Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Vote Counted, but it Wasn't Enough

Politics is a game of chance. Even when we are aware that results can be skewed, we still take it personally; becoming outraged and reacting in ways that don't quite match our character. 

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, the majority of voters rushed to the polls to cast votes for two popular presidential candidates who had been heavily campaigning and promoting their intended policies for over a year. Democrat: Hillary Clinton and Republican: Donald Trump. I voted early on Sunday, November 6, 2016, and left my local public library feeling relieved, yet unsure. 

The 2016 election was being referred to as the most important election in history, for various reasons. We'd soon find out who would succeed the very first African-American President, Barack Obama.

While watching coverage and hearing reporters claim that almost every state was "too close to call", I prayed my frustrations away and tweeted a few of my rhetorical thoughts:

"So many of us vote just because we have the right to, without truly understanding who or what we're voting for..." 

"When presented with unpleasant options, what's more important: preserving the legacy of our ancestors or moral judgment?"

"It's often hard to decide, especially when registered voters are uneducated and display ignorance when it comes to others' personal beliefs."

"Our votes count and our voices matter, but as minorities, power is hardly ever attainable, for us, in the land of the free..."

With anxiety building and exhaustion taking over, I assumed that I could rest easy knowing that, my top choice, Hillary Clinton, was in the lead, even though Trump snagged 29 electoral votes from Florida, my home state. I fell asleep a little after midnight and woke up on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, at 5AM to breaking news on the television that Donald Trump would be the next President of the United States. Completely floored, I frantically grabbed my phone to verify through other credible sources. There was no error. My vote counted, but it wasn't enough...

Not voting at all seemed to be the best resolution to soothe the conscience of those who did not want to settle on the "lesser of two evils". However, the aftermath proves otherwise. It appears that those who opted out of voting feel the need to justify their stance, perhaps juggling guilt over not exercising their right in order to directly impact the outcome. The fact of the matter is, our votes as citizens are considered, but still disregarded. Ultimately, the Electoral College determines the winner, making citizen voting seem like a useless attempt. 

It's been five days since Donald Trump was officially elected as America's favorite. And for five days, many of us have proceeded as if we're living out a horrible dream, or nightmare, rather. How could a man with absolutely no political experience, a man who publicly insulted women, Blacks, and Latinos, win? One word: privilege. Donald Trump is wealthy and White, providing him double the advantage over the average American. So, who voted for him? And why?


This post-election report speaks for itself, suggesting that Clinton was preferred over Trump, but it does not uncover the truth that, as a country, we have learned to blatantly ignore: racism rears its ugly head when we are vulnerable and unprepared. 

In my position as an educator, I am responsible for the development of opinions. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to discuss politics or religion in the school setting. How do we educate while being secretive? How do we nurture minds while following a code of conduct that only benefits the oppressors? How do I respond when a student jokingly asks me, "Is Trump going to get rid of Black people?"

I attended church today in search of understanding and in need of strength to move forward without any sign of fear. The message was: Maintaining Unity in Church. "If we can maintain unity in church and in our households, we can be united as a nation." Essentially, what this means is we cannot seek  outward unity until we have mastered it within our immediate circles. My prayer is that  #LoveTrumpsHate can grow to represent more than just a united hashtag. Under the leadership of a man who has openly expressed his hate for others and denounced President Obama's commendable victories, at this point, praying for America is truly all we can do... 

May we all be better and enlightened.

LIVE YOUR DREAM

#WriterGrind®

-LRW
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Thursday, August 4, 2016

5 Years of Service: iWrite4orU


Success comes to those who work for it... Five years later, my work is still actively paying off. On this #ThankfulThursday, I am especially grateful for the opportunity to claim success. My accomplishments are not measured by a certain amount of money or level of fame. I celebrate minor milestones as if they are just as important and worthy of acknowledgment.

Reflecting...

When I established my company, iWrite4orU, I had a small vision. I simply wanted to write, whether completing freelance assignments for publications or projects for individuals who did not possess the ability to formulate words into grammatically-correct sentences. That small vision surpassed my expectations and each year I became more driven, more motivated. I wanted to outdo myself; to test my talent(s). As a Poet, I've performed in the Middle East, where government ambassadors are not openly fond of creative expression. As an Author, I'm getting ready to release my fifth book. As an Editor, I've graduated from reviewing short documents to editing 300-page manuscripts. As a Publisher, I'll  soon have eight fiction and non-fiction Authors on my roster. My fees increased to accommodate the magnitude of each request, which has provided some financial stability: a cushion to invest in future goals. Just two months away from obtaining a Master of Fine Arts degree in Entertainment Writing, my desire to write for television is burning fiercely. In order to be fulfilled, I must constantly elevate. I will forever be a student of the craft.

