Going into the Chicago Triathlon weekend in preparation for my Olympic triathlon, there are some nerves, some excitement, and having just witness the 2016 Rio Olympics, I must say that I have once again been inspired.
Having a variety of tools and rituals that keep one focused, motivated, and passionate about being a triathlete, improving, growing, and seeking various goals is key, however, to see the athletes of this year’s Olympics was not only amazing to see, but also spirit-moving to see them go for and accomplish lifetime dreams.
The strength, power, and domination of Simone Biles. The history making of Michael Phelps. The focus and drive of Allyson Felix, Tianna Bartoletta, English Gardner, Tori Bowie. The dedication and comeback of Gabrielle Douglas. The sense of accomplishment of Gwen Jorgenson. The youthful surprise of Simone Manuel.
All of their achievements is a reminder of the level of commitment it takes for us all to step up to the challenge of reaching our dreams, living the lives we desire, and fulfilling on our purpose. Through their smiles, tears, falls, and celebrations we see a moment that sums up all it took to get where they are. This can be applied not just Olympians or athletes, but to anyone.
The moments of the Rio Olympics has allowed me to reflect and take stock in not just my commitment to various aspects of my life (family, friends, career, goals, dreams, etc) but also to visualize and imagine the feeling of what the end result could not just look like, but feel like, and use that to fuel me daily in my aspirations.
Yes, many of us picture what we want or seek in life, but often we can’t really embody what it would be like to actually be living it. It’s easy to get inundated with the drudgery of the work it takes, the day to day ebbs and flows, the pitfalls and hitches that may seem to take us back a notch or two. There are days of discouragement and times when we just aren’t feeling motivated. There are often mundane periods as well as times we may second guess, have self-doubts or fears. I imagine even these Olympians have experienced these (injuries, poor performances, or simply falling short). However, the difference between getting to the finish line or not is the choice we make once we hit that crossroad that determines the path to ordinary or the path to greatness.
I definitely plan to take this as inspiration into not just this weekend’s race, but also into my continual life’s journey. From watching such phenomenal athletes these last few weeks of the Rio games, hopefully we can all be inspired to choose in our own lives, the path to greatness.
With all the outcry for the violence that we are seeing in the world, our communities (particularly low income communities & those predominantly people of color), we all can choose to play a role in transforming our current state.
I’ve written various posts to uplift and encourage us all to take action no matter our gifts or abilities. However, I recognize that many are at a lost for exactly what to do.
Between our careers, jobs, families, organizations, and a variety of other things we juggle, many feel there is no available time to do something about our communities’ challenges. Well, I ask if we don’t make time and prioritize addressing these issues, are we prepared to not see change or see things get worst? Well, I’m not & hopefully we all are increasingly a point of no return to commit to action.
Included in this post is a “Create Our Village” Pledge that lists things that pretty much anyone can do. Even children can get involved. Many of these things are not reactionary acts (though those are needed too) but look at the core of the human psyche, mindset, circumstances and create opportunities for us to be proactive in addressing the source of something greater that is needed in our families, communities, us, as a people.
Two things have inspired this over the last few years: 1) our need for Love, for God amongst us, poured into each other to conquer the state of fear, hate, and division and 2) it’s said ‘it takes a village’, connection, unity for our children, our communities to be uplifted. Here enlies some fundamental things for us to start doing to address both and to start creating change. So, will you take the pledge by committing to acting on 3 or more of these on a weekly basis? If so:
3) Email any additional list ideas (this is not an exhaustive list of actions to create our village) to email@example.com
4) We hope to see posts, tags, pics to see the actions and results of our commitments (not just for accountability and keeping this going but) to further inspire others and further create connections amongst this movement. These can be very powerful tools.
5) Post and share this pledge with other and invite them to take the ‘Create Our Village’ Pledge.
My apologies if this offends anyone as it is not my intent to do so. With this past week’s tragedies of the killings of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, and the Dallas police, we are seriously hurting and many have been trying to deal, make sense of it, and figure out what next must be done.
