Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Education vs. Association

"It's not what you know, it's who you know."

I've come to find this phrase rather unsettling and quite misleading.

If this means that my educational achievements have no merit on how far I'm expected to advance in life, then why are college degrees such an important commodity in today's society? Why can't those who failed to finish high school get a decent job and live a financially stable life? Furthermore, why is that the majority of business moguls became successful without pursuing a higher education and how can I be introduced to who they know?

Although many of us come from various backgrounds and cultures, there is one common element that connects us all... Communication. How well we communicate will eventually be the determining factor in how successful we become, regardless of what we know or who we know.

When I decided to start my own writing business a few months ago, I contemplated about how I could take advantage of promotional methods and strategies without having to constantly speak about my efforts. I've never been much of an effective oral communicator. My writing has always spoken for me. However, I was recently inspired by a fellow FSU graduate and one of my most recent iWrite4orU clients to overcome my shy nature and connect with random individuals in order to spread my #WriterGrind message(s).

This particular client has initiated a TALK TO STRANGERS campaign and aims to reverse the ancient  "don't talk to strangers" mentality that overpowers and hinders our option to actually take advantage of who we know.

The above mentioned ironic connection also relates to an association that I recently rekindled with an old friend that I met as a freshman in college. We introduced ourselves to each other at a job interview back in 2006, but lost touch after I graduated. While updating each other on our lives since entering the "real world", we realized that we both have similar aspirations. I'm a writer. He's a songwriter and producer. He has interned with two major record labels and mingled with various budding Hip Hop artists, such as Pretty Ricky, Tay Dizm, Verse Simmonds, and J-Luv. I've interviewed a plethora of famous actors and actresses as a Contributing Writer for EU Jacksonville Newspaper, including Ella Joyce, Darryl Ruben Hall, Renee Robinson, and the entire cast of The Color Purple Musical.

While discussing how we can assist each other with furthering our prospective goals, another interesting connection was revealed. I became aware of the fact that I actually work for the same company as one of his brothers. A few weeks later, another one of his brothers randomly contacted me on Facebook to request my iWrite4orU services. In the midst of us reconnecting, I was able to make two new connections (through his immediate circle) that will eventually contribute to the advancement of my writing company.

The biggest abstraction that seems to get lost in the beliefs surrounding the "who you know" theory is the power of an education. While taking advantage of who I know, I am still able to utilize the value of what I know to reach my final destination of success. "Who you know gets you into the door... what you know keeps you there." Now, that theory makes more sense.

Is what we know more important than who we know? Can who we know sometimes threaten our position of power? Is it possible to obtain an adequate level of success without a legitimate education?

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Positive Role of Setting A Goal

My brother is currently a sophomore at Bethune-Cookman University. He has successfully completed three semesters, making the Dean's List 3 consecutive times, while maintaining a cumulative 3.7 GPA. This past semester, I challenged him to make straight A's. The prize?
These fresh and expensive pair of Jordan sneakers:

He struggled just a bit along the way, but never lost sight of the goal. Due to BCU's strenuous 16 credit hour per semester requirement, I decided to alleviate some of the stress by allowing him to make one B. He requested my assistance with the rehearsal of 3 speeches, but managed to handle his Accounting, Economics, Statistics and Spanish courses on his own. 

As a big sister, it is my duty to lead by example. However, my brother's desire to obtain this motivational incentive has taught me a valuable lesson about dedication. I am proud to say that he finished the Fall 2011 semester with all A's and one B (in Spanish). He was slightly disappointed because he was so close to making straight A's, but he's optimistic about the fact that he still has something to strive for.  

Find out more about my brother's academic goals and how he strived to make straight A's below:

1.      How do you stay focused?

I stay focused by sticking to my priorities and knowing what is important to me. 
2.      Describe your study habits.

    I study for a short period of time. Once I understand something I don’t try to cram it in with hours of studying.
3.      How do you balance academics with fun?

      I don’t try to balance it. School is more important to me. I think I’ve turned into a nerd because all I think about is getting smarter and I’ve lost a connection with the people I used to have fun with. Some of them understand, some of them don’t, but it’s my decision to want to stay focused on the big prize ahead and not the side attractions.

