A Review of Denitra Townsend’s: Strolling Monologues – Royal African Women! 2018

A REVIEW OF DENITRA TOWNSEND’S:  STROLLING MONOLOGUES – ROYAL AFRICAN WOMEN! 2018 

Denitra Townsend

Denitra Townsend Producer of Strolling Monologues – Royal African Women! 2018 & Owner of Unforgettable You, LLC

LEGENDARY NARRATIVES OF AFRICAN QUEENS THAT CORRELATE WITH THE LIVES OF PRESENT DAY WOMEN 

Denitra Townsend, the creator and producer of the Strolling Monologues, fashionably graced the stage with assurance, class, and confidence on Friday, February 23, 2018, at the Carr Center Art Gallery.  She is the founder of Unforgettable You, LLC which is a consulting company focusing on enhancing and beautifying one’s existence through fashion, hair, make-up, self-enhancement sessions and teaching proper social etiquette.  Townsend offers her consultation services on an individual basis and for businesses.  The origin of Unforgettable You, LLC began in 2005 as a part-time business.  By 2011 the vision flourished into a company that needed to be nurtured full-time.  Her mission, “is to help individuals embrace who they are fully by providing services that refine and manifest who they are unapologetically.  It is also my mission to inspire and empower through movements and art!”

The Strolling Monologues is a divine vision Townsend believes was assigned to her by God.  The monologues allow women to display their talents by telling the stories of prominent female figures who shaped history through their endurance, courage, and wisdom.  Five amazing women who are actresses, poets, and entrepreneurs delivered powerful Monologues for the evening.   They each studied and researched a historical African Queen and wrote their own monologue.  The theme for Strolling Monologues 2018 was: Royal African Women!  Townsend explained, “This platform allows me to combine my love and passion for fashion, beauty, and history and it also allows me to provide platforms for other creatives to display their talents.”  For three years the Strolling Monologues have been well received by attendees.  Townsend foresees the monologues as a tradition that will continue for many years.

On the evening of the event I sat amongst others who were captivated by the stories of legendary queens.   They were warriors for their country, leaders of the people, and devoted to fulfilling their mission in life.  The Carr Center wasn’t visited by onlookers who wanted to simply observe classic paintings held by enthusiastic walls.  Instead, the crowd sat patiently in inviting chairs while listening to powerful women present monologues that taught us lessons about honor, dedication, commitment, and strength.  Yes, an art gallery was transformed into a makeshift theater to educate our minds and nourish our inner beings.  I learned the Queen’s life narratives depicted the struggles and victories Women face today.  For those who were unable to join the journey, let me enlighten you.

THE MONOLOGUE OF QUEEN NZINGA

Queen Nzinga

Alice Smith was a warrior as Queen Nzinga

Alice Smith played the role of Queen Nzinga.  She learned while studying the Queen she was “a warrior at heart.”  She said one of the aspects that inspired her about Queen Nzinga is it doesn’t matter what age you are in life because you can always make a difference.  Smith courageously told the story of Queen Nzinga:

Queen Nzinga of Angola was her father’s daughter from a second marriage.  However, unbeknownst to her, she would become ruler of her Nation.  Though her brother from her father’s first wife was appointed as king, he did not have the mental stability to withstand the demands of being a leader.   She was a fighter on the forefront of the battlefields.  The queen’s father was instrumental in teaching her to fight and hunt as a young girl.  She was known for toting a spear, bow and arrow or stick.  She not only used her fighting powers to protect her country, but she utilized her innate communication skills to represent her nation.  At a time when Portuguese wanted to invade Angola, her brother didn’t want to face the challenge to develop a strategy for peace.  Instead, Queen Nzinga accepted the task.  When she arrived at the meeting they did not respect her as a woman and refused to give her a seat amongst the other male leaders.  One of her servants who traveled with her was commanded by the Queen to sit on all fours and became her physical chair.

Her brother didn’t trust her skill set and eventually he lost his mind.  It is believed he committed suicide which led to her being appointed Queen of Angola.  In addition to her brother’s tragedy, her sister was kidnapped and killed.  Through her trying circumstances she persevered, and her strong leadership skills allowed her to fight for her country for 30 years.  By then she was 60 years old.  Queen Nzinga ensured her people would not become slaves under her ruling.  She was an advocate for her people until her death at the age of 80 years old, it was then her nation fell into the hands of captivity.

Queen Nzinga demeanor represents the modern-day woman who fights for many years to defend her family and territory.  Women continue to be warriors in the face of adversity and fear.  They are forced in roles to be brave before their time while their physical and mental stamina is questioned.   Based on a woman’s femininity they are thought to be “too girly”, or “soft” to be powerful.  During the month of March, National Women’s History Month is celebrated.  Women continue to demand and fight for respect until the day they perish from the earth just as Queen Nzinga did centuries ago.

THE MONOLOGUE OF QUEEN YENNENGA

Queen Yennenga
Eradajere Oleita became the Free-Spirited Queen Yennenga

Queen Yennenga was portrayed by Eradajere Oleitta.  This young lady is originally from West Africa which is the same origin of her character.  You can say this role was tailored made for her.  She learned about her character in a week.  Oleitta admitted she “freestyled” which allowed her to master-key points about the Queen.  Oleitta proudly told the story of Queen Yennenga:

Queen Yennenga wore many hats as daughter, princess, and warrior.  However, her greatest desire in life was to birth a child.  Her father groomed her to become a warrior at the precious age of 14 years old.  She was fierce, swift, and could skillfully kill a lion from a 12-foot distance.  Queen Yennenga’s father encouraged her to be whatever she thought was possible in life but never supported her vision of being a wife and mother.  He envisioned her as being a horse rider fighting for her country.  Eventually, she planned an escape to pursue her dreams.  She fled her country with a companion, but he was killed during their travels.  As she recovered from a broken heart she crossed paths with an Elephant Hunter.  The two fell in love and she gave birth to a son.  The Queen was proud because it was the greatest accomplishment in her life.

Isn’t that how life is at times?  Society tells a Women they are not successful until they have a career, acquire a six-figure salary and receive the highest accolades from people who barely know their name.  Wearing the title and fulfilling the roles of “Mother” and/or “Wife” is just as important as playing the role of “Business Leader” or “CEO.”   It doesn’t matter if childbirth is natural or adopted, becoming a mother can be the happiest moment in many women lives.  It isn’t fair when family members or friends to tell someone what their dreams should be.  It should be someone’s lifelong goal to find the courage that shapes and fosters their visions, so they can materialize in life.

THE MONOLOGUE OF QUEEN AMANIERENAS

Queen Amanirenas
Assata Haki demanded attention as Queen Amanirenas

Assata Haki performed the role of Queen Amanirenas.  She informed the audience it was difficult gathering information about her role because her story has never been fully decoded or transcribed.  At times she felt the information had to be deciphered between facts vs. opinions.  Haki expressed it was important to give “the history of where she came from so you can understand her greatness.”  She also indicated the strength and power the Queen embodied became a part of her and helped developed the character.  Haki dutifully told the audience about Queen Amanirenas:

It is stated Queen Amanirenas was from the ancient African Kingdom of Kush also known as Nubia.  Her leadership skills were impeccable.  Her land was rich and full of resources such as timber, leather, gold, and ivory which made it a hub for unlimited trading opportunities.  She was tough in her own right.  She lived a considerably modest life until the Roman Chief Magistrate Augustus Caesar made the decision to increase taxes on the land.  Then let’s say, “All Hell Broke Loose.”  Literally!  While Augustus was away the Queen used her leadership skills with the help of her son to strategically build an army of thousands of men.  She fought and marched with her crew and invaded the Roman territory.  Historically, she is the only Queen known to mankind to defeat a Roman Army.  Her loyalty and dedication for her country was so detrimental she lost one of her eyes in battle.  Though she won the fight the war was not over.  Queen Amanirenas fought many years to defend her country.  Unfortunately, she had to retreat but the Queen played a beneficial role in constructing a peace treaty.  Her bravery and courageous acts gained her invaluable respect from the Romans.

Queen Amanirenas represents the Woman who is not afraid to put on the whole Armor of God to face her battles.  She is the devoted woman who stands by her family in times of distress.  She is the loyal community leader who is the champion for her neighborhood.  She affirms confidence even when opposition tries to steal her dreams.  Even her losses illustrate monumental gains. Historically, women rights were suppressed and a falsehood of being inferior was encouraged.  However, women have led demonstrations, crusades, and campaigns with the results showing we can be triumphant even when the moment appears to be bleak.

THE MONOLOGUE OF QUEEN MAKEDA

Queen Makeda
Trina Williams played a humble role as Queen Makeda

Trina Williams became Queen Makeda.  She extracted information from documentaries and from the Bible to learn about her character.  Williams said the elements she admired about Queen Makeda was, “I loved her presence, beauty, and grace.”  Williams gave reference to Luke 12:48 by mentioning, “to whom much is given, much will be required.”  She humbly explained in her monologue; the Queen took everything she had to acquire her wisdom.

Queen Makeda who was also called Queen Sheba is known to be a prominent figure in the Bible. The Queen of Sheba was a wealthy woman.  Her kingdom possessed over 30 acres of land and was considered a place of two paradises.  Queen Makeda had a quest in life to find the ultimate answer to obtain wisdom and knowledge.  Her destination to find wisdom consisted of leading a caravan to Jerusalem.  She did not travel lightly.  On her 3000-mile trip of 75 days she took a total of 4 ½ tons of gold and 45 camels.   Upon her arrival she offered her gifts to King Solomon and asked him many questions to find the wisdom she was searching for.  On her journey she found her answer.  She learned it was the true understanding of knowing God’s Love for herself provided all the wisdom and knowledge her heart could hold.  In the play it was stressed, “Historians and archeologists searched for the wisdom she found, and it came freely from the Almighty God.”

It’s amazing how something that appears to be complex to answer can be addressed simplistically.  Haven’t you been in a place of struggling to answer the tough questions in life?  Many of us may not have her wealth but we have been in her situation.  Have you ever looked for love in a relationship that caused more pain than joy?  Have you ever hoped to find approval from a parent(s) or guardian(s) to justify the importance of your existence?  Have you ever sought acceptance from your friends or colleagues, so you can “fit in?”  Have you ever indulged in addictive behaviors to grant instantaneous self-gratification that leads to a downward spiral of negative results?  Some of us travel a life time yearning for wisdom and knowledge to answer the questions of life and to find the gift of unconditional love.  The answers are there if we stop the collateral damage and peel off the painted masks, so we can accept God’s Love.  It doesn’t mean we will never face trials, but we will be equipped with the peace, wisdom, and knowledge to calm the raging storms of life.

