Make #Juneteenth Your Do-teenth

I learned of Juneteenth when I was 21, during a summer internship in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A young black couple that befriended me took me to my first-ever Juneteenth celebration and opened my eyes to why it was significant.

I wondered then why I’d never heard of it, and it’s a reminder today of the truth that many of us “don’t know what we don’t know.”

Today is an excellent day to spend some extra time seeking information through Google or your favorite search engine; to buy some ebooks, audiobooks or print books that detail the rich history of African American dreamers and doers; to watch some of the documentaries that add context and revelation to the pandemic that is known as racial injustice, such as 13th or the classic Eyes on the Prize or others you discover through your own research. 

Juneteenth is “a thing” because it took forever for freed slaves in part of these United States to learn that they’d been free for a while, yet were still treated and viewed as someone’s property. 

Today, let’s loose shackles of every kind by pushing ourselves – whoever we are and whatever we look like – to learn something new, do something different, and become better and wiser comrades on this journey called life.

Visions of Change #BLM

My drive this past Saturday through downtown Richmond, Virginia, my longtime city of residence, was a reflective one – from thinking about the slave ships that docked here by the multitudes hundreds of years ago to seeing businesses on Broad Street and in Carytown boarded up due to recent protests to witnessing the peaceful gathering at the Arthur Ashe statue, and just a few miles away, the moving tributes to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others at the base of the statue of Condeferate General Robert E. Lee, which is coming down.

I hope to always remember this juxtaposition of history, heartbreak and solemn efforts to heal, but not have to live through again what has brought us to this point.

The marathon to snuff out hate and brutality while building bridges of understanding and solidarity is just beginning (with generations of previous work serving as the foundation).

None of us who cares can let our weariness win or give up mid-race; for our basic humanity is at stake, and our children (many of whom are in the trenches and leading the way) are watching and counting on us. We must continue to #saytheirnames. We must find a way to #risetogether.

Coaches for Change peaceful protest and march at the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. – Saturday, June 6, 2020
Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The Governor declared during a week of protests in early June 2020 that the statue would soon be removed. In the meantime, it became the site of a memorial to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed black Americans who have been killed by police and others in the past decade.

The Monument Memorial at the base of the Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia. – June 6, 2020

Today, Just Say Yes

Do something today that reminds you of life’s goodness.

Dance like no one’s watching.

Perform a random act of kindness.

Tell those you care about how much you love them.

Laugh with others and at yourself. 

Spend time embracing what makes you smile.

Say yes to one or two baby steps that move you closer to the vision in your heart. 

Don’t have a vision? Say yes, then, to discovering what one could be, by spending more time with your thoughts and treasuring yourself for being the gem you are. 

As Michelle Obama declares in her Becoming documentary on Netflix, there’s no “going back” to what our lives were yesterday. Our task – and opportunity – is to create a meaningful (and exciting) next chapter that allows us to evolve, impact others and enjoy ourselves along the way. 

Mother’s Day Special: Someone Else’s Children

By Guest Blogger Linda Leigh Hargrove

My husband and I have three boys. They are ‘all boy’ as the saying goes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They call each other “brothers of another mother.” They’re adopted, you see. 

As a young married woman 20-plus years ago, adoption was the furthest thing from my mind. Both my husband and I were in school full time, working like Hebrew slaves on advanced engineering degrees. Between the two of us, we made $18,000 a year in stipends. Can you say “poor house?” I thank God for those years (and for that small vegetable patch). Those lean times taught me how to wait on God.

Growing up in the swamp lands of North Carolina, I played with trucks and climbed trees. Doll babies and tea sets were never on my gift wish list. After a few years of marriage, that changed. It happened one sunny afternoon while I babysat for a college friend. That precious little toddler stole my heart, with her sparkling brown eyes and chubby hands. When her mother picked her up two hours later, our one-bedroom apartment never felt so empty.

Knowing how much money my husband and I had (or rather, didn’t have) between us, I knew that having a child while we were both in school was not wise. So we maintained our ‘family plan’ (kids after college) and I clipped baby pictures from magazines, secretly claiming them as my own.

I soon graduated and tried to replace the yearning with a full-time job, community volunteering, church involvement and writing. But the emptiness persisted.

