How to ENRICH your LIFE: La Joie de Vivre

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In summer of 2012, I interned at the Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi, Kenya where they conduct very groundbreaking research especially on tropical diseases (and before you ask, yes they conduct ethically sound research that follows World of Health Animal Research Protocols). My favorite part of the internship was the enrichment project where select staff, such as myself, played with the monkeys, chimps, and other primates for at least an hour a day. This enrichment project was created under the reason that the primates should still have a life with some daily fun even though they were being used for research. I was reflecting upon this experience recently and I realized that even humans are primates so we have to remember to always create some joy in our lives. The word enrichment is befitting because it enhances the value and quality of our lives. Another phrase that I love is “la joie de vivre” which is French for “joy of life”.

I personally find my joie de vivre in three things: art, food, and music. I just recently had a quick vacation to Houston that encompassed those three things so let me highlight them below in picture format.

ART (all pictures taken at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX)

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FOOD

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The Savoy Restaurant is definitely a must-visit spot for Indo-Pakistani food. At the bottom left of the photo, you can see green specks in the naan which are cilantro and Jalapeno peppers. As such, this naan is called “the bullet” naan. This was my first time having it and now I am obsessed. Also, tried goat brain masala which was better than one could expect. My favorite, of course, was the goat biryani.

MUSIC

The main person that inspired my recent trip to Houston is Lauryn Hill as she had a concert lined up on Thursday, May the 9th. Despite bad weather and flash flood warning, we showed up and luckily, she did too. Her performance was amazing and she delivered considering 20 plus years have passed since the release of her album, The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill. Her guitarists and backup singers were on point too. Please watch the clip below for a morsel of her performance.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you take time to reflect on how you can or will continue to ENRICH your LIFE. Thanks for reading 🙂 ❤

The boy who harnessed the wind, Movie Review

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March 2019

Let me start off by saying that I have been a big fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s work since his portrayal of Solomon Northup in the famous movie 12 years a Slave.  And similarly, he did not disappoint in this movie based on a story about William Kamkwamba also known as The boy who harnessed the wind as he figured out a way to make a wind powered water pump for irrigation during a dry spell in his village in Malawi. As Chiwetel Ejiofor is British-Nigerian, he had to learn Chichewa to play the role of William’s father and to be honest I would think he was a Malawian actor if I was not familiar with his background. The film which was also directed by Chiwetel has received a Sundance Film Festival award but I am sure you would rather read about my thoughts on the film (maybe just a little bit of arrogance there haha). Anyways, let me commence my review.

  1. Film quality. Even though the film is set in a remote area, it does a good job of kind of romanticizing village life and still depicting it in an honest way. The lighting is perfect for the various hues of brown faces that are part of the story. Both English and Chichewa is used in the film with English being the main language and Chichewa used for dramatic effect where it is most appropriate. The sound quality is also good and as weather is an important part of the story, the different seasons are captured beautifully.
  2. Plot/Story line. I think the story is pieced together very well. The background of William’s family dynamics is appropriately presented and all the main characters are given well rounded depictions. The main supporting character is played by Chiwetel as William’s father and we get to see so much raw emotion from him that is truly unmatched. The movie overall can be a little depressing at times but you have to remember that this is based on a true story meaning that people do go through really tough times. Therefore, I think this movie serves as a reminder to persevere despite life’s challenges.
  3. Cultural representation. I love watching foreign movies because it presents as an opportunity to discover new cultures and ways of life. This movie definitely provides this perspective especially in terms of power dynamics within the Malawian village and how education is perceived in the community. Furthermore, it also depicts local politics and how funerals are conducted. I think what touched me the most is realizing that education is not free in a lot of African countries and that this is probably holding the country back in terms of the creative thinkers that are missing out on expanding their knowledge. In the movie, the main character, William, is clearly a creative thinker and he got lucky in finding resources that could help him explore his problem-solving ideas. I wish that we could all commit ourselves to nurturing our own and others’ creative thinking.