THE MONOLOGUE OF QUEEN AMINA

Queen Amina
Linda Jones-Remson strongly represented her role as Queen Amina

Linda Jones-Remson depicted the character of Queen Amina.  She told the audience her character gave her strength.  Remson took the approach of becoming her character was, “The way I prepared I lost my mind…but I found it grounded in strength and power not questioning Who I am but knowing Who I am and being confident in that.”  Remson’s voice resonated with boldness and power as she powerfully gave the narrative of Queen Amina.

Queen Amina of Zaria was nine years old when she was taught about the stamina and strength to become a warrior.  She was the eldest of three siblings with her eldest brother in mind of becoming ruler of Zaria.  However, a different plan unfolded, and she would later be appointed Queen.  At age 16, her military training equipped her to be one of the Biggest, Boldest, and Bravest Women during her time.  Her brother believed in her robustness and agility and decided to appoint her Chief Political Strategist over 10,000 men.  She was faithful to her country that was known for trading metal, cloth, and leather.  It was her desire for Zaria to become one of the Greatest Nations in the Continent.  Queen Amina fought in battles alongside her brother.  During a wage of war, she witnessed the enemy slit her brother’s throat which caused his death.  At that moment she became ruler.  During her reign on the throne she built one of the highest walls which still exists in North Nigeria.  Though she never married or had children the stories of her legendary acts are still passed on from generation to generation.

Queen Zaria represents the woman who is considered a true “Boss Lady.”  She didn’t buckle down or wasn’t intimidated by man’s authority.  She was simultaneously loyal to her family and her country. Today, she is the voice of bravery.  She is the warrior in the boardroom or the classroom.  She is the leader on the block or the courtroom.  She represents the charismatic and self-reliant woman of today.  She is the Queen people envy because she does not allow her feminism to be defined by how others think she should be but by who she is destined to become.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF TELLING MONOLOGUES TO TEACH GENERATIONS ABOUT OUR ANCESTRY

My daughter and I at Strolling Monologues

My Daughter Princess Mya and I at the Strolling Monologues – Royal African Women! 2018

After watching three separate showings of the Strolling Monologues in one night I felt Empowered and Ashamed.  I was empowered because there are bits and pieces of me that represent each Queen.  When I am called a Queen, or my daughter is called a Princess, they are terms that we shouldn’t use unmindful.  We are Queens and Princesses who deserve respect and fight to win battles on our demanding jobs, while facing peer pressure or bullying at school, advocating for transformation in our communities, raising families in a society filled with anger, or entrepreneurs building empires.  I felt proud and it reassured me, and my daughter can achieve the desires of our heart if we instill in ourselves we possess the fortitude and adeptness of our ancestors.  At the same time, I was ashamed because the lessons I learned from these amazing women was something I should have taught my daughter years ago.  However, it is never too late.  The Strolling Monologues encouraged me to take ample time to teach my daughter about the accomplishments of our ancestors as a household tradition.

It was enlightening to sit next to two young queens who also enjoyed the show.  I met Sharisa Robertson and Nastassia Rena who are both from Detroit.  They enjoyed themselves.  Sharisa stated the play was, “reinforcement after seeing the Black Panther.”  She also added, “I learned a lot.  Somethings I did not know at all.  It was entertaining, and it put me at ease.”  Nastassia Rena concurred with Robertson and said she enjoyed it as well.  Watching the play also helped her decide about a tattoo she wanted.  She said “I was looking for a tattoo. I was looking for an African Warrior.”  After watching the Monologues, she decided to get a tattoo that represented Queen Amina because she inspired her.  She heard of the Queen but never knew her story.

TOWNSEND’S MOTTO LIVES ON AND SO DOES THE STROLLING MONOLOGUES

The Strolling Monologue Queens

The Royal Producer and Cast of the Strolling Monologues

On that Friday evening Ms. Townsend should be proud of honoring her motto in life.  Ms. Townsend stated her personal motto is that, “The only time you’ll have failures are the times you never give yourself the opportunity to win.”  Strolling Monologues  –  Royal African Women 2018 was a winner.  Lord willing, my daughter and I will be there next year:  Friday, February 22, 2019.  I invite you to partake in next year’s lesson also and don’t forget to study throughout the entire year!

The 2018 Production and Design Team of Strolling Monologues

The Production and Design Team that made the evening feel like Royalty!

 

-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!

The Dreaded Sound of “No” and “Not Right Now” Does not Define Your Success

No and Not Right Now Photo

The Dreaded Sound of “No” and “Not Right Now” Does not Define Your Success by Chellyz View
The Answers We Don’t Want to Hear 

I know you have probably read several articles or listened to multiple radio talk show hosts and callers give their theory of why Detroit was not chosen as a finalist for the second location for Amazon’s Headquarters.  Well, here’s another take on the decision.  At first, I was disappointed.  That feeling only lasted for a moment.  Detroit has heard the words “no” and the phrase “not right now” on many occasions.  Though the sounds of hearing not being ready for a new development can be discouraging, it does not constitute what the city will and shall become nor does it define your worth as an individual.

A Temporary “No” or “Not Right Now” Doesn’t Mean Your Vision Doesn’t Have Worth

I reached back in my thoughts and remembered the times I heard “no” or “not right now.”  Can’t you remember hearing it also?  Don’t you recall being excited about developing alliances, creating friendships, and forging relationships that you knew would develop into amazing opportunities?  I believe that is how Detroit felt with Amazon.  Detroit and Amazon were creating a bond, and those involved with the process of wooing Amazon had hopes they would provide Detroit with an ultimate encounter that would last a lifetime.  Many reasons were probably provided why Detroit would be the premier place to be considered for the second Amazon Headquarters that would bring economic growth, a promising tax base, and stable employment to the city.  However, it didn’t matter how polished the city was described and the promises of what Detroit had to offer to Amazon.  The decision of “no” was given.  As I read other articles, some of the reasons given were the talent didn’t live here, the infrastructure wasn’t ready, the lack of organized mass transportation and a host of other flaws were mentioned.  Doesn’t that sound familiar with real life?  Imagine preparing for an interview, starting a partnership, or trying to promote an idea to an investor.  It doesn’t matter how good we feel or how presentable the plan might be, the ultimate answer is “No” or “Not Right Now.”  Also, there is another perspective we hear, “Well, you’re not quite ready.”

When others feel we are not ready, discouragement can be an emotion we all have known which can lead doubt to settle deep within our consciousness.  We feel like giving up because our idea wasn’t accepted on a celebratory level.  Awwww, we question ourselves and our ability.  We ponder on negativity and believe we should have never tried to attempt to apply for something unimaginable.  We question our intelligence and contemplate if we really had the knowledge to pull off a grand scheme that would lead to success.  I’ve been there especially while developing the blog.

View Disappointments as An Opportunity to Find Your Greatness 

Initially, I thought of 100 gazillion reasons why I should not start a blog about Detroit.  It was easier talking myself out of writing than eating two brownies and three scoops of ice cream all at the same time.  If I asked someone if they wanted to collaborate with the blog and I didn’t hear a response, I used this experience to validate my doubt as maybe the concept isn’t admirable enough.  If I reached for assistance and I didn’t receive a reply, I made this to mean the blog and myself aren’t well known to others with “real” clout.  If I contacted someone for an interview with excitement and they weren’t interested, I buried myself in disappointment.  However, I had to get to a point where I would no longer accept temporary “no’s” and “not right now” as deductive reasoning for me not being an exceptional being with great capabilities.  Instead, I started to face these answers head on with the excitement of welcoming a day of sunshine while driving with the sunroof open.  Even though you can’t envision a bright moment with the words, “Yes, you have much to offer” on the first, second, or twentieth try, it doesn’t mean the opportunity will never present itself.

With a novel approach, I evolved, and that is what is happening in Detroit.  Yes, Amazon said “no” and “not right now” but that isn’t the end of the world.  Other organizations and projects such as Detroit Roses, On Detroit (DetroitorNothing), Young Lives Detroit, Love My Detroit, The Pantry House, Hope Park Detroit, Bee Detroit, Arise Detroit, ProsperUs Detroit, Hip N Zen in the Northend, The Greening of Detroit, and the Neighborhood Service Organization all find worth in the city of Detroit.  The efforts and commitment of these and many organizations in Detroit may seem to be making small strides, but it will lead and have led to great outcomes for Motown.  The same is happening with the blog.  I am making small strides.  I have forged relationships with people who find value in the blog.  My Sister Friends and some of my Faithful Supporters are contributing their time and energy to make aheartfullofconversations.com a grand experience for those who are excited about changing the negative perceptions about Detroit and adding goodness to the environment.  Don’t worry about those who tell you “no” or “not right now.”  Use those phrases to give you a boost of faith to tell yourself, “Yes, I will succeed and build alliances with people who are willing to invest in my greatness.”

-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!

 

 

 

 

MENTORING WITH A PURPOSE FOR TODAY’S YOUTH

Nikkia Matthews Purposeful YOUth Detroit Founder

Nikkia D. Matthews / Founder & CEO of Purposeful YOUth Detroit

The Founder of Purposeful YOUth Detroit: A Change Agent Addressing Social Issues

The Founder and CEO of the mentoring program, Purposeful YOUth Detroit, is none other than Detroit native Nikkia D. Matthews. Ms. Matthews left Detroit to attend Howard University in Washington D.C., where she received her undergraduate degree in Human Development. Initially, she majored in Architecture, but her calling was to address social issues, while giving back to the community. She is aware the combination of the two led her to become the Change Agent she defines herself to be at this moment. Ms. Matthews returned to Detroit after graduating Howard because she knew Detroit needed her talents.  She also felt the Motor City could benefit from her dedication to making a difference for today’s youth.

