How Does One Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day?

martin-luther-lingHow exactly are you supposed to celebrate Martin Luther King Day?

Nine years ago, I went to a ratchet, all-night pajama party in a warehouse (For the record, I had a damn good time).

Two years ago, I sat at my desk at my sales job looking mean looking because I didn’t get to sleep in that day.

Last year, I went to the gym with my mom because we both had the day off, and why not?

This year, I did what everyone else seemed to be doing and went to see Selma.

Turns out, that was the right thing for me to do because I learned something. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know about Dr. King or Bloody Sunday or the SCLC. I learned something new about myself. I learned that I want to leave a legacy of my own one day. Continue reading

This Week In Feminism

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope the men and women in your life are equally sharing the responsibility of cooking and cleaning on this tasty holiday. Once you’re done with that, enjoy this weeks round up of feminist news and culture.

U. VA Takes Back The Night
In a bold step to end rape culture on campus, the University of VA has suspended all fraternity and sorority life after a student wrote a graphic letter about how she was gang raped in a frat house that was published in Rolling Stone magazine. In the heart wrenching article, the student shares that she taken to a party as a freshman where she was lured into a room where no less than seven men took turns raping her over the course of three hours while her date stood by and encouraged them. If you’re not already disgusted, you should know that this is not a isolated incident. According to the Chicago Tribue, 1 in 5 women experience attempted or completed rape during their college career. Personally, I don’t think suspending Greek life at universities is going to solve the issue of power, ego, and drugs that lead to sexual assault. It’s a reminder that rape and violence have no easy fixes.

Lincoln University President Resigns
While we’re on the subject of university rape culture, it’s important that you know that President Robert Jennings resigned. You may remember President Jennings as the man who spoke at an all-women’s convocation on campus and implied that female students lie about being sexually assaulted “when things didn’t turn out the way they wanted.” Again, there a no easy fixes to rape culture, but telling women to feel guilty about reporting sexual assault and to think about they boys whose “lives get ruined” isn’t one of them.

Ms. Lauryn Hill

Ms. Lauryn Hill

Black Lives Matter
Unless you’ve been living under a rock called “Color blindness,” you know that on Monday it was announced that the Ferguson grand jury would not indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing unarmed Black teen, Michael Brown. Although this is not a strictly feminist issue, it is a human rights issue that affects us all, as people of color are disproportionately killed and arrested by law enforcement. And all of us are responsibly for fighting for the humanity and respect for all people. S/O to the celebs like Solange Knowles and Lauryn Hill who boldly spoke up and acted out in solidarity with the people of Ferguson.

Check out Lauryn Hill’s remix the holiday song “My Favorite Things” into a commentary of race relations in America and the resulting Black Rage.

I Got 99 Problems But My Body Ain’t One

It’s all about the booty, baby!

Over the weekend, Beyoncé showed off her usual flawless self in a new swimsuit boasting some modified lyrics from one of her hubby Jay Z’s famous songs:

“I Got 99 Problems But My Ass Ain’t One.”

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“I Got 99 Problems But My Ass Ain’t One”

I agree with her. Her ass is certainly not a problem. And for that matter, neither is mine. Continue reading

Confessions of a Hater

I am surrounded by very talented, creative people: artists, musicians, singers rappers, writers, speakers, filmmakers, designers, future CEOs, you name it! And I get really excited to see them live out their dreams, make some money, and pursue their passions successfully.

But that was not always the case.

For a long time, I would feel extreme jealousy toward some of those same friends for finding success when I had found none. For creatives like myself, success often seems like a far away, unattainable treasure. And it’s kind of disheartening to see other people making their dreams come true when my own goals seem to be on hold. I watched my peers in both awe and anger. I wanted to be just like them and yet I thought so many bad thoughts about them. I wondered, “What are they doing that I’m doing wrong? Why are they successful, and I’m not? I’m just as good as they are, if not better. It should be me in the spotlight, not them.”

I guess that makes me a hater.

As much as we hate to admit it, we have all been haters at one point or another. This phenomenon we’ve dubbed “hating” happens we criticize or abuse someone based on minor observations or based on nothing at all. When we look at our peers and think to ourselves, “Why do they get a new car?”…“How could they afford that?”… “How did she end up with him?”… “How did he book that gig?”…”Why do people care about her?”, we are guilty of hating.

