I’m Riding Around and I’m Getting It

My new commute, on average, takes me between 54 and 1:32 minutes. The quickest commute has been 27 minutes. It was late at night and don’t ask me why I was still at work. The longest commute was… I don’t even want to think about it. It was absolutely horrible and this was way before I discovered books on tape. The commute length depends on several variables like whether I’m taking my daughter to school first or if I’m in rush hour traffic (which isn’t as short as happy hour, by the way) or if there’s inclement weather or if there’s an accident or if it’s Friday. What the hell is up with Fridays? No matter what time I hit the road, it’s jammed. I digress. It can get bad.

Well, after my new office mate saw me burst into our office near tears after an almost three hour commute, she told me about a new app called Waze. It’s supposed to be a traffic ninja, stealthily finding obscure routes to get me where I need to go in a reasonable time frame. I know some of you are saying, “Define ‘reasonable.’”  Reasonable depends on the conditions, but let’s say less than two hours to go 25 miles. If you live in Chicago, then you know this is reasonable.

So I downloaded the app and immediately found a BFF. This wanch is cold! She tells me the absolute best route and by best, I mean the shortest route. She redirects me if traffic gets heavy. She provides me with alternate routes because she knows that I like having a choice in the matter. She even tells me when there’s a traffic camera or a cop nearby, not that I ever speed. No, really. I drive like your great grandmother on Sundays. Waze proved herself after two days of getting me home and to work in less than 1:05 minutes. A feat.

So what’s the problem? I think I have trust issues. Even though she promises to try her best, sometimes, I think she’s on crack or at least making bad judgment calls. She has me driving through side streets, alleys, up highway ramps to drive three blocks, then back down another ramp to the same traffic. And let me tell you. Having someone, no some thing, some electronic thing, some free electronic thing dictate my life is not my idea of being in control or making good life choices. So I started protesting.

It went something like this. One day, I just turned her off. I’ve been driving for at least 25 years, by myself. Did I really need her bossing me around? Well, it took me 1:45 minutes to get home on my own. So the next day, I turned her ass back on again. Hello, BFF. I’m sorry. I’ll listen today. But I didn’t. She suggested that I go the O’Hare route on the Kennedy expressway. I could clearly see that the traffic was even worse than it was going the Milwaukee route, so I took my old trusted route (that she’d provided me with, mind you.) Each morning for about two weeks, as if she were testing me, she suggested the O’Hare route and I politely said “no” and turned down Milwaukee (the alternate route), though it was clearly an additional 18 minutes per her calculations. I was fine until this morning.

I was on the Kennedy and again, she suggested stupid O’Hare and again, it was filled to capacity, standstill traffic, and no room to move, think or breathe. However, her estimated time had me arriving 21 minutes earlier to work than my usual route. I was intrigued. I took the damn route. Surprisingly, right after the split towards O’Hare, she suggested I get off the expressway at Lawrence and then took me around a few empty side streets and placed me back where? Back onto the expressway going towards O’Hare. I was irritated because the traffic was still there, but I played along. I wanted to prove this heifer wrong once and for all. She couldn’t be that smart if she didn’t know that O’Hare was a doggone mess filled with construction and folks cramming to get to the airport. I crept along for about five miserable minutes and then something insane happened. The traffic eased up and I was zooming along towards I-294 and into no traffic whatsoever! What?!?! Waze was right? Humph. Side eye towards my phone, but with a smirk.

So what did I learn? I learned that I still need to work on my control and trust issues, even with electronic gadgets. I need to accept help from others. I need to realize that just because things look and feel really awful in the moment, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. And that in order for me to get to the good, sometimes, I need to drive like hell through the bad. How about that for a Tuesday morning treat? Have a great day, everyone!

