V.S.OP Vision Board Challenge

Virtually Seizing Opulence CHALLENGE


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.



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


Happy New Year

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

V.S.OP Spotlight: Slay Washington The Voice of CT

The Opulent Corner would like to introduce to some and present to others, Mr. Avery “Slay” Washington. In 2007 while attending a party at his Alma Mater, Tuskeege University, “Slay” took a risk and asked the DJ if he could get on the microphone; eight years later, he reigns as one of the hottest names on the Connecticut event and party scene as he is rapidly gaining notoriety throughout the Northeast and beyond.

Avery was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and moved to New Haven, Connecticut as a young child.  The son of a Social Worker and an Administrator in Higher Education, academic excellence has always been at the forefront of Avery’s mind.  Through focus and determination, Avery obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in 2011. Though he worked hard in the classroom, Avery made sure to maintain balance and have fun.  In an interview with VSOP, Avery shared that his initial draw to becoming a host was the ability to improve people’s experience.

VSOP: “What drew you into your craft?”

AW: “I saw that people had great ideas for events but they were bland and missing the energy and hype elements. I felt that I was the missing link to an event being successful. Before I knew it, I was hosting the majority of the parties at the student union as well as at local clubs in the surrounding area.”

Public speaking and performing in front of large groups of people can be a nerve wracking experience. However, Avery got his start early on in life.  As a lifelong member of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Avery would often be called to lead the opening prayer or to serve as Worship Leader for Men’s Day Celebration and other church observances. It was evident early on that Avery had a special gift to connect with others, but more importantly, he enjoys the process of interacting with his audience.

AW: “My craft is my passion, I truly enjoy hosting events and seeing other people happy or laughing because I have enhanced the event experience.”

In addition to being extremely personable and professional, Avery has a reputation for putting his best foot forward at all times. He is not bashful in sharing that he seeks to stand out as the best in his field.

VSOP: “What does opulence mean to you?”

AW: “Opulence is being the absolute best at what you do. Opulence is when your worth is your wealth.”

VSOP: “Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?”

AW: “In ten years, I see myself on a major television network or radio station daily hosting a show or program.”

When thinking of a word to describe “Slay,” the first one that comes to mind is versatile. Not only can he hold down the mic at a club blazing the latest in R&B, hip hop and reggae, he can also serve as the Master of Ceremonies for a fundraising gala, fashion show, wedding or a black tie affair.

Slay doesn’t only seek opulence as a small business owner, he also excels at his full time job as an educator in the New Haven Public School system.  When he is not hosting events or spending extra time with students, Slay can be found serving his community as a proud member of the Chi Omicron Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.


VSOP: “Tell us about Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.”

AW: “Omega Psi Phi is a brotherhood that is well respected in the New Haven community and all over the world for our service and uplifting African American males. We are celebrating 104 years of brotherhood.”

Avery has dedicated his life to improving the conditions of others.  Whether it be through community service or by him making an event come to life with his uncanny ability to use wit, humor and charisma to get the crowd to “turn up”. Avery is a firm believer that iron sharpens iron and suggested that up and coming event hosts seek out professionals in the field as mentors.

VSOP:”If there was one piece of advice that you could give to someone looking to get into your industry, what would it be?”

AW: “Find the person that is most popular or the best at what you are interested in. Follow that person and their art form. Also, seek a conversation with that individual in order to understand their motives and ideas.”

The road to success is not always navigated through a straight path. When seeking opulence, one must have faith, determination and a love for the grind. Slay Washington exemplifies all of these traits and more; as an educator, community activist and one of the hottest names of the hosting scene, he is truly living the opulent life. We salute Slay Washington for who you were, who you are and who you will become!



Slay Washington can be reached at:

Website: www.slaywashington.com
Instagram: @SlayWashington

Now there’s only one question to ask, #AreYouVSOP?

Fatherhood Is More Than You Think

Father: A man who has begotten a child. The definition so simple but yet the concept is so complex. First off, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers reading this right now. Your job is one of a warrior who constantly goes into battle for the love of his country but seldom accept or receive proper gratitude for all you do. For your humility, I salute you.