4.      What inspires you?

My sister and my parents’ investment in me. I just don’t want to be a disappointment to them. They invested their time and money on me to make sure that I was accepted into college and had money to pay for it and it’s my responsibility to pay them back with interest. No matter how successful I become I will never forget the sacrifices they made for me.   
5.      What adjustments did you make during your transition from high school to college?

I had to leave my football dreams behind and focus on what my future career was going to be. At first it was difficult, then I realized that football wasn’t in God’s plan for me, so with His direction I put my focus elsewhere, and lo and behold, 3 consecutive Dean’s Lists later I recognized what God saw in me that I didn’t see in myself.

6.      What is your definition of success?

Success is a mindset. I’ve learned over time that success is not just about the minuscule achievements or the monetary substance that people always talk about. Success is a plateau that we all reach for, but only a few of us have the courage to grasp it.

7.      What are your future career plans?

In the future I plan to work for a successful financial service company,
become a business mogul and hopefully expand into other ventures, such as Sports Management, to fulfill my dream of someday becoming an ESPN Sports Analyst.   

8.      Why did you choose to attend Bethune-Cookman University?

I think the fact that it fits my personality is the reason I chose it, and it’s one of the best decisions I made in my life.   
9.      How has your experience at Bethune-Cookman University been so far?

It’s been great. The professors I’ve had have all assisted me with becoming a better person. I also have the privilege of being a member of the Black Males in Higher Education Think Tank (BMTT), which has allowed me to be around fellow educated black males who are trying to change the stereotype of the African American male and be upstanding role models on campus.   
10.  Why did you strive so hard to make straight A’s this semester?

Because I wanted the shoes my sister promised me (lol), but in all honesty I wanted to prove the people in charge of Florida Bright Futures wrong for not giving me a scholarship and show them that I could pursue a higher education without one. I wanted to make the President’s List. I wanted to have a taste of success. And lastly, I wanted to be able to say I did something that my sister didn’t do as a college student.

11.  Describe yourself in 3 words.

Dedicated, Humble, Smart

12.  How do you utilize your free time when you’re not studying?

I just lay back and chill, listen to music, and watch ESPN

13.  What is the most important thing that all college students need to know?

That college life is overrated—The work, the parties, the lifestyle. Don’t get sucked into doing things that you’re not accustomed to doing. Be who you are, not what others want you to be. I can honestly say that I am the same person now that I was when I lived under my parents’ roof.

Goals are important elements of success. What are you striving to achieve and how are you going to achieve it?

"Turn your can'ts into cans and your dreams into plans." 

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hit The Road Jack - Fair or Wack Sack?

The Jaguars were sold and Coach Jack Del Rio was fired... all in the same day. Talk about exclusive news! In the midst of a 3-8 record, the Jaguars are being forced to rebuild... again. Despite the many breaking points that the Jacksonville franchise has suffered, this just might be exactly what the team needs.

The Jaguars currently have a 141-136 all-time record. Although the team has had some hits and misses over the years, there have been many notable high points. Below is a timeline of the franchise's accomplishments and disappointments:

1992 - The NFL announced that it would add two new teams. After the Gator Bowl game in 1993, the old Jacksonville Municipal stadium was remodeled. 

1995 - Inaugural season - Tom Coughlin was hired as head coach. The new stadium opened on August 18, 1995 with a preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. The Jaguars played their first regular season game at home before a crowd of 72,363 on September 3, 1995, and lost 10-3 to the Houston Oilers.

1996 - Jimmy Smith was positioned as the lead receiver. The Jaguars won six of their last seven games of the season and finished with a record of 9–7. The team clinched the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs and their first playoff game was against the Buffalo Bills. The Jaguars won 30–27. They moved on to the second round and defeated the Denver Broncos to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the first time in just their second season, but suffered a 20–6 loss to the New England Patriots.

1997 - The Jaguars finished the season with an 11–5 record, winning 2nd place in their division, a Wild Card berth and the 5th seed in the AFC playoffs. They lost in the first round to the Denver Broncos, who went on to win the Super Bowl. 

1998 - The Jaguars finished 11–5 again, won their first AFC Central Division title, and became the first NFL expansion team to make the playoffs three times in its first four seasons.