My husband was still in grad school, but he agreed that it was time to start a family. That was 1995; I was 29. One and a half years later and no baby, I hit a wall. I started each day in tears, crying in the darkness of my walk-in closet before work. The crying lasted for most of 1997.

On the outside I was doing good things in my church and community. I was a faithful wife. I was a productive engineer, managing a $2 million grant program for the state.

On the inside, I was dying. Longing for a child.

At one point, someone at church suggested that we consider adoption. I was tired of all the doctor’s visits, the fertility treatments, basal thermometers and all of the prayers to God. I wanted relief. I wanted to feel good again, to feel God again. Adoption seemed like an appealing option.

We did our research. We talked with counselors and social workers. We talked with our friends and parents. We prayed and fasted. We had so many questions about the process, the costs, and especially the kids. What if they’re not black like us, what if they’re developmentally challenged, what if they’re violent?

God answered all of those questions with peace. As Psalm 34:4 says: I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

As I internalized that scripture, I realized it didn’t matter what the child He gave us looked like or acted like. What God had for us, was for us. I had peace with His plan.

Adopting was not easy. In fact, in the beginning it was like pulling a scab from a wound I thought had healed. But today, I have three boys through three separate adoptions.

Not three rejects or three unwanted children. I have three sons. 

Some people call them someone else’s children. I call them mine.

Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her 10 works of fiction include three novels, as well as several novellas and short stories. Linda has taught workshops on fiction writing to adults and teens. She is a native of Washington County, North Carolina and currently resides near Charlotte with her husband and three sons. Connect with Linda on the following social media platforms: Linda’s website, Linda’s Facebook page and Linda’s Instagram feed.

Pressing Through Coronavirus Season

I started some early spring cleaning yesterday evening and look what I found??

overcoming stress during corona virus

A whole box full of custom-designed commas that I had specially made about 15 years ago, by the woodworker-husband of my dear friend, editor and late colleague Mary Goodwyn.

Rediscovering these treasures reminded me of Mary’s radiant smile and matching heart, and also of the reason I had them created: To distribute to every audience member when I gave speeches far and wide about the power of faith, focus and hope, as a tangible reminder to never put a period where our Divine Creator may have simply put a comma.

Seems like now more than ever is a good time to hold onto this belief.

overcoming stress, mental wellness and well-being during corona virus stress

So if you’re inclined, save one of these pics on your phone or desktop and reassure yourself when you view it that we are in a global “comma season” right now.

While we pause, retreat, watch, wait and pray, may we also use this time to rest, reflect, reset, renew and refocus, so that when we come out on the other side, our stories will have some meaningful and amazing comma moments in between.

In Times Like These, Words Matter

Here it is: That look (and heart smile) I get every time I hear from a reader how one of my books has entertained, blessed or inspired.

Stacy Hawkins Adams

Thanks to Deeda and Terri for touching base about Nothing But the Right Thing, to Sherry for letting me know Who Speaks to Your Heart gave her solace in her current life circumstances, while Erica shared that Watercolored Pearls did the same, and to the social media page Black Fiction Addiction for the shout-out to my novel Coming Home.

During stressful times like these, words can make a difference – both reading them and writing them.

Pull out a journal (or empty notebook) and let your pen flow with whatever fills your mind and heart – the good, the bad, the ugly, and I guarantee you’ll feel a little better. Encourage the young people in your life to do the same.

Then, find something good to read.

Need some inspiring quotes and musings to soothe you? Check out my recent compilation, Abound! Principles for Next Level Living, here: tinyurl.com/stacyabound

Seeking some spiritual food for thought? My devotional Who Speaks to Your Heart? may interest you: tinyurl.com/stacyheart

Want something fictional that both entertains and uplifts you? Check out one of my novels here: tinyurl.com/stacystories

And certainly, the work of my numerous fellow writers can meet your needs, too.

If you are joining me in shifting to teleworking over the next few weeks, lean into this time of lessened activity by still producing your best work, while taking care of you.

Stay safe and stay encouraged!

Why Creative Artists Matter – A Cinematic Reflection

By Guest Blogger Norma L. Jarrett

By now you may have seen the movie The Photograph, written and directed by Stella Meghie, starring Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chante Adams and Y’lan Noel. My favorite character is Christina, played by Adams. Why?