I grew up in a single parent home with my mom serving as both the father and the mother; a narrative far too common for millennials from a low socioeconomic background. Despite being in a single mother household the void of my biological father wasn’t great. As I reflect on my upbringing, there were consistent male figure in my life who saw me through each phase of manhood.
The myth of having to procreate to be a father is truly just that, a myth. A father is someone who takes care of a child in need, with hopes that someone would take care of their child in his absence. My mother had me as a young adolescent and my earliest memories are those of my uncle teaching me how to draw, write and multiply. Not only did he teach me lessons I would never forget, he also role modeled drive, discipline and ambition. Characteristics that I took on in my own life. As time went by and I progressed in my journey in becoming a man, I attended church with my mom. Those who identify with “church-going” mothers, know the church routine. Sunday (formal church service), Monday (prayer), Tuesday (choir rehearsal), Wednesday (bible study), Thursday (choir rehearsal), Friday (youth services) and Saturday off unless there’s a convention. Through church I gained great friends, some with fathers and some without. My best friend was the son of the organist, his wife also was a good friend of my mom. My mom was in the choir and developed a group of married couples friends who all had children around my age. We all grew up together, so close  that  I call their moms and dads, my aunts and uncles in exchange for the formal greetings. Each of the fathers of my friends played an integral role in my life. My best friend’s dad taught me the basics of playing piano, another father taught me the meaning of hard work by paying me to rake the leaves and cutting the grass, while another father taught me the importance of being presentable and teaching me how to tie a perfect double windsor knot. Each of these gentleman stayed with me as I grew up into a young man. When I played sports they offered me advice on improving my game and even attended my games. When I was a knucklehead, they even expressed their disappointment in my actions and told me that’s not the way men behave. Each of them simultaneously dropping jewels of wisdom that I carry with me to this day. These lessons of being a man all came from men who biologically weren’t my father, but I revered them with the same admiration. Those lessons of being a man that they taught me, I also passed along to my friends. Holding them to these principles told to me and used as a guideline to growing up in a fatherless home.

As an adult, I watch my friends interact with their children and it brings me joy to the point where it moves me to tears (internally lol) . As I stare in awe at the constant balance of being stern but approachable in their handling of their children they display tactics I hope to use with my own children one day. But why wait until then? My community raised me. The men who took the time out to coach, teach, and mentor me were my fathers. These were men of many backgrounds who invest in the youth of today in hopes of creating a better tomorrow. So can’t I do the same?
Often time as a community we get caught up with “I” syndrome, but life is about giving back and making sure those after us have better. You don’t have to be a biological father to change a person’s life. You never know who you’re impacting through your everyday life. The way you hold yourself as a man and the way you preserve trials are all testimonies that can be shared with those who come after you and who look up to you. It truly takes a village to raise a child and if it wasn’t for my village I wouldn’t be where I am today. So thank you to all the father’s who took me in as their own and to you I say Happy Father’s Day.

Your Newborn Doesn’t Give A SH!T Bout The NBA Finals

Merry Sports Christmas, ladies and gentlemen. Yesterday was the first day of the NBA finals. Now I understand that basketball is the number 2 sport in our hearts, and that the NFL is the juggernaut in the United States, but the Superbowl is only one game. The Superbowl is Thanksgiving and the 7 game series that makes up the NBA finals is the 12 days of Christmas.  The first day was incredible, right?! We saw 48 minutes if phenomenal basketball that had us at the edge of our lay-z-boys (then a bull shit extra 5 minutes where the Cavs looked like they ran up the 5 interstate from LA to Oakland, and the Warriors looked like they took a stroll around Lake Merritt, but that’s besides the point). Lebron gave a King-like performance. Curry gave a Chef-like performance. Tristan Thompson was saying go-go gadget arms on the offensive glass. Klay Thompson was locked in from 3. Kyrie had the Golden State defense on skates. Draymond Green screamed. A lot. It was incredible to watch!

So let’s backtrack. If you have followed my earlier posts, you would know that I have a newborn. Reece Austin Rubenstein is 12 weeks old today. He’s getting bigger and cuter by the day. It’s an amazing experience watching him literally grow in front of my eyes. I fall in love with him more every day. Seriously. I’m sure the parents reading this understand, and the non-parents will when you have kids. I promise.

