Empowerment – The Fire Within (A 2013 Throwback)

The following piece was written back in 2013. While 4 years have passed, the underlying message is still quite relevant today.


As members of the LGBT community, it’s sad that we still live in a world that cannot see beyond our sexuality. How appalling is it that the masses fail to realize our worth or accept us wholly and completely? When faced with hatred, discrimination, and stereotypical imagery in media and entertainment, we can’t help but feel a bit of shame, guilt, and anger. So many misconceptions and stigmas continue to cloud judgment, perception, and understanding. But for what? Our sexuality is one of so many parts of who we are. While it doesn’t define us, we can’t ignore it. And it’s obvious that public officials, conservatives, and organizations (that shall remain nameless) are obsessed with our sexuality more than we are.

Did the powers that be, holy rollers, and haters forget that we’re human too? We desire, no, we deserve the same things as our heterosexual brothers and sisters – family, friends, love, happiness, success on our own terms, good health… I could go on, as the list is endless. But you wouldn’t know this reading or viewing some of the media and entertainment created daily. How hypocritical can a society be that prides itself on freedom, but shames, victimizes, vilifies, and silences those who don’t fit the preferred, traditional archetype? We’re well past the time to lift the veil on the alienation and isolation that comes as a result of living in such a heteronormative society. But let us not be defeated.

Validation from the outside world may not come in the time, manner, or fashion we desire it to. However, we shouldn’t let it hinder us from living or having what we want in this life. No matter what the outside world says we must remain steadfast in knowing ourselves and trusting what we believe in. No matter what the world says, we are beautiful in every way. We are not less than. We are warriors.

Sometimes we have to forego or question everything we’ve been taught or led to believe as truth to find out who we really are. There’s so much that we deny ourselves when we feed into to the B.S. aimed at refuting our existence. We have to shut ourselves off from the noise and the hysteria to make way for what’s real – to make way for peace, serenity, and truth. When we’re able to free ourselves individually and collectively – the change we see within and around us will be miraculous.

As Audre Lorde said, “Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.” We cannot wait. While we should celebrate the recent Supreme Court rulings in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases for being a step in the right direction for gay marriage, the movement doesn’t stop there. These rulings should only intensify our fight for justice, equality, and freedom for all. And everything we need for this fight lies within.

The key to finding what’s within, the power within, is loving ourselves. We talk a good game about loving ourselves, but how many of us actually do? How many of us can say we truly love ourselves? It’s impossible for us to love ourselves if we continue to allow internalized hatred to ruin our progress. It’s impossible for us to love ourselves if we continue to tolerate the abuse, ill-treatment, and foolishness we encounter daily.

We must not let fear run our authentic selves away. We must be brazen. Stand up for those who were/are not able to stand up for themselves. Realize that in doing so, we’re empowering ourselves and challenging everyone to (always) strive to be and do better.

When we find the love within, the power is never too far behind. When we find our power… When we realize our power… When we utilize our power, its intensity will inspire action and breed the change we need in our families, communities, and the world.

Ours is a power that not only changes lives, but also saves lives. As James Baldwin said, “The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.” So let’s find our power and wield it lovingly, strongly, boldly, and unapologetically. It’s our world. Now let the power within—that internal fire—lead the way!

SHOUT

Photo by Philip Montgomery. Courtesy of Wired.

Photo by Philip Montgomery. Courtesy of Wired.

Muted voices
Censored
Stunted
Bombastic power oppressed
Not living up to the dream
For you were scared to utter for fear of retribution,
judgment and ignorance

Silent soldier
You’ve got the ammo but you’re too afraid
to use your commands
The time has come for you to
release the sounds hidden in your glorious voice box
It’s now time to shout

I shout for those that died before their time
Those who fought quietly or were robbed of their chance
to simply speak their freedom
I shout for those who braved the waters
amidst the violent, tireless searches to reinforce
unjust captivity
I shout for all the wrongs my people faced yet still
managed to find the joy, pride, and
dignity to go on

I shout for hope, boundless hope
that there will be a moment, a sustained if not eternal moment
when we can love, honor, and respect each other for the beautiful
beings The Creator made us to be

I shout for the times I hide away from others, even myself
I shout because pain and shame can no longer claim me
I shout because I had no reason not to stand up for myself
I have a purpose, a calling
I have value
And so does my voice

I shout because it’s my right
I shout because it’s my duty
I shout because sometimes I can’t help myself
Sometimes you’ve just got to release the
treasures from within
For if you never uncover them, you’ve robbed
the world of one of its many miracles.