Because she is the creative, ambitious woman of color and Black mother that many of us need to see. Everything about Christina is authentic, especially her beauty, talent, aspirations and passion for her craft. Her backstory is a southern blend of curiosity, flirtatious innocence and romance. She had me mesmerized from the start.

We don’t get to know everything about her, for example, how she became famous or details concerning her marriage. But the moviegoer in me didn’t really miss it (at least that much).  Especially when Christina informed Issac (Y’lan), her first love, that she needed something else to look forward to besides making his dinner. When those words dripped from her mouth I sat up.  There it was. The thing we are not supposed to say.

At that moment, I understood the reason Christina was born.  She’d come to set us all free: the creative, unconventional, artistic women of color who need to create like they need air. Her bold declaration was Affirmation. Because many of us creatives suffocate unless we have space large enough to dream. When we witness Christina flee Louisiana and all that is attached, we’re riding shotgun; secretly rooting for her.  Because we know that feeling.  A feeling of obligation or a place competing with or feeling too small for our future.

The sheepish grin that crept across her face as the bus rolled on informed us that her regrets were left at the curb.  Although we felt her man, we found solace that sis was going to be just fine. She’d chosen “bigger” although she hadn’t known what or where bigger was. She was running to and not away from her life. And a creative life is still a life.  Phew!  Pass the collection plate please.

As a woman, a woman of color, a wife, a published celebrated author who started writing decades ago, I felt that. Why?  An unconventional path is not any easy one. For many decades there was no model, Google map or instructions for us.  All women seemingly were put in the same box marked conventional.   Therein lies the struggle.

For I, too, chose the unconventional path during my final year of law school.  I wrote and published my first novel that year and landed a book deal shortly after. At the time, many of my friends were getting married and having kids.  I was having a different type of “adventure.”  It wasn’t wrong, just different.  My aunts and other women in my family were proud.  They encouraged me to fly, joining me as willing passengers on my journey. Christina was symbolic of women who dare to dream big, even if it cost.  

The grief that Christina displays at one point in the film seemed to be derived from a need to force herself into the only box she knew.  She didn’t give up her dream, but partially clipped her wings.

I truly believe that God honors our gifts and wants us to maximize our creative call, regardless of marital status, geographic location or other factors.  However, freedom comes from choices and living an authentic life. He gives instructions to answer our creative call. And yes, sometimes we need Christina’s courage and wings!  

The character of Christina wasn’t just about art. She desired and embraced other love, but struggled. She raised her daughter the best way she knew how. And married. However, her love of photography was clearly effortless and brought her the most joy.

A great character resonates long after the movie credits end, and the last page is read.  I believe there is a little Christina in every woman. Christina reminds us we should not explain, grieve or limit our dreams. But make room for them. And sometimes that means finding the courage to “buy the ticket,” board the bus and ride to our creative destination as often as needed.

Norma L. Jarrett is a writer with traditionally published and indie titles. Her work has been featured in Essence, Ebony, USA Today, Southern Living and other media. She is married and resides in Houston, Texas with her husband and two dogs, Mylo and Lexi. Her titles are available on Amazon.com.  Her next novel, Ivy’s Soul, is a multi-generational romance that will be released in 2020.

IG: @authornormajarrett

FB: @http://www.facebook.com/normajarrettwrites

Books: Norma Jarrett Author Amazon Page

Got Clutter? How to Shed All Kinds

Get still and listen … to your heart, your intuition, your health, your hopes and dreams, and even your future self.
Then, seek wisdom from trusted loved ones – those who tell you the truths you need to hear versus what you want to hear, and those who consistently want to see you win.
And finally, stand tall in what your soul reveals. Take note of the tangible and emotional clutter that may be keeping you stuck. Summon the courage to evolve, elevate and fully enjoy this journey called life.
Clutter is inevitable in this busy and noisy world. Choosing to recognize and clear it is a vote for yourself.

Chat With the Author: She Writes To Bring Joy

By day, Dr. Trevy A. McDonald is a tenured professor of journalism who helps young minds hone their storytelling skills for a variety of communications professions. However, she also has another avenue for feeding her love of research and writing: penning and publishing fiction.