So, my wife’s niece was staying with us for a couple weeks before she moved into her apartment for the summer. Last night my wife took her to that apartment so she could move in, so it was just my son and me in the house. Thus, I did what every great father does, I put him up on game. We talked about women, we talked about being a good person, we talked about his (my) aspirations for him; we were the homies for the night. It was about 8:17pm eastern standard time, and I got everything ready. I changed his diaper, I set up my bowl of chips and my drink, and I turned it on ABC to watch the pre-game for the first game of the NBA Finals. Everything was perfect. I sat him on my lap and gave him my finger to hold. He was happy. I told him that this is the game that has shaped my life to this point. This is the pinnacle of the highest level of basketball, and he needs to appreciate it. I told him who each player was and what they can do. He responded with drool, laughter, and incoherent speech, that sounded like a mix between “no” and “damn dad, you’re so awesome in every way, thanks for making me and showing me all this cool stuff”. Probably closer to “no” though. Whatever.

So it’s about 8:54pm and it happened; the first whine. Ah, but I know how to mitigate that. Threw the pacifier in his mouth with swift speed, made sure he was comfortable, and continued to watch the pre-game. 8:57pm he spit that out and gave a bit of a cry. Nothing too serious though. I threw the pacifier back in his mouth, picked him up and started carrying him back and forth in the living room. But the crying got louder, the head was thrown back, and we were at full fledged problem stage. It happened so quickly! We went from male bonding to panic mode within a 4 minute span. Seriously, his face went from this (smiling pic) to this (screaming pic). I couldn’t believe it. I turned him on his stomach because he likes that, but NOPE, still screaming. 9:03pm. I took him to his changing table and checked his diaper – it’s clean. 9:05 pm. I’m still carrying him around the apartment, and I see it! His swing! Let’s use that. I placed him in the swing, I threw on the classical music he loves, turned on the vibration, and I threw that bitch on level 6! Success! Silence! 9:07pm. Louder screams. I’m certain my neighbors can hear. I’m dejected. I picked him up and carried him some more. Did some swinging with him. Nothing was working. 9:10pm. I missed tip off. I pleaded with Reece, “Please son, this is important to us!” He had no respect for me, my eardrums, or my basketball watching aspirations.

The young man was tired. I ended up getting him to sleep around 9:23pm. The Cavs were winning. Lebron already had 5 points. I missed the beginning of Christmas.

My wife came home around 9:40. I handed Reece to her and explained what happened. She consoled me. She’s a good wife. I watched the rest of the game. I loved it. It was everything I hoped it to be, and more. Honestly, I haven’t had as much fun watching an NBA game in my adult life. In complete silence. No cheering allowed. With my son sleeping between my wife and me. Because your newborn doesn’t give a SHIT about the NBA Finals.

By: D. Rubenstein


I  spoke to her womb twice and she responded with life. She borrowed a piece of me and replenished my offering with the sweet sounds of eloping tears. The sounds of liberation, exhaustion and a distinct chilled fear engulf the atmosphere of praise, admiration and adornment. Instantly I fell into a deep abyss of humbleness eager to take three steps forward onward into this new phase of life. Fatherhood; a noun or title that men often flee and abandon simply because there was no blueprint manufactured for them to duplicate. I asked God a few times if he entrusted me to instill value, education, morale and most importantly, the word of GOD into the future generation of my existence. My intuition always led me to believe that GOD would smile at me and gently nod his head in my direction with a lingering chuckle in the atmosphere as if to say you will be fine. While trying to interpret his sense of humor I find myself looking face to face at my two daughters. I initially had wishful thinking and selfish aspirations of fathering the next supreme male athlete. Things got REAL when I found out I was having two girls.

At this ungodly hour I am awake and afraid. I am not even sure where this content is being inspired from at 3:37 am. However, when I think about what it means to little girls to experience the presence of a father figure, a very intense feeling lingers within my spirit. This feeling can only be described as if I was a mere vessel, floating in the midst of the largest cumulus cloud multiplied by a million butterflies. Despite the glorious anxiety that feels like Christmas Eve, a bitter taste of the unknown begins to manufacture dormant fears. The problem I have with fear as it relates to my daughters is being able to channel this false sense of insecurity by setting a good foundation for them to trust, honor, and respect.  A tremendous challenge that doesn’t leave much room for error. Let me make it plain for a second.  As a parent we all aspire for our children to supersede everything that we have accomplished. Every father also has that golden rule of thumb sarcastically told by comedian Chris Rock: “your one job as a father is to keep your daughter off the pole.” I used to laugh hysterically at that joke, but now it doesn’t seem as funny. So grab a drink and enter the mind of an over anxious father of daughters.