I shout for the same reason I sing—
To be free!

© 2014 BuddahDesmond

From the chapbook, Exotic Shifter.

The Power of Branding, Storytelling, and Connections: A Blogger Week 2016 Reflection

Image courtesy of Trinity University.

Image courtesy of Trinity University.

For the third year in a row, I had the pleasure of attending Blogger Week. For those who don’t know, Blogger Week is a celebration of multicultural digital media. Through panels, workshops, and other events, Blogger Week provides bloggers, media mavens, journalists, and other professionals with engaging opportunities to learn, share ideas, grow their brand, create partnerships, and build community.

This year’s conference offered priceless insights, strategies, and gems within the areas of social justice / activism, economic justice, marketing, PR, digital messaging, monetization, and issues of self-awareness, identity, and engagement. Common themes that tie many of these areas together include branding, storytelling, and connections (or community building).

Image courtesy of Black Bloggers Connect.

Image courtesy of Black Bloggers Connect.

Authenticity and Building Your Brand


So how do we break free from the noise and distinguish ourselves in the digital space? By being our authentic selves; knowing our audience (and how to effectively reach them); creating original, captivating content; staying consistent; and putting ourselves in positions that will benefit us. You’ve got to do your research. Whatever social media platforms you use, know what strategies work best for connecting with your audience. What works best on Facebook, may not work well on Twitter and Instagram.

Know your worth. Ask for it. And be able to back it up. ~ April Reign

To understand your impact and engagement, analytics are essential. It’s crucial that analytics are reviewed regularly. Once we understand our analytics, we’ll be better equipped to improve and build our brand, grow our audience, and attract other brands we may want to partner with in the future. As we journey on, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of our “WHY.” This will fuel us and keep us motivated during trying times.

Own Your Voice, Tell Your Story

As many of us know, content remains king in the digital space. Nothing emphasizes this point more than the influence of storytelling in digital media. Storytelling allows us to define and own our voices, embrace ourselves wholly and authentically, and connect with others on a deeper level. When done well, storytelling is engaging, inspiring, and influential. Often, storytelling is what drives us to finding or redefining our passion and purpose.

For multicultural bloggers, media mavens, journalists, and others in the digital space, storytelling is nothing new. I have to co-sign with Andrea C. Imafidon of Brown Girl From Boston when she says that, “We have always been a culture of people who have always told stories.” And we have done it quite well.

As noted during her presentation “Tweeting Away Our Blues: How Black Women Use Social Media for Self-Awareness, Activism, and Black Liberation,” Dr. Kelly Macias of Conflict Undone said, “Black women have revolutionized social media and the way it was intended to be used.” Not only have we used digital media to tell our stories, we’ve also used it to construct our identity, build community, and liberate ourselves.

Make a Connection, Build a Community

Speaking of community – community is one of the reasons why I love attending Blogger Week. The Blogger Week UnConference was the first (and remains one of the few) professional development conference I attended that celebrated multicultural digital media. Year after year, I’ve been able to meet, network, and learn from so many digital media professionals at various stages of their digital media journey. There’s a close-knit, family-like atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. You know you’re in good company. And you’ve got a solid support system holding you up.

I leave this conference every year amped and ready to re-up. I’m filled with an arsenal of information that I can use to help better myself and others. I leave knowing that I am not alone, and that we are SO MUCH stronger—together.

