Tag Archives: Martinsville

The Accountability Conference That Perhaps Should Have Been Called Something Else

My Facebook page and inbox has a life of it’s own. I’m constantly bombarded with stories of everyone’s children, people seeking advice, others who just need to vent. I’m always a listening ear.

I usually take Facebook praises with a grain of salt because half the people who praise me for the transparency of my life are people I either don’t know and don’t half know their intentions. However, there have been many who have reached out to me through the years who I felt were genuinely moved by everything my life has turned out to be, knowing where I started.

A few months back, after taking an inspirational trip home, I was asked about putting together an event in Martinsville, as I had posted of events I was hosting in my current community. I was told “If you ever do anything in Martinsville, be sure to let me know.” So that got my juices flowing and I came up with an amazing concept for a Conference that would be inclusive to all and bring some of the most passionate and inspiring voices back home to a city that deserves so much.

The “It Starts Now! Accountability Conference” was birthed and I worked hard to secure a location, speakers, food, door prizes and a platform that would resonate with everyone in attendance.

It wasn’t long before I realized that not very many people were interested in “Accountability.”

Maybe that particular word was a turn off. Maybe I should have called it a “Jubilee” and marketed it to churches for another event to lift hands in praise but ignore the action it would take afterwards. Or maybe I should have called it an “Empowerment Conference” and created another event where women left with lipstick, posters and excitement but no actual plan that it would take to carry out their visions.

Maybe Martinsville just wasn’t ready for an event with this concept.

Or, maybe I had burned so many bridges through my social media “realness” that so many people just didn’t want to support an event put on by me, regardless of the fact that it had nothing to do with me but everything to do with everyone else living their best lives and reaching all of their potential.

The Accountability Conference would have done just that. Instead, weekly I received messages from people asking me questions like: How many people are registered? Who is coming so far? Can you lower the price more? Can I just come Friday? Do I have to participate in everything?

Accountability for oneself starts with not worrying about what others are doing. It doesn’t put off opportunities because of doubt or uncertainty of others. Accountability has been the most important thing I have learned over the years in order to overcome my failures and be as successful as I have. The friends I wanted to bring were some of the most amazing people who have all been a part of my own personal accountability. I wanted to share this with you. But, you weren’t ready.

Thank you to those of you who showed your interest by registering, entering contests and shared any of the posts. I appreciate you and I promise, you’ll be the first to receive a ticket if I ever choose to do this again.

Peace!

 

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Why I Chose the Participants for the “It Starts Now!” Conference

How many of us can say we’ve found a person, that, before they become your friend, they were already supporting you and offering to help you on crazy ideas you come up with? For me, that’s Veronica Soles, who in the last 10 years has become one of my biggest supporters and accountability partners that I could never have imagined.

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Veronica and I grew up four doors away from each other but it wasn’t until 2009 that we worked on a project together that I discovered her work ethic and supportive spirit. Over the years, she has provided me nonjudgmental advice on relationships, work or business and has been someone I’ve known I could count on to be honest and hold me to a higher standard than I hold myself, even if I didn’t always ask for it.

I chose Veronica for this Conference because she’s the perfect example of the type of friend we all need in our lives: a cheerleader, a coach, and all around good human being.

Veronica is opinionated just like I am but in a more tactful way. Sometimes when I have gotten out of hand on social media, it is usually Veronica who messages me to either check on me or suggest I tame things down. We compliment each other very well and I am delighted to share her spirit with attendees.

Phil Echols is someone else I’ve known as long as I can remember. Phil had no idea I was an admirer of his philosophies and approach to everyday situations. Through his YouTube videos ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3_r4CdoCPUDk5l31b0dbaQ) and Facebook posts, I have admired Phil for a very long time.

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I’m certain he sometimes sees me as radical or intense but I often look to his videos to help me find balance when I am approaching a bad situation or confusion in my life.

Phil is an educator, Life Coach and administrator in North Carolina with a foundation that makes him the man he is. As the son of Rev. Echols, a Beacon of Light in Martinsville-Henry County and his late mother who, too, was an educator, Phil has a beautiful foundation that makes him an excellent participant of this Conference. I chose Phil because I see his passion and gift for enhancing more lives, as he has certainly enhanced mine.

A few months back, I kept seeing different people in Martinsville post about this grand opening of a Yoga studio in Greensboro. Because I had recently began yoga classes, I decided to follow Stephany McMillan and “Rise and Flow”.

