Sunday, November 13, 2016

First Annual Black Youth Financial Empowerment Summit

A look at this year's 1st annual financial summit in Sacramento designed to teach our youth about the significance of credit, group economics, business building and having healthy relationships.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic License.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

It's Bigger Than...

“Once upon a time not long ago
when people wore pajamas and lived life slow…”

I was born in the winter of 1977, so my base of music is really in the 80’s and 90’s. I grew up in a family of singers and musicians, people who had an appreciation for “real music”. Real instruments not synthesized, live singing no lip synching and don’t get them started on auto-tune. As much as I’ll always love The Time, Kool & The Gang, James Brown and Stevie Wonder it was hip hop that spoke directly to me.

Though I came up in the Run DMC, LL Cool J, Eric B & Rakim era, I liked Kwame, Kid N Play, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Not the hardest emcees in the game I know) I listened to be entertained not educated.

It wasn’t until my high school years that I really started “listening” to lyrics. Ice Cube was and still is my favorite rapper. From NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” to “Amerikkas Most Wanted“, “Death Certificate“, “Predator” etc his lyrics spoke to more of what I was thinking and feeling. So what happened? How did “Parents Just Don’t Understand” get replaced by “Once Upon A Time In The Projects”? The answer…life.

As a kid I was made aware of the struggles I would face for no other reason than the color of my skin. My parents instilled in me that by being “Black” I had to try twice as hard and do twice as well as my “White” counterparts to make it in this country. A lesson I thank them for. I did well in school and was generally well liked. It was right around 6th grade when things for me changed. For people of color in America we’ve all had this “allow me to reintroduce myself” moment in this country.

I got into an argument with a fellow student who happened to be “white“, over nothing of real consequence and got hit with the “go back to Africa” line. (Could have been worse I know) This would become the benchmark moment in which race relations would forever be changed in my mind. Up until then I was liked or disliked (well at least to my face) for “who” I was, not “what” I was. As the years would go by more and more “incidents” would occur. Going to predominately “white” schools from the 8th grade on they would become drastically more frequent.

By high school 2Pac’s “Strictly For My…” stayed on repeat, coupled with Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” my perception of the world had shifted. I was light weight looking for the racism in everything. I had Ice Cube telling me “My Skin Is My Sin”, Arrested Development talking about “Tennessee” all while Public Enemy was letting me know, “Can’t Truss It”. Different voices making me aware of the world in which I lived.

If it’s true that he who seeks shall find, I found every injustice I was and wasn’t looking for. From hidden back handed comments to full frontal discrimination it was there…and it’s still there. Remember this time of my life was coming off of the Rodney King beatings to the OJ trial. I’m nearly 40 now and the same things that were being spoke about in my youth are still playing themselves out on the news every night today. Drugs, crime, propagated narratives, police brutality and civil unrest has my 2016 looking like Watts in ‘92 or Miami in ‘80, Washington D.C. in ‘68 or Philadelphia in ‘64...

The difference? The music of that age spoke in a language that was informative, educational as well as entertaining. I wasn’t being told to go out and break laws and be violent just as I wasn’t being told to just get high and be oblivious. Being made aware of the things that were going on around me made me think. To challenge what I saw as well as what I heard and I fear that the youth of this era are being cheated of that. For every Kendrick or J Cole there are a million “insert rapper here”, talking about nothing and keeping our young people asleep. Being prompted through their music to exercise critical thinking helped me to mature and make better choices.

The fires that 2Pac stoked made me want to learn more and do better. KRS- 1 had me fact checking, as Queen Latifah pushed U.N.I.T.Y while X-Clan kept me in check from being a “sissssssssy”. They were the village that I needed.

This moment is dedicated to O’Shea Jackson, Brad Jordan, Tupac Shakur, Nasir Jones and all of the other men and women that used their voices to help me find my own.

And even though you may hear me rolling around bumping “It Was A Good Day” I still turn it up for “Summertime”.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic License.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Time Flies, But You're The Pilot

I've been told all along how "short" life is. How in the blink of an eye I would become an adult. My teenage years nothing more than a flash in the pan, then my 20's would fly by, 30's a distant memory, 40's gone like whoa... Forever hit with, "If I could go back and be your age again"... It felt like the game had just started and there went the "2 minute warning!" All of these voices telling me how quickly tomorrow would come. It was almost like I was being rushed through the line just to get to the end of my existence.

Now at 38 I can honestly say some of that was true. I can remember turning 21 like it was yesterday and now I'm almost waking up to 40. Hell my high school graduation isn't an all that distant memory and this year I'm having my 20 year reunion! But for every year that just seemed to whisk on by I have to say I have worked a lot of great experiences, relationships and memories in there.

My 20's were no different than most; a series of crappy jobs, some unfinished goals, a few amazing nights of reckless abandon & a few that I wish came with a delete button. In the midst of all the craziness, and immaturity I grew, developed, fell in love once or twice and forged a path for myself. The days weren't measured by the clock on the wall because it never changed. Time is time. The days were measured by what I got out of them, what I did & who I was with.

My 30's a little different. Not so much the wanderer, a little more direction. But time is still time. The funny thing is 20 feels like yesterday where as 30 feels like an eternity ago. I think my 20's were quick because of a lot of starting and stopping. I also did a lot of stupid things back then. Time flies by faster when you've got a bunch of days and memories you try not to focus on and forget. My 30's have been more focused on building, actually having bench marks and measures to gauge my work by. I think that's important. Having a career, family, goals, something! I may not be as fit as I used to be; knee braces are mandatory for any physical activity and I've turned in how many shots I can drink into making sure I've had enough water, but I'm good. I've learned the difference between a job and a career. I've applied standards to all aspects of how my time is spent and with whom I spend it. I truly appreciate having a new 24 hours to wake up to.

I'm enjoying where I am and see getting older as more opportunities to be better. Please believe I still have my "days" and life is far from perfect. My money is seldom "right", work takes precedence over social and family functions a little more often than I'd like and my relationship track record is a little "eh". But I'm good.

This moment is dedicated to all 86,400 seconds of everyday I'm fortunate to have to try to be the best me I can be...and If I could ever go back in time to a younger me my only advice would be, "Don't be so guarded with your heart, but protect your knees."

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic License.