1999 - The Jaguars finished with a league best 14–2 regular season record, the best record in franchise history. They won the AFC Central Division for the second straight year and clinched the #1 seed in the AFC. They went on to host the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Divisional playoffs, and pulled off a 62–7 victory. The team's 62 points and 55-point margin are the second most ever in NFL playoff history, and Fred Taylor's 90-yard run in the first quarter is the longest ever in an NFL playoff game. Unfortunately, the team's magical run came to an end when they lost at home to the Titans. All three of the team's losses were against the Titans this year (the only time in NFL history that a 3-loss team had all of its losses to one team). 

2000 - The Jaguars failed to continue their previous season's run and ended the season with 7 wins and 9 disappointing losses.

2001/2002 - The Jaguars were placed in the AFC South Division and suffered their worst franchise record of 6-10 two years in a row. The struggles were blamed on the franchise's inability to afford to pay talented players. 

2003 - Jack Del Rio was hired as the new head coach and Byron Leftwich was selected as the 7th pick in the NFL draft. Quarterback Mark Brunell was benched and Leftwich was selected as the new starting quarterback. The Jaguars finished the season at 5–11 and missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Quarterback Mark Brunell was forced to leave the team at the end of the season.

2004 - The Jaguars capped off their 10th season with a winning record of 9–7. They also became the first NFL team to have three African-American quarterbacks on their roster (Byron LeftwichDavid Garrard, and Quinn Gray).

2005 - The Jaguars earned a Wild Card spot and their first playoff appearance since 1999 with a 12–4 record. The team lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Wild Card round.

2006 - Running Back Maurice Jones-Drew was selected as the Jaguars' second round draft pick, averaging 5.7 yards per carry (the highest in the league) and tying for 3rd in the NFL with 16 touchdowns. However, the team missed the playoffs with an 8–8 record.

2007 - T
he Jaguars used their first-round number 21 draft pick to select University of Florida safety Reggie Nelson and released strong safety Donovin Darius. 
Byron Leftwich was also released and David Garrard was announced as the new starting quarterback. Garrard led the Jaguars to an 11–5 record and they went on to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31–29 to win their first playoff game in almost 8 years and their first road playoff win since 1997. 

2008- The Jaguars finished the 2008 season at 5–11, their worst record since 2003. This also marked the end of running back Fred Taylor's 11 year career as a Jaguar.

2009 - 
Gene Smith was named as the new General Manager and the team's new uniform design was revealed. The Jaguars finished the season 7–9, missing the playoffs for another consecutive year. Numerous veteran players were let go in an effort to move in a "younger" direction. 
2009 was also the franchise's worst year for attendance. Seven of the eight home games were blacked out, and rumors that the team would eventually be moved or sold began to spread.
2010 - Tyson Alualu was drafted as the 10th overall pick and the city of Jacksonville negotiated a five-year, $16.6 million naming rights deal with EverBank to rename the stadium EverBank Field. As a result, the attendance numbers increased significantly. The "Team Teal" campaign was also formed this year and the franchise experienced a 36.5% increase in game attendance (the highest in the league) and no black outs. Running Back Maurice Jones-Drew was ranked second in the league in rushing yards and David Garrard threw for 23 touchdowns, a franchise record. The Jaguars battled late with the Indianapolis Colts for the number one AFC South position, but lost their last two games, placing themselves out of playoff contention, and finishing the season with a record of 8–8.

2011 - The Jaguars traded a first and a second round pick in order to select Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert as the 10th pickDavid Garrard was cut from the team less than a week before the regular season was scheduled to start and Luke McCown was named as the starter. McCown started two games and Gabbert took over as the starter after McCown threw 4 interceptions in a 32 to 3 loss against the Jets. The Jaguars went on to lose the next 4 games, but pulled off a phenomenal upset against the Baltimore Ravens at home during a primetime Monday Night Football game. On November 29, 2011, the Jaguars announced the firing of Coach Del Rio and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was named as the interim Coach. Just a few short hours later, owner Wayne Weaver announced that he was selling the team to a Pakistani born businessman named Shahid Khan, who attempted to purchase the St. Louis Rams in 2010.

The Jaguars have an opportunity to end their current two game losing streak with a win against the San Diego Chargers during tonight's Monday Night Primetime game.

Regardless of the negativity surrounding the team currently, the first step towards potential franchise success relied heavily on making a necessary change for improvement. Due to his failure to elevate the team to a superior level, Coach Jack Del Rio was told to hit the road. Though the announcement was unexpected, it was long overdue. Rumors of the team leaving Jacksonville can now be put to rest (hopefully) and the city's main attraction can finally begin its rebuilding process and grow to become a well-respected and dignified NFL team. 