Me with author, publisher, and entrepreneur Ni'cola Mitchell

Me with author, publisher, and entrepreneur Ni’cola Mitchell

Major kudos and props to my connections (new and old) from the Blogger Week community: J.A.M. Aiwuyor (Founder & Creative Director of Black Bloggers Connect), Marc Polite, Ni’cola Mitchell, Andrea C. Imafidon, Dr. Kelly Macias, Tara J. Young, Julian Addo, Tyece A. Wilkins, Yvelette Stines, Dominique & David Pressley (Caribbean Soul Trekkers), Chimene WilliamsCharles Martin, and CleverlyChanging.

Much gratitude to J.A.M. Aiwuyor, Black Bloggers Connect, the speakers, the volunteers, and all of the fly attendees for making this another phenomenal Blogger Week. See you next year!

Peace, Love, and Many Blessings!

“Exotic Shifter,” My New Chapbook, Coming Soon

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Good news: my latest project entitled, Exotic Shifter, will be available soon! In a previous post, I mentioned that I’d been working on two new projects. The first being a chapbook, Exotic Shifter, and the second being my next full-length volume of poetry (with a tentative release date some time in late 2015/early 2016). Well, we’re in the final stages of the editing process and the chapbook will be heading to the printer any day now.

Exotic Shifter is primarily about love and relationships. As my grandmother says, “Love is a metamorphosis.” Love changes things… Well, love changes everything. It’s impossible that we go through life loving anything or anyone (ourselves, others, our communities) without being changed. The poems featured in Exotic Shifter examine the transformative power of love (and/or how we can be transformed once we learn to love ourselves and others better).

Exotic Shifter will be published by 2 Pens & Lint, whose tagline is, “A New Direction In Poetry.” As their website states, “2 Pens & Lint strives to create an atmosphere where poets can build and maintain financial stability through the art of poetry while simultaneously using their poetry as a catalyst for change in their communities and broader society.”

2 Pens & Lint is a company that is completely supportive of the art of poetry and ensuring that poets have the resources they need to continue enhancing their artistry, their platform, and their business (which in essence will impact their communities and the world). This is why I decided to pursue publishing my chapbook with 2 Pens & Lint.

Exotic Shifter will be available for sale on the 2 Pens & Lint website and from me at upcoming events. Stay tuned for more details!

As always, I thank you kindly for your continued support. Much Love!

Exotic Shifter Cover Illustration: Patricia Swann (my grandmother, who also created the cover illustration for Prevail)

The Blogger Week Unconference 2014: An Engaging, Informative, Highly Valuable Event

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I had the pleasure of attending the Blogger Week Unconference in May, and I must say that it was one of the best professional events I’ve attended in some time. Hosted by Black Bloggers Connect, the Unconference was part of Blogger Week 2014, a multicultural festival of bloggers, journalists, and social media mavens. Blogger Week 2014 featured both digital and in-person events such as Google Hangouts, Twitter parties, panels, workshops, and networking events.

The Unconference featured 13 engaging discussion panels and breakout sessions led by industry notables. Topics included: digital monetizing, social media strategies, the business of beauty blogging, personal and executive branding, PR, blogging in the Pan African world, using your blog to affect politics and cause change, and the power of blogger collaboration (to name a few). There truly was something of great value for bloggers, journalists, and social media mavens at all levels at the Unconference.

After blogging for 9 years and being on social media for at least 5 years, I’m far from an expert. I’m always looking for ways to learn more, improve, streamline, and enhance. So I welcome and am grateful for events like these. I honestly believe I got more value out of this one-day, $25 (early bird) event than I would have if I’d gone to one of the high-priced multi-day events.

One of the other elements that made this event so commendable were the people. There was a warm, inclusive, welcoming community vibe at the Unconference. Almost immediately, I felt comfortable and at home. It was like I was with my best friends and family. I connected with some really cool, intelligent, and talented people doing wonderful things. I would be remiss if I didn’t give some shout outs: Taiye Oladipo,MPH, Marc Polite, L. Laura Burge, Marquita Goodluck, Ananda Leeke, Caribbean Soultrekkers, Ni’cola Mitchell, and Vino Noire.

