I often talk to my Black brothers, and no matter if single, married, divorced, young, or old, I’ve listened to them express feeling undervalued, ignored, hated, unsupported, and attacked. The way society and media in general often depict, negate, ignore & minimize them & their greatness has been something I often speak of and have been truly passionate about for years. I dare not make light of the plight of us women nor various issues that have plagued our communities, and yet it is not often enough that I see the championing of Black men.
And I don’t mean in the sense of our reaction to the school-to-prison pipeline or to Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, and other deplorable killings. I’m talking about proactively acknowledging, uplifting, and creating spaces online, in media, in our homes, at work and our communities, for Black men to be positively represented, heard…loved.
Late last night I was playing the song “U Will Know” by Black Men United, that I’ve loved over the years and always has touched me and sparked me to write this post. There are a few people that inspired this as well, but I will speak to that.
Outside of Father’s Day and a few headlines that acknowledge them, it seems rare to see Black men celebrated, their challenges discussed or addressed, perspective respected, and to see us women simply being proud, acknowledging all that they do, supporting, and spiriting them on to continue in the path God created for them.
My big brother from another mother, Khalid (a social worker, counselor, & mentor for young brothers, sisters & families) throughout the years, honors a Black Woman of the Month/Week on his Facebook page, by putting a collage of photos of a specific woman to celebrate. Last week he posted for seven days “Celebrating Black Men Week” while posting about Black Dads, Black Celebrity Men, Dr. King, and more. I couldn’t help but think, why don’t I see more of this…intentionally celebrating and honoring Black men, and even everyday fathers, brothers, uncles, and the like.
Though the first year I started this blog in 2012, among my first posts was “My Love Letter To Black Men”, yet as in anything that I’d like to see change of more of, I recognize I must be willing for it to start with me.
Listening to the song, I got teary-eyed thinking about my god-nephew, Tyler, who is raising a young 1 year-old son. It moves me to see him, at age 21, seeking to be the best man he can be, especially for his son. And I also think about my nephew, Darius, who I couldn’t be more proud of, a college graduate, now married, raising his 3-year old daughter. For all you powerful men raising children, mentoring our youth, studying in school, being activists, writing books, supporting wives & families, ministering in church, serving our country, coaching teams, operating businesses, teaching, creating, empowering, inspiring, loving and so much more, these lyrics I pray that despite life’s ebbs & flows, inspire & encourage you. And that you know how valuable, valued and loved you truly are.
Your dreams ain’t easy Just stick by your plan To go from boys to men You must act like a man When it gets hard, y’all You just grab what you know Stand up tall and don’t you fall
And you will know.
And even still…in the song, it is stated “you must act like a man” and then “stand up tall and don’t you fall”. What does that truly mean? My challenge is that we typically think of a certain strength and character of men (versus being a boy), but that doesn’t mean you can’t show hurt, pain, tears, anger. There is a certain strength in being comfortable in expressing how one feels, and to be honest, often we as women don’t always allow for you to do that. And at times we ALL fall. Those are the learning opportunities in life. Though we may try not to fall, which speaks to doing the best we can, but when we do fall, look and embrace the lesson from it, as well as the journey of life itself and then truly YOU WILL KNOW.
Dedicated to the one who has been the most influential man in my life, my dad, Fred Holloway.
I typically end each year posting my year’s top or favorites list. In the past, it has been either the year’s books, music/albums, movies, or some variation. As an expression of gratitude for all that this has brought to my life, here is my top 7 personal moments of 2018. I pray that not only will it inspire YOU to reflect on cherished moments of your last year, but also to look forward to future plans, dreams, bucket lists, goals, and people in your life for 2019.
#7: L.E.A.P. Women’s Empowerment Conference I previously posted about participating as a panelist for the L.E.A.P. (Ladies who are Educated and have A Purpose) Women’s Empowerment Conference. This was an amazing day and event. I love volunteering at career days and speaking engagements, especially opportunities to engage with our youth (particularly young ladies). This event was special because it was filled with discussion, sharing, inspiring and touching our youth, while also networking and connecting with fellow colleagues, business owners, educators, mentors, and overall dynamic women.