The Mission Behind Purposeful YOUth Detroit

After returning home, she pursued her Masters Degree in Social Work at Wayne State University. The arduous work on various papers and presentations while in school provided insight and stemmed the brainchild called Purposeful YOUth Detroit. The program is offered to young ladies ages six to eighteen years old. She stated, “Our mission is to build strong and confident young women who can grow up to be audacious leaders in the community.” Some of the key objectives of the program are to enhance social skills, build leadership qualities, improve self-esteem, and promote self-confidence. While enriching one’s skillset in the program, young ladies will enhance their qualities to becoming entrepreneurs and learn proper social etiquette.  In addition, the program stresses the importance of community outreach.  Ms. Matthews founded the Million Shoe March:  Shoes for Soles in Need Community Shoe Drive a few years ago.  People from various states, including California and New York, donated over 5,000 pairs of shoes over the last three years to give to families that may not be able to afford them.  The shoes were strategically placed along a major street in Detroit, and people were able to try on and choose their own shoes.  Matthews indicated the girls cried as they saw how people’s lives were touched because they were able to obtain a pair of shoes.  She told me one homeless man said the boots he chose would help him through the entire winter.  Ultimately, the goal is to collect 500,000 pairs of shoes to distribute for the event in the future.

The program has a broader focus than enriching the lives of youth. In addition, Purposeful YOUth Detroit extends the services to the parents of children participating in the program. The support given to the parents is beneficial. Matthews has witnessed mothers return to school because of the confidence they gained.  One mother who returned to school for nursing will graduate this summer with her Associates Degree in Nursing.  There have been instances where mothers will approach Matthews, informing her they applied for a promotion on their job. Even if they didn’t receive the promotion, they were satisfied with taking a leap of faith and stepping out of their comfort zone.

The program has existed the past three years. Participants are expected to complete the 10-month curriculum and adhere to the attendance policy that ensures the girls complete success and attainment of the skills offered. During the first year, the program was free. The cost is now $200.00 for the year, which equals $20.00 per session for each participant, Matthews explained.  If someone is facing financial hardship, program subsidies are offered. Parents should be willing to contribute a small amount to guarantee mentees and parents are serious about their participation. Upon successfully completing the first year of the program, there is a promotional ceremony called the Debutante Ball.  The attendees will then continue to progress on to the next year.

Overcoming Tragedy led to Finding a Purpose to Help Others Find their Strength

Matthews shared her story of struggling with her own self-esteem during the ages of ten to eleven years of age. She was a victim of sexual abuse for a significant amount of time during her youth. Dealing with awkwardness and identity issues were only a few barriers she faced while attending middle school. The emotions of being violated and feeling uncomfortable around others were hurdles she had to tackle throughout her adolescent stage. Those around her felt the vibes of her anger and frustration. To add to the suffering, she was bullied by her peers.  Matthews would walk with her eyes focused on the ground, instead of facing toward the sky.  At an early age, she never envisioned her transformation to becoming a strong woman, whose purpose would be to encourage others to feel empowered and become successful.

Despite her obstacles, she withstood the negative situations she encountered in life. Throughout time, Matthews befriended mentors, who helped her discover the courage she needed to become stronger. One of her greatest inspirations was her Aunt Rita, who resided in Washington D.C. At age 13, she had the opportunity to reside with her for six weeks during the summer. Matthews described her Aunt Rita as, “…somebody who loved unconditionally, and through a very rough period in my life, from I think about ten to sixteen, she was everything, and I understood the importance of having a mentor, so she’s one reason I’m passionate about mentoring.” She also acknowledges the prominent women in her church gave her guidance and helped influence her decision to become a mentor. Outside her inner circle, she also attributes observing public figures, such as Iyanla Vanzant, Michelle Obama, and the late Maya Angelou to having a positive impact on her life.

Recognizing Her Achievements and the Steps to Get There

Matthews believes one of her greatest achievements is Purposeful YOUth Detroit. She is also grateful for other accomplishments, such as her education and the ability to network with other individuals who want to make a difference in society. She believes working with other individuals has empowered her to help build a strong community. The mentor also reflected on past failures, which was her inability to build strong trusting relationships with men and taking a little longer to achieve her accomplishments in life. She had to realize it was imperative to get rid of toxic relationships to obtain growth.

In the interview, she mentioned a few steps that assisted her in achieving important goals. First, she indicated you should never stop dreaming. Second, she believes it is a requirement to have a concrete vision plan with the results in mind. Most important, you must try to execute the plan by having tangible goals and realistic time frames with deadlines. During the process, talk to people who can help you achieve your goals. Finally, develop affirmation statements to help build the confidence you need to succeed with your visions and goals.

Sound Advice for Anyone Planning to Start an Organization

The beginning phase to any vision can be daunting. For example, one of the initial challenges Purposeful Youth Detroit faced was not having their 501c3 exempt status. She felt she missed out on countless opportunities for funding. Most funders are interested in data, data, and more data. This lesson has prepared her to reinvent herself and plan for future funding sources. Matthews offered sound advice for someone starting on this journey of building a viable program. First, have a strong mission statement. Second, determine the population you would like to serve. Ask yourself who you want to help in the community. Third, find the mute button to naysayers. “Then, I suggest they get the mute button; find out who in your camp are naysayers, the ones who are going to tell you it’s impossible…the ones who always have an obstacle to throw in your way; learn how to hit that mute button.” Next, find a mentor who will support you. This individual should not feel threatened by your growth or feel like a competitor. Your mentor should be able to listen, while offering ideas and suggestions to help you plan and prepare for your future and success. The fifth suggestion is being willing to marry your vision. Be committed to the vision. Matthews told me you can have friendly reminders related to your vision by placing it on your walls throughout your home, under your pillow, or in a notebook. The final suggestion she stresses is you must stay focused.

The Big Vision Requires Taking a Breath of Self-Confidence

The Successful Mentor is preparing herself for a greater future.  Within ten years, she hopes to write books and become a world-renowned motivational speaker.  Her means of empowering other women is to “help women understand their power is limitless.”  One of Matthews’ most notable statements in the interview is: “Be willing to breathe your vision.” Know it is possible to achieve your goal of starting a meaningful organization that will change the community. Clear the air of negativity and don’t get smothered by doubt. Yes, get ready to breathe in a fresh air of self-confidence as you exhale the results of success!

For additional information on how to volunteer your time or make a financial contribution to Purposeful YOUth Detroit please go to their website @ http://www.pydetroit.com

-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!

LOVING DETROIT BEFORE IT WAS A TRENDY CONCEPT

Just Being MeCrazy Girl from the D 

 

IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW YOU DEFINE ME:  I WILL ALWAYS LOVE DETROIT!

Here I am this crazy, quirky, emotional, eccentric, unique, walk to the beat of my own drum kind of girl that wear many different attitudes!  Let me tell you that your first impression of me would be she aiiiriighhtt and somewhat quiet!  However, my closest family and friends can’t wait to express to you that once I am comfortable, “She talks so much, loves ice cream and butterflies and oh by the way she loves to talk.”  Whatever anyone’s perception is about me one description will remain the same: “She Loves Detroit!”

MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WHICH INSPIRED ME TO WRITE ABOUT WHY I LOVE DETROIT

The first time I stood up for Detroit utilizing my writing skills was in my formative years which was eons ago.  I remember watching a special segment on “Primetime” television.  The program highlighted the violence, arsons, and disturbance specifically during a time that was known as “Devil’s Night.”  After watching the show, I was energized to give the producers my personal view of Detroit because I was mad as HELL!!!!   I decided to write a letter.  I gave them details of how Detroit was played and given a sour note.  My letter provided a softer tone of the city.  I imparted a tune of how Detroit had prominent neighborhoods and would continue to strive even during distress.  Who knows if the letter grasped the hands of a worthy reader or fed the demands of a hungry trash can.  All I knew was my mission was completed.  Throughout the years I have watched countless efforts to improve Detroit.  Eventually, Devil’s Night is now referred to as Angel’s Night.  According to Wikipedia the concept of Angel’s Night was officially adopted in 1995 under the administration of Mayor Dennis Archer.  Over time the deviation of Devil’s Night was transformed to support the efforts of volunteers and curfews to promote a quieter and safer time during the nights of October 29 through October 31.  Yes, Detroit was dealing with imperfections, the infusion of crime, and a bleak economy. However, behind the grittiness and challenging moments I continued to think favorably for change.  My eyes viewed a city of Strength while my heart held the thoughts of promise.  I knew an uprising would occur but I wish I could have accurately pinpointed the exact second, day, or year.

DOUBTERS GAVE ME STRENGTH TO KEEP FIGHTING AND BELIEVING IN THE MOTOR CITY

As time progressed my Love for Detroit has deepened.  I must admit negative images would follow me like a haunting shadow whenever I visited family members living out of state or while I relaxed during an overdue vacation.  Individuals would ask me what city was I from.  I would proudly state, “Detroit.”  People would jokingly make remarks such as, “We better not mess with her she from the D.”  They didn’t know I could barely harm a mosquito.  I also heard statements such as “Are you afraid to live there?” or “How long are you going to stay in that depressing place?” To be honest there are times when I am fearful but I use caution whether I am in the city or the suburbs. The reason is crime can happen anywhere.  There are instances when my Heart can’t take another story of a carjacking, drive by shooting or senseless crime ending in death but crime occurs in all major cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.  Detroit is not the only city plagued with violence.  Yes, I hear the sarcasm but they are unaware it intensifies my Love for Detroit.  I adopted the motto while growing up: “They may be hating now but there will be a time when Detroit will show the doubters that brighter days are ahead.”

Detroit View 2 Weeks ago while waiting for my mom on a Bright Sunday Morning for church

TOUGH LOVE NEEDED FOR A TOUGH CITY

Over 30 years later Detroit continues to shed a negative image but a steady and progressive comeback is occurring.  The distribution of this uphill transformation hasn’t been distributed evenly.  However, change is evident and the demographics are evolving also.   I have experienced the tales of the good and evil since I have been able to utter an entire sentence cohesively.  I have cried from the pain, I have celebrated from the gains and I have drowned in my thoughts when peace could not be sustained while continuously loving on Detroit.  I pray for my city.  Also, I will continue to build a positive platform.  A Heart Full of Conversations isn’t just a productive outlet for me.  This blog is for anyone who would like to collaborate or voice their concerns to improve the image and environment of the Motor City.  I realize the blog may not appeal to everyone but someone out there who is on the verge of giving up on Detroit may find inspiration in some of the stories shared through A Heart Full of Conversations.  I am very thankful for every individual who takes the time to read a blog post and share amongst others.