Many main stream media as well as others through social media have shared the videos and images of those killed last week and there are many others who have stated they refuse or could not see these images and would not want these images shared. I can relate with both ways of thinking. I struggled with myself in writing this and including such images, and have grappled with seeking to find the meaning of last week. I’ve been asking questions of the bigger meaning to the madness we are seeing and in recognizing that the lives taken not only matter, have a special meaning not just to their families and loved ones but to us all, in life, but also in death.
With the devastation of these recent incidents, I couldn’t help but think of a particular moment in history and that was Bloody Sunday.
This snippet captures the impact and effect of Bloody Sunday:
“The world doesn’t know this happened because you didn’t photograph it,” (Dr.) King told Schulke, according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Race Beat.” This time, however, television cameras captured the entire assault and transformed the local protest into a national civil rights event. It took hours for the film to be flown from Alabama to the television network headquarters in New York, but when it aired that night, Americans were appalled at the sights and sounds of “Bloody Sunday.”
Everybody knew what had been going on, but many tried to pretend they didn’t see it or were not doing anything about it. Bloody Sunday was televised to the world. Once the visuals and enormity of it was exposed to the world, outrage swept the country.
In reaction to Bloody Sunday galvanized public opinion and mobilized people, as well as Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which President Johnson signed into law in August 1965.
I ask myself was the events of this past week, the violence we have been seeing sweeping our nation, the police brutality, shootings and our reactions or lack thereof our wakeup call? Seeing the images of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, and countless other incidents coming to light, meant to be our modern day Bloody Sunday.
People keep saying “I’m tired of this”, “this has got to stop”, “I can’t breathe”, “Black lives matter”, and various expressions of frustrated, however, I ask are we at a point of having seen enough wrongful and senseless death to galvanize ourselves to act with intention?
Congress has not passed a gun control bill. Police reform and accountability is being demanded. Boycotts are being suggested. Protests are happening.
As a people, as a country, is this FINALLY enough for us to take a look at ourselves, be committed to strategizing, unifying, organizing, and be determined to effectively transform the state of what we are seeing today?
I will end by sharing that it was seeing this photo [below] of Philandro Castile that broke me down.
Having lost a brother, I cried the same tears and felt hurt in reaction to this image as I did when I learned my brother passed and saw his lifeless body. I didn’t know Philandro, however, I see him as a brother, a fellow man, my neighbor, someone loved.
If this was your brother, father, cousins, son, husband, etc…, what would you do proactively different today and moving forward? How would you honor a life lost, so that this ceases to continue?
I don’t think it was an accident that this week I came across this video from 2013 of Michael Eric Dyson presenting the “Status of Black Males in American Society” on Capitol Hill. Listening to his points inspired me to reflect on two of the major issues that seem to be plaguing cities, communities, and the news and media.
One, the continual increase in the number of those seemingly random shootings and killings in various cities. And two, back to back days where 2 black men were killed by police officers and it having been documented on video for the world to see.
The brutalizing of black men, black women by individuals that are supposed to protect and serve. Black-on-black crime. The accidental shooting of individuals, even young children.
These may not seem to be related, however, I feel that Dyson brings to light a key issue that resonates and addresses both of these systematic problems.
Perhaps for many, Dyson’s statement that “black humanity has been suspected from the beginning of our sojourn in America…” is not news. However, take a moment to really think about what that really means, when he says “All black people live under suspicion” and “our humanity has been questioned”.
I mean most of us, as black individuals, have encountered that moment in a store when you’re looked at suspiciously by a non-black individual who works there. Even black people in certain predominant black communities, specifically low-income areas known for high crime either, don’t go to certain places after a certain time of day, or when seeing a group of young black men or teens, cross the street, hold their items close, or avoid those places or situations altogether.
Let’s be honest, we (black people) are even suspicious of ourselves.
So, it is not surprising to me when even an officer of the law, who has a weapon of protection continually patrols the streets, expected to put his/her life on the line, and having been trained (on tactics, observations, and procedures that we (lay persons) are not privy to), is suspicious and I’d argue often is fearful, as well. (I mean why else would you even need a gun).