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Watching her videos and seeing her exuberance for life and her passion for yoga touched my soul. I wanted her positivity. So daily, I found myself going to her page to find inspiration.

Eventually, I decided that you, too, should know Stephany and was humbled that she was willing to participate with me. Here is the link to her thriving business in Greensboro: http://www.riseandflowllc.com

Chad Martin is no stranger to Martinsville, VA. Chad and I attended Shaw University together and while we knew each other, we weren’t very close at the time. Chad is someone who sees opportunities and forwards the opportunity on to others who he thinks may benefit. He has been a voice and fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves.

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Many times, Chad has thought enough of me to provide me with opportunities that I have doubted my abilities for. He doesn’t let me see doubt. He believes in me and the way he has faced adversity and redemption in Martinsville, as Vice Mayor, Chad believes in the people of Martinsville.

Chad is someone you want on your team. Therefore, I believe that his presence  continues to need a platform. When I asked Chad to participate, he only asked for the date and time.

Lastly, if anyone follows me or my blog, you know my conflict or hesitation with religion. Many think I don’t believe in God or that that I have no relationship. Fact is, Zeb Talley III has been my spiritual advisor without him even knowing he was.

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Zeb’s message of Christ and his relationship to his community and congregation is one that resonates with me.

I’m not a scholar of the Bible or religion so, whenever I have had a question or been in doubt of something, I know there’s a message on Zeb’s social media page to lead me to some explanation. Many times I have asked questions on my own page and, without hesitation, judgment, or forcing his Christian ideals on me, Zeb has responded with kindness, knowledge and an understanding that I don’t often see in ministry.

I cannot wait to provide this stage and platform for you to hear these voices or receive their expertise. For those of you who haven’t gotten your ticket yet, you may do so before February 1 at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/it-starts-now-2019-accountability-conference-tickets-52194700755

Event details are posted on the link. See you soon. Peace!

 

 

Being a Source of Support, Not Pain: A Young Mother’s Experience

One of the most profound Facebook disagreements I’ve ever had was the time someone posted a story indirectly chastising a young mother for the way she was parenting her child.

I can’t remember the exact details of the post but apparently the child was “out of hand” and the mother wasn’t doing enough to calm them. Or maybe the child dropped their bottle and kept putting it back in their mouth without washing. I can’t remember but I remember the judgment came when the poster insinuated that the reason she couldn’t handle the child was that she was too young to even have one and didn’t know what she was doing.

As a young mother myself, I took great offense to this since the person who posted it was someone deeply religious and involved in the church. Therefore, my first question was whether anything was done to help her or show her a different way to handle her child.

Out of nowhere, a close, religious family member of mine chimed in with a comment about “babies having babies” and that she shouldn’t have what she can’t care for.

My first emotion was one of rage and anger. I wanted to eliminate this family member from any sentiment I had on what family should mean because surely, that wasn’t it.

Her comment was personal. It was directly to me and how she probably felt about my situation all along. I didn’t know where that response came from but I knew that how far I came had everything to do with people like her who never imagined I’d be where I am now.

A few months ago while at a funeral back home I encountered my Sunday School teacher who sought me out to apologize for how she had once treated me when it came to taking care of my son.

I once brought my son to class and she demanded I give him to her because in her words, “you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Nah, I probably didn’t know what I was doing but, if ever there was a time to show me, it was then, in the church.

I put myself in the place of so many others  who may not know what they’re doing. Raising their kid, seeking a new position, or finding your own identity.

Society’s job, the village’s job, is to show someone else how to make it with the tools you have to succeed.

That day in that office, a young mother could have found a mentor or her place in society, in spite of her inabilities to be the “perfect mother” in the eyes of someone else.

Instead, she received judgment and ridicule from someone who also brought me more pain.

That relative. Not holding grudges is a work in progress for me. I’m not there yet.

Be better, do better. When someone needs support, be their support. Not their source of pain.

Peace!

Hometown: You Are a Gem!

Confession: I’m one of those natives that moved away from Martinsville for college and vowed to never return. The fast life seemed more exciting. Better opportunities were elsewhere. People were different. Experiences were richer. There was a certain culture of people I’d never get to know if I stayed home or didn’t take the chance to see what else was out there.

