KEHLANI. SUICIDE. AND THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD

I’m a terrible suicide survivor. Or at least that’s what it felt like.

Close to three months ago as a result of life’s inertia and an overpowering feeling of losing control, I made the impulsive and life altering decision to end my life.

I wasn’t depressed. I didn’t think about it over and over again in advance. I didn’t send out any unanswered cries for help.

I was simply hit by multiple major stressors, seemingly at once and immediately decided that ending my life made more sense than trudging through my existence, picking up the pieces one by one.

In that instance I walked the block and a half left to my apartment, poured a glass of water and methodically consumed over 40 pills prescribed to me to control the symptoms of my bipolar disorder. Three different psychiatric drugs made their way into my system within seconds and I never thought twice about what I was doing. Afterwards I calmly wrote a letter to my family, turned off my phone, and walked to my favorite path by the Hudson River and waited to die.

Due to what can only be summarized as divine intervention, my lifeless and unresponsive body was found under the George Washington Bridge and thus began what will likely be a lifelong journey to healing and understanding.

I think of my suicide attempt often. The burn marks on my chest from the defibrillator used to bring me back to life, a constant reminder of that fateful day. In February, after a two week hospital stay and upon my release, I just wanted to be normal. I hated the look of concern that dotted the eyes of my loved ones. The “Hey girl, what’s up!” conversations that I spent my lifetime receiving from my friends were now replaced with daily check-ins to make sure that I was “OK”. I recognize now that the people around me were still mourning the loss of the Kasey that they so effortlessly knew and were now figuring out how to interact with this new version of me. This person capable of doing something so utterly inconceivable.

They were afraid. They were hurt. And they were on high alert.

Selfishly it didn’t matter to me; all I wanted was normalcy – no matter what. I began to shun my concerned network of friends and gravitated to those who didn’t know what I had done. I ignored texts, avoided calls, and when I was hunted down I made sure to cut all interactions down as drastically as possible. I rarely spoke about my suicide attempt and I made sure that not a tear left my eye. I was eerily “OK”. My endeavor to end my life seemed like a series of events that happened to someone else and I was just a keen observer, taking it all in from the sidelines like everyone else. I wanted so desperately to move on, even if those around me couldn’t.

As I watched the drama unfold surrounding the young singer Kehlani and her attempted suicide my heart breaks for her. After days of speculation and online bullying concerning her relationship and accusations of cheating, Kehlani is reported to have tried to commit suicide by overdosing. Soon after while in the hospital, she proceeded to upload a photo of herself on a gurney with the caption “Thank you for saving my life” directed to her boyfriend who sat beside her in obvious disarray. Many people slammed her after posting the photo claiming she was using her situation for sympathy, looking for attention and as we so eloquently put it in 2016, “Doing it for the gram”.

I remember my psychiatrist telling me that there are two types of people that attempt suicide; those crying out for help and those who genuinely want to die. I don’t know which category Kehlani falls under, but I do know that her actions and the harsh response following it reminded me so much of my own situation, and the overbearing responsibility of suicide survivors when it comes to those around us. Who can truly judge what qualifies as appropriate behavior following such a violent situation? In the social media saturated world that we live in, maybe the only way she knew how to thank the person that she credits for saving her life was to applaud him publicly. I honestly don’t know, and neither do the people criticizing her actions. People have this warped expectation of how a person should behave after something so tragic, but can anyone truly dictate the actions of another and what qualifies as their healing process? It is difficult enough to begin to recover mentally, emotionally and physically from attempting to take your own life, but having to take on the weight of those around you can be far too much to bear sometimes.

Now multiply that by the thousands chiming in on her life right now.

Individuals must come to accept that the aftermath of an attempted suicide is different for everyone. The healing process may not look the way you imagined and could quite possibly not happen when you want it to – And that’s OK. As a concerned community, our power comes from support, not expectations.

Suicide is quite possibly the most unnatural thing a human being can do. Life is meant to be protected and prolonged, often times by any means necessary. To go against that ingrained instinct to survive is unfathomable to most people. Family, friends, spectators, supporters – everyone is watching and attempting to wrap their heads around the complexities of such actions. I don’t think I ever had the question “Why” hurled at me so often as I did after my suicide attempt. People just want to somehow understand how such a terrible thing could happen; and guess what – on some underlying, hidden, visceral level, us suicide survivors want to understand too. Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy.

So cut Kehlani a break (I’m looking at you Chris Brown).

A young woman felt so much anguish that ending her life felt like a viable option. Let’s focus on that. Let’s focus on surrounding her with love and compassion. Let’s focus on creating a discourse around this topic so that others from the outside looking in who may be considering harming themselves feel supported in such a way that they will reach out for help in their own time of need. Let’s stop victim shaming long enough to realize that either this was a genuine attempt to end a life or it was a desperate cry for help and either way Kehlani needs more than to be the brunt of a joke or a tasteless meme.

Put aside your personal views on what brought her here. Ignore the gossip. Disregard whatever post or tweet that may have raised an eyebrow and let’s collectively support one of our own. Today Kehlani represents the thousands of individuals at their lowest point, just looking for a helping hand; let’s give it to her.
Kasey Woods is a freelance writer, entrepreneur, mental health advocate and creator of the mental health awareness campaign, My Manic Memoirs (www.facebook.com/mymanicmemoirs).

Give Her That D.I.C.K

Give Her that D.I.C.K

The sweetest woman in the world could be the meanest woman in the world. If you make her that way.  You keep hurting her, she’ll keep being quiet. She might be holding something inside, that’ll really really hurt you one day.

On your first DATE you wore your best clothing. You went to the barber shop that day just so you can look and feel like a million bucks. We all know how we feel once we leave that barbershop chair, with that fresh razor straight edge up. You sprayed your body with your finest cologne. Your car was clean from head to toe, with a hint of that new car smell, that you sprayed as you were leaving the car wash.  You actively searched Google for places that were somewhat outside the box of your normal thinking; somewhere you can dine for the evening. You both were equally excited as you stared into each other’s eyes, talking, listening, flirting, charming, laughing, smiling, eating with hopes to end your night staring at your phone waiting for that “I had a good time text.” Ten years later, you look back and wonder what happened to that feeling as you lay in bed on a Friday or Saturday night next to your significant other, watching them fall asleep after a long exhausting work week. Fellas, are you forgetting to DATE your woman? She needs a night out with you where she can get all dressed up. She wants to laugh with you. She wants to you to take her places since you always have a big issue with her going out on the weekends with her friends.