Learning...

At the official end of my start-up stage, I've learned that managing a business begins with passion, but is sustained by faith. I never asked God to make me rich; I asked Him to make me useful. Competition is at an all-time high in the literary industry, and no matter how much I strategize, someone out there has better ideas and something more appealing to offer. I try my best to focus on inspiring rather than constantly asking for things. Now, instead of promoting, I just reveal the latest news associated with my brand. There was a period when I would flood timelines, practically every hour, with all-about-me updates. However, as soon as I realized that my purpose is to serve and not to sell, I made the proper adjustments.  

Growing...

So many good things have happened to me as a result of being obedient to my calling, but the bad things are great learning experiences, too. I am at a point in life where I no longer have to choose my career over love. Recently engaged, both are finally cooperating hand-in-hand. See what I did there?

I assume that my growth is apparent, but if it isn't, my hope is that I can continue to be an example of how prayer and perseverance collectively contribute to one's happiness. In conclusion, thank you. Yes, YOU. For your encouragement, for your support, for caring about what I have to say, for reading my words, for believing that a once-shy girl from Jacksonville, FL could become confident enough to make her mark on the world. 

"If you're living without giving, your talents are null and void." -LRW

Be sure to check out my new website, for Aspiring Writers and First-Time Authors: www.WriterGrind.com. Subscribe and purchase an LYD T-shirt!



LIVE YOUR DREAM,

#WriterGrind®

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lemonade: Beyoncé's Lyrical Memoir



No matter how much you may hate Beyoncé, you've got to put some #respeck on her name for #Lemonade and appreciate the artistry. It's more than just a visual album; it's a lyrical memoir that highlights the pain of infidelity and showcases a scorned Black woman's journey to forgiveness. In the hour-long short film, which debuted on HBO last night at 9PM, Beyoncé is questioning and dissecting the meaning of commitment while struggling to comprehend her partner's transgressions. 

"I whipped my own back and asked for dominion at your feet... I bathed in bleach and plugged my menses with pages from the Holy book, but still inside me coiled deep was the need to know: Are you cheating on me?" Expressing her suspicions via a mixture of Spoken Word poetry penned by Warsan Shire and a wide range of genres, from story-telling Country to raw and ratchet Hip-Hop to soulful R&B ballads, Beyoncé reveals the depth of Jay-Z's often-speculated betrayal, casually referencing an unnamed mistress, mostly assumed to be Rachel Roy:

"Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks..." 

"If it's what you truly want, I can wear her skin over mine, her hair over mine, her hands as gloves, her teeth as confetti, her scalp, a cap..."

Although the world has crowned her as Queen Bey, crooning through multiple rounds of heartache in verse, Beyoncé also informs us, "I'm not too perfect to ever feel this worthless." Finally confronting her daddy issues, she offers a slight understanding of how she recovered from the embarrassment caused by a father whom she once admired, yet ended up suffering the same fate as her mother. Commemorative lyrics from her first solo album, Dangerously In Love, come to mind, "I want my unborn son to be like my daddy... I want my husband to be like my daddy... There is no one else like my daddy." It is well known that Mathew Knowles crushed his daughter's image of the ideal man. There have always been gaps in watching Bey's life unfold, but now, she's inviting us in to witness all that she has endured and overcome. Redemption is the goal. Her father surprisingly makes appearances in intertwined home videos shot with her and Blue Ivy, respectively. 

Digging deeper into the root of unfaithfulness set off by the notion of generational curses, Beyoncé indirectly addresses marital conflicts, threatening to leave with an "I ain't sorry" goodbye anthem, then, deciding to stay because her grandmother told her that nothing real can be threatened. In the middle of the indecisiveness are support group cameos from Black women in Hollywood, including but not limited to: Serena Williams, Zendaya, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Amandla Stenberg.

"True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption and my torturer became my remedy. So we're gonna heal, we're gonna start again. You've brought the orchestra, synchronized swimmers. You're the magician. Pull me back together again the way you cut me in half. Make the woman in doubt disappear. Pull the sorrow from between my legs like silk, knot after knot after knot..."

