They Created Me

Let your smile define you
Let your smile define you

In light of everything going on in the media with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and black history month, the staff of Virtually Seizing Opulence felt as if it would only be fitting to post a piece on race relations as it relates to the preconceived notions of African Americans (AA), but in particular the males of the ethnic background.

A half century has passed since the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. captivated a nation with his words that continue to inspire a people longing to truly bask in the beauty of diversity but, has the dream truly been fulfilled, or are African Americans in particular still striving to see the dream materialized? This dream echoed by Dr. King, in modern America has become what Langston Hughes would consider “a deferred dream ”. It would be unfair of us to blame you for being among the naive, even with increased access to resources that were limited or did not exist, AA males are infiltrating corporate America and various sectors of our nation at much higher volume than their forefathers. It would be silly not to believe that African Americans have achieved far greater outcomes than the late Dr. King expected in our short history as free citizens in this country; or have they? If African Americans are still trying to achieve the dream, at what cost are they doing so?

Perceptions and impressions are salient factors when it pertains to people’s image of an individual or groups. Once an impression has been made or perception decided, whether positive or negative, it is a humanistic trait to permanently associate a preconceived idea with the image of this individual/group. Knowing the power of perception and impressions as it pertains to the image of an African American (AA) male can sometimes be confusing. Our image is synonymous with negative protrayals throughout media (i.e. rappers that objectify the black female body and use profanity every 3rd word, uneducated athletes with false senses of entitlement, drug dealers, gang bangers etc.) as opposed to the positive image of AA men (lawyers, doctors, professors, philanthropist ) who do not get as much media coverage. Often times it is easy to dismiss the painful truth that the assessment of the African American male’s character is still closely associated false assumptions made based on race/skin color in lieu of their upbringing, work ethic, values, and lifestyle choices. Assuming that common sense is in fact “COMMON” and thus would lead you to understand all people are not the same (let alone AA males), it is perplexing that these generalizations of being lazy, thuggish, immature, lacking passion or drive, are still at the core attached with the image of black males.

The Parenting methods of African Americans reflect the negative stigma that we are forever attempting to remove. This hold especially true for those methods used in raising AA males in order to adhere to “societal norms” & actualize the dream of Dr. King. We hear and/or see the various methods AA parents used (corporal punishment, scolding, firm handling etc.) to raise these men just so that they can exist in a society that does not readily accept them. If you ask the majority of successful black men to share their stories of their upbringing most will agree that their parent(s) instilled in them similar concepts around appropriate behavior & appearance just to name a few, throughout their childhood. A major idea instilled in these men was that they had to be ten times better than their white counterparts in order to attain similar success in their careers or that they had to behave in a particular manner in order to properly assimilate or be accepted. We are raising these men to feel as if their whole reasoning of existence in this country is to fight for their seat at the “table” as opposed to celebrating their lineage of kings.

An excerpt of Malcolm X’s speech spoke to this mindset of AA people being taught not to love themselves and denounce their traditional looks in order to truly assimilate along with being accepted in mainstream culture. A major point of X’s speech was challenging the thoughts of African Americans, allowing them to question where did they learn that a certain look was more accepted over another. In spite of Malcolm X’s teachings and speeches most African Americans still chose to raise their sons under the belief that they had to do more to be accepted by the mainstream culture due to the color of their skin. Is this manifestation of Dr. King’s dream truly in congruence with his original vision? It seems as though instead AA’s have become complacent with acceptance by assimilation.And in that process it seems as though AA’s are losing the love themselves, for their heritage, for their culture, for their upbringings all in order to truly be accepted.

Even though those who chose to assimilate and stick to the guidelines that mainstream culture has laid out for AA males still face the societal misconceptions of what it means to be an AA male. There have been stories of how an educated AA male had to deliver himself as the “safe black” in order to be socially accepted. There have been stories of micro aggressions that these black men who are not athletes or entertainers end up being typecast victims because of their physical appearance. The media celebrates the physical prowess and aggressive demeanor of the black man but never his intellect. So naturally they are seen as mythical creatures that are only good for entertainment purposes only.

Do you agree or disagree? Please contribute to the conversation!