Word Press Anniversary Move past your fears and work on your vision!

ONCE YOU REJECT YOUR INNER FEAR YOU CAN ACCEPT WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO SHARE YOUR VISION WITH THE WORLD

Yes, the introverted side of me often bullies my extroverted self.  This action causes me not to be as vocal and active as I would like in the community. It took me six years to write my first blog post after creating a WordPress account in 2011.  However, I have learned to progressively move past my fears which is an ongoing process.  Writing about Detroit is an apparatus I will always use to defend and advocate for the city.  My dedication to interview individuals who are making a conscious investment in the city will shed a positive light for Detroit.  I enjoy sharing my thoughts and posts that will create heartfelt conversations and prompt ongoing solutions on how to make ALL of Detroit better!  I envision the blog expanding and hosting community events and forums.  Eventually, a portion of the proceeds made from products sold from the blog will be donated to support block clubs or community organizations that are dedicated to making a positive impact in the D.  Most importantly, I have advice for individuals who struggle to use their voice to advocate for change and operate out of doubt and fear.  I encourage you to step out of familiar territory to find your strength, passion and talent to make a difference for whatever cause that is important to your heart and the world!

ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE D!

There are numerous organizations and individuals making a difference.  This list only provides a handful.  Please share additional information on A Heart Full of Conversations Face Book page to inform readers on how they can get involved!

www.arisedetroit.org

www.greeningofdetroit.com

www.focushope.edu

www.goodwillindustries.org

www.cskdetroit.org

www.detroitimpact.net

www.detroitd4.com/block-clubs

www.neighborhood-exchange.com

www.detroitfuturecity.com

www.brightmooralliance.org

www.newdetroit.org

www.detroitfoodandfitness.com

-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!  

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THE PERFECT PEACEFUL PARADISE IN DETROIT: HIP N ZEN NORTHEND

THE​ ​FOUNDING​ ​CREATIVE​ ​FORCE​ ​OF​ ​HIP​ ​N​ ​ZEN​ ​NORTHEND

Peaceful, poetic, powerful, poised, purposeful, and prayerful are the defining words to describe Reshounn Foster. Her story of tenacity and her ability to remain positive during life’s most challenging moments display her character of strength. She is dedicated to offering her support and guidance to lead others to a place of solitude and serenity. In a society filled with rage, depression, stress, and chaos, Reshounn was able to discover a world within the city of Detroit where you can escape the madness. Reshounn is the creative founding force of Hip N Zen Northend.

HIp N Zen Wordsmith picture  Intuitive Consultant and Wordsmith are a few roles I play in my LifeWork. My “clients” and I have a professional, familial relationship. We challenge each other to grow and support each other during every life stage and shift.

Reshounn was born and raised in the richly nicknamed city of Detroit. However, she has resided in various communities including Ferndale and Farmington; but her current residency is in a thriving community in Detroit known as the North End. Some of the terms she uses to describe herself are Strategic Organizer, Creative Professional and Butterfly, Wordsmith, and Arts Administrator. Reshounn’s mother, whom she illustrates as an intuitive and astute individual, influenced her as well as did other strong women in her family. Her rich family lineage shaped her caring demeanor and longing to help others find their purpose. She told me, “I come from a family of business people, business developers, community servants, community leaders. I’m a progeny of coal miners, caregivers, and a preacher’s wife. I did my research and I’m like wow there’s a trend here.”

As she spoke, she chose each word delicately with authority and compassion. During the interview, she informed me that she studies anthroponymy. She stated, “Anthroponymy is the study of the history of names, specifically birth names, nicknames and family names. And so, I studied it so much that I went and reviewed what my name was, and I’ve been practicing it, researching it on and on and on. So that’s a whole separate story. One of the projects that I have is called the naME Project and I capitalize “me” in the word name.” She proceeded to inform me about the history of her name. In the name Reshounn, you can find the word “sun,” which is a nickname given to her. Resh, the first four letters of her name, means rabbi in Hebrew. She explained this means Intuitive Counselor. According to Reshounn, her last name Foster… “refers to hospitality, nurturer, foster, assisting, guiding, supporting, and nurturing others. So, as an Intuitive Consultant, I foster people’s ideas, creativity, also their life purpose. I also inspire love, warmth, joy, and prosperity.” After meeting Reshounn, you would agree her name was composed specifically for her.

THE​ ​ROAD​ ​OF​ ​DISTRESS​ ​AND​ ​DEFEAT​ ​THAT​ ​LED​ ​TO​ ​FINDING​ ​PEACE​ ​IN​ ​THE NORTH​ ​END

Reshounn graduated from Wayne State University in 2004 with a degree in English. However, the job titles she held in life didn’t always coincide with her major. Before discovering Hip N Zen Northend, she held various positions for different companies and organizations. She was an advertising copywriter for Don Coleman Advertising; which became Global Hue. She accepted the position in 1996 but didn’t have a clue what the job entailed until two weeks prior to her hire date. Reshounn utilized her love for poetry to gain her first job assignment, which was writing taglines for Dark and Lovely. She worked as a Communications Specialist/Writer for a health insurance company in the Members Communications Department. Also, for six years she was an HIV prevention community educator and advocate, an assignment that led her to wanting to become involved in community activism. “So, I would go to the community meetings, regional planning groups, and help to coordinate conferences for example. Go to CDC conferences…So I’ve done a lot of different types of things. Now, I’m doing my own thing at the house, Hip n Zen Northend. So, I consider myself a matron of the arts, host producer, life doula, vocational (guide)…watcha need? I’ll try.”

While being an employee building other people’s companies, she felt constricted because her being free spirited disinterested them. She would watch people relieve their tension on their breaks grabbing a cigarette to smoke while she reached for an innocent bottle of bubbles to blow and share with the world yet be ridiculed. Her enthusiasm and drive guided her to pursue her passion. Currently, Reshounn works for herself and describes every day as her Friday. However, to get to her destination, she had to face devastating grief and deal with traumatic losses.

Reshounn and daughter Me with my real life Butterfly, daughter Arian Reshounn. Graduate of EMU BS in Fashion, Merchandising, & Textiles/Marketing. She’s now working on her clothing line and lives in LA.

Ms. Foster always promised her daughter she would purchase a home that would not be confined to the walls of an apartment building. Her positive words and actions allowed her dream to manifest in 2008. “Using my energy of words and using my strategic process and writing, I found the house of our dreams, and I wrote a prayer about getting the house and put it into the mailbox. I closed and moved into my house in North Rosedale Park December 31, 2008.” Her 2,300-square footage home in Rosedale Park was the “American Dream,” which included the amenities of a fireplace, a three-car garage and finished basement. Time faded and by 2012, the grip she had on her dream home and steady employment slipped from her fingertips. From 2008 until last year, 14 family members including her father and maternal and paternal grandparents passed away. She relates this experience to the faithful individual Job who lost everything in the Bible. She called this journey her “Job Moment.” Through her despair she would regain something more valuable: Her Peace!

Hip N Zen Job Moment “Hip & Zen” are words I carried through and out of my Job Moment. My trials in North Rosedale became my triumphs in the North End.

Reshounn didn’t realize this detrimental end would blossom into an astonishing awakening. Her emotions had her feeling she was on the verge of losing her mind. During this transformation in her life, she would learn to cope with depression and understand the depth of true friendship. Two “Naomi and Ruth” experiences occurred. For three months, Reshounn retreated to California and lived with her friend Imani. While residing in California, two essential actions took place that allowed her to find her energy. They included conducting a self-analysis and experiencing self-discovery. Upon returning to Detroit, Alexis, her friend of 30 years, displayed the true sentiments of being a devoted friend. Alexis gave Reshounn the keys to her 112-year-old, barn styled family home that would become the home of Hip N Zen Northend.  Reshounn felt a heavy burden was being lifted as the keys were handed over. She said her friend told her, “Come get peace. I want you to have some peace.”

The home holds an amazing history and encompasses the stories of five generations. Her friend’s family is from Panama where their culture believes in the value of community and togetherness. The home was a place where family members could gain their strength while obtaining their independence. Once they established themselves, they would continue their life’s journey. The cycle would continue so other family members could occupy the space to help them rebound, grow and be prosperous for themselves and their families. Reshounn carried on the family’s tradition and has given artists a place to refocus and recuperate. This allowed her to extend a helping hand to others who also needed a friend during a time of need. In addition, the home is where her friend’s grandfather funeral was held. Therefore, the home consumes a spiritual characteristic.

REESTABLISHING​ ​THE​ ​COMMUNITY​ ​CAN​ ​PROVIDE​ ​ENLIGHTENING CULTURAL​ ​EXPERIENCES

Reshounn was fully aware that her newly found environment didn’t have the aesthetics of Indian Village, Rosedale Park, or Palmer Woods; but it had a majestic appeal that made it unique. The North End is home of Oakland Avenue; which used to possess a sea of success. There were well known, popular spots such as the Sugar Hill Lounge where well established black professionals mingled. The Phelps Lounge was known as a top-notch place where you could find famous Motown singers perform. Years ago, the North End was a place where you could enjoy a blue light or basement parties for 25 cents.

Hip N Zen and Polo  My dog-son Polo (left) and our neighbor Jason’s dog Bacca chillin’.

It was imperative for Reshounn to understand the essence of the North End. When they first moved to the neighborhood, she walked the blocks to get a feel for where she moved to. She wanted to explore the blighted landscape of the North End, but a neighbor warned her, “Sunshine this isn’t the place to be wandering off. Come ‘round that corner and worry about your own house.” Witnessing two European Americans in her predominantly African American neighborhood alerted her to Google the building they were entering. She found out the grey building in the ‘hood was known as The Schvitz. “So I Googled the address, and it was the address to The Schvitz, which is a Russian bathhouse. That its legacy and it was also the site where The Purple Gang used to hang out. The Purple Gang was basically Mafia.” This incident catapulted her to become more engaged in keeping the stories of the North End alive and place keeping itself, beginning with her home.  While others view the plight and downfall of the North End as hopeless, she envisions the arising and unlimited potential of the area.