P.S. My early arrival gave me time to pen this essay before work instead of at about 11pm, my usual writing time. Yup. #essayaday #HappyTuesday #productive

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The Selfie Effect


Arms stretched. Head cocked. Click. Low light. Try again. Arms stretched. Smile. No teeth. Click. Damn. Cock-eyed. Try again. Arms stretched. Side shot. Pout. Click. Cute. Not cute enough though. Try again. Click. One arm this time. Invoke Yonce. Squint, but sexily. Flawless! Wait. Not really. Try again. Click. Click. Click.

What are we seeking in the perfect selfie? Are we trying to uncover some glorious hidden part of ourselves? Are we creating an illusion for others? Is it conceit? Is it the pursuit of perfection? Or is it just about wanting to put our best face forward at all times? And is this exhausting or even the best use of our time?

I think it depends on the person, but I see a life parallel here. Follow me.

Many of us spend a lifetime trying to get to perfection – the perfect outfit, the perfect haircut, the perfect love, the perfect job, or the perfect home – only to find out that despite our best intentions, improvements can be made to anything, which means it wasn’t actually perfect. So why can’t we just leave well enough alone? Or would that make us mediocre, complacent, or not persistent enough?

I think the selfie represents the eternal pursuit of our best life. We’re always trying to gain more, get better and reach higher than we are, and at any cost.  And the question is – Should we?

Yes and no. Perfection might be an illusion. If not, it’s definitely a moving target. Another rat race. What’s perfect depends on our mood, situation, perspective, and intentions and all of these things shift, day to day. Therefore, chasing something that isn’t really there could be perceived as futile, pathetic, misguided, or even neurotic. Maybe we follow John Legend’s advice and love our “perfect imperfections.” Maybe the pursuit of our best life doesn’t mean that everything has to be perfect or even the best, just perfect for us or good enough for us.

There’s a place in our perfection-obsessed society for being satisfied with what is. There’s a place for self-acceptance, even in our ugly, ordinary or imperfect moments. Let’s be okay with not being quite done or having things out of place. Embrace the process. Appreciate the growth. We might even reduce some of the pressure, stress, endless competition, and unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves. Maybe. And as I write this, I’m still deciding on the perfect selfie to post at the end of this not quite perfect essay. Click. I think I’ve got it, even if I don’t. Good night!


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A Birthday Wish

Today is my daughter’s 12th birthday. 12 is a powerful age, often associated with a young girl’s foray into womanhood. It’s typically when she begins her menses, starts realizing the power of her voice and opens her innocent eyes to the ways of the world. I wish all of these things for my daughter and more.

I remember my 12th birthday vividly. It was the worst day of my life. My best friend, Marcie, had gifted her old pink jumper dress to me because I didn’t have anything special to wear. I felt beautiful in it and looked forward to a fulfilling summer day. My father had already left for work before I’d awaken. My stepmother was home, but she treated it like a regular day, therefore, no words were exchanged. I vaguely recall a day of hanging out with a few of my friends who gave frantic birthday licks in my driveway and at the park. What I remember most is the anticipation of going home, hoping that my father had arrived and that a birthday cake, a card or a gift was waiting for me.

When I got back, a little before dark, it was quiet. My father’s Chevy Blazer was in the driveway, but he wasn’t in the living room as he usually was after work. I checked the refrigerator and countertop for evidence of a cake. Nothing. I bounded up the stairs and heard my name. I got excited. I went to my dad’s bedroom door, which was closed. I knocked. My stepmother opened the door for me to come in. I was told to sit on the bed. Though I wanted to close my eyes and await my gift, from the mood in the air and lack of smiles, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. My father looked tired. His hazel eyes bore into me as he slowly found his words. As he began lecturing, with his young wife glaring at me on the other side of the room, I think I blanked out for a few seconds and swam in my own thoughts. I’d heard “happy birthday” from many people outside of the house, but hadn’t heard it yet from my own family. I wondered if my dad realized that it was my birthday? I wondered if he knew that I’d waited all day to see his face and hear those magic words from that gravelly voice of his.

