The power of negotiation ft “You Can Negotiate Anything” book by Herb Cohen

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July 2019 -Maine

In May, I attended the graduation of a family friend and at her graduation party, her uncle gifted her with a book (namely “You Can Negotiate Anything” book by Herb Cohen). When I saw the title of the book, I immediately exclaimed that I needed to read that book as it could be useful in my personal and professional life. Without skipping a beat, her uncle retrieved his personal copy of the book and gave it to me. It turns out that he had bought himself the copy to re-read as he read it many years ago when my father gave him a copy of the book. Therefore, this book is kind of a “boomerang” as it first started with my father in Kenya, then to a family friend, and then back to me in the USA. Who knows where and to who this book will travel next. But in the meantime, let me share the top negotiation strategies I have learned from the book.

  1. Never reveal your deadline to the person you are negotiating with if you can avoid it. For example, do not tell a seller you need a car by next week as that means the seller will know that you probably will not have time to look around for a better deal. The most powerful thing in the world is time. If you have time, use it to your advantage to make sure you get the best deal possible. Also, playing the waiting game makes you look less interested in the other party so they are more willing to work with what you want.
  2. Avoid having an authoritative style. There are many strategies for negotiation. The author calls an authoritarian/unyielding strategy “the Soviet-style” because, during war, the Soviets would low ball you until you yield to their demands while they compromise nothing. This style only works if you never intend on doing business or having relations with that person ever again because the person will not like you for taking advantage of them.
  3. See compromise as an opportunity to make both you and the other person happy. Good negotiators find ways to figure out what really means the most to the other person. For example, if you are the boss and the person you are seeking to hire wants $50,000 while you are only willing to offer $40,000, find ways to make up for the other $10,000. Such examples could be offering more vacation days, season tickets to sports events, or even gym membership. Therefore, when the person looks at the $40,000 they don’t see it as a total loss of $10,000 especially since the $40,000 is taxable by the government while the additional perks are tax-free. So in negotiation, always try to find a way to get as close to what you want while still making the other happy.
  4. Avoid negotiating on the telephone unless you want an easy win or lose situation. This is because whoever imitates the call is usually at an advantage as they think about what they are going to say before they call. On the other hand, the receiver of the phone call is caught off guard and has to scramble to have good debate points in the negotiation. The author’s advice if you are the receiver is simple: make up an excuse to end the call and tell the caller that you will phone them at a later turn. Now you will be the caller and not the receiver which gives you the advantage. For example, if you have applied for a job and the interviewer calls you with a low offer which you were not expecting, simply tell the interviewer that you need time to think about it and you will call them back within 24 to 48 hours. Negotiating in person also allows you to read body language and make a better case for yourself as it is easier for someone to say “No” over the phone. In-person negotiations are more personable. Who would have guessed? haha
  5. Always seek to negotiate with the person who has true negotiating power. For instance, say that you are at an electronics store and you are looking to buy a TV as well as a sound system. Let’s also pretend that there is no sale going on but you think you should get a bundle deal since you are buying two large ticket items. Who do you think you should talk to? the clerk or the manager? If you said manager then you are correct. Usually, a clerk has no real power to give you sales outside of those already presented in the store. Therefore, you should always ask for the manager if you are wanting to negotiate something outside of what is presented. In other words, never accept no for an answer from someone who does not even have the real power to say yes.

In continuing the history of this book, I have to find someone to gift it to. I am thinking of my mother because she is very much a strategic negotiator and has a great interest in human psychology. If you end up reading this book, I hope you do the same as negotiating is a key part of life whether at school, work, or home. The best negotiations in the world get paid millions of dollars to do it so it is quite the skill to have. As you would expect, practice makes perfect and even the author admits that he botched his first negotiation project with a Japanese company because they played the waiting game against him until he only had minutes to present his case. So don’t get discouraged if you fail the first time, learn from it and apply it to your next challenge. All the best in your pursuits. 🙂 ❤