Social media leads me to believe that the prophetic word of God is surreal, live and in living color as our future generations continue to become weaker. I try not to judge or label others, but often I find myself asking questions like, how do the fathers feel about your twerk videos, or half naked photos that so many young ladies willingly post? Were there daddy issues present? Was daddy even present? What went wrong, if anything? Some women have this new declaration of independence regarding their sexuality and our young ladies are aspiring to follow their lifestyles (hit like). How does a father compete with the ways of the world? Fellas doesn’t that frighten you?

Further along down the yellow brick road, I will say to my children, “you can be any and everything you dream about in this world as long as you work hard at setting goals”. In return, they will look at me with their big beautiful eyes and embrace my words as truth. I mean why wouldn’t they? To them I am a superhero, invincible to any speculation of fabrication. My words shall fill their self esteem to the point where they will have no doubt about becoming scholars. They will relentlessly pursue their career aspirations so they can have the life that I promised they would achieve if they worked towards it. As I lay here on my futon, the thought of their success sends an empty feeling through the pits of my stomach. It just occurred to me that it could be possible that one of my children may inquire about the harsh reality of me not fulfilling my dreams in life. How do I respond to a child that is asking me, her king, her super hero, if he in fact is living his dream? After filling her self esteem with the riches of inspiration that hard work can bring forth, what kind of example have I set for them to bear witness to? That feeling of emptiness and the harsh reality of my current state of mind begins to engineer more fear.

Let’s face it; daddy’s little girls will not be babies forever. My 45 pistol stays clean and oiled for the day that some unfortunate, young, poor soul, whatever his name is (gritting my teeth) attempts to charm my girls. He will even feel ballsy enough to willingly walk to my door step and introduce himself as my daughter’s boyfriend. My brother in law and I share similar feelings and have been practicing our Martin and Will, Bad Boys II charade in preparation for my niece and her future poor excuse for a little boy, I mean significant other; “You ever made love to a man? You want to? “. There are days where I surround my mind with thoughts and questions to produce answers that outline a platform my girls can cherry pick from.  After all, what father would want their daughters to be with a man that dresses like a hoodlum, randomly sleeps around with different women and lacks genuine understanding of how MY DAUGHTERS should be treated? He would have some nerve to present such cockiness to my doorstep as if he could even come close to standards that I would have already set. I would never let my daughter date some mere mortal that thinks they can just take advantage of her in experience with love, knowing that they look to me as a god. Over my dead, cold body! My wife asked me how I would feel if my daughters dated a man that was just like me growing up and before I can answer with confidence, I panicked. I thought about who I was and the things I did with other men’s daughters. You see what I did there? I don’t even feel qualified to be good enough for my own daughters.

Life has a funny way of providing revelation. I use the term fear to describe a personal choice. I can choose to live in fear or I can choose to stand in the fire and face my destiny. Men fail at facing their fears which is why so many lack the tenacity it takes to endure self revelation. It’s hard to look at my daughters and not understand who I am as a person, things that I experienced and not fear for their choices.  Why fear though? Why not just get better, do better and live better? However I am humbled at the responsibility that is bestowed upon me. If you were looking for the some miraculous dialog or dissertation outlined by a researched thesis on how to be the perfect father, then you clearly have missed the point of this message (I don’t have the answers Sway).

At night I tuck them in bed, after a day that consumed my pursuit of happiness. I pride myself in being a present father. I face my fears in the still of the night and awaken with a rejuvenated spirit that overthrows the glory of the sun. I am a Father. Hear me roar. LOVE is all my daughters require at this time. In the mean time just relax. To fathers that live in fear for their daughters…..let it go and let God.

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

Don’t Tell Me Not To Run

On April 4th, 2015, Walter Scott was murdered. He was murdered by a cop. Walter Scott was Black. That cop, unsurprisingly was White. The cop and police precinct tried to cover it up. They said the cop did everything right. He said that there was a tussle over the cop’s taser and that he tried to use the taser on the cop. The cop said he felt “in danger” as per usual when these incidents happen. The cop was sitting pretty for 2 days thinking he got away with murder. Thank the Lord, somebody was filming this whole incident. If you’re reading this, then by now you’ve probably watched the video. If you haven’t, you don’t need to. It’s sickening. It’s a man shot in cold blood. It brings no value to anybody’s life, and hopefully will be the driving force for that cop to spend many a life in jail.