6: Return to GCYC I’ve worked at the Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC) in some capacity (contractor, programming, evaluation, membership, staff, volunteer) since the building opened and it has been a blessing. It has always been my passion to work with youth, while also give back and contribute to our community. This past summer at the annual GCYC Career Day, I was happy to be able to announce that I would be returning to work there as the Youth Employment Manager. In this role, not only it is an honor to work with youth, but also to assist them launch their dreams and goals in areas where they can use their knowledge, skills and talent in the form of jobs, employment, and career opportunities.
#5: Meeting Allyson Felix
I am inspired by quite an array of people and every so often I’m blessed to meet those that are renown across the country and even around the globe. As an triathlete and runner, quite a few through the years, including Flo-Jo, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Carl Lewis, Gail Devers, and Michael Johnson, are a few track and field stars that are amongst those I’ve loved to watch.
In recent years, the journey of the dynamic Allyson Felix has been amazing to see. This past February, I could not have had a better birthday gift than to have the opportunity to meet her AND actually hold one of her Olympic medals. She is delightful, humble, and incredibly sweet.
I want to send her best wishes into 2019 as she has recently announced and revealed the blessing of her new baby girl, Camryn! And to see Allyson open up so much personally has been refreshing, allowing people to see even more of her inner beauty as a woman and now a mother!
#4: 30 Days of Self Love I’m often so much more comfortable as a giver to others than to focus on giving to myself, so to take on a 30-day “Self Love Challenge” was very different. I learned to see it as necessary to regain perspective on myself, my value, as well as, actions and people that don’t served my purpose. Taking time to do the things I grow accustom to doing for others and redirect to doing them for me was renewing. I even shared some of those moments with others, in hopes to inspire them to embrace, give to & love themselves. Writing myself a love note, gifting myself flowers, making myself a gift, sending myself an “I love you” text, were all pretty powerful in acknowledging my own worth, keeping the bar high for my own expectations of what I give as well as desire to receive, and embracing that self-love, as well as, God’s love, allows us to be so filled that we can continue to give to the world.
#3: Trip to Miami for South Beach Triathlon I’ve previously been to Florida, but Miami was new to me and an amazing time! This was my first destination race..the South Beach Triathlon! It was six days to prepare and pursuit my first outdoor race of 2018, first triathlon post-bike fall, surgery & rehab (to see my progress), have an awesome photo shoot with someone special, remarkably talented and fun, and enjoy the artistic side and sites of Miami! And yes, I had a BLAST!!
#2: Gatlinberg with Family Ziplining There is nothing like time with family.. especially with those you don’t get to see very often. This past summer, my mother’s side of the family had a phenomenal trip to Gatlinberg, Tennessee. One family all under one roof in a large cabin decked out with multiple rooms, pool table, jacuzzi, games, small theater and more. We had fun cooking, shopping, walking, and exploring! And of course the thrill-seeker & challenger in me had to do something extraordinary while knocking out one of my bucket list items. Yes, I previously have done a form of zip-lining, but it was one line across and back at a museum. This time I got to go on a full course, high in the trees. And though I still kind of have a fear of heights, I had to just suck it up and go for it. Not only did I enjoy the course, I got to do with with one of my adventurous cousins, who serves our country in the US Air Force and I don’t see often and admire! Him, his wife, and I were the 3 musketeers zipping across like big kids!
#1: Good Morning America w/ Michelle Obama Indeed a true highlight and recent buzz of excitement was being face to face with our beloved First Lady, Michelle Obama. And as if being in the same space was thrilling enough, to also be on live television with her as she responded and answered a question for me, was a moment beyond moments. It was a blessing to be at a live taping of Good Morning America in Chicago as she recently launched her book “Becoming Michelle Obama”, and have Robin Roberts introduce me while asking her a question. And in Mrs. Obama smile and response, she demonstrated how gracious, personable and engaging she truly is. And yes, I’m still hoping the 2 of us can travel somewhere fun together as indicated in her response. Hey, a lady can always dream, right?