And unfortunately what we are seeing more commonly is “the targeting of African American men(and women) that makes them subject to…penalties…” and at this point the increase in the highest penalty of being killed with little if any regard to the life taken.
Before listening to Dyson’s words and having seen the footage of Alton Sterling, I thought you can’t possibly be humane to so easily not relate to someone to a point where it is easy to take a life. And as much as I could not see the taker of life as demonstrating being human, I imagine the taker of a life can’t see those who he has killed as human in order to do so with such disregard.
And much in the same way as these accidental shootings of children, increasing highway shootings, or gang-related killings, the shooter (no matter who ended up being shot, by accident or not) was seeking to harm or take a life with little or no regard of another’s life and those it impacts.
Even though we have been seeking to reaffirm that Black Lives Matter, the commonality is that to these individuals, black lives don’t.
Our culture has long embraced and perpetuated a“…state that stigmatizes them (black men, black people), a culture that demonizes them…” and as a result we have become “..recipients of the outrageous indignity of being assumed…not to be human”.
So “being seen as preternaturally given to inclinations to being criminal” or having been offended, has led people to see black men, black people as less than human. Black lives can be easily dismissed or because of suspicions or anger directed at such, one is more easily able to or feel that they have a right to do whatever they feel towards the object of their suspicions, hate, fear…
Amongst each other in the black community, we have seen our own ability to kill each other and hate each other as being what Dyson describes a “reflection of a broader pathology”.
However, with this realization, what do we do now?
I think Dyson gives a great response to this in stating“…the way in which black masculinity expresses a menace and a threat in American culture both consciously and unconsciously, that needs to be uncoupled”. This cultural and societal suspicion, debasing and dismissal of black lives must be overturned and combatted.
Dyson discusses how in our own communities there must be a focus on education as well as a reduction of penalties for non-violent drug offenses and zero-tolerance policies. I agree that placing higher value on our children and setting them up for success, as well as balancing the equality in how we treat offenders regardless of race are steps towards demonstrating equal value on black lives. However, I would challenge that more can be done.
For example, officers must know and be engaged with the communities they are supposed to be policing. They must see those communities the way they see their own communities, their own household…as human. Before even being on the beat, a deep awareness and relationship within the schools, churches, neighborhood families, can go a long way to truly knowing the people and having a deep-set understanding, regard and even comradery and love for the people they are to protect and serve. This may seem like wishful thinking, but it has the ability to make it increasingly difficult to criminalize a people and not value the lives one is there to serve.
This same approach can aid in the senseless gang and random shootings. How can we uplift Black lives, create relationships amongst each other, teach conflict resolution, claim our blocks and neighborhoods so we live communing and not in fear of or offended by each other? There is a need to return to “our village” and we all must stake a claim in and sense of responsibility for it.
Dyson challenges us ALL with a call to action when he says we must use our “spots, spaces and spirits in this culture to not only edify the conversation and to inform the analysis…to recognize that black” men, women, people “…are children of God that deserve every protection” as well as to be honored, valued and respected. For Black lives are beautifully human.
View Dyson’s complete presentation below and comment with your thoughts, share, keep the dialogue going, but most importantly..use your space and gift to de-stigmatize, promote, uplift Black lives.
Want to get some insight into the inside of my head and my latest journey, well keep reading… So, if you’ve been following my 2016 or have relatively been in the loop with what’s been going on with me, you are probably aware that this year I’ve set out on taking my triathlons to a new level. Doing varying indoor tris, sprint or mini tris since 2007 have been fun, however, this year I’ve set new goals of increase intensity and focus in training, working with groups and coaches, decreasing times, bumping up in age-group and overall placement, and moving up to Olympic/International distance triathlons. You may or may not know that the swim portion, particularly OWS (open water swimming) has been somewhat of a nemesis to overcome, which can make doing any distance, but particularly a 1500 meter (almost 1 mile) swim a true mental challenge.