WWE superstar Kurt Angle used to have an expression that went something like this: Intensity, INTEGRITY Intelligence, the 3 I’s as he often referred to it. When it comes to the mind, body and soul of a woman, she tends to focus on one thing as it relates to a man. INTEGRITY. What are you doing, who are you doing it with, why are you doing it, when are you doing it and how are you doing it? Matter of fact, think about that good morning text or afternoon call. Does this sound familiar? Hey wassup? What you doing? How you doing? What you doing later? What time will you be home? I’m actually laughing hysterically thinking about my own circumstances and how frequent these questions come. At the end of the day a lot of women struggle with trusting the integrity of man. If you are spending half of your conversations addressing your social media behavior, the mysterious text messages that you frequently get with no saved names, or your late night disappearing acts with delayed dry text messaging responses, you are raising red flags that will derail any easing on down the yellow brick road when you are seeking satisfaction. In the words of Ice Cube and R. Kelly, check yourself before you wreck yourself, cause when a  woman’s fed up, there ain’t nothing you can do about it. It’s like running out of luck. And it’s too late to talk about it. INTEGRITY.

It’s 5:30pm in the afternoon. You just got off work and your body is screaming for the following: sleep, food or the gym. You have to pick up the kids, go home, and figure out how to do all of the above before your body simultaneously agrees to shut it down. You walk into the house to observe your wife, girlfriend, significant other or whatever you call her stretched out on the couch getting caught up on her favorite reality show. As your nostrils intensely search for  just a hint of something jerked, curried, fried, baked, broiled, barbequed, microwaved, shaked or baked, your brain has come to realization that it was just your imagination. As an amateur you blatantly cry out, “Baby you ain’t cook nothing?”  Ignorantly failing to realize that one question alone dried up the river of life ceasing any possible advancement to wade in the water later in the evening. Fellas let me help you out with something for a second. Big momma and ’em are gone and don’t appear to be returning anytime soon. Women are educated, career empowered, mothers and community leaders, equally if not more busy than their male counterparts. NO way am I saying that women don’t know how to cook nowadays, but the expectation and frequency of this skill set is what I am addressing.  When speaking in a certain love language ask yourself this question:  When was the last time you baked a bean, mashed a potato,  filleted a fish, oodled a noodle? Nothing is more sensual to a woman than watching her man cater to her for a change by setting the dinner table and engaging in a CONVERSATION (that you actually LISTEN to) over something that you have prepared for her, making your quest for Camelot more rewarding. If dinner wasn’t such a powerful tool, then why did you take her out to eat on your first 5 dates when courting her??? Cook her some dinner…

Cleaning is the new form of communication. When a man cleans up after himself, his children and after dinner it expresses a few different things. Watch me work and don’t miss this point. I learned that simply cleaning bottles without being asked or told can really make a woman smile. It expresses to her that you are willing to make the same sacrifices she makes daily. Simple task right? But easily forsaken when the Knicks or Eagles are playing. Waking up and changing diapers in the middle of night is also a shared, silent form of communication. This next example is a big one. After she cooks, you get up and say don’t worry about the dishes you’ll take care of it. Cleaning is a shared responsibility. It eliminates the gender role complex that most modern women in this generation want to HULK SMASH, and it can express a form of appreciation. It took me a while to grasp this concept. All I have to do now is master the art of laundry and I’m golden. You can’t make love on top of a bed full of dirty clothing. CATER to your woman.

When was the last time you really KISSED your woman? She is dying for you touch her soul with your lips in ways that you used to. The touch from your partner is extremely important. It’s not always about sexual intercourse. A kiss good morning, a kiss good night, and kissing while engaging in sexual intercourse can go a long way. I believe that most women enjoy the passion that comes with kissing. Think back to when you both first started dating…

Moral of the story, gentlemen, is simple. You are complaining that your woman has decreased in her wild sexual nature, but you stopped speaking to her needs. The hot, lusty, passionate chemistry that you all shared when you were steaming up the back seat of cars is gone. You need to stimulate her in ways that don’t require sexual advancement. Watch how she responds. While you are looking for SEX from her, she really wants, needs and responds to the D….

Don’t debate me and give her the D.I.C.K… (DATE, INTEGRITY, CATER, KISS)

 

By Mr. NiceGuy
Twitter: MrNiceGuyVSOP
IG: Trev.s.op
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
Like, Follow and Share @thevsoplife Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook

Who Said Good Was Enough?

Rejection is something that everybody is afraid of.  However, when men get rejected a lot more drama is attached to it. It is almost as if we should have a course for men on how to deal with rejection. Think about when a lion chases the fastest gazelle and does not catch the gazelle the first time. That lion can give up and hang its head, or that lion can find another gazelle that is its speed. Just because one woman rejects you, doesn’t mean every woman will reject you. Now I am not saying every man hangs his head after being rejected, but there are men who handle rejection differently. It’s quite hilarious, in fact. Here are a few men on the “rejection reaction spectrum”. There are those that get angry and disrespectful at rejection (we despise these guys), those that take it with a grain of salt (we respect these guys) and then you have a class of men who take it personally. They take it personal because in their eyes, “how could you decline?” More often than not, the men who take it personally are the “nice guys”. The “nice guys” are easily the most bitter, diabolical mother lovers to roam the land (in my 1970’s pimp fromDave Chapelle’s “playa hatas ball” voice). 