Every year rather that making resolutions, I create & focus on commitments & goals I establish for the year. I read them at least monthly but more like weekly to check-in and see where I’m at, refocus, plan and take action to achieve them. Last year (2017) on of my goals was to improve my USA Triathlon ranking from 2016 State AG (age group): 49 and Region AG: 166.
Then I had my unfortunate bike accident that knocked out that possibility & made me ineligible for AG Nationals. This year I kept that same goal, but initially was focused on post-surgery healing, therapy and getting back into racing. I didn’t really feel that I improved much this year. I tried to accept that after an injury, it can take time. Yet I did come a long way and hit a few targets.
However, as I was recently updating my athlete CV, I checked my ranking and guess what?? For 2018, my rank is State AG: 23 and Region AG: 98! I’m so happy & excited to reach that goal this year!!
I wanted to share this for 2 reasons. One, to encourage any of you that despite setbacks, stay the course. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves, wane, give up, or not really even see what we have accomplished. (Because honestly even if I hadn’t improved my rank, I went from not being able to move my arm and get dressed in pain to getting back to swimming, biking, running and more). And the second reason..I’m keeping this goal for next year. So you all can keep me accountable and check back with me late 2019. I’m thinking to shoot for state AG TOP 10, BABY!!!
Today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl. Since 2011, this day has been observed as a day to empower, speak to, advocate for, and uplift girls and women. It is a day to create or increase awareness of gender equality, as well as the adversities that girls and women around the world face in today’s society. Using opportunities to demonstrate what girls and women stand form as well as creating relevant conversations and uplifting the female voice, while also being in ACTION is essential.
Here are videos featuring girls, young ladies, and women, where the question was asked “what key issue do you feel that girls and women face today is important to you and how do you feel you and others can address it?” View, share, and encourage dialogue not just today but moving forward to work towards resolutions and empowering our girls and women. And feel free to comment with an issue that speaks to you and what you can/will do to take action.
“Mistreatment of Women In the Middle East” – Anayah
“Women Being Targeted Sexually” – Jazmyne
“Respect/Discrimination In The Work Place” – Mikayla
I recently embarked on a 31-day “Self Love” Challenge, which has been pretty exciting. These types of challenges can embody pampering oneself, self-affirmations, ways to reinforce confidence, and a variety of other things. I decided to look at the ways that I show love and do things for other people (that I rarely do for myself) and do 31 things for me. I also invited others to join me or shared these to expand love to others. Demonstrating and truly showing myself love in action, words, deeds, and more has been uplifting. It is often said you cannot pour from an empty cup, so it’s important to pour into oneself and allow others to do so. As a result, we can then pour into others. I want to share that with you, for anyone else that may want to take this on.
I can often find it difficult to “let go”. Well, in some circumstances, so let me clarify. Two of the closest men in my life over the last 12 years have passed, my dad and one of my brothers. Surprisingly, those were not the hardest things to deal with. I think because I have an understanding and acceptance around death that every life is a gift for a season and that ultimately I’m grateful for the time God granted me to have them in my life, it makes it easier, though I miss them.
However, I find that in dealing with relationships, friendships, unexplained moments when people move on or depart to be more challenging. Because I don’t always understand or have a sense of why, that makes it hard to accept and “let go”. At times, I’m still searching to know a person or relationship’s intentions, and I tend to think the best of people and situations. Though I may tell myself, sometimes I won’t understand, know why, and to accept beyond having answers, it can be challenging when you long to hold onto a person or relationship that is dear to your heart.
Recently I’ve faced questions and resolutions to my own feelings, thoughts and clarity on people, things, and relationships and was blessed by a video by R.C. Blakes that examines the fact that God often multiplies and brings abundance..our next season of increased fruitfulness, by first subtracting from our lives.
To notate some of Blakes initial points, he highlights the fact that: “When people walk out of your life for no known reason, you have to view it as God moving them out of your life” and it’s important that you accept it and even make it easy for them to leave.
Every time someone has moved on or walk out of your life, God is actually promoting you. You may not have realized this because the enemy has you focused who left your life, rather than what God has and/or is depositing in your life. Instead of being hung up on the relationship that expired, we are often blinded to the favor that is currently in or coming into your life that others are not equipped or meant to participate in.