Love, success, and the universe

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June 2019

I would like to start this post by questioning what exactly the phrase “hopeless romantic” actually means. I have heard people use it as both as a positive and negative term either meaning that you are stupid for being a hopeless romantic or you are courageous for being one. When I googled “hopeless romantic”, the top definitions were negative such as the following from Dictionary.com: “a hopeless romantic is a person who holds sentimental and idealistic views on love, especially in spite of experience, evidence, or exhortations otherwise.” Surprisingly, Urban Dictionary had a very lengthy and positive write up on hopeless romantics. Here’s my favorite section from the write up: “Hopeless Romantics are NOT Hopeless per-say, but very true, caring, and loving people. They are “NOT MADE FOR TODAY’S STANDARDS”, sadly. They believe in passion, chivalry, and true love.” Based on how I think the universe works, I think the Urban Dictionary definition is more correct.

            I believe in the concept of faith and good effort being rewarded (some people call it karma). So with that positive force of energy of the universe rewarding us, I think truly believing in love makes you a “Hopeful” romantic not a “Hopeless” romantic. Even if the current relationship that you are nurturing does not work, you are preparing your heart for the relationship that will work. Of course, you always need to have your priorities right in life and there are times where you feel like you need a break from relationships (whether due to school, work, or other reasons). However, I think if you find what you are looking for and at an appropriate time in your life then you would probably regret a missed opportunity if you did not pursue it.

           So maybe we should hope more and doubt less. If you’re gonna do something, do it to the fullest. Because when people give us advice for success, they tell us things like “shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land upon the stars.” My home room teacher in 6th grade had that quote on a poster and it always peaked my interest. I think to me in education terms it meant, shoot for an A+ so if you don’t get exactly a 100, you could still have an A or A-. In love terms, I think it means that if you really feel good about a relationship, give it a really good effort and even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll be one step closer to finding the person that you’re supposed to be with.

            I hope in 50 years (God willing), I can come back to tell you that this theory worked out for me. A lot of things in life are won by mental and emotional strength, so what you believe can make or break you. I choose to believe that the universe is conspiring for us because it gives me positive energy. And at times it can make you, fearless and full of hope. So with that I choose to be a HOPEful romantic that is fearLESS. May we all extinguish fear from our lives and be one step closer to success. 🙂 ❤

 

Love: is there a formula?

10258Before I start this post, let me give a shout out to my best friend who did this digital sketch of a selfie that I took in 2014. From what I remember, it was during summer classes in June and I had a daily ritual of a mid-day nap so this was either before or after the nap (probably after, because my lips tend to dilate while I sleep).

This post is about love and I think the feeling of love is only seconded by the feeling of a really good nap (in my opinion, both induce rose colored glasses and necessary to life). From talking to several different people (including my parents and married family friends) this past weekend, I started to wonder if there is a formula to love. Well, my friends, I have reached the conclusion that the answer is both yes and no. No because typically in a formula you have an independent (x) and dependent variable (y). So if y=love, then x would have to equal something that we all determine to result in love if there was a direct relationship between x and y. Okay, that is enough math for today but my point is, we have not scientifically determined any one thing that results in love all the time. However, we do know certain factors that may be assist in the process of love. My small interview based research with my parents and family friends yielded common results. Almost everyone will tell you honesty, trust, and patience are important in love. So we can assume that those are probably part of the formula especially in terms of long-lasting love. So in my opinion, the answer is yes and no. For the final math/science reference, if honesty, trust, and patience are part of the formula then they would be referred to as constants since they would be unchanging.  Therefore, maybe we should focus on the constants of love and somewhere we will find the (x- male or female in this case) that makes it work (thereby, turning y to equal love).

Some of the conversations I engaged in also produced some quotes that I would like to share below.