Let’s talk about the nice guy.
Recently, I was approached by a man who was very interested in dating me. He was seemingly a nice guy. He was responsible, mature and persistent, so I accepted his offer to take me to lunch. By the time we finished lunch, I had figured out why he was still single at age 34 (no ya’ll we didn’t do anything; ya’ll so nasty.. Keep up). He lacked in many areas (again, stay with me and not the gutter). He could not hold a conversation, he was controlling, he dressed terribly and the list goes on. Nonetheless, after our lunch date, I had decided that I would not see him again. I subtly began to send him signs that I wasn’t interested in him (Him: so when can I see you again? Me: idk I’m pretty busy). He dismissed all my hints. Yes, all of them:  text message read receipt on with no reply, “I’ll call you right back” as soon as I answer the phone, the “I’m working that day too” line and dude still continued to call me. So I had to be straight with him and tell him “bruh, I am not interested”. Do you know after all of that this fool felt like he was obligated to know why I was not interested in him? I channeled my inner big mama like “boi if you don’t get”. Now people, I usually have no problem telling a guy why he is not my choice. It’s almost as if there’s some greater good being accomplished in the explanation. Hopefully, the man can take notes and work on himself  and be a blessing for the next woman. But nah, this man had the nerve to debate me and next thing I know he is on my Facebook posting a status that reads: “Women don’t know how to act when a good man is interested”. I laughed hysterically and screenshotted it for my girls in group chat (you know you gotta share it with the group chat). I was going to be petty and reply “because  your brand of good ain’t enough”; but instead I decided to post an explanation for all the nice guys who question their rejection (Yes, hunty, this is for you).

Synopsis: Why do they take rejection so personally?

Let’s look into this.
Two reasons come to mind as we are just thinking about the topic.  Nice guys hear a lot of women complain about the a**holes that they are in relationships with. Ladies we really have to stop talking about our bad relationships to our guy friends; it’s only hurting us in the end. Nice guys figure that after those women get tired of dating a**holes, they would be dying to meet a “nice guy”. Which is partially true but not totally accurate. Let me explain.  If a woman has dated a jerk, more than likely, she will not be looking for another jerk to replace him. The goal is to upgrade. Somewhere along the line men feel as if being nice is the only requirement to getting a good woman. Completely false. Now operative word here is “good”. A good woman knows her worth; therefore, you cannot approach her with just your niceness. That’s not going to get you a seat at the table; however, it will expedite the revision application. Just like anything else you apply to, you have to understand not all applications will be accepted. Understand that it’s levels (no Meek tho).

On a basic level, women desire a man who is sexually satisfying, has a good personality, attractive, and financially stable. Think of it like a quadrant. Finding a man who has all four is a rarity. In any case, a basic woman with little to no standards would accept a man who only occupies one category, but a good woman or a Queen would require a man to occupy at least 3 of the 4 categories before investing her time. Many nice guys are nice because, quite frankly, they have to be ( I know it sounds harsh, but hear me out). That’s all they have to offer; literally. Being a nice guy doesn’t even mean you fit the bill for the “good personality” sector, it just means you were raised right and have manners. Manners is still important, but is that enough? Are you fun to be around? Do you have a sense of humor? Can you carry a conversation? Can you teach her something new? All things that are taken into consideration when a woman is allocating her time with a man. Back to the quadrant, usually a man with a lot of money doesn’t have to be a complete gentleman, extremely attractive, or even well-endowed to attract women. Simply because  there are women who only want money. Just like a man who is extremely attractive usually doesn’t have to be financially stable, a perfect gentleman, or even a sex guru because there are women who are superficial enough to accept looks as a primary factor. A man who is only nice, well, you need to occupy one other corner for you to even be considered, and even then you would be considered on your potential to fill a 3rd category. The point is you can stand in one corner of the quadrant if you want to, but you will not attract a good woman by doing so.

Nice guys bank on being nice to win women over- leaving the most important aspect out. You must fit the needs and requirements of the woman you are pursuing. So stop trying to chase a superficial woman, who’s not looking for a nice guy. Maybe the woman you are pursuing thinks that it is more important for you to be able to provide, than open her doors. Maybe she requires that her “potentials” have a nice smile. What does she want, and are you it?  Being nice is only enough to get you in the friend zone and we all know what happens in the friend zone.

Nothing… That’s what.

By: MzBakery
Twitter: @MzBakery
#AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
Like, Follow and Share @thevsoplife Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook

I’M JUST TIRED

I’m just tired.

Like all the way tired.

And I pledged. Any of us that pledged or saw somebody pledge, knows tired. I’m that. But not in the same way that I was in the Fall of 2005.

I wrote a couple of pieces on this blog, last year, but I’m not the same person. Let me give some insight into who I am right now. I’m now a dad of a moving human being, which is way different than being a dad of a stationary, crying human being. I’m sure every parent reading this agrees, and all future parents will understand. I also, in an attempt to follow my dreams, got a second job. In about 3 out of the 5 weekdays, and at least one weekend day, I am working about 5 to 6 extra hours on those days. This is a dream position for me, but the time spent there is time spent away from my mobile son, and my loving wife. Speaking of the loving wife, we have joined a new church; we are slowly but surely becoming more involved in the church and I think it’s a great church home. I’m very young in my faith journey, but I feel good in that sanctuary. I have a semi neglected doggie, a brother, parents, and grandparents I don’t talk to enough, friends that I’d love to see and engage with more often, 4 weddings to go to in the next 6 months, a 1st birthday party to plan and execute, I’m trying to keep up with Suits (btw, best show on TV), fighting depression that my Knicks stink AGAIN, and a whole bunch of other things.

 

But there’s a question that can certainly be asked: you have all this good stuff going for you – why the heck are you complaining? Well dammit, that makes me tired as well. I have NOTHING to complain about. I struggle for nothing. My life is great and I’m VERY happy. Like genuinely happy. And yes, I’m physically tired, but I brought that on myself, and frankly, that tiredness (is that a word?) has a large hand in why I’ve become so much happier. But like I said before, I pledged. I can handle the physical exhaustion.

