Today is Not the Day

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

It’s been a whirlwind week here, beginning with jumping my car at 10:30 on a Sunday night and ending with the mayhem of midterms and Valentine’s Day festivities. It was one of those weeks where I got about 3 hours of sleep one day and almost 11 on another.

Sounds kinda like college.

If you noticed, there was no Poetry Place on Tuesday, hence the midterms Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday took priority. But I did want to give you at least a little something.

So that’s part of today’s post. Because after all, it is Black History Month, something that people are also beginning to realize is not only ‘his’tory but ‘her’story too. The more I think about what has had to happen in the past for me to be where I am today, the more I also think about what I do and care about that will then lead me into a future I hope to have.

After all, my current reality will become a part of my own history before I know it. The least I can do is make the most of it.

You see, everything I’ve thrown myself into on Cal Poly’s campus is a huge part of what is changing my future. The things I’m passionate about and the people I hold onto in my life, all of that is changed by what I’m doing here. That’s why I write, why I follow the things I do or pay attention to the people that I want.

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Weeks like this one put it all in perspective. Because, sure, I’m working hard to get a degree to then find a career so I can afford a stable life. But it’s bigger than that.

Beyond the degree and the classes I have the people and the passions and the aspirations that are molded out of the clay I walked onto this campus with.

While I fight to figure out what I want and the directions I want to go in, I’m also beginning to realize that I need to pick my battles somewhere in between.

Some days are better fit for buckling down and grinding out a few hours of hard studying. Others are the ones to maybe spend a few hours watching too much tv or wasting too much time with friends.

I’m starting to realize that college is about learning to pick my battles.

Because within that, some days are the ones to allow myself the grace to take a step back from everything that will take away pieces of me that I need for my own good. And others, well… You get the point. Sometimes I can afford to give a little. Other times, I need to learn when not to.

The Poetry Place of this post, it’s about learning the difference in what that means. Learning the balance.

It’s a part of my life after all, every one of our lives. It’s about deciding which day is which. Maybe if you’ve figured it out, you can pass along some tips in the comments. In the meantime, here’s Today is Not the Day.


Today is not the day

to feel like I can conquer the world,

to hold my head a little too high,

or feel like this will be alright.

Today is just a day

to exist, to keep breathing,

to understand it’s all I can do,

to remember that I’m not okay

and that’s okay.

Because today is just a day,

Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

time will move forward,

and it will pass.

This day will become

a part of the past

just like they always do.


Happy Friday everyone. I hope you had a wonderful Valentines and remembered all the love that should come from you too. See you next week.

Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

As History Folds Into Reality

“It is the mind that makes the body.”

–Sojourner Truth

“We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too.”

–Langston Hughes

As another long week of Winter Quarter and the beginning of Black History Month, today is the birthday of these two incredible figures in history. So I’m starting with them.

In the past, many have told us who to be or what to think or how to act because we were not given the freedom of choice. I look at the life I hold, the privileges laying in my hands, and I thank people like these two—both their quotes can tell you why.

If the mind is what makes the body, I am thankful for the opportunity and freedom I have to think the way I do. Growing up, I was told to dream up whatever dream I wanted; then become it. Fifty years ago, I wonder how many black people believed in this the way I am now allowed to.

My mind is creative, and annoying, and full, and too loud, and beautiful sometimes; it’s all of the above. Therefore, my body is the same. Yet, there are no boundaries on what my mind can do, nor are there limits on what I chose to do with my body (to an extent). Because of people like Sojourner Truth, I come to you every week with this blog and I follow my passions.

For me, this is a privilege.

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

Like Langston Hughes—if I ever were to make any comparison between him and myself—I am an artist. I have learned to express myself through my art, in writing, music, drawing, and so much more. Though I still have a long way to go in expressing everything I want to, in being vulnerable and open about who I am or where I’ve been, it takes time and a whole lot of practice.

But I don’t need to fear and I do not need to feel shame. Not in the way people like me have in the past.

For this, I am lucky.

My art is not to please others, simply to put pieces of myself into the world around me. My art is what balances me out. If I write, I write for myself and share such work with you because I think you deserve to hear it if you so choose. Though I do hope you are pleased at least occasionally, in the long run it shouldn’t have to matter.

Because it will be beautiful and ugly and everything in between whether you see it or not.

I hope you see it.

Take a look at the quotes I started with, the two people I chose to honor today. Those quotes could mean anything to anyone, they could represent something completely different.

And that’s okay. Because for these things, for interpretations and art, there is no one truth. For our bodies and our minds, there is no singular correct way to exist.

