Many of you have watched me take a stand against injustices I see and encounter. Many of you have read my thoughts about what has been happening in this world. Many of you know I have no problem expressing how I feel about certain situations. So many of you may have been expecting a different blog title than the one you received.
Listen, everyone knows I love football. Not just like. I love it. Always have. Always will. Youth. Middle school. High school. College. NFL. I love it all. It is an escape for me. It is a place of solace in this crazy world. It is something I look forward too every September. And they are the reasons why I will be in front of the tv tonight.
Let me be clear. My love for the game is not greater than the desire I have to see things change in this world as well as effect change. However, here is the reality. The National Football League has long been a corporation that expects its employees to behave a certain way, follow certain protocols and always put the interests of their team, first. No different than most businesses, right? Well the difference here is the NFL has long been a corporation that rarely practices what it preaches. It wants to protect the shield but it has not been willing to do what needs to be done to make sure the shield is presented in a continuous, positive light.
A few weeks ago, I had an urge to write about one of my favorite athletes – Venus Ebony Starr Williams.
I was on vacation but I woke up early that Saturday morning to watch Venus claim
what I just knew was going to be her sixth Wimbledon title. But it was not meant to be. However, my urge to write about Venus was still there.
But then I got back home and life happened, as it always does. A day turned into days and they turned into weeks and then I looked up and it was September.
The great thing about this though is the fact that Venus, as she always has been, is worthy of having this blog post written about her.
I wear many hats. I am a freelance writer. I am a certified personal trainer. I am a group exercise instructor. I am a community servant. I am an advocate. I am a DJ. I am a public relations consultant. I am a marketing specialist. I am a youth development coordinator. I am an event planner. Add to that my dedication to my family, healthy living and my love of eating and what you will find is a person who is grinding in her purpose but is still struggling with finding that happy balance in her life.
One of the best decisions I ever made, well God made it for me, was to move back to my hometown. I get questioned all the time about why I moved back. I used to find myself giving this long explanation but now I simply say because this is where I am supposed to be. Moving home has opened so many new doors of opportunity that it would take all day to list them. I am grateful for all of them. However, now I find myself having a dilemma. How do you balance it all when your plate is full and you still want to put more on it and you know more will be put on it but you are currently struggling to find a place for it all?
In eight days I will be 36 – I know you are counting down with me – and I have made it my personal mission to find a balance that works for me in my new year. For the past few years, I have put a lot of time and energy into my branpire(brand + empire) and not enough time and energy into myself and those that I love. I understand my grind and most of those close to me understand it. However, that does not mean operating at this current level is acceptable.
A few months ago one of my close friends, who grinds just as much as I do issued me the reality check I needed. It was early one morning and I was still up working on a project. We were texting and I made the mention of being #TeamNoSleep. I promptly received a reply telling me to go to sleep as I was chastised for such ridiculous goal. My friend then proceeded to remind me how important sleep is no matter what our goals are.
I was shocked because the texter would routinely be up until 3 and 4 o’clock. I had the texts to prove it. But something had changed. That last text that was sent was simple but on my end it was powerful. I was running on fumes and my mood sometimes reflected it. I found myself being irritable, annoyed and had little patience for certain situations. I knew something had to give.
I live a great life. It is very fulfilling. However, I want more of what makes me happy. I want more time spent with my family and friends. I want more time spent reading under the dogwood tree with my feet firmly planted in the grass. I want more time spent running. I want more time spent traveling. I want more time spent writing leisurely. I want more time spent on adventure. I want more time spent resting. I want more time spent eating pizza. I want more time spent laughing. And we all know how much I like to laugh and eat pizza.
As the years have rolled on, I am appreciative and thankful of the fact that I am constantly in a state of growth. I am learning so much about me as I embrace exactly who God created me to be. I know that everything that worked for me at 30 will not work for me in the coming years. I know that I am living out my purpose even if certain circumstances do not reflect that currently. I know that the best is yet to come.
And I know that in Year 36, I am going to get what I want. Watch me.