Why am I writing? I’m just so emotionally drained by politics LIFE right now. I’ve never been so emotionally drained by something that doesn’t overtly affect me everyday. Race and politics and privilege starts and ends my everyday. It’s draining. Just today I had a back and forth about whether it’s ok to compliment a woman. To some reading this you might laugh and say of course, but there’s a whole school of thought and feeling that it’s not ok to objectify a woman for how she looks, whether you’re being nice about it or not. And if you want to go down that rabbit hole, by all means do that, but that’s another exhausting conversation. It can stand in line with Beyoncé, and Kendrick, and Black Panthers, and respectability politics, and Bill Cosby, and why black women are single, and super Tuesday, and Trump, and Trump supporters physically pushing a girl who could be my cousin out of a rally, and #BlackLivesMatter, and wait, don’t #AllLivesMatter?, and of course, stupid, but the black folks are getting the brunt of the injustice right now so we specify that particular group being that they are the ones who are being mistreated and killed without justice… stupid, and why don’t I see anybody who looks like me in my workplace, and why doesn’t anyone who looks like me win Oscars, and why don’t black actors have regular roles, and why do white people want to say nigga so bad, and I know that we have more pressing issues but this one is also important, okay, and what’s wrong with praying for Nigeria and for Paris, and what’s in our food, and why is it so warm in the first week of March, and who the FC*K didn’t replace the toilet paper and WHY?! Basically my life has become one long Jadakiss song.

Sometimes I just want to turn off and not have to think about the injustices of the world and specifically the community with which I identify. Some days I want to go through that day and not be made upset by a new article. Some days I just want to wake up and take my son to daycare and go to work and work and pick up my son and take him home and play with him and feed and bathe him and put him to sleep and have sex with my wife and go to sleep myself – WITHOUT being emotionally drained on top of the physical draining that life brings everyone.

I just don’t want to. But then I feel guilty for that because I love my blackness and yours. I also prescribe to the thought that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. So I’ll continue to be emotionally drained, some days more than others; all in hopes of one day not being frightened for my son to leave the house when he’s old enough to do so.

 

By: D. Rubenstien
Twitter: @wildmanjones
FB – IG – Twitter: @TheVSOPLife 
#TheVSOPLife #AreYouVSOP

#FALLINGBLACKINLOVE

#BLACKINLOVE

I’m in love again,
And I have to find the words
To tell you how much I love you.
I’ll be yours forever baby,
And I promise I’ll be true.
I’ve waited for a lifetime
To say to you, “I do.”
I’ll promise I’ll be patient
And I’ll do my best for you.
I promise I’ll be faithful
And make all our dreams come true.
So take this ring
And be my wife.
Be with me until the end of time,
I promise you.

I still remember my wedding vows, that I sang to my wife in front of hundreds of people. I always reflect on that moment and stay #FALLINGBLACKINLOVE.

When was the last time you’ve seen a community of successful, black married couples communing together in perfect harmony, basking in the ambiance of love, professionalism, and laughter? How many networks do you belong to that promote the development and advancement of married couples and family value? In your circle of friends, how many married couples can you look to as an ideal example of love, peace and happiness? I reference all of these questions because truth is there are simply several things people just don’t tell you about marriage. There are so many negative depictions and visual characters that taint the fundamental practice of marriage and distract so many people from its true and genuine purpose. Television doesn’t make programming featuring powerful, successful married couples, with the exception of a few shows that don’t quite last that long. This generation also doesn’t sing about love and articulate through music the beauty that one can see in their significant other. Like an elder would say, back in the day where they made real music, the voice of love would carry couples down the aisle as they danced the night away into holy matrimony. Songs like, Ribbon in the Sky, Here and Now, You and I, At Last, You are so Beautiful, pretty much any song by Luther; I can go on and on. What if Beyonce dropped a new single called All the Married Ladies..(put your rings up)?

What do married people have and need to call our own, so that our community can be celebrated and duplicated? A wise person once gave me some critical advice prior to me making a commitment to marriage by saying, “The key to a successful marriage is to surround yourself with other successful married couples.” I find it interesting how my network of friends and associates are married and we now actually hang out less. Of course the facts of life, between managing a career in addition to raising children, play a vital aspect of delicately balancing time. The fact is, the necessary act of marital communion just doesn’t happen as often as it should. Let’s take a deeper look into this idea. Valentine’s Day is probably one of the most commercialized, slightly overrated holidays of the year. However it gives people a specific rhyme or reason to officially acknowledge and celebrate the love that you have for each other. There is no denying that time is indeed not a friendly resource and usually turns its back on you, especially at the most inconvenient times. However, every relationship needs that time to practice and demonstrate LOVE. Normally, I am very much all in when it comes to Valentine’s Day by doing all the commercialized, traditional romantic things. I am Mr. Flowers, Candy, Teddy Bear, Edible Arrangements, Jewelry and of course fine dining at a fairly expensive restaurant. This year I wanted to experience something different and accepted an invitation from an individual that wanted to organize a community of married couples.

Brandon Frame, CEO of THE BLACK MAN CAN organized an early brunch entitled Falling Black in Love, featuring a group of successful married couples. When I walked into the room I was delighted to be among over 50 married couples that were all elegantly dressed, partaking in a first class brunch.

The room was filled with laughter, uplifting dialogue and shared energy, as each couple seemed to bounce smiles off one another while low key spooning with their significant other. As I sat down enjoying my meal with my spouse, it set a different type of atmosphere and level of comfort. I had a boyishly giddy feeling about me as if this was one of our early dates with a group of random people. I sat back and marveled at this event and said to myself WOW, this is what the power of LOVE feels like. When you combine that ENERGY in one place, it absolutely penetrates the souls of people around you simply by being among the presence of success. Of course we shared stories about how we met with others, and passed the baby pictures around and spoke about the joys and pains of marriage while chuckling at how similar all of our stories were concerning how expensive children are, and how we all desperately need a vacation. Yet we all concluded there is light at the end of the tunnel.

As the panelist began to speak, I sat back and listened to how similar a lot of their stories were and concluded that there indeed can be a platform that can be duplicated in regards to finding a mate and sustaining love throughout the years. Here are few things that people don’t tell you about marriage.