We just do. And if you’ve made it this far, know that I appreciate you for existing here with me this week.

Have a wonderful weekend. And I will see you Friday.

From History to History Makers– BHM Week 4

dawid-zawila-279998Black History Month Week 4 and today I want to tell to you about something that isn’t quite our history yet— here are some of the people who are in the process of making black history.

If you saw Obama’s tweet this week then you know what I mean when I say that young people truly are making change these days. From artists and activists to businesswomen and basic everyday people with more to give, we’ve got a lot of people to be on the lookout for. Lucky for you, I picked out just a few.


One

tumblr_ogmsl1cgf41u05srlo1_1280Let’s start with the artists, here is one guy to know the name of: Tsoku Maela. Raised in Cape Town, this young photographer focuses on the idea of mental health and normalizing the stigma of it, especially for black people. Earning the spotlight with his series of Abstract peaces (take a look here), his photos create a “visual diary of a subject at different stages of their depression and anxiety” when it isn’t all just one emotion or one state of being. As an artist, especially a black artist, I think it is important for people like Maela to explore their culture and more importantly, spread how it has influenced their own lives in a way that can change the lives of others— even if that change comes through awareness like it does here. I’m excited to see what he can do in the future and if you want to get to know more about him or who he is and what he does, take a quick peek at his website or his tumblr!

Two

clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash.jpgNow for your activists, let’s take a look into the life of Martese Johnson; if you think you’ve heard that name before, you probably have. That’s because he was one of too many caught on video being thrown to the ground in a police misconduct situation back in 2015— he didn’t quite fit the stereotype of a black kid in handcuffs though. As a student on the black alliance board at University of Virginia and an accompanist to Bernie Sanders at several rallies in the wake of the incident, he’s got quite the positive image built up for himself.  Johnson not only is an activist and a voice, but he is a representation of making good in a bad situation even if you have to do it yourself. In the future, he hopes to follow through on projects on African Americans and the media, maybe even running for public office one day.

Three

olu-eletu-38649-unsplashGrowing up in times like these, it only makes sense to talk about the business masterminds: Bianca Jeanty & Netta Dobbin. In their mid twenties, these two women have already created a company and kicked it out of the nest to watch it fly. MiMConnect is an “emerging networking platform that creates access to people of color with job opportunities, resources and a nationwide network in the media industry.”

Growing up, I’ve learned the difficulties of entering the professional world as an African American; from hairstyles to unfair treatment, this company aims to combat that struggle in creating their own space and helping other companies diversify theirs in the process. These two ladies have used an incredible amount of business and tech to get them to where they are today— maybe if I’m lucky they can help me find a job after I graduate too!

Four

ian-schneider-66374-unsplash.jpgLast, but never the least, let’s talk about someone we all should know by now: us. We are the people who may not always feel that we’re making a difference, yet somehow, one little thing can become everything. Take someone like Mikaila Ulmer, the business owner at 4 years old— she had to start somewhere and began where every one of us do: with a curiosity and a passion to follow it. How about Moziah “Mo” Bridges who just wanted to dress well and became 15 CEO of Mo’s Bows by age 15— the rest of us want to look good too don’t we? Start there. Or even like one of my favorites, Nathan Zed, your entertainer and every day guy with everyday problems who somehow managed to catch the world’s eye. By being themselves, these three all started small with something they cared about, and ended up on paths towards a cause much bigger than themselves.


Though I’ve only highlighted a few, there are countless people who are going to make a big difference in the world around them and they don’t even know it yet. As Black History Month comes to an end, it’s important octavian-rosca-369460-unsplashto remember that this celebration goes beyond 28 days. It is a culture. One that we need to pay attention to. Because this world truly is changing and the people who are changing it come from an immense amount of cultures and backgrounds. Soon enough, some of these people will be making new history and I am excited to be a part of it.

I hope you are too.

P.S. My 2 newest articles are up on HerCampus, check them out here and here if you’re interested (the second one is a fun one)! And I’ve got something exciting and new to share with you to finish off this month so be on the lookout for Tuesday 🙂 Happy Friday everyone

 

Beyond the Surface of Black Excellence

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Black History Month Week 2— Are you ready? Because I want to talk about something that ties into an entire culture of people, a term that I use a lot; one that I never quite defined for you. I want to talk about what it means say black excellence.

I’ve mentioned this term countless times, I know that, but I never quite said what it means. In our society or even on Urban Dictionary, you’ll find that we define it as what we see. We see things like an athlete on scholarship, a girl accepted to every Ivy, Will Smith, Oprah, or even the upcoming Black Panther Movie. When people think of the term black excellence, this is the direction they go.