As time progressed, she began to discover the neighborhood and eventually attended a community development meeting in 2013. During that meeting, she had the opportunity to cross paths with one of her Brothers-in-Love, Ulysses Newkirk. She describes him as a genius and co-inspirator. Also present at the meeting was Mama Nija Kai, who is known for planning events for the Detroit community such as the African World Festival. “That meeting was for the North End Urban Expressions, which I subtitled “The Healing.” The meeting prompted an epiphany, and she recalled her first encounter with the neighborhood in 2012 realizing, “This is the perfect place for yoga, meditation, dance, poetry, art, music and they were building the landscape and they were doing the architectural design.” Her persistence and dedication to helping rebuild her neighborhood initiated one of the local elders to bestow upon her the title “Mayor of King Street.” He expressed that she deserves the name because she is committed to not allowing the legacy of the North End to perish. She is investing in the whole community. Reshounn stated, “When I say “community” it’s just not that old cliché “community,”, I think of “come into unity.”

 HIp N Zen collageUniversal LAWS (Love + Art + Words + Sound)

THE​ ​CONCEPT​ ​OF​ ​HIP​ ​N​ ​ZEN​ ​NORTHEND​ ​IS​ ​WHERE​ ​CREATIVITY​ ​IS​ ​BORN​ ​AND HEALING​ ​IS​ ​DISCOVERED

Hip N Zen Keyboard Player HNZN Jazz Den feat. my Brother-in-Love and Co-Inspirator Aether Bleu, author/poet/painter and musical explorer. He comes often to musically calibrate my hoME and share a Kitchen Table Talk.

The words “Hip & Zen” were words she placed on a vision board at her dream home in Rosedale Park. She knew the concept had a purpose, but it wouldn’t be realized until years later how and where it would transpire. Hip N Zen Northend is not just a communal space but also her home. A place where she offers Kitchen Table Talks. It is a realm that has evolved into which she calls a creative incubator. “Hip N Zen Northend basically serves the community in three entities. First, “It’s a healing arts dojo, and healing arts comes in many different modalities…mine healing art modality is using loving kind words and writing. I celebrate Universal Laws, Love, Art Words and we explore how to express them. That’s the second part, the creative incubator. The third part is that it’s a HERmitage, capitalizing the “her” to emphasize the home’s feminine power of calm, nurturing, and warmth.  It’s open to whomever needs to come, and usually people who come over here are usually within maybe three degrees of separation,” stated Reshounn. Hip N Zen Northend is a place where live concerts are birthed, authors can freely express their gifts, and cultural activities are always welcomed. It is a space where the Spoken Word can be heard and permeate your soul. It is a small world where confessionals have been shared. Hip N Zen Northend is a social atmosphere where you can analyze who you are, and give your life definition. According to Reshounn, Hip N Zen Northend is a place you can, “Come vent, come cry. Come pray. Come meditate. Come draw. Come color. Come listen to music. It’s a healing space. It’s a retreat space.”

Hip N Zen ButterflyButterflies are a huge part of my life. They are always fluttering in the garden. They’ve also entered the house as caterpillar and matured butterflies, which means good luck.

Prayer is extremely vital to the home. She prays in the home without ceasing and never misses a day. Reshounn states she has an ancestral prayer for former household members who occupied the home found on the bathroom wall. In the kitchen, you will discover the “The Portal” experience. Visitors can write on every space on the wall because it is composed of dry erase board material. She indicated it is a place where words written on the walls have manifested and her friends serve as witnesses. They have inscribed their visions on the wall and their words have come to life.

Initially, she thought about keeping Hip N Zen Northend a secret from others. The reason is this is her personal home. She feels she must be careful who crosses the threshold of the house. Hip N Zen Northend can be found on Facebook, but she does not publish her address on the site. Reshounn indicated through her life journey she has been able to meet a vast amount of people through work and firsthand experiences. During the years, she has invited many to her home and they share their adventure to others about Hip N Zen Northend. Eventually, as others become aware of this peaceful and magical spot and all it offers, they want to experience Hip N Zen for themselves.

FINDING​ ​YOUR​ ​ROLE​ ​TO​ ​HELP​ ​SHAPE​ ​YOUR​ ​COMMUNITY

Hip N Zen and councilmanAt Councilman James Tate’s District 1 meeting discussing tree removal.

Reshounn spoke of how people can become involved in changing the landscape and scope of their community by investing themselves; their energy, time and talent. She is one of the founding members of the Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition. Her role in this organizations has given her the opportunity to enhance the surroundings and atmosphere of the North End. Also, she feels the residents must engage with others outside of the four walls in their home. People must find out what is going on and happening all around them.

Educating yourself and engaging with others in the neighborhood you occupy is the key to opening the door to revitalizing your community.  Reshounn also stressed, “It’s about language. That’s really what it is I’m all about. It’s about language and how we use language and these urban development models. Things are happening around us that we don’t know because we’ve not been educated on the civic level, on the hyper local civic level. The president does what he does. The state of Michigan does what it does, the local government, mayors and even the community leaders – everyone does what they do excluding the residents?” However, she did caution as you become involved within and outside your community don’t overextend yourself and commit to everyone’s cause. The reason is you can become overwhelmed.

EXPANDING​ ​THE​ ​CONCEPT​ ​OF​ ​HIP​ ​N​ ​ZEN​ ​ ​NORTH​ ​END

hip n zen tshirtMe wearing my personal hOMe theME.

Reshounn coined herself as a Social Spiritual Entrepreneur. She shared that she is changing the meaning of this term through her actions. She told me the concept of this type of entrepreneurship modeled mega churches and life coaches. However, the concept of Hip N Zen Northend is broader because it is unfamiliar territory offering peace through arts, meditation and cultural exploration. She hopes to meet an “Angel Investor” to help fund her dream. Funding and operating your dream is attached with great costs; especially if your pockets are limited. Reshounn went from making over $40,000 a year to less than $15,000 a year. If she can do so, she will feed her guests. That is why she has her own garden with fresh veggies such as collard greens. Also, another option is for her guests to potluck. Reshounn’s motivating factors are made of the triad of her supportive friends, knowing God has her back, and blessing others.

Hip N Zen Brandi Keeler HNZN hosts Artist/Life Coach and Co-Inspirator Brandi Keeler’s Toast2U.  I was babysitter and neighbor to Andy Hargrove (wearing the head wrap) when she was a babe in arms. She in turn my daughter. Now, she has a daughter (picture in the tutu).

She is working on her business plan; which can be difficult when you see the vision full circle while others may not fully see the shaping of the concept. Her Brother-in-Love obtained an inkjet printer and now she can print t-shirts with the Hip N Zen Northend logo. The logo was created with graphic designer and life coach Brandi Keeler, who is also one of Reshounn’s co-inspirators. She hopes once people see the t-shirt they would want to have one in their possession. Also, she enjoys the uplifting experience of celebration at Hip N Zen Northend. Reshounn believes it would be a rewarding feeling for others to have the experience of Hip N Zen in their home which would lead to, “self-definition, self-discovery, and self-declaration.”

THE​ ​REWARDS​ ​OF​ ​DISCOVERING​ ​HIP​ ​N​ ​ZEN​ ​NORTHEND

Hip N Zen English LIt Degree “English Lit Degree,” an art installation in the Writer’s Den

Reshounn’s greatest reward is she has discovered who she is designed to be. This talented woman is truly an artist at heart and feels the world couldn’t exist without art. In her eyes, the world would be void without artists because they are responsible for designing everything from plates, spoons, buildings, and cars. Hip N Zen Northend has allowed her to find the peace she had lost at one point in her life. Her dad told her, “Ain’t nothing like having a peace of mind.” While she has found her peace, she ensures she unselfishly lends her talents, soul, and bright personality to assist others find their peace on earth as well.

Overall, she knows her work is honorable and she is putting respect and adding dignity to her name by stating, “But it’s a great honor to be in my own energy, to declare what it is that I do, to live up to my name, to live my life where life and work are seamless.” Yes, Reshounn Foster continue to allow your light to shine for the world to see your creative expertise while giving people the opportunity to heal and enjoy themselves during the process.

Hip N Zen Hermitage  A typical HERmitage moment, earthing.

 

-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!

 

THE TRUE FABRIC THAT COMPOSES DETROIT by ChellyzView and Poem by Mashira Baldwin

Krainz Woods ParkKrainz Woods Park / Neighborhood Park / Stockton and Hildale Street

Detroit is a Valuable Friend of Mine

Oh Lord! What is wrong with me? I am an emotional MESS!  Detroit and I, have been friends for 42 years. Since I had the ability to stand on my own two feet, I have stood by Detroit’s side. I have encouraged Her during the highs, lows, proudest, and toughest moments She’s had to face. Yes, I have traveled to other facets of the Universe. I have met some of Her associates. Vegas, Miami, Texas, and Florida, and a few others. However, Detroit will always be known as My Bestie, Amie, Amiga, Rafiki, because, She has been a friend to all! I will defend my friend while there is still breath in my body and strength in spirit. My eyes are watery and my mind is weary. The combination has me on overload.

The Delicate Fabric of Detroit

Driving down Woodard Woodward Avenue / Downtown Detroit

It was Monday, May 8, 2017. I am driving along Woodward on a Sunny and Peaceful evening traveling to a Word Press meeting. I am excited because, this meeting will provide basic and informative tips about how to effectively use Word Press for my blog. My thoughts are always shifting from minute to minute. I am trying to focus on questions I would like to answer at the meeting but the scenery outside my windshield is simultaneously familiar, and unfamiliar.

I began to think about the fabrics that compose Detroit. When I think about the neighborhoods of Detroit, I picture Her being covered in a Quilt. Many pieces of Detroit’s history compose this Quilt. The Quilt is thick and heavy because the memories from it keeps my heart warm. The appearance of the Quilt is worn and rough around the edges. However, the Quilt is still rustic and beautiful. If the generations of today would have cared for Her fabric with TLC then, the value of Her coverings would have never depreciated. I believe the original loyal friends of Detroit grew older and tired. They ran out of time and didn’t have the opportunity to properly repair the Quilt before things unraveled. Hmm…. I don’t know.

I just need a little thread to pull things together then everything will be alright…….right????

The Fabric of Detroit is Being Altered

My mind shifts again as I continue to drive down Woodward headed towards downtown Detroit. The fabric that She is covered in has changed. This fabric feels like those expensive sheets I wait for to go on sale at some elaborate store but I am still to frugal to purchase. You know the ones, with the 2,000 thread count that cost $5,000?