With Life Comes Responsibility

The holidays and all of its splendor have come and gone. This season has been highlighted with events ranging from ugly sweater and office parties to church musicals and family traditions.  As we get older we look at the holidays in a different light. When we were younger we could not wait to get gifts from our family. The older we become the more we look forward to the abundance of food and for most, the trivial family arguments. When did this change?  When did we grow up?

The fascination of growing and progression has always been on the minds of the young. We are often placing more pressure on ourselves than necessary. We rush everything, don’t you agree?

Let’s reflect! As a child we look forward to becoming a big kid, because big kids get treated much better than little kids. When we were pre-teens we couldn’t wait to become a teenager because then we could finally stay in the house by ourselves without a baby sitter. Besides, no one wants to be pre-anything, we want that experience now! Then we became teenagers, and during these years, we looked forward to two occasions; turning 16 so we can drive or 18 so we can either graduate from high school and then finally get admitted to clubs. Then we enter college and cannot wait to become 21! No more fake I.D.’s, no more begging or stealing your older sibling’s I.D.

After that something happens, its like something clicks in our lives and we want to slow everything down. We start to think of everything ahead of us. What is it about that 21st birthday that makes us think, “Whoa! This needs to slow down?” Usually by your 21st birthday you’re either on the brink of graduating or graduating soon. Maybe that’s it, maybe it’s graduation that causes all of this anxiety. No more looking forward to the breaks in-between semesters, picking classes, homecomings, spring weeks, cramming for midterms finals and random hookups. The closer we come to graduation the more we realize all of our ways of living are going to be disrupted and we have to start all over again! It’s almost as if life is constantly building us up just to push us back down! Don’t believe it, just look at the school structure in kindergarten. We could not wait to become 5th graders because they were the oldest and coolest kids in the school. The 5th graders knew this and enjoyed being on top until it was time to graduate and go to junior high/middle school where they had to start all over again, becoming the kindergartners of the school all over again. Then the 8th graders graduated and entered high school and could not wait to become seniors. See how vicious this cycle is? Then we enter college after high school and become the new kids again just so that in four years we can be thrown into the “real world.”

Well, what happens when we realize that we don’t want to enter into the real world? Like who wants to pay bills and wake up every morning just to look forward to weekends and vacations?! Why didn’t anyone shield us from these vicious realities? All our life we wanted the growth, but forgot what comes along with that growth. In kindergarten we had lots of nap time and not a lot of homework and the older we became, life worked in reverse; lots of homework and less nap time.

Do not rush life, just let it happen. We know, it’s easier said than done, especially when our parents/mentors drilled sayings and alliterations such as “Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” in our heads to make sure we are on track repeatedly. We’ve let those sayings govern our lives to the point believing that it is truth. When in reality sometimes life just happens. In some occasions we can prepare for what life gives to us and the rest we try our bes to make due. The one thing we all should understand is with growth comes responsibility. Although we would love to pick and choose what part of life we want to grow and be responsible for, reality shows us it is a packaged deal!

HAPPY NEW YEAR form the VSOP Family we wish you peace and prosperity in 2014!

Stay Young My Friends.

The Modern Day Protestor

“Freedom Rides”, “Sit Ins”, “The March on Washington”, “Boycotts” all of these words all symbols of iconic movements. If you were familiar with any of these movements your mind took you to a place that allowed you to empathize for the “cause” associated with those words. The “cause” exactly what does that mean? We sit in our history classes and we learn about time periods when the world was much “flatter” in the eyes of those oppressed. We think of these time periods as time capsules on pages instead of thread that woven in the fabric of our lives.

Young people have been the heart and souls of these movements. Dedicating their lives to change for betterment of the world. The leaders of these movements were young people, your Dr. King’s,  Malcolm X’s, A. Philip Randolph’s and Fannie Lou Hamer’s all young leaders who were tired of the conditions they were facing in society. We analyze the lives along with actions of these leaders, we become mesmerized with their conviction and determination to seeing the “cause” through. However, we have turned the actions of these leaders into 140 characters and a 8 megapixel photo uploaded to an instant steam of information.

When did we become so lazy? It would be unfair to assume that all of us have lost our passion and conviction to make our physical presence felt, but most of us have. When did that change happen? How did we lose the passion for demanding justice. You know what happened? Technology; thats what happened. The same thing that keeps you connected to the world with a click of a button, is the same thing that allows you to be disconnected with a group of people at a social gathering (because we are all on are phones instead of interacting with each other) .