Back in November, I had an idea. I decided I was going to write a letter to President and First Lady Obama. I knew it would be a longshot that they would actually get a chance to read it as I am sure they receive thousands of letters a day but I wanted to try anyway. Well I procrastinated and now we are two days away from the end of his presidency and the letter still resides inside my heart until now…
Dear Mr. President and First Lady Obama:
In 2008, I was a young 26 year old on a path to finding my purpose in this world. I was searching high and low for meaning and movements I could support. I had begun to take more interest in the political landscape of the country. I was not sure what I was looking for exactly but I knew there had to be something or someone out there that could offer up the inspiration I was looking for…I then discovered you two. I will admit, initially, I was not sure that you all could pull off this monumental challenge. Not because I did not believe in you but I was not sure the country would. But I wanted to know more about the platform you stood on so I went to a rally. It was in April. The rally was held at my beloved alma mater, North Carolina State University. The speaker was Michelle Obama.
At the rally, First Lady Obama, laid out plainly the morals, values and standards that you, Mr. President, govern yourself by daily. She detailed the desires of your heart to see this country support equality for all as we pushed for change in Washington. She shared personal stories of triumphs and tragedies that shaped the man that you are today. I have heard plenty of speeches before in my life but there was something about her speech that my spidey senses picked up on and it was the honesty in her voice. I could tell she was genuine. I could tell she was not making this up. I could tell she was not being a politician.
I knew that evening that there was something different about you.
In total, you all would visit the triangle of North Carolina four more times before the election and each time I was in attendance. I even took off work to attend an event. Not to worry, my then boss understood and gave me her blessings. As I listened to you speak six days before being elected in 2008, I had hope.
We are now two days away from your transition and I have always hoped I would get the chance to say some of these things in person before you left The White House. I am still hopeful, I will one day get the chance to say these things to the both of you but for now I hope this will suffice as I want to say thank you…
Thank you President Obama for stepping out on faith and running for the office of the President of the United States.
Thank you President Obama for providing hope to billions across the world.
Thank you President Obama for always exuding class at all times when most of us would have understood if you did not.
Thank you President Obama for having the courage to face your opposition head on.
Thank you President Obama for marrying First Lady Obama.
Thank you President Obama for choosing Vice President Joe Biden to walk side by side with you.
Thank you First Lady Obama for the beauty and grace you brought to The White House.
Thank you First Lady Obama for caring about us enough to encourage us to move more and make better food choices.
Thank you First Lady Obama for being a role model that all girls and women can be proud of.
Thank you First Lady Obama for taking on this position and making it your own.
Thank you First Lady Obama for being all of our BFF’s in our head.
Thank you First Lady Obama for saying yes to President Obama.
Thank you President Obama for being a role model for young boys, especially black boys.
Thank you President Obama for being comfortable enough to express your feelings through tears.
Thank you President Obama for leading the country from the brink of the second Great Depression.
Thank you President Obama for leading this country to record job growth.
Thank you President Obama for Obamacare.
Thank you President Obama for shining a light on the problems with our judicial and prison system.
Thank you President Obama for visiting with the populations who are often forgotten about.
Thank you First Lady Obama for welcoming so many people in your home.
Thank you First Lady Obama for being a leading voice for girl’s education.
Thank you First Lady Obama for not shying away from the tough questions.
Thank you First Lady Obama for always letting the real you shine through.
Thank you First Lady Obama for affirming women who are strong, intelligent and ambitious.
Thank you First Lady Obama for your support of military families.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for being an example of what love looks like.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for sharing all of your parenting knowledge as you have raised two beautiful daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for being so fly.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for recognizing the talents and gifts of so many people, from so many different walks of life.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for being so down to earth.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for speaking up and defending so many of us.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for believing and seeing the good in the world.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for inspiring me to become more involved in my community especially on a grassroots level.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for loving on our youth.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for being so cool.
Thank you President and First Lady Obama for “Slow Jamming the News” and dancing with Jimmy Fallon, for showcasing your admiration of each other, for keeping us optimistic, for fist bumping, for smiling, for dancing, for jokes about dad jeans, for being authentically, unequivocally you.
You are appreciated. And you will be missed. Tremendously.
If I did not learn anything else in 2016, I learned that in times of controversy people’s true colors will shine brightly.
Enter Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney.
Before September, I was a fan of his, I guess. I had nothing against him. I liked his story. I liked the fact that he was an underdog and had been counted out numerous times. I liked his positive energy, his upbeat attitude and the fact that he always gave credit to God for his many blessings.
