it was definitely a learning experience. And after that swim, simply completing it, I feel like I can almost swim in anything Lake Michigan could throw at me…ALMOST! Overall, Escape to Miami was a great experience and I’m sure I’m looking forward to racing and more in Miami soon. Until then, it’s on to the next race! Photos in gallery by Year 60 Photography and FinisherPix