A Bookmark to Remember

I started reading Industries of the Future by Alec Ross, a book that I’m borrowing from my local library.

I first heard about Alec while attending TEDxBaltimore in 2016. He was one of the presenters and struck me as a knowledgeable person as he navigated his way talking about growing up in West Virginia, being a former Baltimore City Public School educator, working with Hillary Clinton… and yes, talking about the industries of the future.

After reading through the introduction, a bookmark casually fell out from the middle of the pages and it read “Wild By Nature.”

The juxtaposition and irony of this bookmark and the title of said book aren’t lost on me. Whoever borrowed this book also seems curious about the world we live in, and where we’re headed as we’re shifting to a more connected society in every sense of the word. But I was pleasantly surprised to look up the website printed on the bookmark: www.wildbynaturegallery.com

From the ‘About Us’ page:

For Henry H. Holdsworth wildlife photography embodies much more than taking pictures of animals. It’s about gaining insight through interaction with other living creatures. It’s about the challenge of capturing behavior, color, composition and light in that one perfect moment that brings life to the subject. The sheer beauty of the images is important, but the true heart of Henry’s photography is focused on bringing about a greater appreciation of nature and its preservation.”

I haven’t even read the first chapter of the book, and yet the introduction paints a clear picture of not only the obvious – what to expect as I read through – but how important it is to capture and research this current moment in time from every corner of the world, in order to prepare ourselves for what’s to come.

There are some lessons to be learned here somewhere. For starters, head over to your local library. You never know what you’ll end up stumbling across.

 

The 6 best moments of year 30.

Why 6? Well, mainly because it’s my second favorite number and writing about 22 moments just sounds tiresome.

Anyways. This year was a blur!

It’s as if everything happened all within the span of a few months, but clearly, a year has passed. If it weren’t for my own personal documentation, bits and pieces shared with the world through various methods of venting , I would’ve forgotten some major milestones.

This was the year of questioning everything and everyone ranging  from my peers, to the content of whatever article or book I read, to my family and myself. It was the year of understanding what it actually felt like to dig deep within and not being afraid of what comes up as a result.

Through this, I became increasingly curious on how my world works and why I cared, and continue to care so much about everything I experienced and everyone I met.

The 6 best moments that happened this past year were: 

  • Getting hired to work for with ivivva
  • Attending Ruckusmakers
  • Writing an e-book
  • Taking vacations (yes, plural)
  • Hiring a therapist
  • Getting my first  tattoo: “l’union fait la force” meaning strength in unity

Each moment listed was an almost direct result of the former experience. Funny how that works.

Major takeaways from each:

  • Create the environment you want to live in. Working truly as a team and not only knowing you’re being supported, but actually feeling it makes every task less daunting and more meaningful.
  • Keep investing in yourself to create value. Always. No amount of money is ever too large or too little to know your worth.
  • Share your story and be honest & vulnerable in the process.
    Related…
  • Know when to disconnect.  If I were to do the whole “hey I’m going to write a book!” process again, I’d carve out the day after it’s published to do nothing but sleep…for several days.
  • Answers to questions most often come from within. My therapist has managed to ask the questions I haven’t been asking myself. It’s magic, really.
  • Five years ago I swore I would never get a tattoo. Yet, this year, I have never felt so grounded in my life.  The work and experiences that I went through leading up to August 2015 validated what I know to be true.  Know your roots. Can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you came from been.

What has managed to stick throughout the course of this year is constantly challenging myself to be better than I was yesterday. The only way to see this through is to reflect on what I’ve done.

30 was good to me.  Looking forward to what this next year will bring.

life experiences. (or better yet, writing material).

Sometimes I really don’t recognize this off the bat, but I’ve had some pretty incredible – sometimes horribly decided at the time – experiences thus far, which translate into posts like this.

The most memorable one of my 20s, was hands down, the Summer of Yes (S.O.Y). Granted, I went to college, had a really cool job, won a ring, traveled during my 20s – all things that are mainly tangible, that many people can achieve. But my greatest experience came from something that some people would probably frown upon, and something that was also very personal and intentional. There’s something about recognizing what’s faux-pas in the lens of what’s normal in our society (which makes doing said thing, epic), but I’ve always been a rebel and never really conformed to what everyone else was and is doing….so, there’s that.