But does that mean this is all the phrase may ever encompass?

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Absolutely not— like I said in my posts on this concept last year, black excellence is so much more than one person or one achievement or one underprivileged black student earning their way into a great University or program.

Just because I’m here at Cal Poly as the 1% does not mean that those of us in this representation here are the definition of the term.

I share this sentiment with Kiri Rupiah, Mail & Guardian’s social media editor when she says “I don’t see the value of being the only black person in the room.” That is not what black excellence is, that is inequality or under representation, a lack of equal opportunity… That is not excellent. No where close.

Living a life worth living is where the real merit comes from.

Consider the simple state of existence— getting up, eating when you can, and going back to sleep. This is what I like to call being. But working, parenting, studying, living, this is what I call excellence. It is achieving what matters as an African American who is making something of themselves.

Take a single mother: she is black excellence in the way that she is pulling it off by herself. Or an adult deciding they want more, so they go back to school part time for a GED or higher degree: they are black excellence in believing in their worth of deserving something more. How about the und

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erprivileged, those who often consider themselves the underachieving? They are excellence in their determination to keep going in spite of circumstance, or opportunity, or how many times they are told the word no. They are still going.

There are far too many ways to be brilliant to define it only in terms of fame or money; in what society sees as worth. At some point, it comes to how we define the achievement of working towards something, any goal of merit.

Consider how far black people have come, from the allowance of getting educated, of literacy, to the voices and the platforms we are now seeing African American people uphold. As much as I wish I could say we were out of “firsts” by now, it is still a great thing to see people striving to go after each and every one of those achievements until we break the standards and the barriers that seem to hold us back; no matter how many misdirected steps we attempt towards equality.

When I say the words black excellence, I am talking about the things that I see in my culture beyond skin color, beyond stereotype. I see hard work and a challenge to

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adversity. I see beauty in the struggle or sometimes, just another struggle to overcome. I think we need to stop seeing terms of culture as derogatory, but simply as an appreciation of what makes us different. It doesn’t mean black people are better, as a disparagement of others. No, this excellence is the celebration of who we are. Of who I am.

Because I am excellent. The black single mother is excellent. The struggling black student or the worker or the human being just barely getting by, all of them— all of us— are excellent.

Because we are still going.

And that is incredible.

The Resilient and the Risen– Black History Month

Just like that, the first month of the year has flown by. Maybe it was the three day weekend Cal Poly students had or just a lot going on for the new year, but here we are folks. Welcome to February, or as I like to say…

Welcome to Black History Month.guilherme-stecanella-371624

Since this blog started with my writing after all, today I want to talk about one of my favorite African American women— Maya Angelou. As a voice of many, Angelou was involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1959 as well as the Arab Observer in 1964, the only weekly news set that used the English Language in the Middle East. In the 50’s, she joined the Harlem Writers’ Guild in which she met the likes of James Baldwin who became a mentor and friend later on.

After traveling in Egypt and working in Ghana, she came back to the US and became a professor at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem in 1982, also accepting an appointment of Commission for the International Woman of the Year by Jimmy Carter. Though I wasn’t alive yet, some of you may remember her deliverance of On the Pulse of the Morning at Bill Clinton’s Inauguration in 1993, later meeting former President Obama in 2010 for the Presidential medal of Freedom.

As if that wasn’t enough, she was also the first black woman director in Hollywood. Angelou found herself becoming a bigger part of history than I think she could have ever imagined, as she worked her way across several industries and platforms, sharing her perspective and her voice at every single one. She died in May 4 years ago at the age of eighty six— her words now live on through the pages we keep on our shelves. I know that I’ve got a few.sandrachile-483700.jpg

Speaking of pages, there is one poem I have of hers taped to my wall: Still I Rise. Back in my senior year of high school (back in my day), I performed this poem for my class during our poetry unit. It wasn’t hard to choose. The way her personality exudes throughout the poem, her words of resilience unwavering and incredibly smooth, this was one poem I didn’t mind standing in front of the class to perform. It holds one of my best high school memories and one of the writers who helped pave the way for African American achievement along the path to where we are now. Tonight I want to honor what she has done and the words she left behind.