I liked what he stood for until he provided me with his opinion surrounding one of 2016’s most controversial figures, Colin Kaepernick.
Like the majority of coaches around the country, Swinney was asked to give his opinion regarding the manner in which Kaepernick had chosen to express his disgust regarding the unjustices plaguing black people and people of color in this country. Swinney’s initial response was that he would not discipline a player who decided to take a stance by not standing for the national anthem even though he thought it would be a distraction. Distraction huh?
Swinney further explains that he believed there is a right way to do things and he did not think two wrongs made a right. According to him, he would foresee the “distraction” as divisive. Divisive huh?
To drive home his failed point, Swinney begans to paint this picture of “luxury” that have been afforded to black people that leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. never got to experience-things that were just a dream to him. He reminded us of the fact that President Obama is a two term president, that interracial marriage is now legal, that there are black head coaches, quarterbacks, CEOs, NBA owners, etc. He ends with suggesting that if this country is so bad then “some of these people need to move to another country.”
Strikes three, four, five and six.
If you have been following my blog closely the past two years then you know how much my gears grind when people who look nothing like me try and tell others and myself how we should think, feel and act. Or how we should feel grateful that we now are able to experience “luxuries” that my grandparents could not. I do not care what your title is, where you are from, how much money you make or what side of the bed you sleep on, you do not have the right to tell me how I should react to the lopsided amount of injustices being dished out to people of color every hour.
Now that I have done a little research, I guess I should not have been surprised at his words considering the fact that a few years ago Swinney, who will receive a $400,000 bonus for winning the championship, said he would quit coaching football if players started receiving compensation “because there is enough entitlement in the world as is.” I think I am out of strikes.
As a Christian, I have a problem with Christians like Dabo Swinney who give God all the praise when millions are watching but when the numbers are few, the love he preaches about is not evident in his words. There is no love in telling people to leave who want to see things change for the better in this country. There is no love in being a leader of young men while suggesting that any form of protest against wrongdoings constitute as a “wrong.” There is no love in reminding black people how far we have come without acknowledging the backward steps that are being taken by those in power. There is no love in not supporting compensation for young men and women in a billion dollar industry while making $5.1 million a year off the backs, legs and arms of these young men. To some, this may seem like a stretch and I can almost guarantee that those who think that will not look like me.
Honestly, I would like to be all excited about Clemson’s win. I would like to be all hip hip hooray for the ACC. I would like to be able to call up one of my best friends who is the only Alabama fan I know and offer up a mound of trash talk. Unfortunately, I cannot. To revel in Alabama’s loss is to celebrate Clemson’s win and with Dabo Swinney roaming the sidelines it is impossible for me to do. Although, I am extremely excited for DeShaun Watson. Class act all the way.
However, that is where my excitement stops. I have long accepted the fact that some people will say whatever they want to and seemingly still be rewarded in spite of. One thing I do know for sure is that the Good Book was spot on when it says you reap what you sow. From one Christian to another, Dabo you have been gifted a unique opportunity. Do not ruin it because you choose to not take the time to understand. As a Christian that is exactly what you should be doing. The love you speak about should be evident in your thoughts, words and deeds.
If Joe Mixon was a walk-on or a third string running back for the University of Oklahoma, he would no longer be on the team.
But money talks. And Mixon was the number one recruit for the university in 2014. No way they can kick him off the team, right? They need him because he will produce on the field, right? And him producing on the field means fans will come to the games, right? And fans coming to the games means they are spending money right? And if fans are spending money then that is all that matters, right?
I will admit. I did not do a lot of research on this topic until today. I remember when the news dropped in 2014 about Mixon being suspended. At the time, the news reports were pretty hush hush other than to tell us that he had hit a woman and would be suspended for the whole season.
When the video was released this past Friday, I decided not to watch it. I have a very hard time sometimes erasing visuals from my mind. The thought of watching a man hit a woman so hard that bones were broken in her face was sickening.
At the time, I thought to myself, I do not care what a woman says to you, as a man you need to have more self control than that. And I know there are plenty of women out there that have the ability to provoke a man to the point where striking them becomes inevitable. However, in this case, I thought the actions were pretty straightforward. That was, until I talked to my mother today.