I think when I first saw the trailer for the film, I thought it was going to be a simple moving about a young boy who became a hero. However, this film is much more than that. It has a love story, political context, depth, and a certain richness that just cannot be explained. It is rich in life because of how much well the characters are portrayed. And just before you thought it could not get any better, the local chief is portrayed by the Butler Geoffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air (his real name is Joseph Marcell). Let me tell you that Mr. Marcell did a wonderful job with the Malawi accent as well even though we have not seen him acting for maybe one or two decades now since the end of Fresh Prince. I hope to see more from him, Chiwetel, and the other members of this lovely cast. In case you are wondering, the movie is on Netflix for all to view (If you don’t have membership, ask a friend). 🙂 ❤

5 things learned ft “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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February 2019

For a book that is only 150 pages long, it captures so much of America that is typically left unsaid. In his book, Coates writes a well-articulated letter to his son about the journey of being Black in America. The journey is described historically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually as Coates tries to come to terms with losing a fellow school mate to police violence.  Despite this book being short, it took me a while to read because it covers a very heavy subject matter and can leave you feeling a bit sad at times. But this sadness is truly the reality of what it means to be Black in America (just watch the news). I would venture to say that this book should be required reading for all Americans but clearly I am not the president. So here are the five things I learned from reading this thoughtful book:

  1. Howard University may be the mecca of black intellectual thought and black higher learning. The author of the book, Coates, is an alumni of Howard University along with his wife and his murdered college mate. As such, the book might as well be a marketing scheme for Howard University but to be honest, it seems the author is just sharing his honest experience at the institution. I attended a predominantly white institution (PWI) for college so clearly I cannot speak much about historically black college and universities (HBCUs). I think part of why I never applied to one is because I never felt “black” enough in high school and what I was looking for in a university, was a great global representation. However, it was refreshing to learn about Howard University in the book as the author refers to it as the Mecca and rightfully so as many great Black American thinkers such as Thurgood Marshall and Toni Morrison graduated from Howard University. Fun fact: Taraji P. Henson and Mr. Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, are also Howard alumni.
  2. “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.” Black history is full of rich stories of struggles, greatness, and humanity. As much as oppressors have tried to bury our history, our language, our culture, we must persist to remember our journey. Our journey is what makes us black people. When you don’t know where you come from, you can never fully imagine where you can go. So make it an effort to read up on black history as most schools definitely do not teach us enough of it.
  3. Double consciousness plays a big role in Black America. The theory of double consciousness was coined by W.E.B. Dubois in his book The Souls of Black Folks and it basically describes how Black Americans have to view themselves from both white and black eyes. Society views Black people one way and therefore, we have to understand how we are viewed and reconcile that with how we view ourselves. For example, if a black person is seen in a predominantly white neighborhood, he or she might be stopped by the cops because it is assumed that a black person would not be able to afford to live among white people. Therefore, as much as society can view Black people incorrectly, we should be aware of it but not let it define us which is an act of double consciousness.
  4. Raising a black child in America is probably one of the hardest things to do. When his school mate is murdered via police violence, Coates visits the school mate’s mom and interviews her about how she feels. The victim’s mom speaks of how she afforded her children the best education, trips abroad, and nice cars; and despite all this, she still could not protect her son from police brutality. This makes the writer very vulnerable as he has a young son and realizes that could be his own fate. As such, this experience inspires this book which is essentially a letter to his son forewarning him about such situations and how to cope with life as a black body in America.
  5. Traveling opens one’s eyes a bit more about who you are. I think this is because you are fed with propaganda wherever you grow up and seeing how other cultures perceive you, can show you the biases of your own self-perception. When the author travels to France in his adulthood, he realizes that he could have grown up with a different childhood if he was not born in the ghettos of Baltimore, Maryland where he was constantly afraid for his life. He was also able to let his guard down as he realized what made him stand out was not the color of his skin but his poor French language skills.