A man that FINDS a wife FINDS a good thing. I laughed hysterically at some of the tales that were told when each couple was asked how they met. However, across the board all couples shared how the MEN actively pursued their significant other until they were given an opportunity to properly court them.

There are no shortcuts in the courtship process. The female panelists mentioned how they had a certain level of expectations from their significant other during the dating phase. They set a bar for their man to continue to be proactive, aggressive and to truly understand the value of their worth.

Every married couple shared the same faith. There was covering whether through Christian or Islamic beliefs. They all agreed it’s impossible to do GODLY activities such as marriage without GOD. One couple highlighted and reiterated how one day she had to simply pray for her husband daily, despite how she felt about her own current circumstances.

Marriage is indeed work and shouldn’t be treated as anything less. People fail to realize that everything that glitters isn’t gold. People want the fancy engagement party, the amazing wedding of their dreams, and live in the honeymoon phase when the facts of life don’t end with those 3 moments. Run your marriage like you are running a business.
Have financial meetings to review your finances
Schedule PTO for your own personal time to relax, relate and release Plan Vacations at least once a year so that the two of you can get away.

Make adjustments throughout the year as time, schedules, money and availability fluctuate CHILDREN CHANGE EVERYTHING. A lot of the couples shared how children changed the dynamics of their relationship. Speaking personally on this matter, it’s so easy to become PARENTS and forget that you are still husband and wife. Parenting can really cripple a relationship if the two of you lose sight of engaging in occasional dating and physical intimacy.

The Final point I would like to highlight is constantly reinventing your relationship. I listened to a wife describe how supportive her husband has been through all of her achievements in life. Everything she wanted to try to personally develop herself he was supportive of that. A quote that she said was, “I can’t make anyone else happy, if I’m not happy myself.”

I believe the restoration of marriage can resolve a lot of problems within the African American community. Marriage is by far one of the more difficult experiences that I have ever embarked on simply because it’s not just about ME. I traded the me in for a WE. Every decision I make directly affects my family, and that is a scary, tremendous responsibility. When marriages go through specific seasons, it is so easy for the DEVIL to use his tactics to infiltrate what the two people share. I’ve seen quite a few of my peers, friends, coworkers and fraternity brothers experience divorce for whatever reason. Statistics show that successful marriage is not a common practice in the U.S. as the divorce rates continue to skyrocket. Now I don’t claim to have the remedy to fix or heal any broken home, seeing as I’ve only been married for 4 short years, and still have no clue what I am doing, but I can say this much. I thank Brandon for taking the time to design a program that brought a community of leaders and successful married couples together in one place at the right time. I know I personally heard some things that I can use to help strengthen my relationship with my wife. That type of support system is what more couples need in this day and age to combat the destruction of marriage. At the end of the day we are all we have. It’s time we all #FALLBLACKINLOVE.

 

By Mr. NiceGuy
Twitter: MrNiceGuyVSOP
IG: Trev.s.op
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
Like, Follow and Share @thevsoplife Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook

In Between The Dash

 

“There’ll be two dates on your tombstone and all your friends will read them. But all that is going to matter is that little dash between them.”- Author Kevin Welch

 

From its inception, Black History Month has provided an opportunity for African Americans to reflect on our rich history and traditions. We remember great leaders and innovators such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party, Carter G. Woodson and George Washington Carver just to name a few. We celebrate accomplishments from the past and share how those triumphs have shaped our present. However, there are still the age old questions.

Questions like “why is such rich tradition relegated to a month?” and “do black people even give a damn about Black History Month?” A few weeks ago, my fellow VSOP brother, Mr. Nice Guy, took a look at comments made by Ms. Stacy Dash who has taken the stance that Black History Month should be eliminated. Now I will not steal my brother’s thunder, but his well-articulated piece led me to consider a different thought.

WHAT WILL MY CHAPTER IN THE BOOK OF BLACK HISTORY READ?

One of the most important elements in history is the present. The present is important because it sets the foundation of what the future will look like. The present will also one day become the past, which teaches valuable lessons of how we came to be who we are and what we need to do moving forward to become who we should be. Black millennials are faced with an interesting challenge, the challenge of crafting what African American history will be, moving forward. As we look at every great moment in black history there is one constant; young people were on the frontlines in defining the movement. As I generally do, I would have any individual of color that is reading this blog to do some self-reflection. As you look in the mirror and think back on your life thus far, ask yourself the following question: “when I leave this earth, what will MY legacy be?”

Gone are the days when we can lean on the legacies of Malcolm, Martin, and other past leaders and expect that to be enough. The time is now for us to consider what our contribution to this world will be in between the dash. The dash that I am referring to is every single second, minute and hour that you have on earth before you take your final breath. Will your dash be full of self-doubt, pessimism, great ideas that never get fulfilled and complacency? Or will you channel the spirit of your ancestors and be an innovator, goal achiever, dream fulfiller and community builder? My hope is that you will choose the latter and that a fire is ignited within you that can never be extinguished. In order to sustain your flame, you must be willing to stay the course and persevere through any obstacles that you face. History makers do not quit at the first sign of challenge; instead they work a little bit harder as the stakes get higher.

Gain a deeper and more intimate knowledge of your ancestral history, so that you do not have to rely on someone else’s narrative to define you. The more that you understand where you came from, the easier it is to navigate the path of where you are going.  Once you identify what you want your legacy to ultimately be, go after that goal with enthusiasm, an open mind, and vigor. Prepare yourself to be successful at building your legacy and surround yourself with individuals that can help you to build your skillset, motivate you when times get rough and challenge you when you need to be. Develop and maintain a “fighter’s spirit” because every chapter of your life will not be glorious; every great story has a bit of adversity.

Remember that the successes and failures of the past help to give perspective to our current situation, but it is our responsibility to define how our people we will be viewed in the future. Your presence in the annals of black history is important and it matters. YOU are the next chapter in the history book and YOU have the power to control what your page in the book will read. So today I challenge you to be bold, brilliant, unapologetically black and unapologetically proud. I challenge you to be better than you ever imagined that you could be and to create a network of like-minded individuals that will take our people to the next level.