April 2010 marked a few months after my roommate and I had ended relationships with our significant others that equally lasted at least 3 years. Speaking for myself, I was in a stage of exploration and really giving zero [redacted].

The short version of S.O.Y. was that we couldn’t say no to anyone who asked us out on a date, unless we felt threatened (which, fortunately, was very rare). We made rules, had a point system, a white board to track everything, and an end date. This was literally a game, but what it turned out to be for me, was one of the best experiences of my life. (If you’re reading this and thinking if you were one of those I dated during this time, the answer is most likely, yes :).

For the first time, ever, I wasn’t thinking about who my next boyfriend, husband or soulmate would be. I didn’t want to be in any sort of committed relationship, and made that very clear upfront.

The point wasn’t to go on a specific number or dates, or break the hearts of the men who selectively and willingly did to other women in the city. The point was to have fun. Literally, that was it. There were no ulterior motives. I’ll spare all the juicy details because they’re not important in this platform, but if you’re curious and want the long version, feel free to hit me up.

Carefree, yet intentionally purposeful in my actions. Each of my personal experiences during this summer and the underlying feelings, conversations and connections that were involved, are all still relevant today.

Nearly five years later, I’m writing about this experience in somewhat long form, yet also recognizing how important this stage of my life was. In hindsight, I learned more about myself as it relates to what attracts me not only physically, but mentally as well. I learned about trust, forgiveness, love and most importantly, detachment – or the beautiful art and practice of letting go. I did the inner work, without even realizing that I was shedding another layer into recognizing my true self.

The key is to create similar experiences that not only scare you, but that push you over the edge. The ones that nobody is really talking about. The ones that result in inspiring others once you share your story. The ones that make you think, “should I really being doing that?”

The answer is probably yes. Taking what’s probable into what’s possible requires leaping.

Do it.

the three biggest lessons I learned in May.

1. Don’t bottle up things inside. Instead, let them out, bit by bit. Doing so will help your journey feel less intense.

2. In the moments of intense anxiety, despair or anything that’s similar to those feelings, acknowledge them and understand that the answer to the meaning of life rarely comes in those moments. Wait ’til the smoke clears.  It’s prettier on the other side. Clarity ensues.

3. After recognizing what needs to be addressed, ask for what you want. After all, it is #shootyourshot season.

 

walking in west baltimore.

I felt guilty for not helping, for not witnessing the protests or walking the streets where he was shot.

I felt guilty for heading out of town when there were hundreds of opportunities to help clean up the streets that same weekend I left.

I felt guilty because I was afraid to head to the city – the real city – where the media had filmed the “riots.”

But today, I felt different.

Last night before bed, I scrolled through my twitter feed, and came across a post of a beautiful mural dedicated to Freddie Gray. I reached out to the woman who snapped this shot and she gave me the location where I could see this first hand.

I drove to Sandtown, specifically to the corner of Presbury and Mount, to not only see this mural that was curated just a few days ago, but to walk the streets to get a sense of who actually lives here.

At first, I was nervous for walking around, but as I roamed the streets, people greeted me and said hello. It was an overall chill vibe, but I could only imagine what the tension was like just a few weeks prior as some streets were still blocked off as a few scattered cops were standing guard.

As I arrived on the same streets where thousands protested, I felt a sense of peace. Now, the streets are quiet with people going about their day-to-day business. Women on the stoops braiding hair, kids walking around, men standing on the corner, politicin’ as usual. I walked up to the mural, with the fresh spray paint smell still residing in the air. I spotted a popular activist, Deray Mckesson, on the corner filming a piece in front of another building where a local Baltimore artist was creating another mural: a mix of images of MLK protests to what just transpired in these past two weeks. There were a few people with their DSLRs snapping away, but also engaging in conversations with those who were raised on these streets.

The boarded up row houses were not unnoticed, but this was expected. I’ve driven down these streets before, and understood this to be the “normal” west side of Baltimore.