Is Coach Jack Del Rio to blame for the team's present troubles? How long do you think it will take for the Jaguars to rebuild and consistently carry out successful playoff berth seasons? Who should the Jaguars draft next season? Is Blaine Gabbert capable of leading the Jaguars to the playoffs? Will the Jaguars ever make it to the Super Bowl? How do you feel about the team being sold to a non-American born businessman?

Speak on it!
*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Friday, November 25, 2011

25 Reasons to Say Thank You

Me Then...

I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday of this week... still alive at 25 and truly blessed. Despite the minuscule failures and disappointments I've experienced in my life, I have a lot to be thankful for. I reflect often, and I'm a firm believer in "everything happens for a reason". Too many of us complain about what we don't have without appreciating the things that we do have, things that others may not be fortunate enough to claim.

I give thanks every morning before starting my day, however, I've listed 25 materialistic and meaningful things that I'm thankful for below:

1. Jesus loved me enough to die on the cross for my sins. I finally found a church home to give him a weekly, joyful praise. Thank you.

2. My life was spared earlier this year. While driving the normal speed limit on 9A, I was forced to come to a complete stop. My car did a 180 degree turn and I ended up facing oncoming traffic. I closed my eyes while trying to gain control of the steering wheel and opened them to find all of the cars at least 2 feet away from me. I got off on the next exit and stopped at a nearby gas station to call my mom and tell her what happened. She answered the phone crying and told me that God flashed the moment before her. She was praying for me as it happened. Thank you.

3. It took me 2 years to move on from my first love... and then I met my Superman. Thank you.

4. My parents wouldn't let me get a car until I could afford to pay for one myself. I drove Boomsheka off the lot when I was 20 years old and I've never been late paying my car note. Thank you.

5. I was 12 years old when I lost my maternal grandfather. He loved all of his grandchildren equally, but I was the "obedient one" and he always made me feel like I was his favorite. It's because of him that I try so hard to lead by example. Thank you.

6. My paternal grandmother was admitted to the hospital on the day that I was scheduled to conduct my college orientation visit. She passed away a week later, the day after I graduated from high school. She never missed an opportunity to tell me how pretty I was, despite my unknown self-esteem and confidence issues. I look in the mirror and smile at my reflection every day because of her. Thank you.

7. My first roommate introduced me to Facebook my freshman year at FSU. My iWrite4orU company page now has 253 "Likes" and my client base is growing rapidly. Thank you.

8. My high school English teacher, Ms. Fletcher, encouraged me to pursue writing as a career. I majored in Creative Writing, graduated and became a Contributing Writer for EU Jacksonville Newspaper 3 months later, and I am now the Owner/President/CEO of my own writing company. Thank you.

9. My maternal grandmother birthed and raised 6 girls on her own. Those 6 girls gave her 13 grandchildren, whom she also helped mold and raise. Someday I'll be labeled as a strong Black woman, and I'll owe it all to her. Thank you.

10. My paternal grandfather attended most of my sporting events and recorded all of the play by play action with his video camera. Without his support, I'd lack the necessary motivation and drive to succeed, for the benefit of myself and others. Thank you.

11. I have 6 best friends. Some people aren't lucky enough to have one. They support me, encourage me, pray with me, laugh with me, cry with me, and most of all, they're honest with me. Thank you.

12. I'm healthy and wealthy with happiness. Thank you.

13. No cavities found during my last dentist visit. Thank you.

14. My insurance deductible is outrageously high, but I'm fully covered. Thank you.

15. I got my first relaxer when I was 8 years old. I went natural in January 2010. My hair is now growing long and strong. Thank you.

16. I have a full-time job that allows me to apply what I studied in college. I'm eager to clock in every single day. Thank you.

17. Music is life... Poetry is love. I wouldn't survive without either. Thank you.

18. I cherish my ability to read and write, well. All of my teachers and professors stressed the importance of communicating effectively and I took their words to heart. Thank you.

19. My cell phone is my lifeline. Without it, I'd be a disorganized procrastinator who couldn't remember a thing. Whoever invented its high-tech capabilities and functions, Thank you.