I tuned back in and heard him loud and clear. He was kicking me out, citing irreconcilable differences between his wife and me. He hadn’t invited me into his room to give me a lovely, long-awaited gift or even a hug. He just wanted to let me know that he didn’t love me anymore. Or at least that’s how my twelve-year-old mind saw it. I couldn’t stop the tears if I’d wanted to. I felt myself babbling, but just recall him shaking his head “no” and telling me to call my mother. He made me pack that night, bringing a couple of black garbage bags to my room for me to carry my things with. Within two hours, I was dropped off at my aunt’s house as a neutral ground until I could be picked up by my estranged mother. My father never said “happy birthday,” but then again, why should he? It wasn’t a very happy day, despite the date. And by then, we both knew it.

This was my introduction to 12. It was filled with heartbreak, sadness, pain, loss, confusion, and disappointment. It wasn’t a very good year. However, my life, my heart and my relationship with both parents s-l-o-w-l-y mended. I don’t wish my circumstances on my daughter, but I know that the older she gets, she will feel all of these human emotions and it pains me to know that there will be little that I can do to shield her. What I hope is that we are providing her with the love, support, faith, strength, and resilience she’ll need to work her way through the darkness that life can bring. What I wish for her on this 12th year of life is that more than those moments of darkness, she will feel joy, passion, love, peace, compassion, and light. And Khari, Happy Birthday, baby. We love you.

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Gendering Desires

Tonight, I attended Oakton’s annual Women’s International Juried Art Exhibit sponsored by Women and Gender Studies. This year’s theme is Gendering Desire: Liberation, Power and Pleasure. I absorbed art pieces that reflect what women intimately want. The topics ranged from power and transcendence to sex and chocolate. There were wooden sculptures, woven pieces, acrylic paintings, and multimedia art installations that evoked, challenged and seduced me. There was so much to take in that I only saw a third of the exhibit because I was still on the clock, dutifully greeting and distributing catalogs as a new WSG committee member. However, I saw enough to ruminate on my own desires. What do I really want?

I’m not going to be cliché and talk about world peace (which I do want) or equal pay or my desire to not be called “yo’ Shorty” by boys whom could’ve birthed as I stroll down 47th to the Green Line train stop. I want to discuss the things I want right now, in the next hour. I want a nap, but because I’m still on campus, it’s probably not a good idea. I want my lower back to stop aching from an old injury that flairs up every time I’m standing in one place too long. I want some cool water with little lemon slices to get the taste of a long day out of my mouth. I want my car to be parked closer now that it’s dark outside, but since I didn’t work out today, it’s probably best that I have to walk a few more steps. I want some hype music that will keep my weary mind alert on the road. I want to get home to my family and see the excitement in my daughter’s eyes as she counts down to her 12th birthday tomorrow.

The beauty is that I can have all these things, if I just stop working right now, stop typing right now, grab my damn keys, and go. It’s as simple as that. So, let me get out of my head and into my car and let Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt fill my senses as I hit the highway. What more can I say? Nothing. Here I come, Jay.

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The Tentative Professor

I’m at a fabulous new job where I’m being challenged intellectually and have perks like $5500 for professional development, tuition reimbursement, free Spanish conversation groups, a bucolic campus, workout facilities, walking trails, theater space, and faculty seminars. I worked so hard to get back to higher education for this – more resources, more stimulation and more pay. I’ve been here for one month and have already decided that I love it. I mean I really love it, like unhealthy puppy love, please stay with me forever, it can do no wrong love.

It may sound far fetched, but I love the long commute because I now have time to listen to books on tape, study my Spanish like I’m headed to Costa Rica tomorrow and talk to friends and family that I’ve been too consumed to call. I love grading dozens of essays from my students, the severely flawed and the genius. I love being able to help a student to grow and to grow myself in the process. I love the ridiculous amount of autonomy and the assumption that I’m a highly competent professional. I love the kindness of the staff and faculty, assisting me as I bumble through the halls looking for room numbers and sending me rubrics for upcoming assignments after frazzled conversations about the workload. I love breathing the air of forest preserves that enshroud the campus and cedar woodpiles that someone nearby burns ever so often. Along with so much love, comes fear.