Trust me when I say that this review does not do the book justice. It is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read in my entire life. At times, I had to re-read a whole paragraph over again because it is higher level reading written with the vocabulary of a true scholar. It definitely was a challenge from my typical light autobiographical reads such as that by Kevin Hart (link to my review of his book). Despite the challenge, I truly enjoyed every second of it and my mouth often gaped at the intelligent construction of the author’s words.  I hope you do too 🙂 ❤

Love and Divine intervention

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January 2019

 I am not the most religious person in the world but I do believe that there is/are higher power(s) much bigger than humanity. I do believe that there are forces rooting for you and as in science, there are always equal opposite forces as well. These forces could be the goodwill and the bad nature of people. I think time is also a force that could work with you or against you especially when it comes to business and romance. I think that is why they say that good luck is when opportunity meets preparation and hard work. So whether you believe in God or not, I think it is hard to deny that there are forces much powerful than us. For example, a piano could fall from a building and squash someone to death; this would be due to the force known as gravity.

            To make this more personal, I have always told my friends that finding someone to marry should not be stressful because ultimately who you meet, how you meet, and when you meet is largely not up to you. You could be born a white woman born in Mid-Western American and end up marrying a black man from Kenya who will impregnate you with a man who will become the first black president of America. Yeah, I just used Barack Obama’s birth story for the sake of a non-political argument but let me stick to the point. The point is that we stress ourselves with whether we are making the right decisions about our love lives when we should just learn how to trust the divine plan or powers that be.

            Like I mentioned, I used to say that the divine plan is always working but when I would get deep in a relationship, I would try to force it to work not realizing that you should not have to force love to work. Love is either there or it is not. And as they say, you should always learn to leave the table when love is no longer being served. Even if the relationship does not work out with the person you are with, it is part of the divine plan as you are meant to learn something from it (whether you learn it is up to you). And for those of you who do not have a valentine’s this year, please remember that is also part of the plan. Look at Priyanka Chopra whose now husband, Nick Jonas, is 11 years younger than her. Maybe you just need to wait for your future bae to graduate high school, haha I am totally kidding (especially with this whole R. Kelly situation).

            Life is always full of surprises, so never try to plan out your life to the T. You can say, I must be married by 28 and end up meeting the love of your life at 35 like Priyanka. Just pray for good aging, moisturize day and night, and eat well so you can always look like a fresh snack even when you are very ripe in age. But ultimately looks will fade (different degrees for different people) so also work on yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As I mentioned in my previous post about my 2019 goals, working on my spirituality is something that I really work on this year as I think when your spirit is in check, your mind and emotions follow suit. I will definitely update you guys about that as this year continues. I tend to get very into my feelings about my growth around my birthday so you can probably expect that towards the end of the year.

          I hope we may all get closer to our spirit and if you celebrate V-day, then may you spend it with someone you love, including yourself. 🙂 ❤

5 things I learned from reading “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.

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December 2018

I am not going to lie to you. This book is a very wordy and a long book with a little bit over 400 pages in small print mind you. But I will say that if you have ever been fascinated or inspired by Michelle Obama, then you need to read this book. I learned a lot more about Michelle LaVaughn Obama in terms of her personal life and who she was previous to becoming our first black first lady through this book.