Technology has single handedly turned our young people from “go out and get it done” group to a “click it” to fix it culture that has become the new norm for addressing injustice. We will tweet our thoughts, sign online petitions, or change our avatar on facebook/instagram to show our stance on an injustice then we go about our lives and feel as if that is enough. Yes, technology has allowed us to have information at our finger tips. Yes, technology has allowed us to give instant feed back. But riddle me this; when is the last time you respected a person who just talks but never takes action? Electronic protest is equvalent to taking the garbage bag out of the trash can but not the dumpster. Not the brightest idea right? Technology is here so we can bring more awareness to a cause so that we can swiftly find a solution. Not to substitue taking out time to make our physical presence felt. What have we done? Who told us that this electronic approach was efficient? Questions that we may never find the answers to but hopefully someone who is reading this post may rethink about what they can physically do next time some type of injustice occurs.

REST IN POWER – The Great Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

Your Expectations Do Not Necessitate My Compliance

Gender based social expectations are a funny thing, inasmuch as they reveal a lot about the people who defend and perpetuate them. Growing up in a traditional Christian and West Indian home, I’ve become all too familiar with gender expectations. As a teenager, I grew up resenting the idea of me having to learn how to cook and clean, not because I was lazy or incapable of doing those things, but because of the reasons people offered to convince me I needed to learn to do them. In high school I barely understood what it meant to be a feminist or a womanist, but deep down inside I always felt a disconnect and a slight rebellion to the gender traditions of which my family and church continue to hold on. My argument has always been to teach me how to function, and survive as a woman who needs to learn to take care of herself first. I was never interested in anyone teaching me to cook and properly clean, simply because one day I was to become some man’s wife. Because first of all, where is he? Last time I checked I’m still single (and have been for quite some time now), so why was I being burdened with the responsibility of learning to care for a man during my adolescence, when at 23 he is still no where to be found? I’m not sure if my mother and aunts constantly telling me, “cooking and cleaning will keep a man.” was supposed to be some sort of incentive for me to learn, but at sixteen that intangible prize of a future husband did not suffice. To this very day I resent the idea of me being nurtured into a role I’m not even 100% sure I will be privileged enough to have. While I do hope and pray to become a loving, nurturing, responsible wife and mother some day; I refuse to make day to day decisions constantly contemplating an unseen man and my unborn child(ren). I am single, and childless and I believe that now is the appropriate time for me to enjoy learning, living, and doing just for me (and God of course).

Despite my frustrations with, and resentment for these gender expectations; I must admit that I often times find it hard to completely dismiss them. It’s as if the more I resist these expectations, the more people reinforce them to me, and attempt to force them on me. However, if I try hard enough to forget the literature I read, dismiss my formal education, and force myself into humility; I am able to conform to these roles (tis a very tedious task). During these humble moments I often think of the disconnect between my generation of women, and those of previous generations, who tend to naturally assume roles and feed into the expectations that my generation has become more and more courageous to question, and even bold enough to resist. In these moments of contemplation, I also find myself frightened by the many assumptions people make about my future because of my gender. Recently, a woman who use to take care of me as a child called to congratulate me for completing undergrad. She took me for a long, slow stroll down memory lane, then eventually told me how proud of me she was. She then went on to make the request for me to continue to hold my head high and make her proud so that, (wait for it…) the next time she calls she will be able to receive even more great news- the announcement of my wedding. Unfortunately for very single me, more great news to her is not me receiving a MD, a Ph.D, Psy.D, JD, or MS, but my marriage certificate. When I scratch my head and screw my face at those types of comments, I wonder if I’m being irrational, and snobbish for taking offense. However, I highly doubt young men receive congratulatory calls from loved ones on their graduation day with mentions of marriage. In fact, they’re probably getting just the opposite, seeing as they’re young, educated men with a plethora of options that they’re naturally inclined to explore, right? Yet, my next pursuit should be to find a man, and get him to propose to me. (I don’t know what to do first, roll my eyes or clasp my hands and beg God to send me my man ASAP.)