I am exaggerating!!! I am not angry about the evolution, but the way Detroit is covered is unbalanced. Her appearance isn’t matching. The statement I just made is contradictory because Detroit is known for being one of the most stylish and fashionable places on the map. The fabrics of Her past, present, and future are not being woven together. This action can’t take place! Detroit must stay true to Her identity during this phase of cultivation and change.

A Loyal Friend to Detroit accepts the Negative and Positive Aspects

downtown stroll Woodward Avenue / Downtown Detroit

Some people speak about Detroit’s negative characteristics such as the lingering and heart wrenching sounds of gunshots.  Lost dreams and open wounds needing attention. I read about the developments being proposed and occurring in certain areas. However, I hope they listen to Detroit’s tried, true, and few remaining friends that never left Her side.

Her friend’s input is important as it relates to progression. They are the soldiers who have invested their life and years with Her. Detroit watched Her friends raise children. Some of their successors have stayed to raise their families, while others left countless years ago. Some people love to associate with Detroit’s positive attributes. For example, as I travel down this new paved Woodward, there weren’t any potholes lurking to grab and abuse the vehicle’s tires. Bike riders casually took evening strolls with friends, families or colleagues. I didn’t witness the presence of hands clenching their purses for dear life.

A mixture of cultures enjoyed a new skyline that was hidden in the clouds. I hadn’t seen so much movement on a Monday evening in downtown for over the past twenty-five years. I must reiterate, I am not upset about the modifications of her fabric, but I wish society wasn’t two-faced. I wish on any given day if Detroit wanted to be covered in Her precious Quilt, or elaborate fabric people would treat Her fairly.

Another Caring Friend of Detroit Expresses Her Sentiments of Detroits Pain

 

College Park Local Detroit Neighborhood

A few weeks ago, I shared my sentiments with one of my spiritual sisters about writing a poem dedicated to Detroit. This vibrant, energetic, and gifted young lady is Mashira Baldwin. Mashira is also a dear friend to Detroit!

She has witnessed the pain that has been bestowed upon Detroit. The optimism she has for the city’s healing has led her on a journey.  Mashira has started the process of developing her own non-profit organization that will help bring restoration, resources, and hope to families and citizens residing in Detroit.  Ms. Baldwin will always offer Detroit a caring heart no matter what fabric She composes.

DETROIT By Mashira Baldwin

She once was loved and adorned, looking through a cracked glass mirror, she’s tattered and torn

In Her hey-day she was known for Her music, cars, clothes, and hair.  Now all she does is sit and stare

In Her once lustrous life, there was an interruption stripped down, by closed schools, abandonment, dilapidated houses, closed parks, murder, and rape

Her beautiful life flushed down the drain by corruption as she stares with grey stormy eyes filled with tears

She sits with hopelessness

When all she needs is people to see the love in Her cracked brick and mortar and the beauty in Her brokenness

The True Fabric of Detroit Doesnt Have a Price

Harmonie ParkHarmonie Park / Downtown Detroit

Every devoted friend of Detroit possesses their own story. I can hear them rooting for Her greatness to be appreciated. I can envision them tending to all her brokenness, not just the perfect pieces. I am not aware of how you describe Detroit’s strength or fabric. Behold, I am sure that empathy, dedication, prayers, and ongoing encouragement is truly needed to keep Detroit covered. I will always believe Detroit’s authentic fabric was made with love, courage, respect, and honor.  That type of material is priceless.

-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!

 

“Sister Support and Uplift Sessions” Led to a Victorious Moment by Guest Blogger Lisa Lockridge-Washington (in collaboration with ChellyzView)

The Importance of Encouraging Sister Friends

It was less than a year ago when I met a pleasant lady who loved the color red.   Yes, she is a Delta but I learned her dedication to the color of red is more detailed than I could ever imagine.  Lisa Washington represents red extremely well because she is fierce, funny, and makes strange places become friendly spaces with her warm personality.  Over these past few months she has shown great encouragement as I share my trials and triumphs of becoming a blogger.

Mrs. Washington is family oriented and very proud of her daughter who will be starting her journey to high school in the fall.  Also, she is a skilled social worker who is dedicated to helping the youth and their families overcome obstacles in the city of Detroit.  In addition, I can attest that she has become a Sister Friend who offered support and sound advice to this new girl on the block who was adapting to an unfamiliar environment.  I am delighted to have her as a guest blogger.

                                                                                                                                                                   

“Sister Support and Uplift Sessions” Led to a Victorious Moment by Lisa Lockridge-Washington

I was recently asked by Michelle to be a guest blogger.  I was honored and I accepted the offer.  And thus, I share my story.

Several weeks ago, during what I call our “Sister Support and Uplift Sessions”, I was encouraged by Michelle to visit a very nice coffee house in Detroit called “Detroit Vintage”.  I visited the coffee house with my daughter and it was a real treat.  I shared my experience with Michelle and she informed me that on the first Friday of each month, the coffee house hosted poetry night.

Again, she encouraged me to partake in the spoken word.  I’d written a poem dedicated to my grandmother 5 years ago when she made her transition. I wanted and needed to share this poem and what other way to do it but in a supportive environment. I was very nervous because I had never done this before. I would be considered a “Virgin” on the Mic.  I mustered up the courage and decided to go. It was Friday and it was family night in my household. I chose the activity for this Friday which was a return trip to the coffee house (Detroit Vintage).  My family didn’t know that I was going to recite my poem. When they called my name, they were in shock and so was I.  I thought to myself, you’ve got to go through with it!

When I walked on the stage, I looked out in the audience. I saw my family look at me with amazement and I saw Michelle, my “Sister Support” give me the smile of encouragement.  I said my poem dry mouth and all.  I was hit with emotion that felt like a Mac truck.  All my feelings seeped out and I could see and feel my grandmother as I recited this poem.  It was the release that I needed.  In that moment, I felt the vibe of love, support and understanding.  It was an awesome experience!  I thank my family and Michelle for helping me reach my goal of sharing my story, my poem.

Sooo…In light of April being poetry month, I’d like to share the poem I wrote in memory of my grandmother with you and I invite you to share a poem as well.

Thank You!

Lisa Lockridge-Washington

 

Do You Remember Me?

Hello Grandma! Do you remember me?

I’m the granddaughter you nicked named, Nene

I often wonder when you look into my eyes

Do you really recognize how much I Love you!

Do you remember I’m the granddaughter who use to rub your forehead

when a headache appeared?

I’m the one you taught how to drive without any fear

You know the red car that went fast on its own.

Grandma tell me when we leave do you feel alone.

I’m the one who scratched your scalp then greased your head

right before it was time for bed.

I remember you waking me up for Sunday school and church. You’d say

“Rise and Shine Nene, Rise and Shine.”

Do you remember me Grandma? I think you do because when I hold your hand

you squeeze it tight to let me know that you’re alright.

While you lay there with your eyes closed. Are you having memories

or are you talking with the Lord?

Do you know that I’m just sitting here as you rest and think things through?

Or are you enjoying the silence and the feeling of just us two.

Will you know when I leave your side to go home for the night?

Are you slowly making your way towards the eternal light?

Grandma, I hate leaving you here alone. I want to stay but I know you would say

“Now Nene you go on and take care of your home.”

Grandma I know you don’t know how often I think of you

and wishing there was something more I could do.

My heart is heavy with the thought of losing you but

I know you’ll remain in my presence and that will be forever true.

I Love you Grandma, I really do!

I Love you Grandma and I miss you too!

                                                                                                                                                                   

Sharing Stories can help others take a step towards healing

I was enlightened when I heard Mrs. Washington share her poem at the Detroit Vintage Coffee and Tea House Open Mic Night.  I think I heard Ms. Washington take a deep breath after finishing her poem because she found the courage to share her story with others. However, I also took a deep breath once the poem was recited because it offered me a step towards healing when I wanted to hold on to sadness.  Alzheimer’s robs the identity of one’s soul while stealing the joy of loved ones who care for them.  Her poem reminds me to cherish the special moments I have of my grandmother that I can store in my heart forever. Thank you, Mrs. Washington, for not only sharing your poem but for becoming a Sister Friend who offers support and sessions to uplift this Sister when moments in life are unexplainable and unfair.  Be Blessed!!!!

Resources for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

www.alz.org

www.aaa1b.org

www.uofmhealth.org

24 Hour Alzheimer’s Caregiver Helpline:

1-855-476-7600/www.alzheimerscareresourcecenter.com

 

-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!

 

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH DETROIT ARTIST SYDNEY JAMES: A Conversation Displaying the Wisdom and Talent of a Social Conscious Artist

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The Confidence and Calling of a True Visual Artist

Sydney G. James is a woman small in stature but her stance resonates with power, knowledge, and strength.  If she was standing before the world on a platform her voice would echo, “I’m a visual artist.  I am an Illustrative Fine Artist and I paint on anything – clothes, walls, canvas – it doesn’t matter.”  Her murals tell the story of profound wisdom, bold features, and the definition of one’s character.  Also, the essence of her murals is to spark change, ignite social activism, and bother people. 

Ms. James is a Detroit native who truly embraces her roots.  She is a graduate of Cass Technical High School.  After graduating high school, she attended and graduated from The College of Creative Studies (CCS) where she enhanced and perfected her gift.  Let’s rewind to the moment when she discovered her passion for the arts.  At the age of three she designed her first masterpiece in her dining room.  Ms. James recalled recreating a page from her Smurf’s coloring book.  On a blank sheet of paper, she drew a picture of the evil villain Gargamel.  Once she completed her work of art she proudly walked to the kitchen to share the magic of her craft with her mother.  She stated, “Mom, look what I just drew.  Look what I just did.”  Her mother looked in disbelief and challenged her tiny hands to activate the gift of her artistic abilities right before her eyes.  At this point in her life she became dedicated to drawing at every opportunity.  While attending Mason Elementary school her kindergarten teacher informed her mother, “hey when she gets older you need to start getting her in classes because she is an artist.”  By the age of seven, without missing a stroke of a paintbrush, Ms. James’ mother enrolled her in extra art classes which helped contribute to her success of becoming a talented artist.