It’s really hard not to compare yourself to others in this social media age. Life is on high definition display 24-7 and we can see all the great things happening in someone else’s life while seeing nothing great happen in our own. Sometimes we’re upset because other people beat us to the punch, like our ideas have been stolen from us. Sometimes we feel thwarted or usurped, as if attention has been taken away from us. Sometimes we’re just frustrated that things seem to be coming easy to someone else while we struggle for recognition. It’s easy to get angry, even at people we’ve never even met!

Wisdom for Russell Simmons

Hating is toxic. It can eat away at your motivation and keep you stagnant. It can drive you to literal madness where you’re both angry and crazy. When I find myself feeling this way, I try to switch my negative thinking over to positive thoughts before my anger takes over and turns me into a lazy, self-pitying green-eyed monster.

Be Inspired, Not Envious.

They say it’s lonely at the top but, does it have to be? Who says there’s not room for everyone’s success? There is no rule that says only one person is allowed to be successful at any given time. So instead of watching others be great, go be great yourself! These days, I’m motivated by the success of other creatives. Seeing them gain recognition for their work let’s me know that it is indeed possible to reap rewards for my own creativity. Other hard working people aren’t your competition. They should be your inspiration.

Be Kind to Yourself

Don’t take it too personally when someone else is playing the hare in your tortoise race. It’s easy to get frustrated when someone seems to reach success without even trying but we can never know the difficulties that person may have faced to get where they are. Everyone’s journey is unique. We need to learn enjoy our own journey, no matter how slow it may seem. The hard times will just make your memoirs all the more entertaining. We must learn to love ourselves and be proud of ourselves, otherwise, we’ll feel like nobody. The world is filled with enough people who are going to make you feel bad about your life. You shouldn’t be one of them.

Support Others

Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to help others (wisdom stolen from the Avatar The Last Airbender series. Yup, a kids’ show). I’ve realized the entire time I was hating on my friends, I should have been helping them rise higher. Those same people I was once so jealous of are now good friends and colleagues and have offered me some great advice and exposure. They’ve used their greatness to help me be great! We have so much to learn from each other. If I may quote from the iconic film High School Musical, “We’re all in this together”. We all have to co-exist in this life. We might as well help each other get through it.

Some people say when you got folks hating on you, that’s when you know you’re doing something right. I don’t know about all that but I do know that seeking universal popularity is a futile struggle. While we all need support, we don’t need approval. Don’t take it personally when people don’t appreciate your effort. I’ve learned that not everybody wishes me well and that’s okay because I wish myself all of the success in the world. Don’t fight with your haters. They may actually admire you. They just can’t handle your light.

So keep shining and let other people shine alongside you. One person’s success does not mean your failure. Nobody is perfect. We all have trials. And when we see someone overcome their trials, it should remind you that your dreams are attainable, too. Don’t let hate be the reason you give up on yourself. Stop hating. Keep going.

 

Unapologetic: A Year as a Writer

The craziest thing in the world is when someone comments on something I write. Even after a year of being a full-time blogger and writer, it’s still hard to get used to the fact that people care enough about my work to read it, share it, and think about it.

This time last year, I was at my desk sneaking peeks at blogs like For Harriet and ESSENCE Online and the Thought Catalogue (today, I’ve written for all of them). This time last year, I was sitting in a cubicle at a tele-sales job that made me hate life and people. This time last year, I was dreading the alarm clock that would wake me up with just enough time to make it through traffic to the cheesily decorated office building which I loathed spending 10 hours of my day in.

This exact time last year, I quit that job.

I left my benefits, my apartment, my friends, and my freedom behind and moved back in with my mom to pursue writing as a full-time career.

Smart? Some would say hell no. Crazy? I would say oh yes, ma’am. Worth it? Absolutely.

Getting through the past year has required that I be honest about who I am, what I want, and how I want to live my life. I’ve been made vulnerable to critics who don’t understand what I do and don’t think blogging is a “real job”, and I’ve been made vulnerable to my personal fear of failure.

This year has educated me on how strong the human experience can make you. I’ve endured the side eyes, the family meetings to discuss what was “wrong” with me, the endless phone calls from Sallie Mae, and some severe sessions of writer’s block.

It has been a year of tears, disappointments, empty bank accounts, empty stomachs, confusion, prayer, questioning, and asking for a lot of help.

And I’m not sorry about any of it.

This journey has often times required that I make people uncomfortable, including myself. There are times when I can’t explain to people what I do, where I work, or even where I live. Many people will say I’m reckless for risking my financial freedom and security to chase a pipe dream.

But I believe it would be more reckless to let that dream go deferred.