20. The Internet is my Heaven on earth. Google searches save me from ignorance daily. Thank you.

21. I'm finally able to add to my savings account, without subtracting frequently. Thank you.

22. I would have been a very lonely only child, but God gave me a brother. Thank you. 

23. Gas prices are extremely high, but I can afford $40 per week to get from point A to point B. Thank you.

24. I have a roof over my head, a cozy bed, three meals a day and I survived long enough to say... Thank you. 

25. You read all the way down to number 25 and you're still alive. Let us both say, "Thank you". 

Me now...

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Friday, November 11, 2011

Black Beauty Blues

Ask me what it's like to be a woman.

Challenging, yet rewarding.

Now, ask me what it's like to be a Black woman.

A challenging, never-ending struggle of acceptance and equality...

While skimming through some of my older blog posts, I stumbled across my review for the movie, Precious (click title to read). Even after two years, I'm still deeply affected by its raw depiction of a Black woman's battle with fitting into the world's subjective melting pot. I've only watched Precious once since seeing it in theaters. However, I'm frequently granted a front row view that reiterates the same effects of those painful onscreen scars, scattered as leftover fragments and presently existing in my own community. 

This past Sunday, I sadly noticed an unfortunate epidemic. While watching the premiere broadcast of this year's Black Girls Rock on BET, my Facebook news feed was full of updates referencing the coinciding premiere of this season's Real Housewives of Atlanta. I was immediately disturbed by the plethora of Black women who were so eager to share the details of NeNe Leaks' latest shenanigans versus the positive display of honoring successful, phenomenal Black women. 

In an era where most young Black women are plagued by the stigma of popping out babies and pimping the Welfare system, we should expect to see a greater quantity of thriving achievers and a decrease in the magnitude of baby mamas threatening to put their baby daddies on child support. Sadly, a Black man's inability to recognize and cherish a Black woman's true beauty is often her own fault, simply because she does not value her own self or does not possess the confidence to fiercely demand an adequate exchange for her worth.

Additionally, I am saddened by the lack of encouragement for the progressive group of powerful Black women aiming to dismiss the judgmental stereotypes concerning our race. Instead, we'd rather endorse foolishness and elongate petty and damaging drama. We should all dedicate an unlimited amount of effort to developing ourselves and strive to be better daily.

It is time to eliminate those Black Beauty Blues and open ourselves up to the joy of Happy Historic Hues. We all have the potential to be great. I challenge every Black woman to work harder to reverse the cyclical familiarities of societal expectations and make yourselves proud. We must stop settling for the norm and create our own avenues of greatness.

Personally, if I am unable to release the burden of past faults, then I have failed myself and every young Black girl I aspire to set an example for.

"Be more than what you were yesterday, so that you can be prouder of who you are tomorrow."--LRW

"Black women, it is so important that we support each other... we're always an afterthought, but we don't have to be."--Taraji P. Henson (during her Black Girls Rock acceptance speech)

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How Hip is the Hop When the Beat Stops?

I'll never forget the first time I heard LL Cool J's "I Need Love", 2Pac's "Dear Mama", Biggie's "One More Chance", Nelly's "Country Grammar", Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy", Ja Rule's "Put It On Me", Missy Elliott's "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)", T.I.'s "24's" or Eminem's "The Way I Am". I'll never forget the moment I discovered Hip Hop... a remixed version of Poetry, chopped and screwed to accommodate the difficulty of metaphoric precision and smooth syncopation.

Unfortunately, I divorced Hip Hop and buried my love for it around the same time that Nas claimed it was dead, shortly after Soulja Boy popped up on the scene and began to brainwash teens with his "super soaking" craze. I was content with spending my days being comforted by the sounds of melodious R&B tunes... until my favorite artist, Alicia Keys, decided to step away from the spotlight to focus on family.
I immediately developed a strong dislike for artists who blatantly overlooked the fact that they were heavily influencing youth listeners with their angry, street-driven lyrics full of disrespectful derogatory terms, and bragging about material things that they had no ownership rights to. Additionally, I'm disturbed by money hungry Rappers who constantly thank fans for purchasing their music while failing to acknowledge or address the plethora of supporters who can recite their lyrics from memory, but don't possess the ability to construct a complete sentence or verbally communicate their own thoughts and feelings effectively.