I fear that I am not good enough. I see all of the twenty-year, tenured PhDs, hear all of their conversations about neoliberalism and public space initiatives in Hong Kong and I think to myself, “Wanch, you are out of your league. You need more than two Master’s degrees and a love of learning; you need to set up residence at the Harold Washington Library for the next twenty years.” I fear that in order to fit in and woo my senorita, I need an intellectual wingman ala’ Hitch, feeding me lines from Foucault, Lorde and Paz in order to keep her. Will I live up to the hype? Will I make the college better and not just bask in it bettering me? Will I earn my keep? I sure hope so.

I also fear that I am being totally naïve and that the bubble will soon burst. No job can be this good. Period. Every place has problems and people with problems. Faculty and staff grumble (or whisper) discontent with the direction that the school is going in or about slights of the past. Some folks are way too keyed in and others are clearly tuned out, mechanical zombies working hard to fade into retirement without going postal before that glorious day arrives. A dude I had a great hour-long conversation with last week just resigned on Friday. WTF. Maybe the time will come when I’ll face the harsh realities of academia as well. What will I have to sacrifice to remain safe and relevant or just to get through it all – my blackness, my ideologies, my sanity? Will I have to lose the work-life balance I’ve striven so hard to gain in order to prove my worth? Will the nefarious “they” stab me in the back eventually or silence me with Hunger, I mean Tenure Games? Will they kick me to the curb if I speak out against any injustices I see? Or am I just being paranoid because it all feels too good to be true? And are these even real problems or Triple Ps (privileged people’s problems)? I don’t know.

Most of all, I fear failing my students. I don’t want to get so far gone that I forget what it’s like to be a low-income student struggling just to get books or the first-generation student who doesn’t get anything the teacher just said, but is too insecure to ask or the differently abled student who just needs the teacher to write notes on the board and make it big enough to see because my glasses are five years old. I don’t want to forget how much guidance, patience and support I needed from my professors and that I, too, have an obligation to provide these things whenever possible. I can see how it would be really easy to become lazy, dismissive and pompous as a professor, no longer keeping up with best practices in teaching nor engaging in the active learning strategies I used with my high school students because it seems more donnish to just lecture. I always want to help students to think, to analyze, to explore, to challenge, and to create. I want them to be informed and angry enough about the problems in the world to go out and create change. I want to empower new leaders and give sacred space for their voices to be heard and understood. I want to support them in achieving their dreams and be their fiercest cheerleader because we all need someone who relentlessly believes in us. I want to model being a decent human being because my fancy title is no excuse for poor manners, bad pedagogy, a shitty attitude, and waving my privilege around like a silk handkerchief at a debutante ball. I expect a lot from myself, but between committee meetings, new initiatives, hundreds of essays each semester, and a life that refuses to slow down, will I be able to muster the energy, the courage it takes to make my idealism a consistent reality?

The answer is yes. I have no choice. To whom much is given, much is required. This is a great opportunity and I won’t allow my baser self or excuses to sabotage me. There’s no room for fear, for my insecurities or my second doubts. I must conquer them all. I was hired because there’s something special that I can provide to my students and the college. I have teaching skills, writing skills, advising skills, administrative skills, code-switching skills, life skills, and people skills. Beyond the necessary skills, I possess much love – a love of my job, my students, myself, my colleagues, of learning, of all the past experiences and people that got me here, and a love of my life. And we already know that love conquers all. So Oakton, here I am. No rose colored glasses, no pretenses. Love me as I love you – imperfect and beautiful. Now, let’s get to work. There’s much to be done.

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This writer on her work


Vanessa Martir, keep giving, keep telling, keep being.

Originally posted on Vanessa Martir's Blog:

Years ago, an ex (the drug dealer I dated while a student at Columbia University) told me “You ain’t goin’ out” when he overheard me talking to a friend on the phone about our plans for the weekend. I was folding our freshly washed laundry on our bed. Clothes that I’d sorted, carried down four flights of stairs, washed, dried, bagged and carried up those four flights by myself.