So I left home in 1995 for college in Raleigh, NC. I met people I once feared because of how they were portrayed on television . I remember on my college application for my roommate request, I wrote “No one from New York or New Jersey.” The only vision of someone from NY or NJ from my rural mindset was scary and full of stereotypes. My entire view of society outside of my comfort zone was based on fear and lack of culture.

So I left. Decided not to come home unless I had to. Since 1995 I have traveled so far and met so many people of all cultures, I decided I didn’t want to return to the place that made me question others’ existence. The place where I learned pieces of history but not it’s truth. So what all their jobs were gone. So what they’re stuck. So what they’re struggling. I know when I come home, my parent’s house was comfortable and I had no reason to go outside of it. This wall I built was for my peace of mind, to tell myself I was better off gone.

But social media has its way of sucking you in and making you see things you try to dismiss. What I have not been able to dismiss for some time is the beauty that is truly my hometown.

So I decided to head home for a weekend and spend as much time as I could, visiting some places I had been following on social media and taking in the place I called home for all of my formative years.

The first place I had to visit was “Dippers Ice Cream”, a local ice cream spot that surely has to rank as one of the best ice cream makers in Virginia. I had planned to visit Dippers for days and knew exactly what I wanted until I got to the window and saw everything else I wanted. I settled on the amazing Peach Dumplings topped with ice cream while my dad got two scoops of strawberry ice cream in a cone. Y’all, peach dumplings? If we weren’t already on the bypass when I finished, I would have returned for more. Nothing about this visit disappointed. Despite some people’s warnings of costs, Dippers deserves every penny they charge. Take all my money, I’ll be back!

Another place I had been following for a while is “Hamlet Vineyards.” There is nothing better than spending a beautiful day at a wine tasting and what a beautiful day it was. From the moment we arrived, the friendliness and service we received was exceptional. We opted to do the tasting that consisted of seven wines, all of which was delightful. For food, they had options of dips served with breads from another gem in the city “Rising Sun Breads.” They also have a “Sunday Special” seasonal option. We knew we were going somewhere else so we didn’t order anymore food, only more wine. We ordered the sangria and shared a bottle of wine before we finished our visit purchasing wine and souvenir glasses. One thing I forgot to purchase was the signature dark chocolate truffle from Cocoa Trail (another hometown gem) mixed with Hamlet Petit Verdot wine. Guess I have to return to try that. And I will.

Since we were so close, mom recommended we visit Fairystone Park, a place we used to come to often when I was growing up. I don’t think I’ve been here since I was a camp counselor on my Summer breaks from college and I never thought I was missing anything. I was. Fairystone is our beach away from the beach. On a day like today, the park should have been filled with families and friends sharing snacks and smiles. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected but I was happy to see those there who are aware of it’s glory. Not to mention, the camping potential and Yurts available. Yurts! Fairystone has yurts! I read there will be trails soon and that should be a great addition. In the meantime, pack up the kids, phone your friends and meet the family at Fairystone for an inexpensive day in the sun.

Finally, I received a recommendation to visit “Shindig, An uptown Bistro.” Being the greedy person I am, I went to try something on the menu. Without having much time to spare, I only ordered the garlic wings and truffle fries to share. After ordering shots of tequila, our food arrived to perfection. If this was any indication to what the rest of the food on the menu would be, I don’t know how one could be disappointed. I can’t wait to return for the Chilli Glazed Salmon. FYI: get the rum soaked banana pudding. You won’t be disappointed 😉

The thing about coming back home is that no matter where you eat out, someone at home is always waiting to feed you more. That person was my dad who had been waiting for us to return to the dinner he had prepared. Ribs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, green beans, and corn on the cob. I had no idea where I would put anymore food but when you’re home, you have no choice but to make room.

Hometown, I see your beauty. Your strength, your character, your work ethic and your determination. You have taken some hits but you refuse to quit. Part of that is what actually made me who I am. As a small business owner myself, I see your potential. It is up to your community to see it as well in order for you to survive. I hope my story and experience can contribute to your success. Until then, I’ll plan my next trip home.

Peace!

Other small businesses to support:

Books and Crannies, Uptown Pinball, Mountain Valley Brewing, the Daily Grind, Finish 1st Motorsport and Mini Golf, Tammy’s Grill and many others.