So without further ado, Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

noah-silliman-163561.jpgDoes my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

samantha-sophia-374229.jpgOut of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Whatever challenges you currently face and anything that stands in your way of success, I hope you can find your way to rise above it. Happy February everyone, have a wonderful weekend. And Welcome to Black History Month.daniela-cuevas-21263.jpg

 

More than a label, More than a month

I could have sworn that this quarter just began a week ago, let alone Black History Month, yet somehow there are three weeks left before these classes are over. This is my final post on the black history month subject.

But that’s the thing, it isn’t simply a subject to me— just because tycho-atsma-181053.jpgwe spend a month celebrating black heritage doesn’t mean that I am not reminded of who we all are every single day, 365 days a year. I walk around this campus not only underrepresented by the color of my skin, but overwhelmed by this life I hold.

Every day, I am reminded that no matter our race and the history behind our heritage, we are all still human.

Yesterday, I spent my typical Thursday night working on chemistry and studying with Nick in the common room of my dorm. Even after everyone left, we hung out for a while just talking and somehow, we ended up on the broad spectrum of life.

Why do we live our lives the way we do?

Is it always going to be simply one step to the next?

After 12 years of education to get into college, do we work through college to get a job, before working that job to pay the bills and finally, raising our own children until it’s their turn?

Are we going to look back one day and realize that we forgot to live?

anders-jilden-87205.jpgEven more than representing Cal Poly, more than what people see in the color of our skin, it seems that what we get out of this life comes down to how we want to live it— how we live it, and for what. We all have a certain amount of control on how things turn out for us, just take a look at my blog post last week… I could be an English major, Kinesiology major, or something else entirely. The future is a story yet to be written.

So why does it feel like some of us already know what’s coming?

I’ve been told that the problem with our generation, universally across each of us, is that we are always rushing from one thing to the next that we never take a moment to breathe it all in. This is life isn’t it? I have to admit, amidst the midterms and the planning, it takes me a minute to remember that we only have so much time in the day to appreciate the fact that I saw the sun rise in the morning. This is a beautiful life; one the we just might let slip through our fingers if we’re not careful.

Have you ever looked at a friend or a family member for a quick second and found yourself caught in a moment of appreciation for who they are to you? I know I’ve found myself doing that a lot more lately, like seeing my parents this last weekend or even just hanging out with Nick last night. Even though this campus is primarily white, somehow my closest group of friends is one of the most diverse groups of people I have ever consistently been around. Some days I catch myself looking from one of them to the next and wondering, what does it mean to be who you are?

wil-stewart-7771Though I may be so much more than my skin tone, it is still something that will define me and every single one of us for the rest of our lives. The month of February represents a large part of who I am, but that does not mean that this is the only time of year our heritage is recognized. It’s like a birthday or even Valentine’s Day— just because there is separate day of the year to celebrate something does not mean that you show any less love to those people for the other 364 days of the year.

A person’s pigmentation is more than a label or a stereotype.

Heritage celebration is so much more than a single month of remembering the Martin Luther King’s or the Harriet Tubman’s of our past.

Who we are and the lives that we strive for come down to what is in our hearts and what we do with the intelligence we hold to make this world into something better.

Life is about improvement, accomplishment… The little victories I know we can all achieve.  

Take a look in the mirror for me, look past the colors you see or the texture of your hair. Tell me one thing: did you find a way to live this life today? I don’t mean going to work, or to class, or simply getting out of bed this morning… Did you live this life today?anja-137284

Because with everything else that you see in yourself or what others see in my generation, I would like to believe in something more. I would like to believe that things can change, the pace of this world can be something worth living in every day, and that color of my skin can be something more than a visual representation of everything I know I can be.

P.S. To the Class of 2017, I’ve got another post for you next week so be on the lookout for a little advice on college, graduation, and everything in between!

Strong Independent Black Woman

There’s something about growing up as a young minority child in the twenty first century— it’s made me who I am. rock-eautyMy parents have raised me to be intelligent in every way possible, responsible for the mistakes I make, and strong enough to push past anything that may hold me back. They told me that I am capable of everything I put my mind to. What does my mom like to tell me?

I am a strong independent black woman.

There are things that I am that will change as I get older, for I am a teenager, but not for much longer, and I am a college freshman, but only for another four months…These labels are temporary, as many are in this life. But what is one label I can never shed? The color of my skin.

So why not be proud of it?

Last week I talked a lot about representing the African American minority here at Cal Poly, with an even smaller group in the STEM careers. It is something I am proud of and am reminded that I am entirely capable of— coming into the school as a student in science is something I believed I wanted.

Now I’m not so sure.