These gender expectations frustrate me, mainly because they make it difficult to want the things you want, when and how you actually want them. Yes, I want to learn to make gourmet meals, but I want to learn so I can have fancy dinner parties with my girlfriends and colleagues, and to be able to contribute something tasty to the office pot-luck. Do I want to learn how to properly do laundry? Why of course! So that I can preserve the brightness of my colors, and not shrink my favorite maxi-dress. And yes, I definitely want to get married, but not because it’s on the checklist of things I must do before I turn 30, and especially not right after undergrad. I really would love for people to realize that just because they expect me to want something, doesn’t mean I’m obligated to want it when they expect me to, how they expect me to, or any at all for that matter. I am an individual who has set expectations for myself, which were framed with MY benefit in mind. I’m still learning myself, my wants, my needs, and MY expectations for myself, and for those I allow into my life. I don’t need, nor do I want to be burdened with the expectations tradition has picked out for me, but don’t always quite seem to fit my current ideals. As a woman I would appreciate people appreciating me and what I want, above the roles they see fit for me. Yes, I am a woman, but that identity means way more to me than what others expect it to mean. Call me crazy, but I’d like to believe that I define my womanhood, and I refuse to allow its social connotations to define me.

By: A. Wisdom

Originally published on: UrbanCusp.com

Its All About Timing

When will I have kids?

What is the quickest way I can make six figures?

Is attaining an advanced education really worth it?

Questions like these invade young professionals minds everyday. An old Chinese proverb states “It takes one [full] year for a tree to start growing; it takes ten years for a person to start growing”. So why are we as young professionals so impatient? Why are we so hard on ourselves to the point that we cannot realize that we are causing our own demise? I believe in some cases we even self-inflict stress and cause depression within ourselves on our quest to meet self-made standards. I know the idea of being complacent and stagnant is scarier than a small child’s first trip to the dentist. However, these timelines we try to honor are usually unrealistic and not attainable even in the most idealistic scenarios. Even in knowing that these goals are unrealistic, we doubt ourselves when we do not attain these goals.

I pose this question: how realistic are your goals? As children we’re always taught to write out our dreams so we can know the direction that we plan to go in.  Most young professionals have created a list of things that they would like to accomplish before retirement and feel as if they fail if something is not accomplished. Seriously though, can we all just relax? If you were born from 1980 on down you are plagued with this misconception of instant gratification but, it is not our fault!! Our parents/mentors have instilled in us that the more focused you are, the faster you accomplish your goals. We also use our parents/mentor as barometers for life. We observe and critique their mistakes while vowing to never to travel down the same paths. The main mistake of our parents/mentor we try not to repeat is attaining a degree at a non-traditional age. For the people whose parents went to school on the weekends, nights or any other weird schedule; you know what I mean. We lost precious moments with our parent(s). Moments to smile, argue, grow and sympathize. All in the name of advancement and accomplishment; however was it really worth it?

Now in light of our parent’s mistakes we sacrifice our present for the hopes of our future. In the pursuit of attaining our education we lose some of the intangible things that our parents were able to gain during their younger years. Things such as: a social life, job experience and a sense of direction. It seems as if the more degrees we attain the more we realize what we do not want to do. In pursuing our education right away we are supposed to be preventing the mistakes our parents made and walk in this clear direction to a happier life. However, it feels as if we are walking in the foggy mist that only allows us to see as far as the tip of our fingers, with hopes it will become clearer with each step we take.

In the end, we turn out to be just like our parents. Only difference is they risked their future to fix their present and we risk our present with hopes of molding our future. We can prepare but not foretell, which only makes life that much easier to live… So to my fellow people lost in the mist just take one step at a time and remember “a thousand mile jounery starts right under your feet”.

Stay VSOP!!

Self-Talk 101

“Its Totally My fault”. What exactly is yet to be determined however, this is one of the 21 suggestions that Inc. Magazine columnist Jeff Haden offers in his recent post “21 Awesome Things to say to yourself“. Often times the one voice that we need to listen and adhere to is our own. Whether acknowledging and being humble enough to admit that we are capable of making mistakes, motivating ourselves to take risks daily or, having the humility to admit that even though we want to conquer whatever is thrown at us, sometimes a helping hand isn’t such a bad thing. Check out the link to Haden’s post below and seriously internalize some of these phrases, they are surely worthwhile to add to your self motivation toolbox.