Her most recent works are two women’s fiction novels. The first book is titled Time Will Tell, and the sequel is Round ‘Bout Midnight, which explores the journeys of childhood friends Thomasine, Rachel and Hope as they seek to heal from hurts, unmet needs and unresolved issues. As these women mature and grow, they learn that life is best lived one day at a time, with each new day starting “’round ’bout midnight.”round bout midnight final 72dpi

Meet (or learn more) about Trevy here, as she shares her path to publishing books that feature characters who keep readers turning pages long into the night.

In what genre do you write? I primarily write women’s fiction, which I call “ChocLit” with a literary flair. My current work-in-progress is a middle grades series about the Civil Rights movement.

What is the title of your most recent book? My most recent book is titled Round ‘Bout Midnight.  It is the sequel to my novel Time Will Tell. Both books are titles of songs from an early Wynton Marsalis recording The All-American Hero. In Time Will Tell each chapter is titled after a song which was current when the chapter was set and relates to a theme in the chapter. In Round ‘Bout Midnight each chapter is the title of a jazz song, and most of them are standards. The first chapter, It Never Entered My Mind is also the opening line for each of the three main characters. Other chapter titles include “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Rise,” “Love’s Serenade,” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.”

What is your primary goal as an author – what do you want your readers to get out of your books? My goal as an author is in line with my life’s purpose, which is to use my God-given gifts and talents to uplift, inspire and empower others in an informative and entertaining way which brings them joy.

What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your current book or another recent title? One reader shared that Round ‘Bout Midnight is more than a work of fiction and compared it to Paula Giddings When and Where I Enter and Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mother’s Garden.” For this reader, Round ‘Bout Midnight is about a form of liberation that begins within.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? The range of audiences my novels attract. I think the biggest compliment came from a 98-year-old reader who recently read Time Will Tell and Round ‘Bout Midnight back to back. She shared that she stayed up late at night reading until she finished the books, and that she relived her younger days through the characters.

How do you continue growing as a writer?  I’m an avid researcher and reader. I also explore other forms of art, such as photography and painting. This helps me in creating pictures with words in my fiction writing.

Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? Yolanda Joe, Jacquelin Thomas and Venise Berry.

What else are you passionate about, i.e. if you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing? I am also a tenured professor of broadcast journalism. Representations of marginalized groups in mainstream media is an issue that I am extremely passionate about.

What do you like to do for fun? I enjoy running, photography, films, baking, painting, and my new hobby—knitting.

Trevy McDonald Headshot August 2018 (1)Trevy A. McDonald is an author, independent book publisher and tenured professor of journalism at the University of North Carolin at Chapel Hill. She was just 25 years old when she earned her Ph.D. from this university’s renowned  journalism school and is the first African American woman to be tenured at the school. She  pursues her passion and life purpose through writing and teaching.  She also owns Reyomi Publishing, LLC, a successful independent book publishing and consulting company based in Durham N.C. Trevy is the author of the novel Time Will Tell, co-editor of two scholarly anthologies, and has contributed to numerous anthologies and publications. Her latest release is Round ‘Bout Midnight, the sequel to Time Will Tell.  Learn more about Trevy at drtrevy.com  and connect with her on Facebook at  facebook.com/DrTrevy   and Twitter at twitter.com/DrTrevy.

How Taking Risks Helps You Grow

Yes – there will be missteps, mistakes and moments of doubt when you set sail in a new direction; but is the alternative really better?

Stay anchored in who and Whose you are, but don’t stay put and get stuck.

Launch out into the deep and experience your life, your relationships, your purpose and the things you’re most passionate about from another vantage point.

You’ll see – perspective is everything, and so are the new levels of hope, possibilities and joy you didn’t think were possible.take a leap

When you take a chance on you, you’ll never go wrong. If you fail, learn the lesson. If you succeed, use that blessing as fuel to go to the next level.

Love you, trust you, honor you. Be your own best friend so that you can be a better friend to others.

When you grow your heart, your mind and your purpose in ways that stretch you, you elevate the energy around you and within you, and bring others along for the beautiful ride.

So today, don’t dwell on what could go wrong. Focus on what could go right, and work on making that vision your reality.