Upcoming events:

Art at Happy Hour at Piedmont Arts, June 19, 5pm

Weekly Farmer’s Market

Summer Concert Series, at the Farmer’s Market (check listings)

To My Teachers, Classmates, and Neighbors in my Rural Hometown

To my teachers whom I once admired. My classmates I once roamed the halls with. Neighbors I used to wave at when I jogged the neighborhood. I never once doubted who you would vote for in this Presidential election.

The loudest person in the room got the most attention. The loudest person caused you to tap into every single fear one might have. Someone will take your guns away. Mexicans are taking your jobs. Black people are bringing drugs into your communities. Muslims are plotting to bomb us all.

I grew up with you so I understand your fears. I understand how you can judge someone based off of stereotypes we’ve seen on television or heard from the loudest person in the room. When the knowledge and understanding we need is only a book, a vacation, a conversation or an experience away, fear of the unknown is usually what we settle on.

If I had never left Southwest Virginia to head to college, I may have never realized how wonderful it is to step out of my box and discover someone different than myself.

When I left for college, your fears were my fears. I attended an HBCU (Historically Black College & University). On my college application, when it asked if I had a roommate preference, I wrote in “No one from NY or New Jersey.” My ignorance allowed me to discriminate on people from those two states because the only vision of black people from those places were what I had seen on television, which was terrifying.

When I got to college, the idea of attending class with a Muslim terrified me. My ignorance allowed me to question their clothes, their prayer, their religion… you know, because they are a religion, not a race.  If I had never moved away and studied with Muslims, I may have never realized that either.

Freshman year, a guy next to me in class wore a pager. I remember getting cursed out for asking him if he were a drug dealer. A naive, ignorant human I was with no understanding of other cultures or people who weren’t like me.

 

When I describe growing up in Martinsville, VA, I tell people that it was black or white, no other. It was Baptist, Primitive Baptist, Southern Baptist. Anyone else brought fear of the unknown. When brown people saw opportunity in our beautiful city and used their business skills to begin purchasing and owning businesses, instead of learning who they were and learning from them, we began to question their motives, their danger. We accused them of taking over our businesses. Businesses that we never pursued.

When the factories closed down, many of them offered employees either college tuition or a payout. For those that took advantage of the college tuition, you saw hope and promise and many of you are still fulfilling educational and employment dreams. For those who took the payout, you decided to wait for jobs to return that never will. Through the years, you have seen brown people move into the city to fulfill their own dreams. They work hard and take advantage of opportunity while many of you continue to wait for jobs of the 90s that, if they ever return, will return with robots and computers. So the loudest person in the room has you sitting, afraid, and angry for all the wrong reasons.

This election wasn’t about politics. The loudest person built a campaign on racism, sexism, xenophobia and our differences. They built a campaign on fear and targeted communities all across the country who would listen.

Having the opportunity to surround myself with people who don’t look, pray or live as I do has allowed me to see the world for what it is, different. The campaign that won brought out the worse in all of us. There are children all over the country being targeted for their skin color, their head wraps, their bodies. While many people have reached out to me to tell me they aren’t racist, they just couldn’t vote for the opponent, I can’t help but question how you could vote for racism.

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Many of you posted and supported a candidate based off of fear. Despite the bigotry and enormous amount of people who were targeted in the form of hate, you supported the idea of going against the system. You wanted someone different. You wanted someone who “tells it like it is.” While you constantly tell me you’re not racist, sexist or xenophobic, none of you have spoken out against it. I’m not mad at your politics because again, this isn’t political. This is you remembering us walking the halls together, remembering the dreams we once shared. This is you standing on your desk, teaching me how to write this blog. This is you saying you want change in our government but you will not contribute to hate and intolerance.

If I had never moved away, I would have never met my sophomore roommate and close friend. A brilliant model and athlete from New Jersey who made me realize that my stereotype of my people in her state was my own ignorance. Perhaps I would have never met my teammate, future roommate, and another close friend. A Muslim from Philly who may be the most talented person I currently know. When I chose to not only open my eyes but also my ears, I discovered that being fearful of the unknown would only lead to anger, mistrust, and intolerance.

I’m glad I decided to listen to my humanity and compassion instead of the loudest person in the room.

#SpeakUp #LoveOneAnother #AcceptDifferences #NoJudgement

Peace!

 

 

I No Longer Understand my Hero’s Profession

My father was my hero. My father IS my hero. My father enlisted in the Army as a young man seeking better opportunity. As any serviceman, he traveled the world, connecting with men and women from all walks of life. When he came home after four years, he put on a different uniform.