The Journey of Being an Artist

Once she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts at CCS she began her career at Global Hue Advertising Agency.  She was the Art Director, for three years, until she decided to part ways with the company.  Ultimately, Ms. James decided to relocate to Los Angeles, California with the inspiration of becoming an animation artist.  Her goal was to pitch a cartoon idea.  However, the idea was rejected by those who didn’t accept her vision which made her realize she was not an animator.  Although her plan failed, she landed a role behind the scenes on television.  Her impressive work allowed her to become a TV Ghost Artist.  A Ghost Artist is an individual, such as Ernie Barnes, who painted all the artwork for the character J.J. on the television show Good Times.  For four seasons Ms. James was the Ghost Artist for the character Cassie on Lincoln Heights.  Ms. James explained, “So all of her (Cassie) artwork that she created on the show was really mine.”  She assured me her talents did not go without recognition because she received all the credit for her works of art.  

Throughout Ms. James’ seven year stay in Los Angeles, she visited Detroit quite frequently.  Eventually, Detroit called her heart and told her to return home.  She decided to answer the call because she felt resurgence was on the forefront of her city.  Ms. James believes people should have a longing to go back home.  The artist feels Detroit is in a phase where you could comfortably own a home without spending billions of dollars.  “To me it doesn’t even make sense, at this point of time, if you are a new home owner to have a mortgage, that’s just my opinion and this is land that you can do that.  You can be a landowner, homeowner, you can even not necessarily make minimum wage but a moderate wage and live a good life here, if you chose to, if you make that choice, but that’s another issue that we must resolve.  People need to be not just educated but they need to be financially educated.”  Detroit became home again because she knew of its rich history filled with greatness and natural resources.  Most importantly, not only did she need Detroit but Detroit needed her in return.  As much as Ms. James enjoys traveling, she has planted herself in her native home and plans to remain here.  She stresses to other native Detroiters, “find your niche.  Don’t leave, build.  We need to get back to building our own neighborhoods.  Come back, because they’re taking it over; come back while it is affordable to be here.” 

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The Fine Artist is dedicated to her city by investing her time in community art projects.  It is imperative for her to be visible while giving back to the community.  Her proudest moments are when children, especially young girls, observe her in action while painting a mural.  She told me of a time when she was standing tall on a scaffold, painting a mural and a little girl asked, “You are doing that by yourself?”  Recently, she was commissioned to paint a detailed mural at Pershing High School (shown above) located in Detroit, Michigan.  It took one week for her to complete the mural.  However, she ensured me that her short visit had a positive impact on the students and she was just as influential as some of the teachers who had interactions with the students for the entire year.   

When faced with adversity in the art world

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During the interview, Ms. James indicated having the first name Sydney does make people assume she is a male artist.  It is important to say assumptions allow people to believe false evidence.  The adversities she faced as an artist haven’t been great in number.  However, being a female in the art community has presented some challenges.  While working in advertising her salary wasn’t as comparable to her male counterparts even when they were less qualified.  Ms. James also spoke of the lack of diversity in the art community especially relative to the street art world.  She implied…” there’s not many people that look like this, like if you do see women they’re Hispanic, they’re Asian or they’re White and there are still few and far between and then I paint aggressively.  I don’t paint friendly looking things.”  She stated at times the art world can be racist and sexist.  She expressed her sentiments of sexism being more prevalent than racism.  Men have asked questions such as, “You did this by yourself?  You’re coloring this?”  Her reply is, “I don’t color, I paint!”  She also spoke about painting live on one of the sets at MTV studio on Election Day.  She painted a black woman holding a protest sign while grabbing her crotch.  Ms. James indicated it was an illustration of women declaring sovereignty over their bodies.  The piece is called, “Declaration of Independence” (shown above).

The findings of Sydney G. James Masterpieces

Ms. James’ artwork is featured throughout Detroit.  One prominent place that is known for its uniqueness is Eastern Market.  During the interview, she tells of one painting, where she paid tribute to other artists, which can be found in the Eastern Market area (shown below).  In the painting, she explains how she added the pigeon and its value to the finished product. 

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She spoke of her artist friend Rashawn Rucker who equated the migration of pigeons as being similar of how Blacks were brought over to the United States during the slavery era.  I was educated on how pigeons are not natures of the states.  She explains their sole purpose was for pest control.  Since then, pigeons have been deemed ’rodents of the sky’ and they never returned home.  Ms. James discussed how the similarity relates to Blacks and how we were brought to this country to work and stayed.  She said, “And now we both have bad reputations.  They’re known as the rats of the sky and we’re just known as rats.  Period.  We even call ourselves ‘Cellar Rats.’”  The explanation was deep but, at the same time, true.  The focal point of adding the pigeon was not to look down on a culture but to encourage them by saying, “Hey, we’ve either got to fly away or we got to elevate.”  This theory is evident that her art can tell the history and origination of any form of life.  Also, when you know the true interpretation behind a painting, it can provide knowledge that can change your perspective on many issues. 

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Other works painted by Ms. James can be found inside the Federal Reserve Building entitled, “Out of the Ashes, We Will Rise”(shown above).  The representation of this mural is her interpretation of the Detroit Flag.  There are two women in the background of the flag.  Ms. James explained, “the Detroit flag was designed in 1905 and there’s a city burning on one side and then a city restored on the next and it has a Latin saying on it with the translation, ’It will rise out of the ashes.’  The painting is talking about Detroit because the city has burned down, figuratively and literally, several times throughout its conception and history.  So right now, we’re going through the rising so I made an ethereal version of the flag.”  I was in awe because I felt the picture was coming to life and I could step into the phone and rise with liberty from the painting. 

Ms. James enjoys initiating her own community projects.  She doesn’t just paint conversational pieces but real portraits.  One of her recent works can be found inside the Live Cycle Delight cycling boutique which was founded by Amina Daniels and located in Detroit within the West Village community.  The mural will motivate you to keep your pace and invite others while cycling at the boutique.

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Understanding the Purpose of one’s artistic abilities

Day by day is how she explains her purpose in life.  Ms. James classifies herself as an artist even though her journey as an artist has changed course and a transformation has taken place over the years.  Initially, her background was illustration which she considered more restrictive.  She feels people pay you to paint the picture they want.  Currently, she knows without a doubt, she is a Fine Artist within. She can be creative without limitations.  The artist indicated, as she paints her murals, her work is more defining, gives her purpose, and she has all the freedom to tell the story.  She enjoys painting murals and it most definitely pays the bills.  It is an honor for people to know her signature work.  Ms. James feels it’s cool when people say, “Oh Sydney did that.”  Murals align her purpose with her regular body of work.  Her inspiration includes various artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Sebastian Kruger, and Tim Burton.  However, the true artists who inspire her are friends and people who are Doper than her!  She feels it is essential for her to hang around other artists.  What continues to motivate her artwork?  Her answer is current events that occur in this society. 

After interviewing Ms. James, I felt it is important for individuals to have the will to transform throughout the distinct phases of their life.  It will help people discover who they are and what their purpose is in life.  We all have a story to tell.  Make sure you paint a bright picture that has meaning and can have a positive influence for yourself and your community. 

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 -Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations! 

-ChellyzView

Why Solid Mentoring Programs are Needed

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The Future of our Children really does matter

I am an advocate for encouraging positive vibes and recognizing inspiring individuals who will help shape a better image for the city of Detroit.  However, that does not imply I have closed my eyes to the problems that have saturated the soul of Detroit causing it to hurt and plead for assistance for its recovery.  The children are our future.  That’s one cliché that will never retire.  On that note, one of the main problems that need to be addressed in the inner city is what type of relief tactics can be identified to help the children of our community realize their future matters.

When the failure of our children impacts the community

Recently, as I watched the news, my heart cringed when I heard about a twelve-year-old boy caught on surveillance camera robbing a store.  The unfortunate mother of the fallen gentleman turned him into the authorities instead of ignoring his path to destruction.  Last week, while sitting in my parked car at the Belmont Shopping Center, I stared out the window in the opposite direction to avoid the person approaching my car.  However, my uncle was handed the message and got in the car without reading the disturbing news.  The content on the flyer was startling.  I carefully scanned the delicate piece of paper from Crimestoppers which captured a picture of a teenaged girl who was missing.  A reward was being offered for her safe return home.  I shook my head.  All of a sudden, I experienced flashbacks of my elders’ voices and other concerned citizens.  I could hear them chanting, “there’s nothing for these kids to do.  That’s why they end up in so much trouble.”  My voice begged to differ.  I needed a microphone to tell everybody:  if you step outside your door and search for answers you can be led to many solutions.

Finding my own purpose led to the importance of mentoring

Over twenty years ago I remember telling the world how I hoped to help mentor young people.  I made a promise to become a child psychologist.  However, there were factors that impacted my decision not to become a mentor and child psychologist.  First, I was young and my character wasn’t prepared to guide anyone to their own greatness.  Secondly, I was too shy and doubtful to recognize I had the strength to empower myself and those around me.  Finally, I had to experience my own trials which provided the lessons I needed to become a better individual and confident motivator to help others.
Currently, I am a case manager and I process eligibility applications for emergency services, medical, food, and child care assistance.  However, I believe the scope of my title is more in depth than pushing papers and pressing buttons.  I am assigned to a local school in Detroit and connect families to resources.  I perform my job to the best of my ability because one day it could be me on the other end of the receiving line.  Even though I try to assist as many families as I can while adhering to policy I know there is more work that needs to be done.

Successful Programs need Dedicated and Committed Individuals

Years later I finally gained the confidence I had within to become a mentor.  By November 2015, I became the President of La’de (pronounced Lah-day/Ladies Always Dreaming Empowerment)  Mentoring with a mission to “uplift, empower, and motivate” young ladies ages 10-17.  The program was founded by Stephanee Strickland five years ago.  In addition, I accepted the role of Vice President for Circle of Friends Youth Foundation (CFYF) founded by DeAnn Jordan.  CFYF empowers young men and women to excel in life despite the barriers that try to deter them from being exceptional individuals.  The experiences I have acquired throughout these past years have shown me you can design, implement and offer the programs but that does not equate to success.  An effective plan needs dedicated volunteers, committed parents, and willing teens who not only speak of change but want to be active participants of nurturing and contributing to change.
As I reflected on my roles at these two Detroit non-profits, which were formed to provide support services and activities for youth and their families, my shoulders became heavy.  I could feel the weight of overanalyzing every aspect of each program.  I felt excited, defeated, overwhelmed, encouraged, and discouraged.  The most important attribute I had acquired was determination.  It was the only factor that lightened the load.  I had to stop focusing on the parents/guardians who brought their children to the programs and the quantity of individuals who donated their time.  Instead, I had to focus on the quality of the programs because these programs could prevent one child from failing and save one parent from losing that last ounce of hope for their child.

