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.

We Are Pearls in Progress

Nearly 15 years ago I penned a novel that still resonates with readers – and me – today. This nationally published book, Watercolored Pearls, shares the story of three women friends who find themselves relenting to the doubt, worry and fear that lurks in their daily lives – silent enemies that seek to overshadow their inner wisdom and beauty and mask their gifts and growth. Then an older woman comes along who sees herself in them, and remembers her own journey to wholeness. She tells them to take heart and be of good courage, and to keep going, because their individual paths are leading them to purpose, and even joy.

In the vein of the message I shared through those fictional characters, I share this poem with you. Aptly titled We Are Watercolored Pearls, I wrote it in 2014, for guests at a brunch I hosted to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a multi-published author. I share it with you now, during these turbulent times in our world, to remind you that it often takes shake ups and setbacks, twists and turns, pauses and pitstops to arrive at your destination whole and ready to thrive.

So stay the course, lean into life’s lessons and enjoy the journey as much as you can – with this poem serving up some inspiration.

You Matter. Let’s Talk About It

Why talk?
Talking is healing, even when the conversation might be uncomfortable.
Healing leads to ideas;
ideas can lead to personal responsibility,
which can in turn yield action and hope.

Join me and Robert L. Dortch Jr., (my fellow creative artist who wears many other hats) from wherever you are in the nation for our virtual version of a fireside chat on Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m. EST.

We’re no experts on policy or law, but our hearts bleed for humanity, and we want to connect with you on that level so that together, we can move past the overwhelm.

We’ll gather to hear each other and guide each other as best we can. Register for this candid conversation today and invite your friends.

Click Here to Register: The Living Room Talks

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.

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.

Sing (and Dance) Anyway

I came across this senior year of college pic of myself recently and I’ve kept it on my nightstand for an occasional chuckle. ss

Yes, my pants are too big ( I was really petite back then and did my best! 😂) and yes, I remember where I was – in a friend’s dorm room, enjoying a surprise party thrown for me.

I look like I’m singing cause I was. But can I really sing? Sadly not.
I had fun trying, though, with whatever that song was and with a little Salt n Pepa, too.)

I look like I was acting silly cause I was. And guess what?
Beneath my sometimes reserved, often inspirational and occasionally feisty demeanor lies a girl who is still fun at heart and able to laugh at myself and with others.

I was 21 in this pic and considered grown. (Ha!)
What I’d tell that young girl from my now full-fledged adult state is actually what I exemplify in this photo: to always find joy in the small moments and sing (and dance) through the rest.

That girl didn’t always get it right and neither do I; but both versions of me have been, and remain, grateful for love, laughter, grace, life lessons and the journey itself – gifts that never age or go out of style.

I challenge you to dig up a few of your own funny pics from the past and reflect on your treasured (or silly) moments from yesterday. May you be inspired to embrace new dreams, cut yourself and others some slack, and create more meaningful memories.

Stacy Hawkins Adams 

In 2020, Be Inspired No Matter What

Happy New Year and welcome to a new decade!

As you settle into this season of new beginnings and fresh promise, I challenge you to not only focus on outward possibilities for growth, but also the inner ones, too.

Take some time in the first few days of 2020 to sit with yourself and ask this important question: What aspects of my life need to be nurtured – right now and in the year ahead?

Whatever your response, I encourage you to embrace it and honor it. And wherever you find yourself during the coming weeks and months, remind yourself of the hope that this dawn of a new year has delivered and “rinse and repeat” the following opportunities to lean into life:

Appreciate each moment.

Nurture yourself.
Celebrate those you love and
Pour new life into your dreams.
Acknowledge life’s realities –
both good and not so good,
Then remember who you are and
Whose you are,
In the midst of it all.
Stand in that truth.
Honor that truth.
Be that truth.
On the days you don’t feel like going on,
Find a way to push through…
To hope,
To love,
To the purpose only you can birth.
Find the courage to
Be Still and
Listen to your heart, and
To words and voices that empower you,
Regardless of what may be shaking the world around you.
Breathe and Be, and
Allow others to do the same.
Trust that good will prevail,
Especially when you offer up your own goodness.
It matters.
Forgive yourself and
Forgive others, too.
Be patient with heartache,
Grant grief some time, and
Trust that wholeness is within your reach.
Seek the Light, and
Be the Light.
This, My Friend, is the Greatest Gift
You can give to yourself,
Which ultimately becomes
Your Greatest Gift to others –
At the beginning of a New Year
And every day in between.
© Stacy Hawkins Adams
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