  1. One thing I definitely had never known about Michelle was about her father’s battle with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.). I am sure she mentioned it on the campaign trail but for some reason it didn’t register until now. I think this is because in the book, you can really see the progression of her father’s battle with M.S. It is a very deep story especially when you consider that her father never lived long enough to see his daughter grow up to be the first black first lady of the United States of America (the same nation in which his descendants were slaves). Her relationship with her mother and brother are also heavily displayed in the book but one thing I am sure many people will appreciate is learning more about her relationship with Barack.
  2. Obviously, we have all seen the love that Michelle and Barack have for each other. We saw this on the campaign trail when they would give each fists bumps, when Barack would whisper in Michelle’s ear, when Barack always opened the door for Michelle, etc. However, many of us wondered how these two got together in the first place. Some of us know that Michelle was Barack’s mentor at his summer internship as a lawyer but beyond that, their love story was a mystery. This book definitely allows us to see what Michelle saw in Barack and the challenges they faced as a couple, especially in the midst of politics. With Barack serving a country as well as his family, their marriage was definitely not easy as it looks but their love story serves as a reminder that lifelong partnership works when two people are unwaveringly committed to each other.
  3. I was thinking to include this point as the last one because it is something I am sure that we are all subconsciously thinking about: how does Michelle Obama feel about Trump? Well, I won’t overshadow this book review with a discussion about Trump but I will say that Michelle definitely makes it clear how she feels about Trump in this book. She doesn’t dwell on it, and rightly so, but she does discuss it. She also answers the million-dollar question of whether she would ever consider running for office.
  4. In addition to being the first black first lady, Michelle was also the mother to the first black children to live in the white house. Motherhood is a job to which many are called but I think we can all agree that Michelle did a wonderful job with Sasha and Malia. Malia is now a college student at Harvard and Sasha will probably follow in similar footsteps. Growing up in South Side Chicago, I am sure Michelle never thought she’ll be the first black first lady of the United States. In fact, readers will learn that her childhood dream to be a lawyer did not turn out being such a good fit for her. This is why the book is entitled Becoming as it is about her natural progression and evolution as another human on this earth seeking to live a fulfilling life.
  5. As the first lady, Michelle could have sat down and decided to just look pretty. Instead, she chose to carve out her own goals and initiatives for the country. She was passionate about attending to military families and to the growing rates of childhood obesity. Her book has the statistics on what an impressive impact she made on these issues so I will let you look into the numbers on your own. I will say that numbers aside, I felt the effects of her Let’s Move! Campaign when I watched Nickelodeon and there would be reminders to go outside for an hour of play. I also felt the diet changes in the public school I went to as whole wheat replaced refined flour. I may be mistaken but I believe there was a time that chocolate milk was not served at school. I loved my chocolate milk but hey I am all for it if decreasing childhood obesity can decrease the lifestyle diseases I see working as a healthcare professional.

I could easily tell you the answers to most of the questions about Michelle but I do not want to ruin the book for anyone. Another token of advice from me would also be to avoid watching all the book interviews she’s conducted so far as it kind of gives the story away. Save those interviews for when you are done reading the book. Trust me. I did not heed this advice and I think this is the reason why I would lose interest in the book at some points. It is a well-constructed, well written, and a well-deserved success story by Michelle LaVaughn Obama. I hope you enjoy it and most of all, learn something from it. Thanks for reading.

5 things learned from watching “This is Us” (no spoilers)

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Dec 2018

I first started watching This is Us while I was in Boston Spring 2017. The show actually started September 2016 but I am always fashionably late to watching shows which allows me to watch the show at my own pace. I am actually not all caught up with the current season so please don’t ruin it for me. To say the least, “This is Us” is a tear jerker and “aww-inducing” kind of show filled with family tragedies and milestones. It is very real and the cinematography of life in the 70s, 80s, and the current day is very spot on. The show centers around a family of 5 known as the Pearson’s, which consists of 2 boys, a girl, and a set of heterosexual parents. Sounds pretty normal except that one of the boys is adopted and black in race while the rest of the family is white. Furthermore, their father dies when the kids are teenagers which sets the course of the rest of their lives. Based on the fact that they all idolize their father, he plays a great role in the lives despite his death. Therefore, the show is filled with drama and heart-wrenching moments of seeing how their story unfolds with different coping mechanisms and challenges. But despite all this drama, there is a lot to learn from the “This is Us” story.

  1. Family should always come first. Treat your siblings well. Treat your parents even better because, at the end of the day, they are the people who will come running to help you in moments of trouble. I can honestly say that my brothers are in my top 3 of best friends in this world because they know me very well. We have a lot of inside jokes and lots of memories together since we’re all so close in age. I jokingly said to my little brother this week that we have to buy houses right next to each other for those moments when we have some “tea to spill.” I’ll also probably need him to set up my TV in the house lol.
  2. Everyone deals with loss differently so don’t judge people for how slowly they recover or if they never recover because both are very likely to happen. Some people find comfort in substances of abuse, others in food, and others in finding something they can control. This is why I think therapy is so important when facing a tragedy in your life. Talking to a therapist can really help you face your emotions instead of drowning them.
  3. Adoption can be a very beautiful thing especially if the child becomes part of a new family shortly after being born. Ever since I was a teenager, I have been interested in adopting children one day especially children from disenfranchised parts of Africa. I still haven’t decided if I want to open an orphanage or just adopt a few children but I do think the former option might be more impactful.
  4. When we have a dream career and something happens to make that dream pretty much impossible, pick up the pieces and try something different. I really honestly believe that we all have so many different potentials for our life. For example, I am currently in the medical field which I am very passionate about but I am also passionate about fashion, politics, and business. So like that good old saying, never put all your eggs in one basket.
  5. The person you marry has a very monumental impact on your life, always handle that decision with great care. Yes, we all have feelings of passion towards certain people but you should also think about how that person handles challenges. Because life will definitely throw challenges at you. This has been evident throughout the test of time.