The conversation that encourages one to support mentoring in our communities

One afternoon I remember receiving a text from Stephanee of La’de.  At times, she felt the same wave of frustration and being overwhelmed because people spoke about change but their actions were contradictory.  We both wanted to ensure La’de offered content that would build the character of the participants and keep their attention.  I asked her five key questions relating to the purpose and origination of La’de.  In order to ensure a long-lasting future for the program, we first must understand the steps that were taken to get La’de started and the steps that should be taken to keep the program going.
Me:  Why did you start La’de?
Stephanee:  In 2010 through 2011, I was a member of the Detroit 300.  It’s a community policing organization and I had never done community volunteering or attended any rallies up to that point.  During that time, my eyes were open to many issues that plagued our communities throughout the city of Detroit.  One issue that struck a chord was the fact that there was a serial rapist in the east Seven Mile/Gratiot area and at that time it was hush-hush because the Detroit Police Department didn’t want to alarm the residents.  The rape victims were teen girls who were on the way to school early in the morning and returning home in the evening.  I was levied and felt there must be more done to save our girls and heighten their awareness on the social issues they all face.  In 2012 La’de was formed.
Me:  Do you remember your first session?
Stephanee:  Yes, it was in June 2013 at Don Bosco Hall Community Resource Center. At the first session “Get to know me as I get to know you” there were three girls in attendance.  Of course, everyone was extremely nervous.  What do I say or do now that I’m here and have someone’s attention? Parents began to come in to get information on the program and began enrolling their daughters.  So now I’m thinking (Saved by the Bell) the girls talked amongst themselves as I spoke to women I could relate to.  Fast forward.  The weeks after the first session were awesome.
In December 2013, our very first high school teenager walked through the door.  She was sent by God to help.  Little did I know, she needed me more than I knew.  https://youtu.be/sIiCNKW2THM
By 2014, when capacity was at its highest from the following year, the organization gained three beautiful mentors.
Me:  What are your victories and obstacles as you approach your fifth anniversary?
Stephanee:  My victories are having a phenomenal board and mentors.  The organization brand, workshops and events have come to life from out-of-the-box thinking all with relevant, relatable content which makes La’de a visionary for today’s girls, in real time, combating significant issues. The most depressing obstacles are parental involvement.  We see it over and over – more so now with our schools closing.  Where in the hell are the parents?  Why are they not at the meetings or rallies fighting for their children?  Especially our Mothers!  Why hand your daughters to the wolves?
In five years of mentoring, on one hand, I can count how many mothers participated.  These teens lack parental empowerment.  Period.  The same things our teens are missing are the same generational things their moms have missed.  I often asked are they afraid of change themselves.  Are they afraid the sky will open to life possibilities they’ve never known?  Smoking a blunt, having back-to-back babies and turning up with a selfie stick cannot be all there is.
Me:  Where do you see La’de in the future?
Stephanee:  The future for La’de is to be a premier mentoring program that changes lives, academic culture experiences, and fights social injustices that affect teen girls.  I envision speak La’de radio and TV shows, and La’de Pink Bra-a-Thon conferences to become legacies around the world!
Me:  Can you give words of encouragement for those starting a mentoring program?
Stephanee:   A Love for Humanity should be embedded in your core being.  When you give in love, others receive that love.  To those continuing, remember why you started and never believe the work you are doing is in vain.
In hopes of motivating you to move
I hope this conversation will encourage you to consider volunteering as a mentor, providing a small monetary contribution to support ongoing programs, pledging as a parent/guardian to get involved in mentoring programs, speaking to motivate participants, or encourage a young adult to get involved in a mentoring program.  The adage is true – the children are our future – but leading them to the road to success starts today!
La’de Mentoring meets at Don Bosco Hall located at 19321 W. Chicago on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.  You can follow La’de on Facebook and Instagram.
For additional questions, concerns, or scheduling, contact:
Stephanee Strickland
La’de Mentoring
http://www.ladegirls.webs.com
Other programs committed to the cause
DeAnn Jordan
Circle of Friends Youth Foundation
Tony Weston
Mentoring Youth Network
http://www.mentoringyouthnetwork@gmail.com
LaTia Reed
True Belles Mentoring
http://www.afropuffsandponytails.com
Vanita Sanders
Youth Vision Runners
Tamela Todd
Brown Girls Read
Jami Polk
The Bravo Foundation
http://www.thebravo.org
Additional Resources
Please ask friends, neighbors, or Google for resources, but most importantly get involved to create change!
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-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!
-ChellyzView

Diary of a Girl who was abandoned by DTE

Diary of a Girl who felt Abandoned by DTE

The Unexpected Event

The date was Wednesday, March 8, 2017, and it was a blustery and bleak day.  It contained fierce winds and dreadful temperatures that we all felt and complained about as we wrapped our outerwear closer to our bodies and walked leaning against the wind.  While we were working in the office the lights flickered throughout the room and the internet exited from my laptop several times.  After tackling a weary and challenging afternoon I was not elated to hear the news that fell upon my ears when my cell phone rang. The Hubby was on the other line and dreadfully announced to my tired spirit, “We lost power.” Various thoughts approached me, even though I tried to turn them away with all of my remaining reserves of strength.  How would I charge my phone?  Oh, no I won’t be able to purchase ice cream?  How will my family and I stay warm?  What about the food in my fridge?  Does this mean I will be attacked with another crippling winter cold?  What about posting on Facebook and Instagram and checking all the statuses in the news feed? Were there enough batteries, flashlights, and candles in the home?  The list of worries was getting longer and my heart began to ache.  Once the evening began to settle I found myself faced with yet another challenge.  I wasn’t feeling well at all, due to other health matters which lead me to Henry Ford Hospital Emergency room, where I spent over six hours waiting for treatment.  However, that’s another story.

Withstanding the Trials While Practicing Patience

The next four days would be a test of trials and errors.  The first morning of lost power saluted me with warm sunshine from my bedroom window, but the coldness greeted me with a bitter attitude.  The Hubby lit the stove with a lighter in order to cook breakfast.  The days took a toll on our budget as we purchased ready-to-go meals from nearby restaurants.  Countless lessons were learned during this ordeal of dealing with the cold and darkness within my home without the benefits of heat and electricity.  One of the most important lessons that held on to me like an unwanted magnet was to “Practice Patience.”  From time to time I sat in someone’s car to charge my phone.  I posted several rants on Facebook about how I was the Girl with a Diary and the Detroit Edison Company (DTE) abandoned me.  Every time I heard the sound of a heavy truck I slowly walked to the window and peaked to hopefully view the sight of a DTE truck. I was hoping the utility company finally sent a rescue team to deliver this household from their loss of heat and other electric woes.  However, I was wrong and disappointed more than once, because each time it was another truck driving down the street playing with my last thread of sanity.  I was a displeased customer.  At some point, I had to realize that this whole experience was a true awakening.

Dealing with the Emotions

Initially, I was frustrated and angry.  Eventually, the emotions of distress evolved into feelings of gratitude.  One night The Family and I ate dinner by candlelight without the background noise of technology.  We actually had a heart full of conversations to share with each other.  I discovered we shared the same last name, but came to realize that our opinions on many issues were recognizably different.  Another night the children stayed with my mother-in-law and basked in electrical bliss.  The Hubby and I were able to dine alone by using the candles from the night before.  The absence of electricity was an opportunity for my world to slow down and for me to focus on being an average resident in my home.  I stopped to appreciate the small aspects of my life.  Next, I learned the importance of recognizing that I may have lost man made power, but my source of energy is provided by the SON, who is my Redeemer.  I also learned that going forward I needed to express my appreciation for being able to live in a home that does have heat and electricity without an interruption of services.  As one of my closest friend’s stated, “Yes, the struggle is real.”  Well, at least for some of us, but thank God we have stable employment in this house to pay the bills.  I thought about the Homeless who had to withstand the harsh elements of the cold every night; especially when shelters are full.  I thought of sickly individuals who needed electricity to operate their oxygen or breathing machines when they didn’t have access to a generator.  I thought about how I was investing a vast amount of time building my relationship with modern technology.  However, I was paying less attention to the needs of my family.  Believe me the fees were costly once I noticed my neglect.  I had an opportunity to spend more time praying and meditating.  An alert sounded and notified me to reevaluate my life.  At my place of employment I service customers on a daily basis and wanted them to practice patience when I wasn’t able to complete the task as swiftly as they often wanted me to.  Now I was the disgruntled customer with DTE.  It was my appointed time to implement what I preached to others, “Practice Patience!”

Changing Your Perception Adds Value to Your Life

Four days without heat and electric services wasn’t an elaborate event by most standards, but it was an enlightening experience.  The opportunity allowed me to view how I perceived myself at times and how I critiqued others in this society:  self-centered.  Many overcrowded hotels took advantage of this opportunity by raising hotel rates.  Our block was the only victims on the entire street to lose power, while our neighbors enjoyed the warmth and light from their homes.  It made me recognize how I advocate for my community, but ironically I don’t have a relationship with my own neighborhood.  Not one individual knocked on the door and offered a loaf of bread, candle, a charged flashlight or a bowl of ice cream.  During this moment I truly understood the meaning of Proverbs 18:24:  “A man that that hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”  It showed me I have work to do.

I know there were thousands who faced trying times without power for over three days. Personally, it was a chance for me to recognize the value of practicing patience, giving gratitude, and expressing empathy is needed not only during times of a crisis, but each day of our lives. 

Community Resources

(Many agencies provide assistance based on funding availability and an individual’s or family’s eligibility status)

www.thawfund.org

www.newlook.dteenergy.com

www.julieslist.homestead.com/utilityresources

www.clearcorpsdetroit.org

www.svdpdet.org

www.needhelppaypayingbills.com

www.mi211.org

Other Suggestions from the Hubby when dealing with future power outages. You can google the products listed below. 

Look into purchasing a:

  • battery operated heater
  • cordless space heater
  • battery powered outlet
  • a portable battery pack

Quote of Patience

-Let your heart be full of new ventures that will lead you to the possibilities of limitless conversations!

-Michelle Dawson