The Blogger Week Unconference is highly recommended! Thank you Jessica Ann Mitchell and Black Bloggers Connect for organizing such a FAB event. I look forward to attending many other Black Bloggers Connect events in the future.

Blogger Week Unconference Takeaways:

  1. Quantity is not important. It’s about the connection or relationship you have with your followers.
  2. Be authentic. Use your personality. Your voice is key. If you have passion, brands will come to you.
  3. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this, as it will keep you focused, motivated, and moving forward.
  4. Make yourself your brand. Know your key differentiators (what makes your brand unique) and use them to your advantage.
  5. Try to keep your brand consistent across platforms. Make contact information present. Be accessible. Responsive.
  6. Honor your word/commitments. If you can’t do it, be honest about it.
  7. Don’t be afraid of your potential. Own it. It’s going to take work.
  8. Be your own hustleman. Create a social calendar for yourself and get yourself out there.
  9. Make sure your message is simple but encompasses all aspects of yourself/your brand.
  10. Give the people what they want.
  11. Partnerships (meaningful, long-lasting, mutually beneficial) can help you solidify your brand. But be sure you’re partnering with organizations that represent your brand.
  12. Don’t pitch people your problems, pitch them your solutions.

I’ll Be Reading at Warsan and Xperience J’s Book Signing in Camp Springs, MD on 3/29/2014

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I’m happy to announce my next poetry reading will take place at Warsan and Xperience J’s Tomorrow’s Seduction: Kiss of Death Book Signing event.  The event will be held: March 29, 2014 | 1PM-3PM | Annie’s Art Gallery | 5814 Allentown Way Camp Springs, Maryland 20748.

Fans can bring a copy of their recently published book Tomorrow’s Seduction: Kiss Of Death or purchase a copy at the event for $15. There will be music and poetry/entertainment.  Light refreshments and mimosas will also be served.

I agree with the authors that this will be a great opportunity to meet and connect with others in the community.

So if you’re in the area on March 29, 2014, please come through!

To RSVP for the event, please go to the Event page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/255511394623816/.

To view the trailer for Tomorrow’s Seduction: Kiss of Death on YouTube, go to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvITqnJL2TU.

To purchase a copy of the book in advance of the book signing on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tomorrows-Seduction-Crystal-B-Judkins/dp/0615922880.

Like Tomorrow’s Seduction: Kiss of Death on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/TomorrowsSeductionKissofDeath.

I’ll Be Reading at the DC Metro Scholastic Writing Awards – 3/11/2014

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It’s with great happiness that I announce I’ve been selected to read a few works by this year’s American Voice Nominees at the 2014 DC Metro Scholastic Writing Awards!  Performing, giving back, and highlighting some of the Greater Washington Area’s up-and-coming writers—does it get any better than that?

Each year, students in grades 7-12 are encouraged to participate in the The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.  Almost 200,000 students enter their art and writing “for review by panels of art and writing professionals, and compete for recognition, scholarships, and publication opportunities” (Writopia Lab | Scholastic Writing Awards).  2.5 million students have been awarded over $25 million in cash awards and scholarships since 1923.  Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards Alumni include Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates, and Zac Posen.

Writopia Lab was selected by the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers to serve as the Scholastic Writing Awards Regional Affiliate in the Greater Washington Area.  The Scholastic Writing Awards serve as not only a celebration, but also a platform for students to creatively express themselves with their budding talents.

The Scholastic Writing Awards will be held: March 11, 2014 | 6:30PM to 8:30PM | Artisphere’s Spectrum Theater | 1611 N. Kent Street Arlington, VA 22209.  The event is open to the public.  If you’re in the area, please come celebrate the brilliant talents of some of the DC-Area’s most promising teen writers.

Congrats to all of the nominees and winners!

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Many Blessings, BuddahDesmond