I’m not sure there’s much more to say about the presented facts of this case. I saw a guy get killed. It’s on my heart and mind. I pray for the family of Walter Scott. I pray for justice. And even though this cop is charged with murder, I’m still not convinced he will do anything more than time served after his trial is over. Again, I pray otherwise, but I really have very little faith in the correct thing happening.

But that’s not why I felt compelled to write. I felt compelled because last night after I saw the video, I shared this tragic news with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who were in the living room of my home attending to my 3 week old son. Immediately, the response was the typical response that we all gave, that this is tragic and very sad. But soon after that my mother-in-law said he shouldn’t have been running from the cops. I couldn’t tell you the infuriation that ran through my body at that statement. At that point she hadn’t seen the video, she had only heard what I said, but she felt like she knew enough to say that the man shouldn’t have run. F$$K THAT! Running wasn’t the problem here. The problem was that this isn’t uncommon news. The problem is that this happens daily. It happens so much that it wasn’t even national news until the video surfaced. Don’t tell me that he was killed because he ran. That’s the same as talking about black on black crime in response to Ferguson. Nobody needs to hear the precautionary tales. That’s not the answer. We shouldn’t be just trying to get to the next day, we should be living in a world where we don’t fear authority. We should be living in a country where we trust our public officials.

My mother in law’s statement is a justification of cops shooting and killing him. Shooting and killing me. Shooting and killing my son. And there is no justification for a cop sending eight shots at a man’s back. There’s no justification for killing an unarmed man that poses zero physical threat. That man who was clearly and justifiably scared for his life tried to run away and save his life. He was unsuccessful. Telling me not to run from the cops feels like telling me to stand there and just accept my execution. Look at Oscar Grant!

I will not and I shall not accept my execution. If I am in Walter Scott’s position I will run 100% of the time and if I am shot in the back and killed, I pray that my family is as lucky as the Scott’s family that a hero of a civilian was able to catch the murder on tape. So DO NOT tell me not to run. I don’t trust cops. None of them. Sure I know that most of them are “good cops”. I understand the statistics really well. But I don’t trust ANY of them. And for the life of me I have no clue what to tell my son. I have about 4 years before my son has an interest in cops and firemen and the normal things that boys think are cool. But what the hell do I tell him when he asks me a real question about cops. Or tells me he thinks cops are cool. Or wants to say hi to a cop on the street? What if he picks up on my fear of cops and asks me why I’m afraid? These are future conversations that I’m dreading and I feel for every man who has a son between the ages of 4 and 8 right now because I know there are lots of uncomfortable family moments and difficult family discussions happening now. I will also pray for strength for the fathers and mothers out there that have these tough teaching moments.

I honestly don’t know what I will tell my son when he’s old enough to have these conversations. And I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but I damn sure won’t tell him not to run if he feels his life is in danger. My son will not be accepting his execution. Because he’s human. And you shouldn’t have to be shot for being human.

Rest peacefully Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Jones, Antonio Martin, Aura Rosser, Sean Bell, Lavall Hall, Nicholas Thomas, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Anthony Hill, Jordan Baker…



D. Rubenstein
Son, Brother, Husband & Father

Climbing Your Mountain

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”

-Laozi (Chinese Philosopher)


​As the father of two children, I have the wonderful task of getting the kids up in the morning, dressed and out the door.  My lovely wife is up and out of the house well before we wake up, which gives me this monumental responsibility.  I cherish this time with my daughter, especially, because she is the epitome of “mommy’s little girl”, and I often gaze in amazement at how she emulates her mother at such a young age.  One morning, not too long ago, I was perusing my Facebook timeline when I saw a friend talking about how he observed his daughter, of similar age, attempting to complete a task.  His brief story reminded me of a recent interaction with my daughter that spoke volumes about human nature and the characteristics that are innately in us from a young age.  So here goes a brief synopsis of what I witnessed the apple of my eye trying to accomplish. 