21 Awesome Things To Say To Yourself

Its Just A Generational Trait

 

It is said that the “millennial generation” is the generation that does not know what they want to do… Sound familiar? Well, you aren’t the only one. Your twenties are the most confusing time of your life. You figure if you do everything right or better than your parents, you “should” reach success at a faster pace. Well, in most cases that is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Most of you have no kids, no attachments, and most importantly, no limits. So why does it seem so hard for you to hone in and focus? 

It is said that my generation, generation Y (also known as the millennials) will have at least five to seven careers before retirement. Well, that just explains the reason for me not being able to commit to anything. I would like to apply this type of thinking to every aspect of my life, however, that is not the case.

Educationally

There is so much we want to learn about and eventually master. Fact is we actually learn and eventually learn things faster than generations before us. Think about it for a second…. We have way more information at our disposal than generations before us. Realistically it’s our internet versus their encyclopedia (we already know the outcome to that bout).  There’s one thing that preceding generations have over us; PATIENCE. I just think of all the possibilities of what I want can do educationally and it becomes exhausting; Not because it is a lot to do, but because I can actually do it. Think about how many degrees you wanted or at least thought would be good for you to attain. For instance I want to be an educator; I also know that dignitaries do not really respect your opinion unless you have a doctorate degree, whether I earn an EdD or PhD.  However, it is common knowledge that if you want to be rich, education is not the field to make that happen. Which leads me to my other interest; (this is where the lack of focus begins) I would love to earn a MBA/JD and work for a fortune 500 company, or maybe even create my own company. However, just because you get a MBA/JD does not necessarily mean that you are going to land one of these jobs; in all actuality nothing is certain. Now more than ever due to the current state of the economy, degrees do not equate success (this thought is also a struggle my generation deals with).  I also have a fascination with politics so getting a Poli-Sci degree would actually be a great idea. (Do you see where this millennial stuff is bad?) Whatever it is that we think we want to do, we will find something else we can possibly do.

The crazy thing about our thought process is that when we think with the right sacrifices made, we can attain all of our goals.

Okay here is where this millennial thing gets even weirder. It spills over into every aspect of our lives. As an example, I figured that I would reflect on my professional and personal life. As you will soon see the scattered brain patterns continue, so if you have done something like this please just know there are others out there like you.

Professionally..

I have a bunch of things I want to do before I retire and eventually die… (Here’s the list:

1. I want to some how some way work in the White House. In what capacity, I do not know I just want to work on Capitol Hill.

2. I want to open up a school strictly for low performing African American males. (I feel like I have the solution for them I’ll share that idea later in my blog career.)

3. I want to hold a political office position; governor or mayor would be ideal.

4. Coaching football at the collegiate or professional level.

5. I want to open up a nightclub or some type of entertainment establishment. (Kind of goes against my Christian faith, so I am really wrestling with this one.)

6. Last but not least, I want serve as a relationship counselor. I used the word serve because I feel like the black family is dying and I would be serving my community by helping these relationships.

These are six careers that I would love to somehow or experience over my professional career… No, I cannot commit to just one because I feel like each one of them will bore me for more than ten years, better yet maybe even seven. Of course doing all of these jobs means that I would have to travel and constantly be on the go.

Personally…

This is the one I struggle with the most. I mean different things to different people so I tend to forget who I am in the process, or even worse I just stop caring…

I have noticed that relationships are the hardest things for me to maintain. I gain interest then I look for something to go wrong and use whatever reason I find as a excuse to leave before I get attached. (I know cowardly) I have come across some amazing women and I either find a reason why I am not attracted to them or a reason why they are “too good for me”. (Yeah I know its a little crazy)

I mean I would love to start a GOD fearing FAMILY with the white picket fence, the 2.5 children, and the pet. However, in the same breath, the idea of that scares me. Think about that for one second… (Pondering moment) That means I would have to stick to a routine for the rest of my life!! I am a millennial though, routines are against the rules and the idea of five to seven marriages is just insane, along with tiring. So what’s a man to do? Just let each of these possible life changing women just slip from grasp without a fight? At what point does the millennial thing not apply?  I have been doing this for a while and it’s kind of pathetic, but I am not willing to do anything about it.

Should I have to though?

These are just some of my thoughts. It goes a little deeper, but I am not ready to get that deep. Tell me what you think or if you dis/agree.