Many of these Rappers, while aiming to maintain their street cred and gangstability, are constantly running into trouble with the law and participating in illegal hustles. However, most are saved by the fame of the game because of their so-called "baller" status.
Furthermore, I'm often disappointed when meeting young toddlers who can quickly adapt to learning choreographed dance moves from a Rap video, but struggle while trying to count to 10 or attempting to recite their ABC's without pausing or stuttering. Rappers who are aware of this unnerving circumstance obviously dread the responsibility of leading by example, and they certainly don't deserve the privilege of power.

As a true music lover, I respect all artists and their courage to openly display personal emotions and feelings over a tight beat. But, I'm very selective when it comes to Hip Hop and the artists that I choose to support or abort.

I didn't become an avid listener of Hip Hop again until my brother began to frequently share with me his excitement over today's school of lyricists who deliver witty punchlines and rewind-worthy verses. I have him to thank for introducing me to motivational and consciously aware artists, such as J. Cole and Wale. These two Hip Hop artists recently released albums with a similar theme of hood recollections and factual scenarios wrapped up and specially delivered in a fragile package filled with inspirational messages.
Both album reviews are below:

Album Review: J. Cole - Cole World: Sideline Story

Release Date: September 27, 2011

"I put my heart and soul in this game, I'm feelin' drained... unappreciated, unalleviated," J. Cole raps on the title track of his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, an open invitation for fans and listeners to share in his desire to be heard. The reserved, self-proclaimed "Grown Simba" constantly reps his hometown of
Fayetteville, North Carolina, as he spills raw emotion and sincere lyrics onto the majority of sampled beats that he produced himself.

In 2009, J. Cole was the first artist signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation label. However, he was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch other equally talented newcomers claim their spot in the constantly evolving rap game. Perhaps, this was not an ironic occurrence, as Cole's debut album is an authentic representation of his own personal experiences and struggles, covering the recurrent and important subject matters of abortion (Lost Ones), relationships (Nothing Lasts Forever, Nobody's Perfect, Lights Please), the effects of growing up without a father (Breakdown, Daddy's Little Girl), and the benefits of following your dreams (Dollar and a Dream III). 
The album's official lead single "Can't Get Enough" features R&B superstar, Trey Songz, and the video is currently maintaining its rank on BET's 106 and Park countdown. After releasing a saga of mixtapes, and being cut from his high school and college basketball teams, J. Cole has finally earned his starting position. 

Album Review: Wale - Ambition

Release Date: November 1, 2011

DC native, Wale has quickly claimed his place in the industry as a self-defined Messenger Poet who efficiently communicates lyrics in Spoken Word fashion on his highly anticipated sophomore album, Ambition. His dedication to the "Illest B*t*h" alive stands out as the most influential track as he passionately sympathizes with common sufferings, highlighting the many complications of life for a woman. 

Wale's debut pop influenced album, Attention Deficitreleased in 2009, birthed the singles "Chillin" and "Pretty Girls". After expressing a need to reach an audience that could better relate to his style of delivery and influences, he signed on with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group in early 2011. Inspired by his hometown go-go sound, Ambition is a direct correlation to Wale's background as he incorporates the raw elements of the popular subgenre.  

"Girls say everything that I write smooth... f*ck rap, I get p***y off of haiku," he boldly proclaims on track 7. Full of creative wordage and visual imagery, Ambition is Wale's second attempt at establishing himself as a Legendary Lyricist.
Guest appearances include: Ne-Yo (White Linen - Coolin'), Miguel (Lotus Flower Bomb), Lloyd (Sabotage), Jeremih (That Way), Kid Cudi (Focused), Big Sean (Slight Work), Meek Mill & Rick Ross (Ambition).

“Ambition is the desire to be better than the people who came before you. It’s your obsession to be good or great. How great is your obsession to chase your dream?”

Hip Hop is an ever-changing genre that will, despite Nas' previous claim, never die. However, it is up to music lovers around the world to frequently determine what's worthy of remaining hip. Otherwise, we will continue to hop around the corners of Hip Hop's original foundation. For me, Hip Hop has always existed as an outlet for the poetic release of emotions that serves to inspire, inform, unite and uplift.

It would probably do me justice to separate and clarify Hip Hop's defining elements from the simplicity of "Rap", but true Lyricists possess the ability to solidify their presence and longevity. The "Rappers" who didn't get the memo will eventually hop out of the hip anyway.