My hero’s new uniform included a badge and a gun. For over 36 years, my dad had the cleanest, most pressed uniform in the entire department. The way he presented himself in that uniform showed character and professionalism that any working person should strive to present of themselves. He made it a priority to always have a nice haircut. To always have his shoes shined. To ALWAYS walk like a man in charge of their fate of the day.

Growing up, there was a time when inmates would be given privileges to construct things. Christmas or birthday gifts consisted of prison-made jewelry boxes and picture frames. My dad had a way of supporting the work of the inmates and making sure they felt human. I remember he would record shows or sporting events and when I asked him why, he would say “they need something to watch.” Again, he made sure they were humanized.

Some of the best days of my childhood were spent visiting my dad at work. Everyone at that department were my heroes. I knew that their job was to arrest bad guys and keep me safe. Walking through the prison or the streets of my hometown, I never felt unsafe because I always knew my heroes would protect me.

In 2007, my hometown of Martinsville, VA, saw many of those heroes of mine indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to deal drugs, launder money, and weapons charges. The Sheriff and 12 officers facing charges (later being guilty) for doing more damage to our community than what they were sworn to do, serve and protect.

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That was when I lost trust and respect for my father’s profession. That is when I woke up. If putting guns and drugs back on the street by law enforcement in such a small community can happen, I can only imagine the widespread corruption that happens in larger cities like Chicago and Detroit that contribute to the myth of “black on black” crime.

With each and every senseless murder of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement that goes without accountability, I lose more and more respect for the profession my father spent almost 40 years perfecting. It’s as if current police men and women are more concerned with the power than they are the respect. The power to shoot first, ask questions later.

We have officers patrolling neighborhoods and don’t seem to have an interest in the people they serve. Officers who either can’t or don’t know how to communicate with those they are sworn to protect. Officers who are threatened by the mere presence of a black body. When that fear is met with an ego, death is usually the result. Paid leave usually comes next.

I don’t respect that. I don’t respect the fact that if I’m ever pulled over, it’s no longer clear if I’m supposed to put my hands up, on the steering wheel, in my lap, or out of the window. I don’t know if I should tell my son to tape his information to his window, to his dash, or keep it beside him. Should we say our name or write it so we don’t talk in a threatening voice? Should we walk straight with confidence or sulk as if we are already defeated? I don’t know anymore. I no longer know what to teach my son. I can no longer protect him.

My father can no longer protect me. This is no longer his profession……

 

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Easter clowns

As you lay out your Easter suits and prepare to pack the pews tomorrow, let me encourage you to stop the shenanigans before you even get started.

I’m not sure when celebrating Christ’s resurrection turned into a clown suit festival but I’m here to tell you to tone it down a little bit. Men, there are several ways you will look like a clown tomorrow. If you’re unsure if your Easter suit is suitable for 2016 or ready for the circus, let me help you out.

Do you look like a clown guide:

  1. Your suit jacket is longer than your pants pockets
  2. Your suit jacket comes to your knees (you are a certified clown)
  3. Your suit jacket comes to your ankles (turn around and go back home, you’re embarrassing suits and resurrected God is ashamed of you
  4. Your suit is tri colored
  5. Your suit, tie, socks and handkerchief are all different colors
  6. You’re a grown man, wearing a pastel suit. (You should NOT be in competition with little girls)
  7. While wearing any of the above suits, you have pinky rings and rings on other fingers. You’re not only a clown, you’re also the Easter pimp.
  8. People are constantly saying “I see you” “Boy, you’re sharp” or “Hot dog, you ain’t playing!” Let me tell you, they’re laughing at you inside.

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People, stop giving these grown men confidence in something they need to be ashamed of. It is not cute to take attention from the babies (and Jesus) on Easter with their shiny, pinstriped, multi colored, oversized suits. It’s time you are honest with your friends, pastors, and spouses about how they really look….like clowns.

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So, when you put on that suit in the morning, stand in front of your mirror, smile and say “This is it right here”, I’m here to tell you, it’s not. Take that suit off, put on some nice, fitting dress pants, a nice shirt and sweater and let the babies have their cute day back.

And best believe, when you post your pics tomorrow, I will certainly be using one of the new Facebook emojis. Which one is up to you 😂

peace!