  1. “If your partner/lover/whatever-you-want-to-call-them lies to you about small stuff, run the other way because they will definitely lie to you about bigger stuff.”
  2. “Go with the flow.” When my mom and dad met they both were not trying to force the relationship to work. According to my mother, they both kept talking about breaking up until they both realized that they actually deeply cared about each other. None of them took the relationship that seriously until it actually became serious. Supposedly, there is less chance of heart break this way but keep in mind that there is no true formula to love.
  3. “Do what makes you happy.” Of course, you have to consider long term vs short term happiness but in most cases, you will never regret what made you happy. I recently shared with one of my friends that I do not get scared about a relationship turning bad anymore because if it made me happy for x amount of months or years then it was not a waste of time. I have also been watching a TV show called Billions (thanks to my male best friend that put me on to this really cool show ) which is mainly based on stock investment firms and how they manage their investments. To me love can be an investment because you expect the love to grow/appreciate over the years. Love is more of a long term stock. However, there is an investment strategy known as shorting or short-selling where you borrow a stock at a certain price and quickly return it when the price goes down. So imagine your potential mate is a stock, if their perceived value to you (emotionally and mentally most importantly) goes down then you can feel free to return them to the universe.

I feel like this turned into an extensive thought piece (probably because I am writing this at 1am which is when my mind really peaks haha). I apologize if you have a deep fear of math and this post triggered you. 🙂 ❤

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 🙂 ❤

Love, Lust, and Obsession

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Mobile, AL carnival cruise port- Apr 2019

A few weeks ago, a Kenyan girl named Ivy Wangechi was murdered by a love/lust-crazed admirer of her. There are a lot of half-baked theories about why the boy murdered her, including some stating that he was her sponsor as she was in medical school. However, her grieving mother has come out to say that Ivy was on a government scholarship and the only balance they paid was about 20,000 shillings (about 200 dollars) which is not a hardship for them. From what I gathered, the girl knew the boy as they grew up together but had made it clear that she was not interested in him. However, the boy continued to pursue her for whatever reason and had even sent her a gift for her recent birthday. I would assume that the boy expected the girl to fall in love with him after such a gesture and became angry after not getting the response he wanted. The part that we do know is that in a rage of anger, he asked his friend to drive him to where the girl was and hacked her to death with a knife and ax.

            When my mom heard about this story, she instantly shared it with me and proposed that I write about it on my blog so shout out to Mamacita as I call her (this is a Spanish nickname by the way, not a Swahili one as she does not have six kids). Anyway, my mom is particularly interested in the psychology of people and love is something that can influence your mental health. For example, the boy in this story was clearly obsessed with Ivy to the point where his mind went to a dark place, premeditated a murder, and committed the act. But before he got to this point, the horror story started with him lusting over Ivy to the point where he believed that he was in love with her. I say “he believed he was in love with her” because I truly believe that anyone who truly loves someone would never kill them (remember that I believe that you can tell love through actions and hacking someone to death clearly is not love). I have also previously confused lust and love in the past so I know how it feels. Lust can drive you crazy because it is a possessive emotion where you want to say that whatever you are so passionately attracted to is yours. Love on the other hand, in my opinion, is a freeing emotion because you want nothing but the best for the person that you care so deeply for. So no matter what the assailant says, I do not believe he loved Ivy.

            The question then becomes, how do we stop ourselves and others from becoming obsessed and confusing love with lust? First of all, you need good friends or family that you feel comfortable enough to discuss your romantic escapades with. For example, my friends would always call me out when I was in lust in the past. And to be honest, there is a time and season for everything so when you are young, you may be looking for lust and not love so that is age-appropriate. However, you should never let lust or “love” turn into obsession. If you cannot even sit still and study or work without stalking your crush on social media, then you need to have a deep look at why you are letting that person have so much power over you and your life. Throughout my romantic experiences, what gives me peace is knowing that I am destined to be with someone and it will happen naturally, not by force. If someone does not reciprocate your energy or level of interest, then cut your losses and move on. You should never have to convince someone to love you; it is either that they do or they do not. It is true that we all love what we cannot have but think about it, once you have that person won’t you get bored because the chase is over? So stop chasing and just look for a real connection. Yes, beauty is captivating but beyond that, you should be able to love that person even if they turned into an ogre at night (like Princess Fiona in the Shrek movie). So, in essence, we have to train our mind to read between the lines of a chiseled man or even the curves of a beautiful woman and focus on the substance of their character instead. I am sorry that Ivy died at the hands of a man who claimed to love her when he clearly he just wanted to possess her. May she rest in peace and may her tragedy be a lesson to us all.