Now that you have some context, I can delve into this past race week. To be completely open & honest, 5 days beforehand I started sensing a little anxiety, but to address that, I drove up to the race location, Pleasant Prairie, WI, to do a swim clinic so I could get comfortable in Lake Andreas. Having a 1/2 mile course laid out at the clinic, even that course looked long. But I did one loop pretty calmly and then another. I needed to do the full distance because if I could do it then, 5 days later I could remind myself that I got this. Despite the 2 people that touched my toes while they were swimming, I was clam and consistent with my swim. I felt good about it and felt ready.
As the next few days came, I was thinking about the race in my sleep and still felt some increasing nervousness. Having thoughts about the 2-year-old snatched by the alligator in Florida didn’t help. And I also recalled a posting about a guy who attempted his first OWS triathlon, who drowned, and I found myself really having to do some self-talk about what I would do if I found myself in trouble (triathletes can always get on their back & float to calm down). Another challenge of OWS is having people around you, some people may swim into you, accidently touch or hit you while they are swimming, which can be a distraction when you are really trying to focus. My game plan has been to try and stay in the path of least swimmers so I can stay focused even if it means I swim a longer length away from the quickest route. All this game planning, self-talk, focus, preparation was fine, but I found myself hard to sleep on Friday night (2 days before) and actually had some tears in my eyes at like 2am lying thinking about this race. “This is ridiculous, that I’m reacting like this” I told myself. So I started talking to God, thinking about my two angels, my dad and my brother watching over me and I finally got some sleep.
So, Saturday, the day before the race, I drove up to pick up my race packet where the course talk reviewed the coming race and got to drop off my bike in transition. Then after checking into the hotel, I got my gear all set, and went to dinner (carbs of course) with my goddaughter & niece. Afterwards, I was able to go to sleep relatively soon, but before most races, I tend to wake up because of the excitement about an hour or so before the alarm and just try to rest until it’s time to get to it.
Race Day: With a race start of 6:30a and 6:15a transition close, it was up and out by 4:30a so I could be in and setting up my gear between 5:15a-5:45a.
Though the weather report had been forecasting rain/thunderstorms, I had hoped it would past to the north of us. As I was wrapped up with setting up by 6:00a, clouds had been rolling in. I covered my belongings with a few towels (Note to self: with rain predictions always carry plastic bags.) By 6:10a, it was announced for all athletes to come into the RecPlex facility as lightening and rain was within 5-10 miles and the race was to be delayed.
Needless to say, this was not the greatest news, as by this time I was all set and ready and just wanted to get the swim over with and let’s go! A downpour came while everyone was inside and we waited until it lightened up. After over an hour, they finally announced the race would commence, however, because of lightening still potentially in the area, they didn’t want to risk having athletes in the lake. So, instead of a swim-bike-run, the race would be a run-bike run.
This probably should have been good news as I am a strong runner, then biker, but, I was kind of indifferent. I was in a way looking forward to the challenge of the swim. But anyway….
8:00am (An hour and a half late) the race began. Being in wave 7 (great number, right?), I started around 8:30a. A 2.3 mile run now replaced the .9 mile swim, went quick and easy for me coming into transition 5th out of my wave.
Transition was quick, but in getting out on the bike with wet roads, I was mindful of being careful and plus this is twice the distance of a sprint triathlon. There was also occasional rain drizzling at various areas on the bike course. I still wanted to challenge myself to maintain a similar pace. I completed the bike in my last race 2 weeks prior, the Esprit De She tri, in 45 minutes, so my goal was to bike this in about an hour and a half. (Well, with the results posted..did it in 1:32:27.)
By the time I was back in transition to put up the bike and on to the 6.2 mile run, the sun was coming out. Keeping in mind a 1.5 hour delay, the weather was hotter and muggier, but there was still some overcast. I really didn’t know how I would run in the 3rd portion of the race at this distance. I wanted to save some my legs on the bike to ensure I could do a strong run.