Now I already established that my daughter absolutely adores her mother, so needless to say, whatever mama says, she says; whatever mama does, she does; and whatever mama wears, she wants to wear. On this particular morning, my daughter became fixated on getting into her mother’s jewelry box so that she could wear her mother’s “amulet”.  Now if you don’t know what an amulet is, don’t feel bad. It wasn’t until after watching an episode of Disney’s Sophia the First that I recently learned that an amulet is a fancy word for “a piece of jewelry thought to give protection against evil.”  

Now, In order for my 23 month old to reach the ultimate prize and achieve her goal, she would need to scale “Mount Olympus” (the dresser) and fend off the “evil monster” (daddy).  For about ten minutes I watched her out of the corner of my eye as she made multiple attempts to scale the mountain.  She first tried to climb the dresser by pulling herself up, but was met with resistance as she is not quite strong enough yet.  She then utilized her resources and climbed on the bed and tried to reach over to the dresser but was snatched out of the air by the evil monster and told “no”.  Now here comes the moment that opened my eyes. After two failed attempts and many prompts from me to “stop, and watch Mickey Mouse Club House” and threats of being in timeout, she wiped the tears from her eyes and scanned the room.  She left my bedroom and re-entered with the key to her success, her potty.  She silently walked past me with the potty in her arms, stumbling along the way and breathing quite heavily.  She placed the potty directly in front of the dresser and slowly stepped onto it while using her hands to grab the top of the dresser and secure herself.  As a father, I had two options.  I could either play the role of the villain and knock her from the top of Mount Olympus or concede defeat.  I smiled as she proudly grabbed the “amulet” and looked at me asking for me to “help put it on please”.

“However, what I do believe to be true is that the appearance of the mountains in our lives does not constitute the end of our journeys, but rather, the beginning of an opportunity.”

​Now some of you are reading this story and wondering what this has to do with Seizing Opulence?  This story illustrates that from a very young age, human beings are born with the innate ability to persevere, be resilient, and strive for greatness.  Unfortunately for many people, somewhere along the way, we lose the desire to face the mountains that are placed before us. I will not spout rhetoric such as “if you believe it, you can achieve it” or “anything is possible if you put your mind to it”. However, what I do believe to be true is that the appearance of the mountains in our lives does not constitute the end of our journeys, but rather, the beginning of an opportunity. 

Embrace the journey that you have set out on, and do not allow yourself to be consumed by the fear of failure. Whether it is within the work force, education, or your personal life, it is paramount that you keep pushing. There will be instances in which life happens and things that are beyond your control may put your dreams on hold; but just like my baby girl, you have it within you to conquer the mountains in your life. Far too often, we focus more on how daunting a task is, rather than breaking it down piece by piece. When facing the mountain to success, you must be able to figure out the best way to navigate the terrain. Study that mountain and the many obstacles that it may present, but don’t stop there. Once you have an understanding of what achieving your goal entails, devise a workable and measurable plan to make it happen. Just like my daughter utilized the resources afforded to her in order to scale “Mount Olympus”, you too have resources at your disposal.  Identify the individuals, institutions and natural supports that may be helpful on your journey and be strategic in how you utilize them.  

Most importantly, understand that your dreams cannot come to fruition if you are not bold enough to set out on the path to accomplishing it.  So whether it is going back to school to finish up a degree, starting a new business, jumping into a new line of work or simply getting off of the couch and into the gym, YOU have the ability to be as great as you allow yourself to be.  

Sometimes the greatest lessons that we learn are taught by those that we are placed on earth to teach, guide and protect. Hopefully as you think about your life and the greatness that is within you, you will remember the story of the little girl and her quest for an amulet. Seize opulence, my people, and be blessed!


By Tai Richardson


Faint Pulse: Why hip-hop isn’t dead

Hip Hop is dead! We’ve all heard this before or something along the lines of music being in a general state of decline. Rarely is there any blame placed on factors such as an artist’s lack of talent or Hip Hop is just different now. Even with the proverbial sh*tty music out today, there are still great artists and tons of up and coming artists that are on the cusp of recognizable; but that’s another conversation. For now we’ll talk about this whole idea of Hip Hop and its “demise”.