I chatted up with three older black gentleman, one of whom was born and raised at Gilmore Homes – and actually bet $1,000 to his friend [who’s in jail] that he has proof that he was born there and when I tell you he was PROUD of where he was from – he pulled out a folder with his birth certificate with proof that he was born here. These cats just wanted to be heard. They voiced their opinions on how corrupt the cops are, how it took another murder for people to actually take a look at west Baltimore, and how instead of investing millions of dollars to rebuild Canton and the Waterfront, how about taking that money to help those who actually live here. With their frustrations, they all mentioned that it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to shed light on this neighborhood. All they can do is talk about what’s going on, with hopes that more people like us (the artists, the curious folks, those wanting to help) will actually do so and not just put this on the back burner.

I no longer feel guilty. I reside in Baltimore, and I have the chance to help 24/7. Spending just about an hour in this neighborhood was enough time to give me a feeling of hope. That there are people committed and demanding change, and taking immediate action to turn this place around.

Progress.

Let’s just hope this momentum continues.

I’m from Baltimore.

It’s exhausting telling people where I’m from.

“No, but I’m from the county.”

“No, not where The Wire was filmed.”

“No, not in the city. I live about 30 minutes away.” 

“Oh, and yeah, my family is Haitian. “

Maybe it’s because I’m brown, and most people automatically assume people who look like me should speak a certain way, and live in a certain zip code.  But as soon as I mention the last bit “my family is Haitian” it’s like everything I resemble makes sense to them. “Ohh so that’s why you speak like that.”

Today I woke up tired. Most likely from watching the news and reading my twitter feed and being angry at what friends were posting on Facebook – not realizing how racist their words are, or them – from the night before.

We’re all ignorant to what’s actually happening, unless we’ve been through the trenches, and experienced what those who are in the media have been through, or have some empathy towards a disenfranchised group.

It surprised me that people were shocked about these protests, and even more surprised at the buildings that were being burned vs. the actual core of what is happening/has happened time and time again.

Maybe it’s because my family came from the trenches – of a third world country – that they provided me with the safety of growing up no where close to anything that may resemble what they have gone through.

When I say I’m from Baltimore, I feel that there’s two sides. The county and what you see on the news. Just like Haiti.  Portraying a place as always violent and in distress is one thing especially if you’ve never visited.  But we all know there’s two sides to every story.

The core of it all is fucked up. Money, politics and race. It all comes down to race and the injustices that occur from a system that wasn’t built for anyone else than those who built it.

Today I felt torn. I wanted to help, but didn’t want to get hurt. Physically, emotionally – afraid of feeling and seeing what I’ve been raised not to even experience.

This is the exact reason why I need to help. To understand what people who look like me feel – the same people that when others ask where I’m from, assume I am. To create change and to uplift those who think they never have a chance at survival.  There are too many people running away from what’s happening, ignoring these issues (and people) as if they don’t exist, and blaming those who are hurt for disrupting “their” city.

“People don’t want to believe that they actually are racists or that the systems & institutions that they pay into and buy into are actually working actively against certain people…people can’t come up with how they feel and as a result don’t want to face the realities of where they live.” – Clinton Yates

removing the blocks.

I’ve been given the task to write a memoir or manifesto of sorts about my life.  From the very beginning to present day – with a deadline attached.  I know my friend who “pushed” me to do this means well, but I’m currently not thrilled of said friend.  Tough love, I guess.

At this moment and time of this post*, I’m not sure if I love or hate what I’m finding about myself and my encounters with black Americans. It’s getting deep, y’all.

Even in this initial phase of beginning to write and outline and trying making sense of everything, I’m digging up certain periods and people in my life that I’ve magically hidden or tried to block out for so long.

The wheels are spinning at the pace that feels at lightning speed, as layers of what I thought I identified myself with are being peeled away.

My intentions are to publish the finished product, which may surprise many, but that’s not the point.

The purpose of writing this manifesto is to pinpoint specific areas or situations in my life are blocking me from moving forward with my ideas.

Stay tuned.

*This post was brought to you by red wine, Phillip Glass and chocolate croissants.

cultivating culture.