On to the run, I felt like that first mile zipped by, but I knew I had 5 more miles to go. Having that earlier 2.3 miles, I knew I would be ending with a total or 8.5 miles, but I just ran how I felt and I felt good. Portions of the race in the direct sun did feel like I hit a sauna, but as long as I was passing folks, I just thought, just finish this. In the last mile, I steadily built my speed and was still able to sprint in the last .2 mile to finish.
In 2:46:31….Mission Accomplished.
I still have one other Olympic triathlon planned. The Chicago Triathlon which is known for being quite competitive, so part of me is thinking to find another beforehand to do (without a swim change), but we’ll see.
So here it is, six months into 2016 and ask yourself, where are you with the things that you have been seeking to accomplish this year? Hopefully those goals you set haven’t been put aside or hardly thought about and if so, it’s time to revisit.
My first post of 2016, More That Resolutions, Committed in 2016, revealed a few practices I use to get clarity, stay focused, and work to accomplish goals. What has been unique this year, is that I prepared myself by making difficult life changes and decisions to set myself up to achieve those goals. Needless to say, various setbacks, trying situations, and challenges have come up, however, that’s when addressing those challenges so that I can stay on path has become key.
If you haven’t already taken stock of what has been going on in your life this year to help or hurt your ability to accomplish what you’re seeking, since we are halfway through the year, now is actually a great time to do so. Not only do you get to see where you are, but also to take into account what factors have hindered or helper you. This allows you to have a serious reality check and ask yourself, am I really serious about each of the goals you set for yourself.
For example, if you are trying to lose weight or get in shape and have found challenges in making time to work out, now is the time to say either, 1) the other things involved in your lifestyle are more important and you are not at a point to seriously commit to fitness and/or 2) list a few things that you can commit to that may not be daily but weekly, monthly or intermittently that will fit into your current lifestyle. Sometimes you have to take baby steps if you have seen that you can’t commit on a level that you previously thought. And you also have to be honest with yourself about what you have or haven’t done so far this year to gauge your ability and willingness to go for that goal.
Other options include making significant changes to your lifestyle to support the goals you desire. Say you are seeking to save money or be financially stable. Making the choice to live with a roommate, or stop spending in areas to invest in your saving is a choice that you may make to truly allows you to commit to that goal.
Below are a few of the 2016 Commitments & Goals I set for myself earlier this year:
Daily Scripture & devotional reading Acquire athletic sponsorship of brand ambassadorship Completing Olympic distance triathlon Triathlon & running bringing in income and/or opportunities Blogging consistently (at least weekly or bi-weekly) Women’s, Men’s, Youth gathering (at least one of each) Read 6 books
A few things that have or are currently helping me to achieve these include: – Setting up a daily reminder in my Bible app for the plans I’m reading – I applied to various athletic sponsorships and acquire 3 of them – Between my sports apps, working with coaches and run clubs, I’ve been working a flexible enough schedule that allows me to be committed 5-6 trainings/week to prepare for my triathlons and I signed up for them, which in my mind, means they are definitely happening. – Starting a run club, being an ambassador, getting out in the athletic arena has been affording me various opportunities from work, to interviews, features, and more. – Each week or two I write ideas for things to blog or I get ideas from things that other individuals are going through.
It also helps that I wake to see my vision board each day (on the wall of my bedroom) and a picture of it is the background on my phone, as well as having my commitment list on my phone & in my planner. So I read and review them a couple of times a week to remind myself of what I said I am focusing on. It gives me the opportunity to ask often, “what am I currently doing or going to do this day or week to work towards these goals?” It keeps them in the forefront of my mind so I don’t neglect my commitments or goals.
I hope this gives you some ideas as to how to develop or refine you plan of attack to reach your goals. There is so much opportunity to also be creative in having accountability partners, posting them on online and encouraging others to check up on you or work with you, and to just keep sharing them with others so that you get the support to make 2016 a dynamic year!