Hip Hop can’t be dead and if it is dead, who is to blame? Do we look to the lack of quality we deal with every time we turn on the radio or television? There isn’t a concrete answer of the origin of who’s at fault; comparable to the chicken or the egg, similar to the plot in Bamboozled (is it the man at the head of the table behind the scenes, is it the artist themselves, or is it us as fans?). Altogether we do one hell of a job suppressing good music and uplifting the stereotype-filled and substance lacking crap, we are forced to digest by major labels and your “Hot 97’s everyday that’s my word!” (See what I did there). Which ultimately makes us (the consumers) the Prime Suspects.

Outside of the consumers being the prime suspects for the declining of Hip Hop, we also know the music labels play an integral role in suppressing good music. Labels have changed the game; there is less of an emphasis on the actual artists and more of an emphasis of having the next trendy, radio & club hit. It’s a political game; labels seek to reach the largest audiences by supporting shallow artists that lack skill and depth of thought. The deeper and harder you are to understand as an artist, the more likely you are to offend someone, and the less likely you are to make money for the label. With the help of social media and this generation’s 140 character limited attention span, good production and a dance (i.e. “Hot n****” and the Shmoney dance) seem to be more important than what messages are being delivered by the artist. Let’s be real, all of those songs have a place in Hip Hop, yes even Iggy Azalea (she sucks by the way). When we’re in the club, we don’t want to hear a reference to politics. We just need lyrics that are easy to digest and a dope beat in some situations. Which tells  more about the fan-base wanting to escape reality than listening to soul shifting music (but let’s save that for another post). The labels are out to take our money, so obviously  “we” are communicating a love for the music tearing down the Hip Hop culture. With the exception of those artist cosigned by the moguls, (Dr. Dre, Jay Z..etc) . It is no coincidence that Eminem, 50cent and Kendrick Lamar’s careers skyrocketed after their affiliation with Dre.The same can be said about Jay Z’s affiliates: Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Wale and J. Cole. There is always the possibility that these immensely talented artists would blow up regardless, but it would be foolish to downplay the mogul’s impact on their careers. It’s the art of the co-sign; without one, the greatest lyricists can be another starving artist. Rappers are forced to sacrifice their artistic integrity to satisfy the label’s direction for them; what the consumer needs to hear. Well, unless you’re a Lupe fan. Some how Lupe fans were able to switch the label’s practice. Lasers, Lupe’s 3rd album (which was a flop), did not receive an album release date until fans protested outside of Atlantic’s headquarters. Talk about consumer power! There is the proof of the power that we (the consumers) choose not to exercise. Now the blame shifts on the artists.

There has always been horrible music, but with the advent of YouTube and other popular social media platforms, releasing music to the world is as easy as a click of a button. It is  so simple to go viral recording a song and sending it to the masses. Back in the day, rappers had to get through a couple barriers; luckily for the artists now, they can skip all the middle men. It is hard to compete as a conscious artist since being trendy seems to be where the money is. Consequently, some artists sell out and follow suit. Did they forget that self-expression is the base of all music? This is why artists like Kanye, J. Cole, and Drake (the list goes on) continually succeed.They are being themselves and we all can relate or at least admire that. If Hip Hop is dead, it anti-climatically died from natural causes due to its unhealthy lifestyle. What a bummer! The rather complicated formula of commercialism, which embodies components of all three of the “prime suspects”, led Hip Hop to dig its own grave. Each component correlates with one another, but there is no true causal relationship. Rappers and labels attempt to appeal to fans; fans individually have the least amount of power and have to make due with what’s given. Each of these parts are interdependent to one another, being an integral piece to the overall process.

What can we do as fans? We have to form a united front and begin to demand more effort, authenticity, and overall higher quality music. On a local level, we must begin uplifting our artist with true potential and not be afraid of what the rest of the country may think. This is one reason why you have to respect the West Coast culture, they truly stand behind their artists like  Blu a Los Angeles rapper who If you haven’t heard of his albums “Below the Heavens” and “Her Favorite Colo(u)r” please give them a listen. Through social media and famous Hip Hop blogs, we can voice our opinions on what we want and what we deem as great music. Pitchfork, a popular music website, is known for deleting or adjusting old reviews, once the artist’s work boosts in national recognition. Lastly, don’t fall for the hype. Make your own decisions, define what good music is, do not let the number of views and plays on a radio deter your integrity as a listener. We are Hip Hop’s pulse and need to begin to realize that. As long as we can identify good music and hold artists to our high standards, Hip Hop will be alive and well.