This album, collectively, is an ode to a lineage of strong women; a dedication to descendants; a blueprint for adolescent girls searching for their identities; an elongated metaphor depicting the act of turning lemons into a popular, Southern drink. 

"Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked the deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother?"

Mothers of slain Black male teens, Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, never forgetting that their sons' futures were stolen, present in the film, holding framed pictures as a necessary reminder that #BlackLivesMatter, then front and center listening to Bey sing about Freedom. 

"The nail technician pushes my cuticles back, turns my hand over, stretches the skin on my palm and says I see your daughters, and their daughters."

Despite record-breaking album sales or the unsolicited power that she possesses over her Beyhive, Blue Ivy is clearly Beyoncé's greatest achievement. Candid memories of her innocence are shared, perhaps to signify that she will never know the grief of being the product of a single-parent home, because Mommy and Daddy believe in the vow of 'till death do us part'; forever is the only option.

"Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind, found healing where it did not live, discovered the antidote in your own kitchen, broke the curse with your own two hands."

Appreciation of ancestry echoes loudly here, proving that women have the authority to transform weakness into might. And with potent poetry, such as: "Dear Moon, we blame you for floods", how much deeper can it get? But it does. Lemonade overflows with candor, displaying the sweetness of beautiful moments, as well as the bitterness that derives from a spouse's mistakes. However, all is forgiven, as if the inciting incident that sparked the film's array of vivid, pictorial, and thematic imagery never occurred. 

"Baptize me, now that reconciliation is possible."

Queen Bey concludes the secrets within her musical diary by singing: I found the truth beneath your lies / and true love never has to hide / I'll trade your broken wings for mine / I've seen your scars and kissed your cries...

After dispelling rumors of a pending divorce (wedding day and permanent tattoo marking flashbacks) and a staged pregnancy (a close-up of her protruding belly with the camera panning to her actual face), the film ends with Beyoncé dancing in a backyard, joined by her husband and daughter, holding and releasing their hands in a circle, smiling at them, owning her happiness, letting us know that she's still drunk in love and unapologetically blaming it on lemonade, a concoction that likely helped birth the essence of family; a symbol of togetherness; an original liquid that can be created from scratch upon request. None of us may use the same measure of ingredients, but we all have what it takes to make the taste unique, the ability to quench our thirst with no need for an explanation, as the pardon of any offense is understood and the flavor remains intact... like hearts do, even after they are broken. 

*Lemonade was released via Tidal immediately after the HBO special; however, some sites are reporting that the album will be available via iTunes on Sunday before midnight.

-LRW

#WriterGrind®

Thursday, March 17, 2016

5 Things I Learned While Living Offline for 6 Weeks



My life consists of Teaching, Writing, Editing, Studying... Not necessarily in that order, but the level of responsibility is equally balanced. So, I forced myself to take a break from social networks throughout the entire month of February, leading into March. 

With numerous classroom observations, a growing iWrite4orU workload, demanding online coursework and a quickly-approaching final deadline for my fifth book, I needed to focus. Seriously. No distractions. Period. Overall, I succeeded, but I did sign in to Twitter to live tweet during #TGIT. 

While hibernating, I was able to complete four editing projects and I aced my Character Creation and Development course, resulting in an overall 3.63 GPA. I'm halfway through Full Sail University's online MFA program and closer to awakening a new dream of writing for television. The recent stress has been lifted and I can breathe easy again. Now that I have reactivated my social media accounts, I must not reignite the habit of dissecting other people's lives, or give those people opportunities to freely evaluate mine. Even though I am oftentimes willing to share details about my personal experiences, my privacy will never be relinquished. 

5 Things I Learned While Living Offline for 6 Weeks:

1. It's possible to have more than one calling. 

First of all, I'm excited to announce that I received a Highly Effective rating on my formal observation. As a first-year teacher, that's equivalent to winning a Grammy or an Oscar or The Pulitzer Prize (which is on my to-achieve list). It was not an easy feat. Entering a Title I school mid-year, assigned to students with extremely low standardized test scores, the pressure was on. I was initially hired to teach English, but after an unexpected personnel shift, I was asked to take over a Reading position. I willingly accepted.

"You're killing it!" were the exact words spoken by the Assistant Principal who monitors me closely to ensure that I am properly applying the curriculum and receiving all the support that I need. A natural worrier, I was shocked by the feedback. But, mostly proud. I am a Writer. And now, I am also a Highly Effective Teacher. It's documented on my professional record. And it's a requirement that I will strive to consistently accomplish.