            May we remember the following scripture: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away”. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 

Thank you for reading. Feel free to peruse previous blog posts that I have written on the subject of love:
Love and Divine intervention

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

Self-love: Love is a Verb.

The male perspective on dating ft  5 comments from male readers

On Dating and Modern Day Love

Boston Review: Resident & Tourist view

 

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March 2019

Some of you may know that I spent a little over half a decade (six years) in Boston, Massachusetts. So this is a review where I can delve both into being a resident and a tourist of the city. My first trip to Boston was in 2010 with my mom before the start of my senior year of high school to look at different universities in the area (Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and my alma mater of Northeastern University). The one campus that truly captured my eye and heart was Northeastern’s as it was right in the heart of Boston but still managed to be centralized; so you could feel like you were in your own world and still be in the mix of the city within less than a 5-minute walk.   I liked being in a worldly diverse school with students from all over the map and being in a city where all these cultures participated, especially in food.

Food. My favorite restaurant in Boston is actually a Senegalese restaurant called Teranga. It is a small place with a cozy vibe as the owner is super friendly and makes sure to talk to every table when he is around. One of my favorite quotes of his is “We are all African” which actually describes my experience in Boston because I made friends with Africans from other countries such as Nigeria and Somalia. I also loved the Boston Shawarma restaurant that I was on Huntington Avenue where my alma mater is located. I also loved eating really delicious Vietnamese soup called pho (thanks to my best friend’s mom for introducing this to me as her homemade pho is still the best in my book) at a restaurant called Pho & I which was also down the street from my school. I also loved samosas and biryani from an Indian restaurant called the Dosa Factory (I actually gave them my email one time to be contacted in case they were hiring). The China town in Boston is actually pretty legitimate and has very authentic Chinese food (sometimes so authentic that it doesn’t match your palette depending on which restaurant you frequent). My favorite is Gourmet Dumpling House which has a really nice pancake dish and obviously amazing dumplings. For brunch though, my favorite restaurant is Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen which has a soul/jazzy vibe with live music and a buffet brunch option. On my recent one-day trip to Boston, I actually did not eat out as my friend cooked shrimp & chicken Jollof for me which filled me up for the whole day (see picture below). It was actually the best Jollof I’ve ever had so shout out to Chef Ola.

 

 

Tourist Attractions. A lot of films are actually filmed in Boston so you should already know that it is beautiful (especially in the summer because snow can become a pain after a while). My favorite spot is the Boston Gardens which are right at the end of Newbury St where you can shop from various high-end stores like Gucci and even low-end stores like Forever 21. My friend and I went there to chill before heading to Macy’s which is within walking distance. We actually ended up climbing a tree together (mainly him climbing the tree and helping me up). After Macy’s, we went to the Charles River Esplanade which is another tourist attraction where you can watch sailboat races or just a beautiful sunset. There is also a little park by the banks of the river which I love to visit from time to time mainly for the monkey bars where I like to hang upside down like the primate that I am (every so often I like to do this just to make sure that I haven’t lost this skill yet haha). If you want a great view of Boston (no upside hanging involved), the Top of the Hub Restaurant which is at the top of the Prudential Building (also known as The Pru) is a great place to go especially during a clear day. If you are a museum enthusiast like myself, both the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner (ISG) Museum are a must-see.