One way of looking at it is: “God has a first-class ticket for a flight to your destiny, but you’re so focused on trying to bring a bag that God has not cleared for you to check or bring with you. Rather than catching your flight, you sit depressed over the bag.”
Many times God is pruning you (ie. cutting off relationships, responsibilities) for you to function in the next level of your life. He longs for us all to be continually fruitful. God is more concerned with you being fruitful than you being comfortable. And there are times he must bring us through some uncomfortable circumstances including letting go of things and people who are not going to be apart of the next level of your life. In the next level of your life, you hold a unique message and blessing to share with others. Instead of focusing on holding on to relationships & people, it’s time to focus on that message you have for the world & God is trying to bring you to the stage.
Right when we are on the brink of an explosion of growth, increase & success, things we thought would be a constant in our lives are often cut off or eliminated. People, relationships, friendships that we long to hold on to suddenly end and many times it is when we are in the grips of our greatest season. And it is not just ok but hopefully inspiring to “let go”, for you to to begin to see the manifestation of the greatness that is ahead of you.
Calling all runners, walkers, youth, families..are you ready for Taking It To The Streets 2018!! “Taking It To The Streets” Half Marathon/5K is a race through out the streets of Calumet City, in the heart of the south suburbs of Chicago & Indiana border. This race has a flat & new route that makes the 13.1 or 3.1 mile race go smooth and fast, but more importantly fun and for all levels of runners. Looking forward to seeing you there!!
Register now at: https://runsignup.com/Race/IL/CalumetCity/TakingItTotheStreets
Being in a position to empower young women, as well as men is a blessing and honor. I find myself at times reflecting on the sense of responsibility I feel to pour into those who have come after me in a way our ancestors and previous generations have into me.
Recently a young woman confided in me that someone she frequently interacts with, had done something that made her feel uncomfortable. Like many women we have seen recently with the eruption of the #MeToo movement, often we are unsure of how to handle the situation.
After listening, I advised her that to share how she felt with that person (who may not have realized the reaction his action caused) was important. Not only does it inform the person of something he may not be aware of and should take into consideration in the future, but it also allows for her voice to be heard. It was important for me to encourage her to speak up to him about how she felt.
I understood her, because when I was slightly younger than she was, I had an interaction with a co-worker that made me uncomfortable. He touched me inappropriately in an elevator. I backed up in shock, pushing away and as the elevator doors opened I briskly walked/ran out. I never spoke to the man afterwards, as he didn’t work in my department. And other than one female co-worker, I didn’t tell anyone else. I was 17/18 years old, I was a new intern in a corporate environment of people mostly 30 and older, he was married, and his mother worked at the company. I took the stance that I didn’t want to cause any commotion and pushed the fact that the incident happened to the side. Luckily for me, he didn’t try it again or do anything else. I imagine my reaction spoke volumes of his unwanted advance. However, in a time where many women have come forward about dealing with similar incidents or worst, I recognize many may have felt exactly like I did.
So to address this young lady before me, it was important not only that I shared my experience so she knew she wasn’t alone and I could relate. I did not want her to continue on in life feeling she had to accept being left feeling uncomfortable or unempowered to speak her mind and confront issues that she may deal with in the future.
As a result, she did have the opportunity to address the concern and the person. The man was completely taken back not realizing what he meant as an innocent gesture, made her feel uncomfortable and he apologized. As a result of a simple dialogue, being free to express one’s feelings, and a space of listening, humility, and understanding, the two are alright with each other.
In retrospect, I wish I had someone who had encouraged me in dealing with something of this matter in my past. However, I’m grateful that I’ve grown and been placed in positions and opportunities where supporting and encouraging another can make a difference in the lives of a young person.
If I can share anything that can contribute to our society today, it is that communication and having a dialogue where empathy and understanding is sought, as well as creating a space that is safe for people to share their feelings, be humble, vulnerable, as well as authentic and truthful would go a long way to address much of issues we see in the world. Demonstrating this, simple compassion, could be one of the greatest gifts we can give to the next generations.