Thank you for reading. What are you watching right now and what have you learned from it? Hopefully not to kill thousands of people in efforts of gaining power for your family like Game of Thrones. 🙂 ❤

5 things that I am grateful for

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November 2018
  1. My family. I love being back at home and enjoying the company of my family, including the new additions such as my niece. I’ve been home for everyone’s birthday this year and it feels good to not have missed a beat like before when I was in school in Boston.
  2. My friends. This year I have met a number of new people that have been so generous with their love and time. I do not take it for granted as it restores my faith in humanity. Also, I am always grateful for old friendships that have continued despite the test of time.
  3. My hobbies. I heard someone at work say “we work so we can afford our hobbies.” I have to agree this is true for me because some of my hobbies are actually quite expensive such as tennis, kickboxing, and eating delicious food. However, I will say there are certain hobbies that can be as cheap as buying a pencil such as writing and drawing which I also do enjoy.
  4. My work. Without my job, it would be hard for me to afford the material things that I need/want. The key word is material because money can’t buy peace, love, or happiness. I am also grateful that I find my job fulfilling by helping to save lives. I have also been volunteering my time to high schools and a tutoring program so I am happy that my work schedule allows for that.
  5. My blog. I love that I have created this outlet for my creativity and that it has received so much support from all of you who frequent this space. I am grateful to have such an opportunity and do intend on sharing my creativity even more.

Thank you all for reading. Please feel free to share your gratitude list. 🙂  ❤

Don’t settle for less just because it’s available

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Orange Beach, Oct 2018

So many times in life we are presented with the conundrum (1. Noun. a confusing and difficult problem or question) of accepting something that is less than what we really want. This happens in our careers, romantic relationships, friendships, or even in basic things like what to wear. Some people choose to approach this by deciding to never compromise on anything if it’s less than what they want. Others choose to avoid conflict and accept something that is just good enough. I think both sides of this dilemma are a bit extreme. We can’t always get exactly what we want and we can’t always accept what we don’t want. So where does that leave us? I think it leaves us with having to mix and mesh both strategies. When it comes to serious things that completely affect your life like careers, romantic relationships, and friendships, you have to be decisive. You have to know at the basic minimum, what you want to do, who you want to be with, and who you want to be.

  1. So for example, I know that I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field and I am very happy with what I do. But don’t get me wrong, I do know I want to try different avenues in the future like maybe a more creative field. Therefore, I have an idea of how I like to work and do. If someone told me they would pay me a million dollars to be a surgeon, I would say no because I know I hate the sight of blood and other bodily fluids. So we should all come up with a list of interest and disinterests in order to figure out what we want to do with our lives.
  2. Romantic relationships. I saw someone on twitter saying that no matter who we end up, that person will be flawed. So love is knowing that you have to settle for that person’s flaw as well as their best attributes. In essence, you have to be so in love with their best attributes and not so disturbed by the worst attributes to be able make that relationship work. I am sure you have heard of imagining your potential partner as your future child and asking yourself if you would be happy if your child/children grew up to have the same qualities as your partner. And again, a list of “must haves” versus “would be nice to have” qualities for your future partner might help you in figuring this out. For example, I like tall men but that is definitely a would be nice to have versus a must have.
  3. I think that platonic relationships can be the easiest to settle for less than worthy because most of the time we are just looking for someone to hang out with, shop with, and listen to our problems. Rarely do we ever make a list of what qualities we want in our friendships and I believe that is why a lot of us endure a couple toxic friendships in our life. So I think in order to protect ourselves and our energy, we have to be just as decisive in our friendships. When someone is bringing negative energy in your life, you have to learn to distance yourself from that person. Being “friendly” is okay but you definitely do not have to be friends with someone that is bringing you down, whether mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. When you look for substance in your friends, you will end up with a strong circle of friends who motivate you, check you when you are wrong, and celebrate your success (that’s right, no haters).