He sprayed himself with his Dolce and Gabbana cologne and glared at me, “You heard me, right?” I stared back at him, poker faced. He walked out without another word.

I hadn’t planned on going out. I wanted to stay home to spend time with him, or at least that was the plan until he ran his mouth. That Friday night, I made dinner then dressed up extra cute in jeans, crop top, Kangol and pumps. I made a show of…

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Dancing the Summer Away

Dancing is my little magic place. Not just any dancing. I mean sista girl, African-rooted, fierce gyration. I gave birth to my female essence prior to Shakira’s shake and Beyonce’s booty bounce. I wind my hips so well that I make Jamaican girls jealous. They used to call me belly dancing Tina and as I popped and swirled in my orbit, they’d all crowd around. I felt powerful. I felt sensual. I was free.

As house music went to Paris, hip-hop moved in and I went from jacking it up to dropping it like it was hot, it being my ass. It was a different feel, a little harder, with an 808 drumbeat. The baseline made me do things like cabbage patch, wop it, and lean back for Fat Joe. I wore hip-hop well; my former househead grooves fitting it like a glove.

Admittedly, I fell in love with hip-hop and our relationship grew. The music made me think about revolution, about fighting for the right to be me, all the while, still dancing. Hip-Hop made me think about being in charge, Ms. Latifah, telling me that ladies came first. Rakim, Poor Righteous Teachers and KRS-1 told me over and over and over again, that I was a queen. They sang it, they rapped it, and I loved it. My hips rocked even harder, this time, with fists in the air.

Then something went wrong. The balance was broken. In the eyes of hip-hop’s second generation, around the way girls became gold diggers and yesterday’s queens became bitches and hoes. I found it hard to gyrate or to breathe in the toxic air. I left the clubs and in the process, left my main man, hip-hop. I convinced myself that I didn’t need him anyway. I didn’t need to dance.

I went home, brokenhearted with loss of sound and rhythm. My body wouldn’t move like it used to. I felt dirty. I felt like a hypocrite. I was ashamed. Once you become a queen, you can’t revert back to hoodrat status. My hips wouldn’t lie. They refused my ex-lover, refusing to accept any more abuse.

I moved forward without hip-hop. I moved to England and sampled a new lover. One, two, three. On your feet. Plié, relevé, pas de bourrée! For the first time in my life, my butt was too big to dance, or so the teacher told me. My body rejected that notion and the form. My soul turned up its nose. There was no space for my hips to sway. Therefore, no love for me. Ballet was dead in my mind. I could no longer kick, ball, chain in order to erase the old me. Me was all that I had.

So here I dance, into my own sphere. It’s a space where I am not defined by music, form or words, but by my own experiences and rhythms, from hip-hop to salsa, from kukere to bop. I can snake my pelvis upwards and hear the drum of my heart. I can dip, twirl, grip my hips, grasping my power, my freedom to be a woman. I am ferocious. I know it. I am love. Ummmhmm. Once again, moving to the dance of my life. Yes, I am a dancing queen, dizzy with possibility, strength and light.

Posted in Hip-Hop and the Urbane, Woman Talk | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Let’s get the facts straight about what racism is, and is not (We’re viewing the Donald Sterling scandal all wrong).


Bryant Cross has hit the nail on the head once again. Racism is about power, not whether one group likes another. That’s just bigotry. Let’s get this straight and understand the structure in place that allows people like him to remain in power while being clueless and without an ounce of cultural competency. Privilege says that Donald Sterling can be just who he is without consequences or loss of significant power nor shift in mentality.

Originally posted on Bryant Cross:

The Donald Sterling scandal has very much upset me, but not because of the comments of Donald himself. A very old white man is a racist?

That’s nothing new.