Though I love writing for my blog, F7LN, yet to open up the pages of Newcity Magazine to see my words as a contribution to the publication (as well as online) is so amazing! This past month, I had the opportunity to share my experience as a triathlete getting ready to welcome the Chicago summer season. So with this post, I share that article with you. Check it out here, enjoy, and feel free to comment! 🙂
My eyes tear up before I even begin to write this…
Well, to be honest, not a day has passed in the last year where at some point in the day, I’ve not had at least a teary-eyed memory or just allowed myself a period to cry in missing him.
I never imagined this time one year ago would be the last time I would lay eyes on my dad’s face. Even before the moment he took his last breath and since then I’ve thought about the longings I’ve had as he had been the one constant man in my life. Never thought he wouldn’t have the chance to walk me down the aisle. Though he didn’t really dance, never imagined my dream of dancing to Marvin Gaye’s “Pride & Joy” with him wouldn’t happen. And as I pray that I’ll be blessed with children, knowing he’ll never meet him/her, I still hope to have the opportunity to honor him by giving the middle name of ‘Allen’ (or ‘Nella’ if a girl) to a child to in a sense carry him on and a family tradition, like he, his brother, and his father had before him.
I write this post for two reasons.
One, for the various people who have had a loved one pass over the last year or years. Be it the friends and relatives that have lost a mother or father in the last few months or years, those whose brother or sister have passed on, or even those who long for or miss a child, though you may not know it, I think and pray for you often. Dealing with no longer having someone you cherish here on earth is not something that is often talked about after the initial few weeks or months, but many carry those feeling long after others can even imagine. It’s often something kept hidden in our private times.
I’m here to tell you, you are not alone.
As I strive to be the uplifting and strong one, this is a side that I don’t often show because I don’t want people to worry about me but trust me I’m alright. However, I want you to know, it’s ok if there are days you simply aren’t. It’s ok to cry, to long, to miss them…months, years afterwards. I know my tears are an expression of how much my dad meant to me and the love that was shared.
And I hope that like me, you can find the beauty in the songs, the belongings left behind, the memories that get you emotional that make them unforgettable. And moreso, I hope you take the time and opportunity to honor them and to continue their legacy in what they gave you. What you shared with them, share it with others.
The other reason I write this is to share the legacy of my dad. Though he was mostly a quiet man, his impact on not just me, but on those who were blessed to know him, in my eyes was profound. Devoted, giving, helpful, sensible, intelligent, Dad poured into me the best of what a man could ever give a little girl, a growing young lady, and an evolving woman. And the best way I know to continue and honor him, is to pour that into those whose lives I’m able to touch. Particularly the young girls, and women (and even boys & men) that I know have not had the blessing of such a man in their lives, I can only hope to give a snippet of what dad gave me.
It’s a blessing to know you are loved beyond reason. For someone to give you a lifetime of knowing you are treasured, you have so much potential and possibility, to know even if you fall they will be there for you, are just a few things dad blessed me to know.
Let us not be so attached to any hurt, pain, or sadness in missing those who have passed on, that we forget about or take away from the opportunity we have to bless those still amongst us.
I owe that not only to my dad, my brother, cousins, grandparents…but even more, to you. Be blessed and seize each moment given in honoring those who we continue to remember and love.
In honor of the lives of and those who loved: Fred Allen Holloway Darrick Holloway Maude & Robert Holloway Cora & Hugh Brown Clara Whittington Jean Allison Calvin Brown Sr. Jeremy Sutton Jeremy Coleman Linda Faye Lett Elaine Hicks Gayle Powell Paul Tucker, Jr. Ron & Melva Samuels Naeem Projansky Kevin Ambrose and many more..
A day is not nearly enough to honor and celebrate the woman who was a vessel through which life was passed and nurtured, however, on this day I want to wish a blessed and beautiful day to my mom. To all the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, godmothers, mentors, and women who give life, speak life, uplift life…May God bless all of your days, fill your hearts, fulfill your hopes and dreams, and enlighten you life, as you have done for us..your daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, other children, family, community, and beyond. You have not only birth children, but civilizations, ideas, dreams, accomplishments, creativity, and love. You are cherished and loved…Happy Mother’s Day.