 

I wish you all the best of luck in achieving success in all areas of your life. Remember success is based on what makes you happy versus society. Self-employment might be better than employment in a fortune 50 company. No ring on your finger might be better than a loveless union. Five friends might be better than having a million followers on social media. At the end of the day, do you and what makes you happy. 🙂 ❤

Self-love: Love is a Verb.

bday pic 2018I would like to start this post by thanking God for granting me another year on this planet as this was my birthday month. I think this year was one of the best years I have ever had. This year was characterized much maturity and love. Love from others but most importantly from myself. Recently I stumbled upon a song by John Mayer titled “love is a verb”. After looking up the lyrics for the song, I felt like sharing them with everyone I know. But instead of spamming people’s inboxes, I decided to include them as part of this post. So here are the lyrics from the song “love is a verb”.

"Love is a verb
It ain't a thing
It's not something you own
It's not something you scream
When you show me love
I don't need your words
Yeah love ain't a thing
Love is a verb
Love ain't a thing
Love is a verb

Love ain't a crutch
It ain't an excuse
No you can't get through love
On just a pile of I-O-Us

Love ain't a drug
Despite what you've heard
Yeah love ain't a thing
Love is a verb
Love ain't a thing
Love is a verb
So you gotta show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
That love is a verb

You gotta show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
That love is a verb

Love ain't a thing
Love is a verb

I hope these lyrics help people to realize that love really is a verb. You can tell who loves you by their actions. In fact, my dad has always told me that “love is taking care”. Taking care of others and most importantly, yourself. Because if your love for yourself is so strong it means that you are taking care of yourself so that you might be able to love/take care of your neighbor/lover as you do for yourself. Thank you all for reading my blog. I do not take your support for granted.  I hope the next time someone tells you that they love you, that you don’t believe them unless they have actually shown that through actions. 🙂 ❤

5 things I learned from the Marshall movie

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The Marshall movie was released last year starring Chadwick Boseman (the Black Panther himself) as probably the most famous black lawyer, Thurgood Marshall. Thurgood Marshall won several landmark cases during the civil rights era such as Brown vs Board of Education which lead to the end of segregated schools. The movie however focuses on one specific case where a black man is accused of raping his white female employer. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone but let’s just say Marshall is the lawyer you would want if you were accused of something you didn’t do. The only sad part about the movie is that for a $12 million budget, the movie only made $10 million at the box office which is not a reflection of how good the movie is. So go out there and watch this movie because I definitely learned a lot from it.

  1. Haters gonna hate. We all know this modern proverb but imagine if you’re in the 1940s where segregation is the law. Would you let the stereotypes that white people had about your race let you think less of yourself? Your answer then should have been No and your answer today should still be No because there are still people who have segregation mentality.
  2. Always have the mentality of a winner no matter the odds against you. If Marshall could win court cases in the segregation era, you can win at whatever you put your mind to in this era. In the movie, there were so many factors that were against Marshall and his partner but they never took the easy way out. They faced threats for being involved in the case and still went to work like everything was okay. They did their best and that is what life is about. So go out there and do your best.
  3. Sacrifice is inevitable. Due to Marshall’s career that took him all over the country, he did not get to spend a lot of time with his family. This was clearly difficult for him but he knew that helping attain civil rights and helping the innocent from erroneous prosecution was bigger than him. He was purpose driven and eventually, he became a Supreme Court Justice. In essence, he is his “ancestors’ wildest dream.”
  4. Keep a good circle of peers around you. Marshall was friends with Langston Hughes and other black artists at the time. His peers kept him grounded and reminded him of his purpose which is really important especially when times get hard.
  5. Have strong morals and values that you hold yourself accountable to. Marshall once said that “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up” meaning that the law is not always ethical. In your career, there are policies that might not actually be helpful to people and sometimes doing the “right thing” is better than doing things in the supposed “right way.”

May we continue to honor those who have paved the road before us. And may we all continue to be our “ancestors’ wildest dreams.” Thanks for reading. 🙂 ❤