I’ve long believed we should be tellers of our own stories. People may not always understand it, or appreciate it, but your story is yours to tell. This is MY story. When I couldn’t find the work opportunities I wanted, I created them for myself. And by doing so, I’ve been exposed to other opportunities I could never have imagined for myself. The same places that rejected my resume now follow my blog and some ask me to write for them.

As I continue growing and learning more about myself and how I operate, I hope to encourage everyone who I encounter or who reads what I write to live life unapologetically. Unapologetic for the way you look. Unapologetic for the way you feel about something (or someone). Unapologetic for what you may think or say. Unapologetic for what you believe. Unapologetic for what you want.

I hope that once we decide that we’re not going to apologize for wanting something different out of lives, we will all pursue our goals with reckless abandon and watch life unfold in unexpected ways.

Am I rich? Far from it. Am I broke? Eh. Aren’t I always? Am I happy? Absolutely.

As failure filled as this year has been, it’s also been a year of success. I’ve had the freedom to travel, meet and interview really inspiring people, work with great editors and teachers, and be inspired every day. I hope I’m helping redefine the definition of success.

I’ve learned that satisfaction in this career choice will not come from a salary. But it will be derived from the relief of getting a gnawing thought out of your head and onto a page, from the heated conversations in the comment sections, and from the freedom of living in my purpose every day.

I am a writer. I am a transcriber of thoughts and opinions. I am a teller of stories. I am a sharer of ideas. Even now, it’s hard to admit that this is what I do. But I know I am in good company of other strong black women authors before me. I believe in their stories and their struggles. And I’m thankful for everyone who believes in me.

There’s still a lot I want to do as a writer and as a professional and I’m excited to pursue those dreams in the next year. I no longer fear failure. Every failure helps me appreciate my successes more. And in failure, there is satisfaction in knowing that I tried to do something others said I couldn’t or shouldn’t do. And I didn’t die. In fact, I’ve never felt more alive.

[VLOG] Hola, NOLA Day last :(

ESSENCE Fest has ended and so has my time in New Orleans.

I’m surprised by how sad I got on Tuesday morning when I woke up and had no work to do for ESSENCE.com. And I was even more surprised by how I almost cried when I turned in the key to boarding house I called home for nearly 10 days.

But I’m mostly thankful for everyone who helped me get to New Orleans in the first place by either donating to my GoFundMe, buying my plane ticket (yea that happened), updating my wardrobe (that happened too), or giving me great advice and necessary encouragement. I did a lot of work down in the bayou and I hope to keep working and making you all proud.

And also thanks to everyone in New Orleans who were so friendly and helpful. You all made me feel at home by taking me out, introducing me to new foods, helping get around, or giving me endless compliments on my nappy hair (seriously, EVERYONE tried to touch my hair!)

I did a lot but there’s still so much I didn’t get a chance to do. So I know I’ll be back. The question is, who’s coming with me?

[CONVERSATIONS] Denisio Truitt on creativity, confidence, and DOPEciety

photo courtesy of Instagram @densiotruitt

If you haven’t heard about DOPEciety, it’s time you get hip. DOPEciety is a casual clothing and T-shirt company that makes high quality unique tees, shrugs, dresses, and more. The brains behind this fashionable operation is Denisio Truitt, the founder, CEO, and head designer of all things DOPEciety. If you follow her on Tumblr or Instagram (like myself), you know her for her style, her friendship with poet Alex Elle, or for her awesome shaved hairdo.

I reached out to Denisio before my trip to New Orleans in the hopes of meeting up with her just to pick her brain about the origins of DOPEciety and her personal style. What resulted was a long and inspiring conversation in a sandwich shop about life, struggles, triumphs, and learning to go after what you want.

I want to share our conversation with you in the hopes that she will encourage and motivate you as much as she did for me.

When did you start making clothes?
I’ve been sewing cloths since I was like 4. My mom taught me how to sew and my grandmother was a seamstress. My moms family is originally from Liberia my grandmother had this boutique in Liberia.
I lived there for a little under a year when I was younger. I loved it, from what I can remember even though I only like, 4, there are little memories .

 

DOPEciety’s Fulani Tee

So where did “DOPEciety” come from?
So DOPEciety funnily enough kind of funnels into my whole culture. I’m an artist by trade. I’m a painter. I was a studio art and english major in undergrad. I wanted to incorporate my art work into a clothing line. I wanted to make a t-shirt that I would rock. So I wanted t-shirts that were kind of relatable to everybody but also reflected my own culture. So a lot of my designs kind of revolve around this mask…a traditional mask used in Liberia and Sierra Leone. I guess it’s kind of representative of the duality of my culture being both African and American. and kind of taking this very traditional object and modernizing it.
It’s kind of a mash up of my culture. So DOPEciety is a mash up of “Dope” “society”.