Who would’ve ever thought I would write a post about a bike & link it to Black male educators? No correlation, right? Well, you’ll see..
The discovery of a crack in my bike frame the day before South Beach Triathlon, didn’t seem like a big deal, despite the serious concerns from the bike shop worker. I was in gorgeous Miami and excited about my first outdoor triathlon of the year, so my only response was “well, its the only bike I have & I’m doing this race.”
Post race & returning to Chicago, I began inquiring & trying to figure out how I was going to salvage or get another bike. Just as watching Facebook posts of people out on rides was starting to make me feel like the the kid that couldn’t go outside & play, here comes MTC3 (Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago) family to save the day!
Much love to James & Chuck! To call them bike enthusiasts would be the understatement of the decade. And to watch & hear them both make cases for me to choose between 2 different bike options was the equivalent of watching Serena & Venus go at it on the tennis court..lol. Two hours later, I decided on the faster option with some serious enhancements. Then I just had to wait about 2 weeks for the for the build and to get fitted.
Happily I can say, I recently picked him (yes, my bike is a him..lol) up and I’m too excited to get back out riding.
Now what does that have to do with Black male educators you ask? Well, just like my car, my previous bike, etc, I give them names. For the last day or so, I’d been pondering on what to call him. Since I feel like my new edition is more sleek, enhanced, and will allow for serious power & speed, I was leaning towards superhero names. After a little research, it just seemed to good to be true.
Born Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning depicted as a teacher & principal from a crime-filled & violence-ridden neighborhood who acquired electrical superpowers, he puts to use his abilities to transform his community.
This past May 14th was the 3rd year since my dad, who was a teacher and educational administrator, passed and I recently have been setting the foundation for new initiatives transforming communities in honor of him. Recognizing the power of Black male educators, in particular to our young Black boys, is the reason Black Lightning speaks volumes. Black males, in particular, in these positions have a unique perspective & impact. My desire to uplift and see more means of transformation, as well as to portray and embrace this, is the reason, yes, my latest edition will be named ‘Black Lightning’.
And since my bike is black and blue, after seeing these images, it just seemed perfect.
My dad, not just an educator, but so much more will always be my superhero. So, not only do I hope to have a little superpower in my rides, but I imagine the thought of him being with me as I ride watching over me will not only make me smile, but also provide inspiration.
And to all the Black men serving to educate & uplift our children, perhaps sharing this will inspire you too. This is dedicated to you all.
Last week, along my Facebook feed was a link to a media outlet discussing the recent end of what had been termed a 17 year “feud” between Jada Pinkett-Smith and Gabrielle Union. It’s always interesting how the media & people can spin things to diminish the relationships between Black women.
In this clip (at 3:01) & articles, Jada nor Gabrielle could not even attest to anything specific happening between the two of them spurring them not to speak for almost 17 year. With people surrounding them both feeding into probably rumor and/or gossip, it took until recently for them to realize there wasn’t any basis for this supposed “feud”.
For this reason, I believe whole-heartedly in hearing from the horse’s mouth as they say. Even recently I’ve shared with family & friends dealing with conflict the importance of not putting much weight in innuendos, rumors, gossip, and he-said/she-said. It is hard to see people not coming together as a result of other people’s misunderstanding, personal interpretation, or even hidden agenda and this is common amongst us, Black sisters. All it takes is a conversation and as Gabrielle said letting go of pride or insecurity for us ALL to rise!
Everything happens for a reason, so as a result of this article, I’m able to write and encourage us to reflect and think on what we truly put stock into and hopefully open up the lines of communication, show empathy and understanding.
And as a result, in addition to seeing two or more sisters independently being great, imagine what can accomplish together. I’m embarking on an endeavor that will uplift & speak to not only Black women, but also men, our children, our voices, relationships, families, and more. In the meantime, I also want to share and encourage each other in love & grace with one another.
In addition to this, I have been blessed to see Jada’s recent FB release of “The Red Table” and encourage all my sisters to check it out. The pilot on “Motherhood” had me in tears as it was beautiful.