What has gotten under my skin is the reaction from the general public to the racism displayed. As I read many blogs, retweets, and Facebook comments I let out a deep sigh because I see anti-racism education still has a long way to go. Yesterday during the Clippers first game since the scandal, many fans brought signs of solidarity for racial uplift. One picture in particular caught my eye:


Personally, I bursted out in laughter when I first saw this because the photo is very comical yet cute.  At the same time it also shows the misunderstanding on what racism is actually about.

Racism is NOT about white people not liking black people or vice versa. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr…

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Great post by Bryant Cross on being Slaves to Consumerism

You all know that I love the youth and I love it even more that Bryant Cross is discussing some of the psychology behind the murders of many young black men and how it’s rooted in the need to be respected.

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Turn Up! Turn Down for What? A Message to Chicago Teens

By Tina Fakhrid-Deen

The catchphrase for 2013 seems to be TUTDFW or “Turn up! Turn Down for What?” The phrase “turn up” was initially used as a party term, meaning to get really wild and party hard. However, now it means to get wild, ignorant and obnoxious on any occasion from cussing out someone to fighting in the school hallways. As if “turn up” wasn’t enough, somebody has added an addendum, “turn down for what?” Translation: Get ignorant, rowdy and out of control and don’t stop until the cops come knocking. So when I ask my students to calm down or chill out on negative behavior, they will often respond in jest, “Turn down for what?” Let me answer that question for you.

You need to turn down so that you can actually think. It’s hard to come up with intelligent solutions or responses when your adrenaline is pumping and you are on ten. It’s even worse, when your instigating friends are egging you on to “turn up.” That’s why when you are angry, it’s suggested that you breathe deeply and count slowly to ten. It’s allows your adrenaline to calm down so that your brain can re-focus. This helps you to think logically without the unnecessary high drama of emotions. In addition to turning down to think more effectively, let me tell you all the things that you can “turn down” in addition to uncontrolled, reckless emotions.

1. Turn down on the all drinking, smoking and pill popping. It’s impairing your ability to make good choices. Many of the unfortunate or negative things you get into are done when someone is under the influence. Don’t allow drugs and alcohol to control your actions. You have to be the leader of your own life because when that high comes down, you are left to deal with the ramifications of the choices you made while “turned up.”

2. Turn down the level of violence in the city. You have a choice to be mature and stop fighting and killing each other. You know it’s petty and harmful to the community. So if you know better, do better. No excuses. Put down the guns and pick up a book to learn about how we got to this place historically and how we are playing into a systematic plan to incarcerate and disempower low-income youth. Better yet, think of all of the friends and loved ones you and your friends have lost and ask yourself was it worth it? If that answer is no, you have a responsibility to do your part and decrease the level of violence that you are engaged in as well. It’s all part of the problem whether the “opps” are doing it or whether you are behind the gun.

3. Turn down the attitude and foul mouths. I’m so tired of asking young people to stop using profanity in front of elders and small children. Have some dignity and respect for yourself. We shouldn’t hear your conversation on the other side of the street or the opposite side of the train car. Use your 12 inch voice, meaning keep your business to yourself. What you say and how you say it is a reflection of you, your family and your level of intelligence. So show your best sides and turn down the worst of you. It’s a choice. And don’t catch an attitude when someone is trying to correct your negative or disruptive behavior. You can’t complain that no one cares and then lash out at the people who are showing you that they care by trying to get the best out of you.


Now let me tell you what to “turn up” on.

1. Turn up on high school and college graduation. For this to happen you need to “turn up” those good grades which leads to good report cards which leads to graduation and acceptance to good colleges and training programs which leads to good jobs and careers which leads to good salaries which leads to a better life. TDFW?

2. Turn up your level of positivity. Bad attitudes and outlooks on life are depressing and boring. Change your attitude, change your life. They go hand in hand. Use the strength you possess to overcome obstacles and have a winning attitude. Having a rough life or bad experiences does not mean that you can’t be happy and healthy in mind. Your environment does not dictate who you are, only you can dictate that; so be above the influence. You must prioritize what is important to you, reduce negative influences from your life and invest in the things that fulfill your purpose and make you happy. Turn up!