146 students (give or take due to far-from-perfect attendance) rely on me for more than just an education. A few days ago, I had to console one of them. Her buttons were being pushed by a classmate in a different class period. Security escorted her to me, in tears, based on her request. I helped calm her down, though it took her a while to explain: "Ms. Williams, she keeps bothering me and I ain't do nothing to her! She's a Senior and she acts so childish! If I get into another fight, I'ma get kicked outta school and I'm tryna keep that from happening." After explaining the benefits of being the bigger person, having the courage to walk away from drama and focusing on what's more important academically, the student promised me that she would try her best to stay out of trouble. Since that day, I've watched her, reminded her, and encouraged her. 

This particular student works two jobs because, in her words, "I want my own money and I don't wanna be a burden to nobody." She craves independence. Yet, she's only 17. I want so badly to tell her that she has plenty of time to grow up; to enjoy her youth while she can; that adulting can wait. But, I understand that her route to freedom is via mastering the art of taking care of herself. It's a tough pill to swallow, but my current full-time role is quite complex. All 146 of my students are in jeopardy of not being able to graduate. From comprehension to behavior, their issues were not compassionately addressed before we were introduced. I am their last chance...

In just three short months, I have become more than just their Reading teacher. I am a counselor, a confidant, a pro bono consultant. They tell me things that they may not feel comfortable telling their parents. I've gained their trust. I've earned their commitment. They don't want to disappoint me. I don't want to fail them. We've generated a dynamic that is extraordinary. I reflect on my small victories in the classroom constantly. I'm so emotionally invested, it's frightening.

"When I'm helping these kids make sense of their lives, everything about my life makes sense to me." - Quote from the movie Freedom Writers #iTeach

2. Physical health is just as important as mental health.

I'm "thicker" than I've ever been, presently weighing about 150 pounds. Attempting to be proactive about it, I set a 30-day fitness  goal. My very own version of March Madness:

(Daily)
50 Squats 
50 Crunches 
1 Mile Run
No Fast Food
Drink at least 4 Bottles of Water

Struggling, but determined, the results can be mildly seen. I'm not aiming to lose weight, just toning. I've never had severe body image issues (other than wishing for smaller breasts). As a former athlete, the realization that I am technically out of shape has begun to sink in. Mentally, I am stable, but my physical health matters, too, and I need all the energy that I can muster for Teaching, Writing, Editing, Studying... 

3. "I'll sleep when I die" could've actually killed me.

I am a previous member of #TeamNoSleep. But these days, I value rest. My body can't function the way that it should if I am not allowing it to be still, to recharge. I nap for about an hour or two immediately after leaving my classroom. My students are a rare breed. They desire my full, uninterrupted attention. They exhaust me... in a welcomed way. 

After my nap, I usually wake up to a packed list of things to do, well-organized on my calendar(s): the one on my iPhone, the erasable one hanging up on my desk at home and on my three laptops. Yes, I just may have obsessive-compulsive disorder when it comes to orderliness. But with everything God has called me to do, I can't waste any spare time.

4. Time cannot be controlled. 

I am constantly adjusting my schedule, trying to map out my day accordingly, leaving no space for idle activity. However, time never stops. I must frequently realign myself with where it has gone in order to stay up-to-date. It's frustrating. It's challenging. It's... 

5. ...great to be missed, but better to be remembered.

There are a few disadvantages of disappearing without notice. As an entrepreneur, my online presence is crucial to my success. But, so is my sanity. I am most deeply inspired when I am secluded, shielded from chaos and protected from negativity. Ironically, one of my biggest fears is being forgotten. I've worked hard to create a unique brand, to establish credibility, to give people a reason to want to follow my lead. Every time I fade away, I risk losing it all, because there's always someone waiting and plotting to steal the spotlight. Literally modeling my ideas, copying my puns and coaxing my supporters. This Maya Angelou quote sums up my post 6-week revelation:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." 

I make people feel capable. I make people feel like their dreams are valid. I make people feel that they matter. My existence is identical to no one else's. My drive cannot be duplicated. My purpose is multi-dimensional. So, the next time I decide to log out for an extended length of time, please don't miss me. Instead, remember me... and LIVE YOUR DREAM in my honor.

#WriterGrind®


-LRW