My last challenge is simple, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE SUCCESS THAT IS WAITING FOR YOU. In the words of Marianne Williamson: “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” Do not be afraid of that light, because that light is truth, that light is freedom, that light is success and that light is opulence.

Be blessed my people.

-Tai D. Richardson
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
Like, Follow and Share @Thevsoplife Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook

Ten Minutes On The Stoop: Being Broke Is Better

The Stoop! The most legendary place in the urban community. Depending where you are in the world you may call your stoop another name: porch, foyer, front yard, and if you’re West Indian your veranda.  The stoop is where most millennials spent their time. It’s where we laughed, cried, played, and participated in some of the hardest conversations of our lives. So of course it’s only right that we create a column called “Ten Minutes on the Stoop”.

 

So, if you’re reading this welcome to the stoop.

 

Okay, find your spot on the stoop. Let’s talk about the Grammy’s. More particularly let’s talk about the “Rap Album” of the year award that Kendrick Lamar won. Yes, we can say he is very deserving but I don’t think his album was as impactful as 2014 Forrest Hill Drive.  Let’s face it the year 2015 has been the awakening of a golden period for new age for music not just hip-hop. We’ve been blessed with great music that is easily resemblance of 1996 (arguably the best year in hip-hop history). Now I know you’re reading saying to yourself NO WAY but really, compare the music and you’ll agree. Even though there was as a lot of great music put out I want to discuss a song that really describes what the Millennial generation is going through which ultimately should have sealed the deal for J. Cole to win at least one Grammy.

J. Cole’s “Love Yours” is exactly what society needed to hear. Now for the record J. Cole’s whole album can easily be the soundtrack for every millennial life who graduated from college and trying to obtaining opulence. However, let’s just dissect a few bars from this song. Cole jumps on the track and says Love Yours! “Heart beating fast let a n*gga know that he alive fake n*ggas mad snakes snakes in the grass let a n*gga know that he arrived.” This line describes the experience every young professional on the fast track to moving up in their career feels. It’s like a constant paranoia and  CYA’s (CoverYourAss) that you have to be aware of while advancing in your career. People you thought genuinely cared about you and your career’s progression really don’t! Eventually you constantly find yourself assessing their loyalty; it’s maddening. If you experience this you know that it’s overly draining and annoying.

 

Now Cole goes into a line that truly encompasses this obsession of  instant gratification that the millennial generation struggles with. “Don’t be sleeping on ya level struggle There is Beauty in Struggle ugliness in success”. Listen, as millennials in the professional world we’re always trying to figure out what we can do to get better and sometime we get frustrated with our struggle not knowing that it is our very struggle that makes us who we are. Cole let us know that there’s a beauty that evolves in us as we struggle and the “ugliness in the success” is all the nonsense that comes along with being success. So don’t sleep on your level because you’re doing what you have to do, so trust your process!  The next three quotes from the song pretty much sums up life as we know it. “The good news is you came a long way the bad news is you went the wrong way”, “I think being broke was better”, “No such thing as a life that better than yours”. All three quotes speak to the apprehension in our careers versus our passion. We do not want to devote all of our energy to something that we are not madly in love with and realizing that we went the wrong way. Funny thing about the these quotes is that it is coming from someone who we think has it all and he’s telling us indirectly that he was happier when he was broke. So stoopmates, remember love your life to the max cause there’s no such thing as a life that is better than yours!

 

More Dope Songs For The Soul V.S.OP Approved: K. Lamar “King Kunta”, J. Sullivan “Mascara”, Wale ft J. Cole “The Pessimist”, and Lupe Fiasco “Blur My Hands”.

By: #SlickStarks

Twitter: @Barrettr2

IG: TheVSOPLIFE

#AreYouVSOP

 

Get in Formation: From Stacey Dash to Beyonce, you really don’t care about black history!

Beyonce broke the internet and the hearts of many white people when she release her latest single, “Formation”. She sent even more people into cardiac arrest after performing this single for the halftime show on Superbowl Sunday. Following critiques of her performance, video, and lyrics,  many found themselves defending the queen bee and all things black. Black pride and activism flooded the internet. Why does time always reveal an opportunistic moment to revolutionize a distinct appearance of malicious intent? Is black culture only hardwired to unite during seasons of oppression and tyranny? “Say it Loud, I’m black and I’m proud” filled our spirits up with a pride; so fulfilling that it raised a united fist to the heavens.

Since this black panther inspired performance, everyone likes “their baby’s hair with baby hair and Afros” Beyonce’s video highlights police brutality and the strain relationship between black communities and law enforcement. It seems like the most honorable times for African Americans came during a period in our lives where we mattered the least to this civilization. Whips screamed across our backs. Sweat drenched the dirt and dusty gardens as seeds were watered only to be plucked by our blistered fingers. A nation under GOD was built off the backs and labor from black faces. Bills, laws and civil rights were written in blood as a result of people sick of living a life that was unjust, as well as unfit for humanity.

Our culture, our legacy should be told by us and should never be written as HIStory. Now let sit back for a moment and reflect on Stacy Dash. Now Ms. Dash may very well be one of GOD’s most beautiful creations. As fine as she is, I find it terribly difficult to boyishly admire such a disappointing public figure. Let’s address the misguided truth that escaped her lips without clear thought. During an interview Stacy made a comment that referenced the abolishment of Black History month, referring to it as “culturally biased” and “UnAmerican”…. As she continued to dig her own grave with black people, and has no desire to renew her “black card” which was revoked sometime in 2015.  Stacy’s words, although completely IGNORANT bare some relevance for discussion. A few years ago, I questioned the motive and intentions of our people by saying, “the only way we as African Americans would appreciate Black History month is if some lobbyist or politician called for the abolishment of its recognition.” As I sit on Facebook and other social media outlets, I am reading the outrage, the memes and status that are currently trending about this topic. As I observe and recognize people’s right to be upset with an African American woman cosigning the abolishment of black history month I also find myself in a predicament. I feel as if Black History month is very undervalued and not appreciated by the masses. It’s even more alarming to hear this coming from a black woman. The question really is, what if Black History month was officially removed and no longer nationally recognized. Let’s examine this a little further.