3. Turn up your level of accountability. That’s what being a young adult is. Stop talking about you’re grown, when you still walk the walk of a child. Being a young adult means adding responsibility to your daily list of duties and raising your expectation of what you can accomplish. Do you know how to clean the house (and do you)? Do you have a job (and are you even looking hard enough)? Do you make good choices and help your friends to do the same so that everybody can “come up” and thrive? Are you gaining skills and investing in hobbies and activities that make you a productive, engaged citizen? Are you reaching out to adult resources to help you get where you need to be? Get grown by being responsible and look to positive adults to support and guide you along your journey. TDFW?

4. Turn up your self-esteem. You are intelligent, driven, and talented. You have to know that you are beautiful and it has nothing to do with an outfit you put together or how long your hair is or how many boys or girls are chasing behind you. That’s about ego and lust, not the quality of the person. Stop giving away your most valuable parts because you are looking for validation or someone to be affectionate or stroke your external ego. You have to tell yourself of your own worth and make that worth internal, not external. If a person only wants you for your body, that’s external. If a person only wants you for your money, that’s external. Those are people who do not see you for whom you really are. See above the game and make your values your own. You need to harbor internal values like: I value my intelligence; I value honesty from others; I value being hard-working; I value my family and friends; I value my ability to be a good student and person; These are internal values that will still be there when the fancy clothes, cute faces and parties are long gone. Know your worth and no one can ever take that from you. Once you understand and value your worth, you won’t do things that bring your worth down because you have dignity and high self-esteem and too much to live for. Turn up!

5. Turn up the unity. You’re living in a false land of the “opps” where everyone is the perceived enemy and no one can be trusted. This is one of the unity-ripping ideas that keeps us separate. Unity is about reconciliation, forgiveness, trust, and re-building. Yes, some of you have been traumatized by all of the violence committed upon you from parents to the cops to your peers and the community, but you have to lift yourself out of that cycle of violence because it is killing off your generation, literally. We’ve created a war mentality in Chicago that has created a war zone. As long as we have the thought that everyone else is the enemy and worthless, the actions of killing the “opps” will follow, keeping us trapped in this senseless and community-destroying violence. Change the mentality, change the outcome. We are not enemies. We are a family and need to be revolutionary in this thought. We are a community. We are neighborhoods, not just the hood. We are not Chi-Raq. We are Chicago. We are one and we decide who and what this city will be. There is fighting to be done, but it is a fight against the real oppressor – poverty. We must continue to fight for equality and jobs and community resources. Stop looking for Ida B., Martin and Chavez and be Ida B., Martin and Chavez. Make something out of nothing. Become the leaders you seek. Make a way when you thought there was no way. We can only accomplish these feats when we stick together and trust each other and have each other’s backs. So turn up! It’s time to unite.

6. Turn up your resilience and dedication. Stop whining and being soft. I’m being real. You talk tough, but walk soft. It’s not about how well you can fight or shoot; being tough is mental. It’s about defeating your inner demons and pushing through to reach new levels and challenging yourself to be the best that you can be, even when it’s hard. That’s resilience and it’s the missing piece of the puzzle for some of you. When things get tough, some of you give up or fall apart. Work for what you want. Value the process. Some of you want everything the easy or fast way and that’s not going to get you beyond where you are right now or beyond some momentary satisfaction. Those who are successful have worked for it, not whined about it or given up as soon as it got hard. Toughen up and get some grind. Know that you are destined to be successful and that no one can stop you, but you. No matter what.

Life is unfair at times. Life is unruly. Life is unpredictable. Life can be hard. So what? Turn up, not just to party and act tough. Turn up all the positivity, responsibility, skills, internal values, grind, and resilience you possess to manifest your most beautiful and successful self. Turn up! Turn down for what?

Posted in Activism, Education, Goals, Hip-Hop and the Urbane, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments