5…

 

On July 31, 2011, I embarked on a journey with a woman that I was in love with…madly in love with.  When I woke up that morning, the sun was shining bright and I had time to reflect as all of my groomsmen were recovering from the night before. I decided to take a walk through downtown Hartford to clear my head, reflect on my past, and focus on my future. I understood the gravity of the step that I was about to take and I accepted that with an open mind and open heart. I received a text from Orsella Cooper-Hughes, the Officiant of our wedding, who is a trusted family member and spiritual advisor. Her message to me was simple, “keep God first little cuz, today will be a great day”, and that it was! The fine details of the wedding went as planned. It was one of the hottest days of the summer, but it was an epic event and truly one of the greatest days of my life. When the party was over, the last vendor paid, the last rounds of toasts made, and the last of the guests departed. There remained my beautiful bride and me, left to start our journey with each other and God. That day was the beginning of us as husband and wife; the start of a marriage that has faced many ups and downs, heartache and happiness, challenges and triumphs. The past five years have been full of experiences and a wide range of emotions. It has tested our faith in God, our belief in ourselves and our belief in one another.

Sacrifice is one of the first thoughts that come to mind when I consider the first five years. Sacrifice is defined by Webster Dictionary as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.” Our first year of marriage was defined by sacrificing comfort, money and time in order to solidify a better future for ourselves and our family. Throughout that period of sacrifice, there were experiences and stressors that we faced that have done a lot of other relationships in. Fortunately, we were blessed to have a good foundation established by our pre-marital counseling, a strong faith in our relationship, a real friendship that was formulated prior to intimacy and God as our guide. Oh and one other big thing, we did not allow others to “peek into our blinds” by taking to social media with our issues. We were and continue to be selective in what we choose to share with the rest of the world, some things simply aren’t for everyone to see. When the times have gotten rough, we put down the electronic devices, draw closer to one another and our trusted few.

Acceptance and support have been huge in our union. When Melissa walked down that aisle, she walked into the arms of a very flawed man who was and remains a work in progress. She knew what she was getting herself into, as did I. We have accepted one another for who we are, what we bring to the table and what we lack. Though there has been a ton of acceptance, there has been very little settling. Though we have accepted the fact that the other person has flaws, we do not settle for anything but the best from one another. That means that there are difficult conversations that need to be had and many “GET IN THE CAR” moments (that’s an insider that a few of you will understand). Another aspect of acceptance is accepting the dreams of the person that you devote yourself to and supporting them in every endeavor. Anybody that knows me knows that I am an extremely active person with big dreams and lots of goals. My dreams and goals come with a price and that price is usually time. I thank God that I have someone by my side that supports my endeavors, listens to my dreams and helps me to make sense out of the best way to achieve them. As our lives have grown, so has the list of dreams, projects, and endeavors that my wife has taken on. I have tried my hardest to be intentional about reciprocating the support and encouragement that she has given to me. The balance of being each other’s biggest fan is important and necessary.

Fun is extremely important to have with your partner. Make time for one another to do the things that make you happy. Whether it’s a date night once a month, spending time with a group of friends that you both enjoy or simply finding a babysitter and having dinner without interruptions from the little ones in your life, enjoying one another’s company is helpful. It reminds you of the “magic” that led you to commit to forever with one another, it helps you to remember that in the midst of all of the curve balls that life throws, you have one another. It also provides a very necessary balance to the grind of building and securing the future of your family.

Lastly, love one another and love unconditionally. There will be good days and there will be bad. There will be disagreements, rolled eyes, raised voices and moments of “I can’t stand you right now”. During those moments, remember to love. In the midst of financial turmoil, choose love. When the doctor gives a bad report, choose love. When there’s a loss of loved ones and other forms of heartache, choose love. When your pride tells you to try to get the last word, choose love. No matter what the situation or circumstance….choose love. In order to choose love, you must remember to focus on love and what it is about the person across from you that made you fall in love. Be intentional about telling them what they do that makes you fall in love all over again and focus on making those things happen for your partner.

Remember that there will be times in which choosing love does not seem like the answer, during those times….choose to PRAY for the person that you love. I am a man that is far from perfect and what works for my relationship may not work for you. This is MY view on what has sustained the first five years of my marriage. I am blessed to have an amazing wife who has taught me what love, acceptance, support, and encouragement is. I truly cannot imagine what my life would be like without my wife. She is an amazing wife, mother, step-mother, and friend. She is goal oriented, driven and did I mention –she is drop dead gorgeous! I look forward to many more milestones with her and the growth of my family. I believe in love because of her and I believe that love always wins when you want it to.

Happy Anniversary to the most amazing woman in the world and cheers to forever!

 

Tai D. Richardson
#AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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Having Trouble At Work?

 

Having trouble at work? So was I.

I started at this company 2.5 years ago, when I was on the heels of a divorce and I moved 30 min. away from my core group of people. I took this job in transportation, an industry I had no experience in. Needless to say, my 1st year was miserable. People questioned me, my skills, and even my writing abilities – as a journalist, I was insulted. I had a horrible review. I had never felt so unfavored in any position.

Every day I imagined myself getting a new job and boastfully slamming a resignation letter on my boss’s desk, but that never happened. Every opportunity that was offered to me fell through for some reason – budget, resources, timing etc. So I ended up staying in this position because I needed the money.

I changed my prayers from finding a new job to changing my circumstances at my current job. I asked the people in my Bible study group to pray for me and with me. Slowly, but surely, things started to turn around.

My biggest critics were taken off my projects, and my attitude about my job started to change. I found reasons to be grateful for my job, and I started working on the things people criticized me for. My next review was amazing. It was a complete turnaround from the first one. As things got better, I continued praying. I didn’t want to go backwards.

In October, I had the unique opportunity to take a position in NYC doing exactly what I wanted to do – public relations, and I really had an opportunity to shine. To my disappointment, the assignment ended abruptly, and I feared going back to my regular assignments and having to work with the naysayers again.

I just knew my “winning” streak had ended a couple weeks ago, when I was working on a report that took me twice as long as I anticipated. When the project manager called me, I just knew he was going to let me have it, but instead he told me I did a “phenomenal” job.

I called my boss to let her know that someone actually used the word “phenomenal” on a report I worked on. To my surprise, again, she told me that she had good news too – my promotion!

I’m still growing, but prayer works and God’s grace is real. I hope this helps someone.

Stacy.

*Previously Posted on Proccessingpain.com *
Twitter:
@StacyGrahamHunt Ig:@stacyreports
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Your Infant Doesn’t Give a Sh!t About the NBA Finals… But Your Toddler Might (and some other cool history stuff)

VSoP! What’s up people?! It’s Doug again, the guy who used to be a parent of a stationary cute kid, but is now the parent of a mobile, independent cute kid. And it’s that GLORIOUS time of year again: The NBA Finals! Now I know that this year’s playoffs haven’t been as entertaining as year’s past, but who cares. It’s still the greatest sports series in the world and we’re all watching, so we will deal with it.

Anyway, you loyal VSOP readers might or might not remember from last year, that I had some problems during last year’s finals. My son was a mess, so naturally I wasn’t looking forward to this year’s finals as heavily as I did last year, but again, it’s still the finals and I shall be watching. This year the Finals started on Thursday, June 2nd. I happened to be down in the Big Easy on Thursday June 2nd. A friend was getting married and my wife and I decided to accept his invitation to watch his nuptials in person. With us? Our son, my parents, her brother and his girlfriend. JACKPOT! So many hands, so much help!

Well the wedding was on Friday, so Thursday we had all day to do everything and nothing. I would like for everyone reading to understand that all day Thursday felt like Christmas Eve. I knew goodness was happening at 8pm CST and I just had to get through the day to get to my NBA Finals presents. Luckily, on vacation, time goes by a bit (a lot) quicker than sitting at the work desk all day.

We started out the day at The Court of Two Sisters. Apparently this is a New Orleans staple. I highly suggest it. I ate way too much and enjoyed every forkful. And like every other place in the French Quarter, there was live music. Music and food and food and music; I kinda love New Orleans. Our next adventure was to drive about 50 minutes away to Evergreen Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana. Evergreen is a sugarcane plantation, and it is the most intact plantation complex in the south. It has 22 original slave cabins and 37 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Basically there were a bunch of slaves and racists on the plantation. It was where they filmed Django Unchained, Roots, and scenes from King Bey’s Lemonade. We walked through the (small) big house (seriously, it was 3 rooms wide and one room back), we saw the kitchen (hot at HELL), we learned about the whistle walk (those racist fuqs who owned slaves made them whistle while they walked the food from the kitchen to the big house to make sure they didn’t eat bit of it), we learned a bit about the Creole culture, we learned about the story of the plantation. I think the tour guide meant well, but he wasn’t exactly forthcoming with just how difficult the slaves had it. Still a great and chilling experience. After the plantation tour, we took a left out of the gates (which for me sent a chill up my spine thinking about the fact that my ancestors couldn’t do the same) and headed to the Whitney plantation. We went on a whim, but it was an excellent decision. We missed the last tour, but we spoke to two great and knowledgeable tour guides who answered all our unanswered and half-ass answered questions that the last plantation couldn’t. I will be going back down to New Orleans and taking the real tour of Whitney Plantation. You all should too. The history of slavery, no matter how disgraceful, is important. It’s the beginning of Black American history. That’s what I have to say about that.

Anyway, after the history lesson, we made our way back to New Orleans and headed to Mannings, which is Archie, Peyton, and Eli’s restaurant. I’m sure the other Manning’s have their hand in it too, but the quarterbacks who played in the NFL are who are important here. Mannings has a legit theater in the back of the bar, with leather seats that you can reserve. It has an outdoor projection screen. It has more TVs per square foot than Buffalo Wild Wings. It has an arcade basketball hoop to shoot at for a dollar. It has pictures of Peyton and Eli everywhere. It’s dope!

Okay, 7:25 we make it to the restaurant. Its packed – dammit! I put our name on the list for 6 and a half and we find a place in the bar area to sit down and watch the pre-game. The wait is supposed to be 30 minutes, but it ends up being 25. We’re ready to be seated right after John Legend slayed the national anthem. BTW, he has been the best part of the Final’s so far, but you ain’t hear that from me. We sit down and I’m getting nervous. Why? They sat my son’s high chair right next to me, like he ain’t a terror with the Finals on. But whatever, big boy pants are on, let’s do this Reece!

7:58 – “AAAAHHHHHHHHHHH” Reece

7:59 – “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” Reece as he drops his toy.

8:00 – Orders taken, tip off soon. The whole place is buzzing. Greg Monroe came in with a buffet style selection of women to take up the theater in the bar. My son shuts up and looks. *daps*

Tip-off time – Reece is quiet. He’s watching. He’s attentive. He’s clapping. He’s cheering for both teams and all 3 refs. He’s paying attention and smiling and laughing. THIS IS HAPPENING!

The joy that was in me for the rest of the game until it started to suck was incredible. I forgot how bad the game was because my son was loving it. He was eating his food (kinda… half of it ended up on the floor. I think as a parent of a toddler, it’s a requirement to tip well), he was attentive, he wasn’t acting up, he didn’t cry, he was the perfect loud in a bar baby ever.

Cavs lost. They’ll probably lose the series. The Warriors are super sayins. Draymond’s breath is bad (c’mon, you know it is). My son loves basketball.

My toddler gives a shit about the NBA Finals, and my GOD that makes me happy!

 

By: D. Rubenstein
Twitter:@wildmanjones
AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
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WE ARE DONALD TRUMP

WE ARE DONALD TRUMP

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a-more-perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA….???

Donald Trump graced Connecticut with his presence and I decided for myself not to watch on television. I chose to see what the devil and his minions looks like up close and personal. Yes, I was there in the audience to hear him say absolutely nothing. I was in line with the protesters staring into the eyes of a population of Connecticut that I never saw before. At this rally, I witnessed and observed the looks in the eyes of the Trump Followers. I know what they mean when they say “Make America Great Again”. Take me to their leader.

Are you all awake yet? Is this still a laughing matter? Or are we upset that this country continues to reap what we sow? Now that I asked a bunch of questions that you probably have contemplated a few times the past couple months, how do you feel about the answer that you came up with? Matter fact, forget your answer because it doesn’t really matter when the truth remains as an open wound that we have been asked to place Mickey Mouse band-aids to cover the laceration.  

Now I am not going to pretend or act like I am an expert in analyzing political tactics or infrastructure. However, I have been a registered voter since the Bush/Kerry Election and have been an advocate of fulfilling my civic duty as an United States citizen, who has been afforded the right to cast my vote for the leader of the free world. Needless to say, I never thought that I would live to see the day that this country would allow an African American man to win the presidency. BUT IT HAPPENED; and President Obama asked for one thing from the people and that one thing was to CHANGE. Ironically, over the past eight years, my political awareness has increased. I am a father now, a husband and community leader that advocates for the progression of African Americans. With that being said, my understanding of politics has to shift. I hold myself accountable for the future of the next generation. Being mindful of whom we allow we elect in the seats of political power is the beginning of that accountability.

Now that I’ve done my best to provide a soft introduction to an extremely controversial subject matter, let me be frank; No More Mr. Nice Guy. The fact that DONALD TRUMP is the front-runner in this presidential election shouldn’t surprise anyone. Our great Constitution had to be rewritten just to amend the basic rights for everyone regardless of race, skin color, ethnicity or religion; and yet it still began with WE THE PEOPLE. Well, who are these PEOPLE? The United States of America was built on the backs of bondage, blood, sweat and tears. Where an institution of racism scribed it’s way into laws, legislation and into the hearts of the wealthy majority. Patrick Henry declared give me Liberty or Death. An old Negro spiritual songs before I am a slave I’d be buried in my grave. To understand that part of American History directly reinforces why people shouldn’t be surprised at the fact that there is a sleeping GIANT that has been waiting to emerge in this country.

We, the Black masses, don’t want these leaders who seek our support coming to us representing a certain political party. They must come to us today as Black Leaders representing the welfare of Black people. We won’t follow any leader today who comes on the basis of political party. Both parties (Democrat and Republican) are controlled by the same people who have abused our rights, and who have deceived us with false promises every time an election rolls around.” Malcolm X

Donald Trump is having success because whether we like to admit it or not, his actions and tactics represent the likes of so many individuals. Who is a presidential candidate without voters and followers? This is what happens when a man who has the color, capital and connections to be able to be controversial. Watch me prove this theory.  Let’s Play A Game… Ready? Let’s pretend President Obama is getting ready to run for president of the United States of America and his opening speech goes something like this. I want to make America Great. Let’s get rid of the Jewish and Italian immigrants that are buying up all the property and establishing businesses. Let’s stop allowing foreigners to move into this country and opening up businesses in African American communities. George Bush was an idiot that did nothing for this country for the past 8 years because nobody in Washington knows what they are doing. Let’s also give him an angry approach to how he wants to focus primarily on African American issues, racism, injustice and breaking down racial political barriers. If you are having a hard time smelling what I am cooking, simply replace Obama’s campaign with Trump’s campaign and you tell me if Obama would be leading anything anywhere? We all know the answer to this question and we all know why.

When I watch Trump go on national television and say some of the things that he says, I can almost appreciate it in a weird sarcastic way. Simply because I prefer to know what the devil himself looks like than to be bitten by a snake in the grass. Politicians are great at securing votes. Their primary focus is to win elections and win the trust of the people. We all know how elections and campaigns are won and filled with so many empty action items to feed the emotions of the people. Well there is a lot of HUNGRY IGNORANT RACIST out there dying to be fed and they have a mouth piece in Donald Trump. When I turn on the television, social media, listen to music, read blogs, read memes , view certain comments on twitter/facebook, hell even while playing video games online, there is one consistent problem that I cannot escape. RACISM IS EVERYWHERE. I get called a nigger everyday while playing Call of Duty online on my Xbox. You would think by 2016 where everyone is so liberal, free spirited and every class of people are climbing the ladder to fight for equality that we would have dealt with race relations along time ago. Quite frankly this is not the case. The country that we live in his filled with a lot of Hatred and Evil stemming from racism. From mass incarceration, to gun violence/mass shootings, thriving KKK rallies, and random acts of terrorism. So is it ironic and silly to contemplate the fact that an entertainer could possibly be the face of a country that is driven by trending, controversial entertainment? These are the people we empower to program the hearts and minds of our young people.

We live in a society where everyone wants to be and has to practice political correctness. Why should we expect our president to have some sort of filter when they are speaking when we as people want the right to exercise our first amendment right? We have no problem hiring analyst, journalist and giving celebrities, entertainers, athletes and others a platform to say what they want whenever they want and we are all supposed to be free of judgment right? So why do we expect anything different from the leader that is supposed to represent the people. Truth of the matter is whether you all want to hear or accept this or not, there are a lot of racist, prejudice and socially ignorant people that feel they have to watch what they say because of fear of having a public opinion. I remember feeling like Obama really never really spoke out on certain issues, not because he didn’t want to but because he couldn’t. He played it safe and read the prompter like a good president. We all had moments where we really wanted Obama to unbutton his color and speak emotionally and “keep it real.”  Ask yourself this, do you feel comfortable speaking up and out about topics that can be extremely sensitive to public opinion?  

So while we are upset that Trump is leading the Republican Party, please understand one thing; we ARE DONALD TRUMP. The hypocrisy, racism and tyranny that corrupt this system are a direct reflection of the racist political infrastructure that still disgustingly exists. Let the record show that I am in no way endorsing Trump nor would I ever vote for Donald Trump to be my president, but I do appreciate his non political correctness and affording me the awareness to know EXACTLY what I will be getting myself into should he become president. Until we address white privilege, race relations, and we answer the call to CHANGE the wheels on the bus will continue to go round and round. So do yourself a favor and stop acting so surprised that Donald Trump could possibly be the next President of the United States like the Terminator didn’t win an election.

“If we expect the leader of the free world (that is supposed to represent the thoughts, minds and hearts of the people) to conduct himself with dignity, class and respect then the people have to CHANGE so our Leader reflects who we are.”  -MR NICE GUY

 

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

MY SON LIKES TRUCKS

My son is not quite two.  He plays the drums, the saxophone and the keyboard.  And if an ability to make a lot of noise is a measure for skill, he is gifted.  He enjoys eggs, singing Jingle Bells and chanting Mommy mommy mommy at obscene hours.  He hates when his hands are dirty.  He prefers Charlie Brown to Elmo.  He thinks fart noises are comedy gold.  And he loves, loves, loves playing with trucks.  He loves identifying trucks.  He loves saying the word ‘truck’.  His pronunciation is not so tight quite yet, so it sounds like he’s cussing but trucks are his jam.  I try my best to quiet my internal relief about that.  I never prayed that he would be drawn to blue things.  It was not my conscious desire that he be all snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.  I shrugged my shoulders when someone mistook him as a little girl in the airport. They apologized profusely as if I may have been insulted, as if I should have been insulted.  “I am so sorry!  It’s just…the braids, I thought…”  I was proud of my initial response.  I am proud of my parenting style and the way I refuse to place heavy value on some of the silly gender expectations we assign children. I looked at my beautiful baby boy and smiled.  I convinced myself that the haircut he got a month later was because I was tired of wrestling him to brush his hair and/or braid it and that it had nothing to do with people asking me when I was going to cut it and absolutely nothing to do with a stranger thinking he was a little girl.

 

I imagined myself being the type of parent who could buy their son an Easy Bake Oven and dare anybody to say anything about it.   But the truth is I am the type of parent that is relieved by their son’s interest in trucks.  I am not alarmed when he climbs the furniture and jumps off of it.  I tell him “you’re fine” when he stumbles and is trying to decide whether he should cry or keep playing. When someone says, “He is all boy ain’t he?” I am pleased.  It is my responsibility, to guide him towards being the person God has called him to be.  And I realized that I am really hoping he only stands out in ways that will make his life easier.  If he is smarter and faster and stronger than his peers, that would be better for him.  If he is the most prayerful or the most creative he could excel in ways that would benefit his life.  If he is unusual in the “wrong ways” it could make everything complicated.  He is Black and his mother is single. Those two things alone make him eligible for every negative statistic that exists.  I observed a mother describing her two year old Black son as soft when he would not stop crying.  “You soft water!  You so soft!”  I watched this same baby’s uncle snatch a guitar out of his hands and reprimand him for playing with a girl’s toy.  The guitar had pink designs on it.  In those moments I felt like I was witnessing a crime. A baby was being robbed of his right to emote and play freely.  Let’s meet up with this guy at twenty-two and see how well he manages interpersonal relationships.  Right there under the surface of my polite smile was hard judgment. I judged the entire family.  And as I traveled a little farther into myself I was able to understand.  Forgive us Father.  If fear and love are the only two motivating factors in any decision  a human can make, then fear is winning when it comes to parenting.

 

This is not an article about my son.  This is not even an article about subscribing to the Westernized ideals of femininity, masculinity and sexuality.  It is an article about being held hostage by our fears.  We are scared for our boys.   It would not be difficult for me to love my son if he wanted to wear pink and play with Barbie dolls like www.myprincessboy.com .  But it would be difficult for me to send him outside of our home knowing tolerance and understanding will not necessarily be waiting for him on the other side of the door.  It is difficult to leave him now.  Will his grandmother be as patient as I am when he throws a tantrum?  Will his daycare provider respond to his finicky eating with kindness and other options?  Will the children at the birthday party want to be his friend?  Will his teachers cater to his learning style? I want him to be favored.  I want him to be a leader.  I want him to be outstanding.  I want him to be loved.  I don’t want him to get hurt.   My “don’t wants” are so much louder. 

 

 I think I should be busy trying to create a world that is safer and more beautiful for every child instead of preparing my son for the world that actually exists.  I lean toward the latter in practice, the former in poetry.  I should do more.  I don’t know how.  Parents who discipline their sons for playing with toys that have glitter are not a part of my immediate circle.  But their children may be a part of my son’s.  I’m glad he likes trucks.  For now, it makes me feel a little less afraid.  But I promise not to ever snatch a pink guitar out of his hands.  Even if I kind of want to a little bit.

 

By: LYNNETTE JOHNSON
Twitter: @KnottyPoet IG:KnottyMama
@TheVSOPLife #AreYouVSOP

 

 

 

V.S.OP Vision Board Challenge

Virtually Seizing Opulence CHALLENGE

#VisionBoardChallenge

It took 7 days to create the world as we know it. A lifetime was spent from up high pondering the perfect plan of action. Like a game of chess, every move was strategic. Life as we know it began with a Vision. Even the great creator, whatever you may call him/her/it, executed a masterpiece that was deemed perfect, and everything was as it should be. The word VISION takes on a powerful meaning not easily gifted to random empty vessels. Webster defines the word as the ACT or POWER of IMAGINATION: UNUSUAL discernment or FORESIGHT.  Every great man or woman that has done something eventful, that impacted the world, started with a vision. All great leaders have a very POWERFUL testimony as it relates to having a VISION that they put into ACTION.  

So why are we even discussing thoughts and ideals that surround the makeup of elite visionaries?  Well it’s that time of year again. 2016 is among us, and we all share something in common as we depart the present year. Many of us typically sit back quietly and do a true evaluation of self. Personally, I always take a look at my year end review and assess where I am in life. People across the globe speak about plans for their NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION. People who know me can attest to my creative capacity. I have been told I am an innovative person that is full of ideas. One of my personal mottos is “My vision is clear, now let the journey begin.” Most of the time when I have a vision, it usually happens first thing early in the morning. I see an amazing ending to something that I would like to do. That thought alone excites me enough to pursue maximum efforts to begin working on the project. My business partners and friends get so frustrated with me often. They say that I give them ideas that are “end sighted” (yes, I just made that up).  I have been told that my vision, when presented only consists of the X-Z while A-W is lost, unclear, or not properly outlined.  

Have you ever had a dream that excited you, but you only remembered how great the ending was? When trying to tell a friend all about your dream, you get so frustrated because everything that led up to the ending remains a blur. You remain excited while they’re stuck in between a delayed chuckle or the, “I had to be there” type of awkward moment. That’s how a lot of us set goals and articulate our visions to others and, most importantly, ourselves. The disappointing fact about my ideas is simple. I leave a lot of ideas on the table because I lose sight of the vision after the initial thrill or excitement wears off. As I exit 2015 and approach 2016, I want to be sure that I eliminate this problem so that I can properly and successfully MASTER my goals. Around this time last year, I was speaking to a good friend of mine, Elijah Oliver aka Take Flyght Captain, and he mentioned something about completing his yearly vision board. Strangely enough I never really paid that concept any mind until I started writing this piece here tonight.  What is this “VISION BOARD” and how can it help me be an elite coal conqueror? Let’s take a closer look.

 

#VISIONBOARDCHALLENGE

WHAT IS A VISION BOARD?  A vision board is one of the most powerful ways to help navigate your way to help you clarify, concentrate and remain consistent towards achieving your goals. You are Picasso, Mozart, and Steven Spielberg; given a blank canvas or script for you to begin manufacturing your vision as you see it.  By gathering a list of images, words, pictures, or slogans you can orchestrate a harmonic symphony of your visual goals.

WHO IS A VISION BOARD FOR?  This vision board is for anyone that is looking for an exciting way to organize their expression of self. Vision boards can be utilized by anyone in any capacity, as a way to act as a visual reminder of what you aspire to achieve.

 

HOW DO I MAKE A VISION BOARD? The V.S.OP way is simple.

Identify the person places or things that encompass your NOUNS.

  1. Who are people/persons you want to associate with to help you with your goals?
  2. What are some places you wish to visit, travel to, or retire in life?
  3. What are things that you absolutely enjoy and make you happy? How do you reward yourself?

 

Write down ADJECTIVES that drive your personality. How would you describe yourself?

  1. Be honest with yourself. What are a few things about your personality that have delayed your goals?
  2. What are words or images that you can use to articulate positive energy that will serve as a reminder of who you are and what you excel at?

 

Finally select three VERBS to drive your why. (You why is a specific reason why your goals are important to you)

  1. Be organized and plan for success.
  2. Be action oriented and put your plan into fruition.
  3. Be motivated and resilient as obstacles present themselves.

 

WHAT MATERIALS ARE NEEDED? This project is very simple and can be completed with just a few pieces of material.

  1. A pen and paper to brainstorm your Nouns, Adjectives, & Verbs
  2. A poster board, scissors, glue
  3. Magazines, internet printings of images

 

WHEN DO I BEGIN? Well there is just only one question. #AreYouVSOPIf you are reading this BLOG, you have already begun. The challenge is on. You have now been chosen to participate in the vision board challenge.  I challenge you to send this blog to 7 people on your social media and give them 7 days to post pictures and videos of their vision board on social media. Organize vision board parties with your peers and start 2016 off with a bang. No Goals Left Behind!  Join the members of V.S.OP with The VISION BOARD CHALLENGE. The journey is on. #AreYouVSOP #VisionBoardChallenge

 

 

Mr. Nice Guy Signing Off

@thevsoplife

Happy New Year

Feature Image from http://ethnicskinaficionado.com/vision-boards/