When was the last time any of us really celebrated Black History Month in all the magnitude and glory that we celebrate any other moment of history? More people get together for Cinco de Mayo and St Patrick’s Day to honor another culture’s history that we don’t even understand (or care to understand). Yeah, you can make the argument that both days celebrate with libations. Let’s be real everyone loves a reason to drink excessively, but in the same breath I have no problem sipping some cognac on Frederick Douglass’ birthday (kidding not kidding). The sad reality is many African Americans fail at recognizing black history month and couldn’t even tell you much out about black history.

Now, hypothetically speaking, what if black history month was abolished? How would that make you feel? What would miss in honoring the month? What traditions would become lost by your own doing? I wonder what Carter G Woodson would say to Stacy Dash? If you are reading this last sentence and wondering who Carter G Woodson is you and Stacy Dash have more in common than you think.

As someone that actively honors and respects the history that our ancestors endured I use February as a privileged opportunity to publicly pay homage to our culture. Many people question the motive of black history month being the shortest month of the year in addition to sighting that black history month should be studied all year. Although these opinions are very much so true February is the shortest month of the year, but that is not the reason why it was chose to be black history month. The month was chosen because of Fredrick Douglas’ and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday being in the same month. Even if you did know why,  you should still appreciate the fact that we have one month to enlighten the world about the struggle and progress that Black People have overcome. So many people are in absolute denial or choose to remain ignorant about the contributions that we have made over the years.  I am a Christian, male, that celebrates Easter and Christmas on nationally recognized days. In spite of the fact that  Christ should be celebrated, studied, and worshiped every day. I adopt the same principles to that opinion and choose to proactively celebrate a month that is by no means culturally biased or un-American.  People make comments and ask questions like, there isn’t a white history month so why should there be black history month? Ignorantly failing to ask the question why we had to instill black history month in the first place. That inquiry alone lets me know the depth of knowledge and lack of understanding on how strategic HIStory tries to write US out of it. There is nothing culturally biased about taking time to acknowledge historic FACTS that are clear defining moments in American History and should be studied by EVERYONE. So while you all organize your thoughts on social media about Stacy Dash, and Beyonce take a pause for the cause and ask yourself, would you miss Black History Month if it was gone? Who’s the real sell out?

 

Just in case you fit that category let us guide you into some suggestions and help you celebrate black history month the V.S.OP way.

Here are ten ways to celebrate Black History Month the V.S.OP way:

  1. Read a book that celebrates or articulates African American Culture. A few recommendations: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Message to the Black Man, Roots, The Souls of, Black Women in White America just to name a few
  2. Attend a local Black History month program. Use your resources and find out what’s going on in your church or community.
  3. Organize a soul food potluck with your friends preparing all the traditional and cultural foods from many nations.
  4. Sit down with your family and watch a historic African American biography, or documentary that highlights the true struggle of black history in America
  5. Everyday research a black history fact and share it with your peers via social media. Create memes and other trending ways to pass along the information.
  6. Have a sit down conversation with the oldest member of your family and have them reflect on memorable times that they experienced growing up during their years of life.
  7. Teach your children something about black history. Lord knows the school systems aren’t doing that. Educate them on who people are and how significant African Americans have been to our society.
  8. Support, refer and spend money in black owned businesses.
  9. Watch a black film with a group of friends and have a discussion.
  10. Organize, or participate in a march or demonstration that celebrates  black history month.

 

By Mr. NiceGuy
Twitter: MrNiceGuyVSOP
IG: Trev.s.op
#AreYouVSOP

V.S.OP Spotlight: “Cut From A Different Cloth”

The Virtually.Seizing.Opulence (V.S.OP) team is happy to introduce to some and present to others, Mr. Tommie Lark, Jr. the Chief Executive Officer of Superego, LLC. Tommie was born and raised in Massachusetts.Some would say that the odds were stacked against him from the time of conception, as he was born to two teenage parents. Things become harder for Tommie when he was seven years old. His father was murdered, leaving his 24 year old mother with two young children to raise.

Despite the early traumatic loss that Tommie experienced, he excelled as a student and joined the Amherst Chapter of “A Better Chance” (ABC), a college preparatory program. In addition to his success in the classroom, Mr. Lark also experienced great success as an athlete. His prowess as a scholar athlete led to him being accepted into the prestigious Wesleyan University, where he served as the captain of the track team and went on to be a four-time All American Triple Jumper.

While balancing his coursework and a rigorous training schedule, Tommie found time to join the Beta Beta Chi Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. Phi Beta Sigma is an international Fraternity founded on January 9, 1914, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC. As a member of the Fraternity, Tommie utilized the leadership skills that he gained at an early age and served as the President of his Chapter for two years. In an interview with the V.S.OP team, Tommie shares how he overcame the adversities of being born to teenage parents and losing his father to go on to become a college graduate, All-American athlete and up and coming entrepreneur.

V.S.OP: “Tell us about your journey. How did you get into the industry that you are in?”

TL: “I am someone who came from nothing, born in a society where most that looked like me would be predisposed to drugs, violence and poverty. I somehow fell into the fashion industry, but I am using my brand and movement to redefine culture and make sustainable living more accessible to underrepresented millennials.”

Tommie truly believes in the old mantra that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and he attributes much of his success, both personally and professionally, to individuals that served as mentors and role models for him.

TL: “Coming from nothing, I am grateful and know the importance of giving back. I would not be where I am today without the support and guidance of many along the way including the staff of “A Better Chance”, my coaches and the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated.”

Defining your purpose can often be difficult to do. People spend a great deal of time trying to establish who they are or to make sense of what they are placed on this earth to do. Tommie believes that he is living in his purpose and is using his craft to inspire others to achieve greatness. He also envisions himself as a barrier breaker in the fashion industry and has established lofty goals for Superego, LLC.

Coming from nothing, I am grateful and know the importance of giving back. 

 

V.S.OP: “What makes you do what you do?”

TL: “My purpose in life is to do what I do. I was given a gift, destined for greatness. It is my duty to give back and uplift our youth, paving a path for them to have a more positive future.”