We at VSOP acknowledge the power and rarity of good music. However, In recent conversations on the topic,we’ve realized that the opinion of what good music is varies from individual to individual. Nonetheless, we feel confident that we know a classic when we hear it. We want to make sure that our take on music is not the typical thumbs up, thumbs down critique. Our vision is to break down how music makes us feel and what contribution it makes to our everyday life.  Through our conversation of what good music is, we will find ourselves in classic debates about the musical talent of our time. Please feel free to comment and communicate with us as we examine music. Consider this your invitation the Save the Music!

By: J. Taylor
Music Enthusiast


The Medium

According to dictionary.com, the definition of “medium” is as follows: 1. A middle state or condition; mean. 2.Something intermediate in nature or degree. There are about sixteen definitions for this word, but let’s focus on the first two as it applies to African American males in these United States of America. By now you’re probably wondering where could this possibly go, or what points are being brought up. Often times we as society tend to overlook or subconsciously not acknowledge the multiple identities of a person or a group of people. Society subconsciously or consciously, depending on who you’re talking to, depicts the African American experience in this country with only struggle/despair or living the lavish life of an entertainer/athlete, leaving no room for a “medium”. To go even further, society/media portrays the African American male experience as presented in two different lights; the successful athlete/entertainer or the drug dealer/gang-banger. Let’s categorize those “light” descriptions as “highs” and “lows”. The “high” would of course be the athlete/entertainer that promotes the lifestyle of money, sex, and drugs. Then it’s the “low” drug dealer/gang-banger  that lives the life of violence on their quest to money, sex, and drugs. But there has to be more to a black man’s life in America, right? Constantly, society feeds this dichotomous image of all black men that is absolutely inaccurate. If you are asking what are the inaccuracies, one would possible say the easier question is which one should we highlight first? (Yes, there are many.)

For the sake of an argument let’s start with examining the black man and the “medium” that is rarely highlighted for us. The images created by the media leaves those who are not familiar, or have limited interactions with black males in America as a “black” or “white,” good and bad perspective of these men. What about the gray area? There has to be some in between, right? As we examine the “medium,” a few questions come to mind. Mainly, where is the “medium”  for this African American man? What does that medium look like, and why doesn’t he have a voice?The “medium” black man is often forgotten in America. Rarely is there any recognition for his accomplishments or empathy for his struggles. However, there is constant attention given to his counterparts. Whether it’s the black male athlete/entertainer who is idolized for their glitz and glamour, or the drug dealer/gang banger that’s constantly in the newspaper or community doing something wrong.

When these are the two images that are constantly recognized by society rightly or wrongfully so, the idea of the “medium” tends to fade. Who is this “medium” black man you ask? The answer is quite simple. The medium black man is the man who wakes up every day and goes to work to provide for his family. The medium black man is the man who not only goes to college, but graduates. He is our pastor, lawyer, doctor, corrections officer, policeman, fireman, banker, social worker, teacher, principal and the successful business man all in our midst to be acknowledged. However, we rarely acknowledge him! Instead we constantly micro-aggressively compare him to his “high” and “low” counterparts. If he has an athletic stature we ask him why he isn’t playing a professional sport, or if he has a nice car, we automatically assume that he’s selling drugs or participating in illegal activities. Society loves to silence the medium black man and when he reacts we label him as angry. But why shouldn’t he be angry? He’s human too. He thinks, feels, and reacts the same way you do. Although the voice of the “medium” black man tends to be silenced at times, one could also say that he also allows his voice to be silenced. He chooses not to speak up due to the fear of being labeled. Instead he bottles it up inside and continues fighting the labels like the warrior he is. With everything that’s going on in society today, the voice of the “medium” black man is needed more than ever before.

Think about it, society fears you simply because they only know both extremes. Better yet, society knows the “highs” and are very familiar with them because of their fame. Society also knows that the “high”s have too much to lose. Which leaves society with what the media feeds them about the description of the “lows” and that’s who society fears. Because of your silence society  does not look at you for your degrees, they immediately lump you in with the “lows”. You have to speak up, make your presence felt. Let the world know that you exist and that this image they paint of you is false. Speak out on what you feel is wrong; don’t be defined by the transgressions of your counterparts. You are not a mythical creature that only exists in theory. You are real and you are in abundance. For the sake of the future, speak up because lives depend on it.