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!

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!

Finding My Way Back

I’ll never forget a particular meeting a group of peers and I had with the head of student affairs at my alma mater… During this meeting, she told us that roughly 80%-85% of people are unhappy with their careers.  Many of us were in shock after hearing this.  I thought to myself, “Wow. The remaining 15%-20% have it made. I want to end up in that group, not the 80%-85% group.”  Years later, I found myself slowly drifting closer and closer towards the 80%-85% group.  Once I found myself fully submergedI needed more than a white flag to save me.

Practicality lured me down this path.  Armed with good intentions, I thought I could make it work.  Honestly, I did.  But how can you when you’re committing yourself to something that fails to hold your heart captive, no matter how hard or what you try?  I listened to the “wisdom” about going into a career (technology) that would provide a good living.  I was told that my dreams and what I wanted (a career in the arts/being a renaissance man) was lofty, unrealistic, and that I wouldn’t/couldn’t make  a living doing it.  So (unwillingly) I bought into to it.  It was a good lie for a few years.  But each time I got still, reality brought truth back home.

As I moved further away from my dreams, the more they haunted me.  I called this the true gift and curse about dreams, talents, and natural abilities.  The more you deny them, the stronger they become.  If you allow your dreams to die, a portion of you will die along with them.  As I found myself heading for crisis, my dreams were still very much alive.  I, however, was going deeper and deeper into denial.  I found myself saying, “There has to be another way.  There has to be.  Otherwise I want out.”

Ever been in a situation that felt like a dream that you weren’t supposed to be in?  You know, when everything (including the people) seems so unreal and untouchable and you don’t quite fit?  That’s how I felt.  It was the dream, a fantasy, that I should’ve awakened from sooner.  A fantasy that would eventually turn into a nightmare.  When the fantasy ended, so did my livelihood.

I was forced to get really real.  I had to find my way back to myself and all that I denied along the way.  Silly of me to believe the hype and allow external factors to influence decisions about my well-being and career.  Foolish of me to doubt myself and my talents and let my self-esteem and confidence suffer as a consequence.  How silly… So silly.

After years of neglecting yourself, you have to get back to you and heed your calling.  And that’s what I’ve been doing.  While I know I’ve got a long way to go, it’s not as long now that I’ve fully embraced me and all that I have to offer.

More to come!

Weekly Musings on Life & Personal Empowerment – Week 2

This week’s musings are deal with life, and personal empowerment in particular.  It’s so easy to lose self, especially when there’s a lot at stake.  Have to remain grounded.  Have to know that who you are and what you bring to the table is enough.  If ever not, it’s time to go to another table. 

  1. You can plan your life all you want.  But you’d be a fool to think that everything in this life will always go as planned.  You know that you’re truly living when you can get through the parts of life that were not part of “the plan.”
  2.  For one who’s lived a life where all they’ve ever heard was “yes,” the true test of their character comes after hearing their first “no.”
  3. The less time you spend worrying about what’s wrong with others and how to change them, the more time you can devote to working on and changing yourself.  The power lies in changing you first and foremost.  Work to make a better you.
  4. Talk, especially when coming from people in positions of power, is nothing without meaning, purpose, and action.  Yes, it may sound good.  Yes, it may be full of passion and promise.  But without the substance of planning and actual work, talk fails on all the things that matter.
  5. Always look to the things that bring you joy and lift your spirit.  You’ll find comfort, motivation, inspiration, and reassurance in them during times of doubt, confusion, disappointment, need, and loss.
  6. When you’ve given or done your best—and you know that you have—there’s really nothing more anyone can ask of you.
  7. We all have to make choices and compromises in this life.  But dimming your light or changing yourself for the sake of others should never be one of them. Stand proudly and firmly in your light.  Your light is what makes you unique.