What is your most memorable Hip Hop moment? How do you distinguish Rap from Hip Hop? Who is your favorite lyricist and why?

Sound off...

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Beating from Cheating

In the words of Keri Hilson, "every woman has a breaking point"... but exactly how long it takes us to crack is an ongoing ambiguous debate.

I conducted a survey this week and solicited responses for the following questions:

What is your definition of cheating? Which specific cheating actions do you believe are/are not forgivable? Have you ever been cheated on? If so, what was your initial reaction?

Based on my compiled data and my own distinctive beliefs, I was able to efficiently produce an authentic definition for the act of cheating: "Intentionally committing a deceitful act, including physical and/or emotional forms of lustful encounters, that will knowingly invite irreconcilable feelings of humiliation, anger, or pain for your significant other."

I have personally experienced the backlash of unwanted discoveries and hidden secrets. Fortunately and unfortunately, my female intuition forced me to pay attention to common signs of fraudulent and conniving activity. Although I was often warned about the cliché assertion, "when you go looking for something you just might find it", I was never resolved enough to understand it.

I faithfully dedicated myself to someone who was undeserving of my affection for almost 7 years. Foolishly naive and suffering from certain aspects of denial, I decided to cope with the agony of betrayal because, I thought, he loved me.

There's a thin line between being forgiving and being foolish. Too many of us women are teetering on the tight rope. Once a woman decides to forgive, she sincerely expects to be reimbursed for all of the heartache and suffering she chose to endure. It should be noted that men can’t handle the strain of being deceived. As soon as they’re crossed, it’s immediately “on to the next one”. But when a man constantly takes advantage of a woman's nature to be lenient, despite the difficulty, and grant second, third, and infinite chances, he will eventually reap the consequences of his dealings.
I am eagerly expecting most men to react with valid rebuttals of equal unfaithful recollections. However, it is my hope that every reader will attempt to completely comprehend my overall perspective. It is evident that men and women were contrarily created to carry out differing roles and responsibilities. Even Steve Harvey admits that "women can't do what men do and expect to still be treated like a lady". I totally concur.
The point that I'm aiming to make is that, because cheating is such a controversial topic, the male and female species may never be able to reach a concrete agreement on what constitutes forgiveness and how that ultimately affects the remainder of someone's life, male or female.

When a cheater realizes his or her mistake, it is often too late for reconciliation, but every situation is different. Furthermore, it remains clear that without the acquisition of willed effort, persistent dedication, and a true commitment to restoring the initial elements of interest that catapulted the attraction, love will undoubtedly get lost in the shuffle of apologetic expressions. Sad to say, many men (and women) aren't built for the challenge of redemption.

In conclusion, I pose the following questions:
Is it possible to regain trust in a relationship once the act of cheating has occurred? How does one overcome the fear of being cheated on again after deciding to forgive and start anew? Once a cheater, always a cheater... or can a cheater change?
Instead of offering to share my own answers for these disputable interrogatories, as always, I'll let my readers be the judge...
*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sideline Superman

Sideline Superman

The armor wearing knight, pick-me-up type when your man ain't doin' right
Every woman needs a Sideline Superman in her life

He's waiting patiently to enter the game
but she keeps wanting more of the same pain
and disappointment
A recurring cycle of abuse
and all he wants is a chance to reverse the hurt
and show her what a real man is supposed to do

Good guys finish last because good girls continue to pass
on all they have to give
We'd rather waste time on the fine guy who approached us first dibs
instead of allowing Clark Kent to use his superpower gifts

A sad story that usually ends with broken hearts
The bad guy crushed her to pieces
while Sideline Superman was sitting on the bench picking up the parts

He would have never made her cry
but when she finally builds up the strength to say goodbye to the bad guy
Sideline Superman is no longer wearing his disguise

She couldn't get to him in time
A bad woman had already become his kryptonite

The game continues and they end up as friends
but neither one can find the strength to start all over again
If only she would have given him a chance from the start
They both could have escaped the effects of a broken heart

The fear of being alone came back to haunt her again
but she's still holding on to the love she has within

Next time she'll know how to handle it right
and if she happens to find another armor wearing knight pick-me-up type
she'll jump at the chance to let him make her his wife
because every Superwoman deserves a Superman in her life

After posting this poem stanza by stanza on my Facebook status updates on Monday of this week, I was bombarded with questions. I have taken the time to address what many have been wondering below:

1. Who is this about? Is this based on a personal experience?

Sideline Superman was inspired by various encounters that I've had with other women throughout my adult life. Stories were shared during conversations about being mistreated by a significant other, complaints about what that significant other isn't doing right and uncertainty about the future of the relationship. In the midst of these exchanges, there was one common problem. Regardless of the issue(s) at hand, the woman (myself included) still made the decision to stay and deal with the repercussions of constant disappointment and let downs.