Because as you all know, I LOVE writing. If I had to do something for the rest of my life, it will involve english no matter what happens. All my friends here know that I love to write as major part of my life, it’s hard not to know from the amount of quotes I’m always dropping into conversations. Even though I am crock-in-handurrently a chemistry major with an idea to switch into Kinesiology, like I said, things are changing.

If you’ve been following my blog posts since the beginning, you might remember the quote from my parents that said “minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.” I used to think those were two completely different things… Lately, I’ve been thinking that they are one in the same. What if I can do both in one, two birds with one stone so-to-speak?

There’s something about growing up as a young minority child in the twenty first century— it’s made me who I am. My parents have raised me to be intelligent in every way possible, responsible for the mistakes I make, and strong enough to push past anything that may hold me back. They told me that I am capable of everything I put my mind to. What does my mom like to tell me?

I am a strong independent black woman.

There are things that I am that will change as I get older, for I am a teenager, but not for much longer, and I am a college freshman, but only for another four months…These labels are temporary, as many are in this life. But what is one label I can never shed? The color of my skin.

So why not be proud of it?

Last week I talked a lot about representing the African American minority here at Cal Poly, with an even smaller group in the STEM careers. It is something I am proud of and am reminded that I am entirely capable of— coming into the school as a student in science is something I believed I wanted.

Now I’m not so sure.

Because as you all know, I LOVE writing. If I had to do something for the rest of my life, it will involve english no matter what happens. All my friends here know that I love to write as major part of my life, it’s hard not to know from the amount of quotes I’m always dropping into conversations. Even though I am currently a chemistry major with an idea to switch into Kinesiology, like I said, things are changing.

If you’ve been following my blog posts since the beginning, you might remember the quote from my parents that said “minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.” I used to think those were two completely different things… Lately, I’ve been thinking that they are one in the same. What if I can do both in one, two birds with one stone so-to-speak. Like my parents taught me, I am capable of anything I put my mind to.BIRD PICTURE.

But wait? What about representing black females in STEM, especially here at Cal Poly?

Here’s the thing about being a minority, currently headed towards a career where I believe we need far more representation than we already have— we are underrepresented and under pursued in STEM, however it isn’t my job to change that. So what is my job? It is my job to find something I know I can excel at and go change this world with everything I am, whether it means that I write a book to impact just one person’s life or find another way to have an impact. No matter where I end up, I know one thing for sure:

I am a representation of the color of my skin. And I am ready to show that we are capable of anything and everything we put our minds to.

Maybe I could be good at both writing and a science centered career, I see nothing wrong with that. My only issue, I don’t want to be good at anything… I want to be great. The people who have had a large impact in my life, from my parents and my best friends to celebrities and authors, have all done something big to change a part of who I am. How did they do that? By being exceptional at being who they are and the jobs they are here to do. Don’t get me wrong, good is always okay. But great… Now that’s something I can aim for.

I am eighteen, I am a college freshman, and I an an African American. Two out of these three things will change within the next four months of my life. But that last one? That last one is something I walk around with on my skin every single day of my life and I am proud to represent, it has made me who I am. So whether I do follow through in STEM or do something different all together, I plan to be the best I can possibly be and nothing less.

For I am a representation of women, black students, and everything inbetween. Minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.

Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who can find a way to make it both.

Like my parents taught me, I am capable of anything I put my mind to.

But wait? What about representing black females in STEM, especially here at Cal Poly?

Here’s the thing about being a minority, currently headed towards a career where I believe we need far more representation than we already have— we are underrepresented and under pursued in STEM, however it isn’t my job to change that. So what is my job? It is my job to find something I know I can excel at and go change this world with everything I am, whether it means that I write a book to impact just one person’s life or find another way to have an impact. No matter where I end up, I know one thing for sure:

I am a representation of the color of my skin. And I am ready to show that we are capable of anything and everything we put our minds to.

Maybe I could be good at both writing and a science centered career, I see nothing wrong with that. My only issue, I don’t want to be good at anything… I want to be great. The people who have had a large impact in my life, from my parents and my best friends to celebrities and authors, have all done something big to change a part of who I am. How did they do that? By being exceptional at being who they are and the jobs they are here to do. Don’t get me wrong, good is always okay. But great… Now that’s something I can aim for.

I am eighteen, I am a college freshman, and I am an African American. Two out of these three things will change within the next four months of my life. But that last one? That last one is something I walk around with on my skin every single day of my life and I am proud to represent, it has made me who I am. So whether I do follow

read-book-tablethrough in STEM or do something different all together, I plan to be the best I can possibly be and nothing less.

For I am a representation of women, black students, and everything inbetween. Minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.

Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who can find a way to make it both.