I recently visited Newseum in Washington, D.C., a museum focusing on the obvious: news, journalism, stories, and the people who tell them all in one building. Spending one day there isn’t enough, so when you purchase a ticket for admission, it’s actually valid for two days.

As I navigated through the floors, intrigued by most exhibits, the most powerful exhibit I felt was the last one I experienced: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery.

This exhibit was the most eerie, yet moving. Pulitzer prize winning photographs, some of which you can find here  “…includes each of the photographers and photo staffs who have won the prize since the Pulitzer board began awarding it to photographers in 1942.”

This was the only section the museum that was completely silent, which I didn’t realize until about halfway walking around the gallery.

Hundreds of pictures were displayed, and the passion, fortitude and resilience that these photographers had and faced, goes beyond explanation.  They’re Pulitzer Price winning for a reason. Going from one polar feeling of joy to sadness, each picture felt as if you were propelled into that exact time of the event.

Pictures say a thousand words. These, added with the captions, evoked emotions that go deeper than what was just captured. These pictures helped start movements, which shifted cultures and turned into novels, stories & ideas worth spreading.

That evening I shared my experience with my father who appreciates and loves journalism, history and everything in between, and he proceeded to show and teach me what he’s learning online.

He spends hours on end on the computer and I’m always curious to know what he’s reading or doing, and on this particular night he shared his love and aspiration to travel to Moscow, specifically Kremlin, by showing me pictures he found on a French news website.

Since this website is in French [and my parents conveniently forgot to teach me French growing up] he proceeded to scroll through each picture, helping me translate what each caption read. As I was learning about Kremlin culture and architecture (and French), I learned how much he loves exploration, history and teaching me what he knows.

Pictures say a thousand words. Captions tell the story. Sharing these experiences with each other spreads across generations, preserving history and culture.

defining purpose.

For the first time since 2012 I feel that I have a sense of purpose and something to work towards. In the course of these 3 years I’ve failed, succeeded, gave up, tried again, and started from scratch all with the purpose of finding out who the hell I am. This takes practice, spending time alone, writing and saying no to a lot of people.

I’ve defined what I want to create in this world and I have to do everything that I can to help those dreams become a reality. I’m no longer distracted from the outside world because I’ve created habits* that keep me focused.

*Disclaimer: this is an ongoing process.

The short version and answer: it takes hard work, focus and dedication.

However, what it starts with is making sure to have a clear vision set.

This allows me to practice what I preach, to have somewhat of a blueprint for others to follow or use as their guide – although I know every single person will have a different framework for making their dreams become a reality.

My job right now is to help facilitate that path. To get people moving in the literal form through physical movement, but also get their minds moving, and to continuously stay moving on the path towards their goals and even redefining them along the way.

What made me decide that this is my path? It just felt right. It aligns with how I want to feel and what I want to do every single day:

  • meditate
  • write
  • sweat
  • connect
  • feel free
  • inspire
  • transform
  • progress
  • be bold
  • be daring
  • be adventurous

Some simple strategies that may help you figure this out:

  1. Know when to say no to things that may disappoint others.
  2. Understanding the value and importance of your decision.
  3. Understanding the why behind it.
  4. Write down your goals. What you’re thinking and feeling. Don’t think about them. Write.them.down.

I believe a lot of this takes practice. Some people are lucky to find their path to success/happiness/enlightenment at an early stage. Others, have to throw out ideas, see what sticks try and fail hundreds of times, to see what works – and what you align yourself with.

At the end of the day, do work that matters & do what feels right.

“Risk the narrative and make a difference.” – Seth Godin

vision and goals.

I have dreams to move mountains. To spark the light in a young girl’s soul that allows her to take leaps beyond measures, beyond the smartest boy in her class, to become the next President, CEO, head coach, mentor…in her community, in the world.

The fuel that drives me: the gaps I see in my community. The “missing” girls that I know who would LOVE to be part of this adventure, this journey. The girls who I have yet to reach out to…those whom I’ve yet to find.

So, how do I bridge this gap?

By choosing myself.  Taking action to put myself in a position to create change, to create what I want to see in this world that will create a domino affect to help others.

It’s time for me to [continue to] take leaps and move mountains.