2. What exactly is a Sideline Superman?

A Sideline Superman is a respectful, platonic male friend who takes the time to listen to you express your hurt, provides unbiased advice, and attempts to understand and sympathize with what you are going through. He genuinely cares about your happiness and will unselfishly support your decision to be with someone else, even if he has developed romantic feelings for you.

3. Do you have a Sideline Superman?

Based on the above stated definition, yes. I have three close male friends (boy besties as I like to call them) whom I've never been romantically involved with. They have all supported me over the years and continue to actively serve in their positions as my personal bodyguards.

However, I am currently in love with someone who is attempting to be my real-life Superman. No cartoon effects, no actual superhuman abilities, just an honest, caring man doing everything in his power to love me the way that I need to be loved. While struggling to reach my own comfortable level of Superwomanhood, I'm striving each day to be more understanding and less selfish so that God can position the layout for us to live happily ever after on our own personalized Krypton planet... and together, we will both save the world.

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*

Saturday, October 15, 2011

SMS - Single Mother Superwoman

Life is about progression... changing... transforming. During those reconstructive periods, we all sometimes stumble and make mistakes. Mistakes that eventually become beautiful blessings.

My parents have been together for roughly 30 years. They decided to get married on my brother's birthday in 1995. I was 8 years old and on that day, he was turning 3. We both were granted the privilege of witnessing the two people we loved most in the world pledge their love to each other in front of God and many others.

Although they did not follow the traditional path of marrying before having kids, every day they strive to set an example of how to establish and maintain a model version of family structure for both my brother and I. Through good times and bad, they've worked hard to escape the traps of their respective childhood disappointments.

Both of my parents grew up in single parent homes. My maternal grandmother raised 6 girls on her own and has never been married. My paternal grandmother shared parental duties with my grandfather and never remarried after their divorce. 

I know many single mothers, and they all have allowed me to develop my own concrete perspective on what it truly means to be responsible for someone else's life. However, I am indeed on the outside looking in and my judgmental opinion may not be valid to those mothers (and fathers) who are more familiar with the firsthand struggles of raising a child on their own. 

Two of my closest friends became unexpected mothers at fairly young ages. Their inspiring stories are below:

Meet Melissa... an intelligent, caring, self-assured woman who found out that she would become a young mother at the age of 16, while still in high school. Her son, Darius, was born in December of 2003. However, Melissa still went on to graduate, on time, and even received a full scholarship to attend the University of North Florida. In 2009, she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Community Health and shortly after, received a job offer to utilize her academic achievements at the Johnson Family YMCA as a Health Educator. Melissa is currently working as a Claims Adjuster for State Farm Insurance, and works hard daily to provide a stable life for herself and Darius, independently and effortlessly.

Meet Ashley... a strong-willed, feisty, humorous woman who found out that she would become a mother at the age of 20, two short years after graduating from high school. Her daughter, Asia, was born in December of 2006. After ending the relationship with Asia's father, Ashley made the bold decision to raise Asia in a healthier environment on her own. In 2010, Ashley received her Associate's degree in Elementary Education from Florida State College at Jacksonville. She currently works full-time as a Customer Service Representative while continuing to pursue her Bachelor's degree. Ashley dreams of becoming a successful educator who lends her motherly tendencies to future students who just might be lacking love at home.

Melissa and Ashley are both products of single parent households. Although they were unable to break this unfortunate worldwide cycle, they are prime examples of motivational mothers.

This blog post is meant to serve as an inspirational boost for other single mothers who may sometimes want to give up when times get too hard. Much like Melissa and Ashley, you are all well deserving of the Single Mother Superwoman title.

Please listen to the musical dedications below:  

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*