You’re known in my circles as the dope bald chick who designs really cute T-shirts. What made you decide to shave your head?
I’ve had short hair probably for about 6 years. It’s been different lengths but it’s never been more than 6 inches long. I just don’t like hair. Before I cut my hair, my hair was like on my back I just would’t do anything with it. It was hard for me the first time I did it. I first did a really big chop when I was 19. I got sick and I was taking all of this medication and my hair fell out. So I had to shave it off and I was crying. But because my mom and her family are from west africa they tend to wear short hair. I kind of grew up thinking short hair was normal. But when I cut it off I liked the way it worked.
I think all women will look great with short hair. You just gotta rock it and own it.

Something that I admire a lot about you is that you seem very confident. Where does that confidence come from?
I mean I have my moments. I think when it comes to my talents and my skills I think I am a very confident with what I can do I think I’m a very talented person. But there are definitely areas in my life that I wish I was more confident in. I think I’m very socially awkward. There are people who can go to parties by themselves and talk to whoever they want. I can’t do that! Like any other girl sometimes I have issues with my looks. But for the most part when it comes to my artistic capabilities, I’m very confident.

What advice can you give about developing more confidence?
There was this one video that I watched. It was like a message to artist. He was saying that whatever type of artist you are, there will come a point in your creativity or career where what you want to produce is not matching with what you’re currently doing. And thats something that a lot of artists struggle with and so his advice was to push through that. With my artwork, there was a time when I’m creating this art and it was just not what I wanted it to be. And that’s where a lot of people quit and his advice was to just keep producing. Even if it’s shit, just don’t stop producing. I think for me, just not being afraid to make things that might suck or might not sell. When I first started DOPEciety, I had a total of 5 designs. 2 of the designs they were throwaways. But just being able to push through that and make things for the sake of making them, and eventually get into the groove of things.
I guess my advice to be more confident is just to keep producing. Even if you think its crap, just keep doing it. Don’t get discouraged and focus on the things that aren’t so great.

How can creatives turn our passions into profit?
Definitely know your worth. With me specifically, when I first started DOPEciety, I was selling shirts for something ridiculous like $15 and it costs like $10 to make a shirt! So there was no profit there. And kind of taking a stance and knowing how much time and effort it takes to make the products. I used to style friends and I wouldn’t charge them because they were my friends, but then I felt like if people were really my friends and they respect me they’ll understand that I can’t give my time for free because my time literally is money. I think that shift in thinking helped a lot. And also just knowing your resources and knowing when you need help. So kind of just letting my ego down and reaching out to people and asking for help.

A lot of my friends and I truly admire you and what you do. Who do you admire?
I admire my mom. She had it really rough being a single parent and raising me and haveng to deal with a moody teenager and kind of just instilling in me that I could put my mind to whatever and do it. I admire my grandmother for her grace. She is definitely somebody I look up to for her never-ending patience and compassion for people. She was a very giving person. In Liberia she was known for literally picking up children off the street and caring for them. She was a very nurturing person. I wouldn’t say that doesn’t come to me naturally because I am a caring person but I do have issues with temper and being overly sensitive to stuff but I admire her for that.
I feel like our culture in general has this obsession with celebrities and celebrity worship and people on Tumblr and Instagram and idolizing them. I feel more inspired by people in my family. I find a lot of things admirable in (everyday) people.

What has been the most rewarding part about running your own company?
It’s wonderful that I can get up and do work in my PJs if I want to. I worked at GW(George Washington University) straight out of college fundraising for 6 years. I was making really good money. I had a stable job really good benefits (and) vacation time, but I was miserable. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel: you get up, you take a shower, you get dressed, you go to work, you work, you go to t he gym for lunch, you sit at your computer for hours, you go home, you have a glass of wine, you watch some TV, you wake up and do the same thing the next day. Everyday. I think the most rewarding thing is being able to get up and make my own day and my own schedule. It feels good that I’m in control.

What is the most frustrating part?
I think for me the most frustrating thing is knowing that I can’t please everybody and knowing that I will make mistakes and it’s okay. I’m very hard on myself. And kind of just getting out my head and saying “You made a mistake, but its okay.”

Denisio’s advice for pursuing what you’re passionate about:

I don’t have regrets because my journey is my journey and I’m where I’m supposed to be now for a reason. But if I could go back, even though I had a full ride at my college, I probably would’ve gone to art school like I wanted to. I wish I was a little more brave and not so much afraid of what people would think.

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