V.S.OP: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

TL: “In 10 years I would like to be a successful business owner that is known for changing the very fabric of reality (making hemp the new standard for t-shirt as opposed to cotton). I would like to have concept stores around the world, connecting the dots and empowering creatives to live their dreams. I would eventually like to start my own foundation or non-profit organization to give back to youth in underprivileged areas.”

V.S.OP: “What legacy do you want to leave behind through your craft?”

TL: “(BE)lieve in (YOU)rself. I want to leave this earth knowing that I have made an impact, knowing that my children and grandchildren will be born “Cut From A Different Cloth.” I want people to feel comfortable in their own skin, knowing that life’s a journey of creating yourself. Do what makes you happy and never let anyone get in the way of your dreams.”

Success is not easily attainable and this is even more evident in companies trying to establish themselves in major industries that have been historically dominated by larger corporations. The V.S.OP team inquired as to the challenges that Mr. Lark has faced as he seeks to “change the very fabric of reality.”

(BE)lieve in (YOU)rself. I want to leave this earth knowing that I have made an impact, knowing that my children and grandchildren will be born “Cut From A Different Cloth.

V.S.OP: “What are some obstacles that you have faced in pursuit of your goals?”

TL: “I was born to lose, but built to win. Born in poverty to high school sweethearts, losing my dad to violence as a child. Raised by a single mother working 3 jobs to provide for my siblings and myself. I was able to get over all of the obstacles in my way. Currently, a major obstacle that I am facing is building a brand from the ground up and spreading awareness. As a small business, working capital is always an issue, but we continue to work with the means that we have in order to get to the next level.”

Seizing opulence is not only about achieving success, but making an impact while doing so. Those that are living the “opulent life” are individuals that intend to use their personal brands to excel within their industries while shifting the social conscience of everyone that they encounter. Mr. Lark was candid in sharing that he hopes to inspire future generations and create a better living environment for them through his company’s success.

V.S.OP: “What does your craft mean to you?”

TL: “My craft is everything to me, as I am set out to literally change the very fabric of reality. I am introducing a sustainable alternative to the very wasteful fashion industry in a way that makes it ‘cool’. I want to appeal to the youth, educating and empowering them to make conscientious decisions that impact their everyday lives. Through our clothing we are empowering society, the environment, and in turn, our economy.

V.S.OP: “If there is one piece of advice that you could give a young person looking to get into your industry, what would it be?”

TL: “One piece of advice that I would give to a young person looking to get into any industry would be to study the greats and become greater. Complete your goals and value the process. Be patient and persevere through it all! Hard work pays off, so work hard and never give up!”

The V.S.OP team is happy to share that at the time of the interview with Mr. Lark, his company had recently launched a kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000. The campaign was a major success and Superego, LLC met their goal! Mr. Tommie Lark is the epitome of resilience, perseverance and creativity. He is an up and coming leader in the fashion industry and is certainly living the “opulent lifestyle”. Tommie Lark, we salute you for all that you represent and for being “Cut From A Different Cloth!”

For information on Tommie Lark, Jr. and Superego LLC, please see below:

Superego: www.superegoclothiers.com
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram: @SuperegoWorld
Personal Twitter: @TommieCFADC
Personal Instagram: @T_Larkington
Email: TLark@SuperegoClothiers.com

Written By: Tai D. Richardson

It Only Took A Pen & A Phone

Write or not to write….that is the question???

Are you questioning if you should journal for fear of having record of this tumultuous time in your life? Are you struggling with getting your thoughts together? Or is “writing” something you just don’t do?

Whatever may be holding you back, I think journal-ing is a great option for a person facing transition in their lives.

 

One thing I must say, journal-ing and writing down what I was going through while dealing with my separation, divorce and even now, post-divorce it still helps! It wasn’t the easiest of decisions to make honestly, because as much as I like to write, I like to read too. So I knew that documenting the hurt, the struggles, the triumphs and even the drama all in a journal (or several journals to be exact), I would at some point go back and read some of these entries. Do you have that same problem, or fear you will do the same thing?

Well, listen, the truth is I did. I did go back and read and in the beginning, it was painful to read. But we are not exempt from pain or disappointment; what we do have power over is how we deal with the trials we will face in life. You can either live in fear and worry about what you “will do” or you can live now and focus on getting through this moment in your life. I decided to continue to journal and vent via writing, drawing, painting, being creative in anyway I felt comfortable. It turned out to be a great decision and an emotional one all at the same time. I really really struggled with some entries versus others. However; when reflecting on what I wrote, I got a sense of peace, knowing though I faced such turmoil and such heartache…I MADE IT.

No one can take that from you. No man, woman, or child. So why not you? START TODAY! Start writing, venting, scribbling, writing poems, collaging, taking selfies. Whatever you have to do to manage all the emotion; do it that. If you have a hard time figuring that out. Start with things that you enjoy doing and do it often. Use that energy to heal: release that stress, anxiousness, pain, and anger.It will be tough some days, but push through!  

Taking ‪#‎Selfies‬ helped me to witness change through my transition seeing my mood, expression and even my hair color/weight change. But seeing the entries from the beginning of my journey until now gives me another reason to smile and rejoice. Once I was able to jot down all the anger and disappointment of what was “happening to me”, I was able to move from the victim-hood mentality and move closer to forgiveness and gratefulness.

So, naturally, my entries turned from angry rants to soothing words of gratitude and delight. Writing what I was grateful for changed my view tremendously. It helped to remind me that I was not where I started and I definitely was growing and evolving! Praise the Lord! Because he knows, none of this is easy. But hard doesn’t mean impossible! With him it is possible. His grace is enough. Follow me on this journey of gratitude and forgiveness.

Order your “Action Speaks” journal today @ http://www.chelamora.com! Start journal-ing and taking your selfies. Remember to follow me @chelamora and @lamoracheheart on Instagram and when you start your selfies use the hashtags #selfie and #selfiechronicles. This is your journey, take hold and be of great courage, you are not alone. Much love.

-Che’