It was during a discussion with my mother than I found out Amelia Molitor ASSAULTED Mixon FIRST. Pause. Say what now? This I have to see. And there it was, as clear as a morning at the beach. Molitor pushes Mixon. Mixon draws back as if he is going to hit her but does not. Molitor slaps Mixon. Mixon lands a right jab and down goes Molitor.
This is definitely not the story that was being reported two years ago.
After this, I begin to dig a little deeper and what I found was disturbing. Molitor was never charged with anything. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
But she ASSAULTED him FIRST.
But it is 2016 and in this case 2014 so I should not be surprised.
Molitor is just as guilty as Mixon is. And in my opinion, she is the guiltiest of the two. Listen, in a perfect world, men would never hit women no matter what. And men would still be taught to never hit a woman no matter what. And women would not hit men or try to bait them into hitting them.
But this world is not perfect and in the present time, men are not raised with the respect for women that the men of the 60s, 70s and 80s were. There are a lot of young men across all races whom are being raised in single parent homes. And these young men operate under a different code.
None of this changes the fact that Molitor was the aggressor. And even though I was raised to believe a man should never hit a woman, I also believe that any woman that is bold enough to hit a man should not cry foul if he hits her retaliates.
The double standards in this case disgusts me. Molitor should have been charged. Mixon should have been dismissed from the team, permanently. And head coach Bob Stoops…please do not get me started on him.
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have never understood riots. I have never understood destroying property, vandalizing vehicles and looting stores. I have never understood the violence.
I am angry. I am frustrated. I am overwhelmed. I am sad. I am tired. I am hurt.
I want this to stop. I wanted this to stop in 1992 when they beat Rodney King in the streets of LA. On video. I wanted this to stop in 1999 when Amadou Diallo’s body was filled with 19 bullets. I wanted this to stop in 2006 when Sean Bell was killed the morning of his wedding. I wanted this to stop in 2012 when Trayvon Martin’s life was cut short because of a lunatic’s “suspicions.” I wanted this to stop in 2013 when Jonathan Ferrell needed help but got the death penalty instead. I wanted this to stop in 2015 when Sandra Bland went to jail for a minor traffic violation and came home in a box.
I remember every single one of these incidents. I remember the pain I felt as the narratives unfolded. I remember the questions I had. And I remember wondering why. Why does this keep happening?
It has to stop. I need it to stop.
But it hasn’t.
And now it has hit home.
The war zone is Charlotte. A mere 45 minutes from my hometown. The city I was in on Sunday as well as Tuesday night – the night the city erupted over the fact that once again a black man was dead and the police was behind the trigger.
Police said he had a gun. Witnesses and family say he did not. To me, none of that truly matters. What really matters is why? Why are police always shooting to kill US? Why has execution by cop become the norm? Why are we not given the same treatment as Dylan Roof and the NYC bomber who had a shootout with the cops but lived to tell us all about it?
Why do I have to fear whether or not my brothers, cousins, nephews, father and friends will return to their homes daily? I pray for them every day but rarely am I worried that they will get into an accident or be at the wrong place at the wrong time. However, I do fear them interacting with a cop who may see them as nothing more than target practice.
You want to know why people are rioting? Scroll back up to the top and read the quote again. People are rioting because they are tired. People are rioting because they are frustrated. People are rioting because they are angry. People are rioting because they are fearful. People are rioting because they are scared. People are rioting because the justice system keeps handing out injustices to black people like parking tickets. People are rioting because even when we are peaceful, we are not heard. People are rioting because of systematic oppression. People are rioting because they have been pushed out of their comfort zones due to gentrification. People are rioting because they are tired of being viewed as less than a human. People are rioting because very few are taking the time to listen. People are rioting because violence is all they know. People are rioting because violence is what they have been taught. People are rioting because the people who swore they would serve and protect are the ones they need protection from.
That is why Uptown Charlotte looks like ground zero.
I do not condone rioting. I do not believe it is the answer to the problems. I do believe it makes it even harder to find common ground with those who have no grasp of the issues.
But when you have tried everything else and it falls on deaf ears then the language of the unheard shouts back LOUDLY.