Nightlife. One of my favorite places to chill and listen to good music is the W Hotel in Boston. It never disappoints and the African City party this year was held in the hotel so I was excited to attend. My friend and I got there an hour and a half late but the party still had not started. When it did start around an hour later, it was actually a great party with a great DJ playing music from all over Africa (not just Nigerian and Ghanaian music). When he played Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s Umqombothi song that was when I knew he was the real deal. Unfortunately, clubs and bars close at 2am in Boston as it was/still is a Puritan city. This used to really frustrate me when I was in college but now that I am old, sleep is life so I do not mind the 2am curfew at all. Most of the time people have house parties afterward so there are ways to work around it which brings me to my next topic about accommodation.

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Travel & Accommodation. I won’t even try to sugarcoat it; Boston can be a little bit racist (I even talked to a white person who lived in Boston who stated this). I will say that I did experience some racism when trying to secure an Airbnb during my last year of school. For example, some prospective hosts will not even message you back based on skin color or will pretend that the dates are actually booked when they are not. Therefore, a hotel is probably the best option if you have a short stay (I guess unless you get lucky with Airbnb). If you are planning to stay in Boston long term, do bear in mind that rent is pretty expensive. You can live further out of the city for cheaper accommodation but if you do not have a car, the commute can be long by train or bus. I chose to stay close to campus because my major required long nights at the library and I wanted to be safe going home. Also, commuting during the winter can be hell with snow covered streets. In general, buy good shoes because the city of Boston requires a lot of walking and if you are a lady, the cobblestone will most likely ruin your stilettos. But one thing that makes Boston stand out from the rest is that it is a very clean city, your shoes will probably still be squeaky clean at the end of the day.

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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). 🙂 ❤

Like my father

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March 2010

Since birth, I have always been a daddy’s girl. When my mom used to get frustrated doing my hair as a little girl and want to shave it, my father would tell her to dare to cut it and risk getting returned to her village (this was obviously a joke by the way). But yes, my dad has always looked out for my best interest. When I wanted to get my hair chemically relaxed to be straight, he said no but since I wanted it so bad, my mom said yes. Now I wish I had listened to my father because my hair was so much healthier before. In fact, people I grew up with in Kenya remember me for my long hair. Hair stories aside, I sought my dad’s satisfaction the most (see previous post about how I tried to remain neutral in who I loved more). I think this was because my dad was very social and would brag about the exploits of my siblings and I to anyone who would listen. My mother is more introverted so not so much bragging there but of course, we could tell when she was proud of us too.

            They say that when a woman looks for a man, we look for our father’s or our brother’s characteristics in the man we marry. Sometimes, consciously and sometimes, subconsciously. In one of my previous relationships, the guy told me that his goal was to love me more than my father loves me. I did not think much about it then but recently, I thought about it and realized that the man who promised me this made a promise he could not keep. For one, my father has never put me in any situation that could hurt me. Secondly, my father will go above and beyond for anything that is important to me. Finally, I am named after my father’s mother so my father not only sees me as his daughter but also as the spirit of his mother. In essence, my father loves me as one would love their mother and child at the same time.

            I am not saying that your spouse can or cannot love you more than your parents. That is too deep of a philosophical question to answer in a blog post but what I do know is that as a woman, your relationship with your father plays a major role in your life. I know some people who did not have the most present or loving father and so they look to God to be their heavenly father. I think this is because we all desire security and love especially when we are young. I am blessed that my father provided both needs. He is not a perfect person but I can definitely say that I would not be the person that I am today, including my achievements, without his support. And to defy societal standards a bit let me share a few interesting characteristics about my dad:

  1. He has beautiful handwriting, actually better than my mom’s because he was taught calligraphy as a child.
  2. He is really good at cutting paper in a straight line and stayed up with me several times during my science fair projects to help me decorate my posters.
  3. The quote that I remember most from him is “work smarter not harder”. As such, I have a slight obsession with problem-solving and have a slight pet peeve with inefficiency

To make this blog post more well-rounded, I will say that we should all aim to be better than our parents and so I am not blind to any bad qualities that I may have picked up from my parents. But I think if you ever ask a woman whether she would prefer a better husband to her or a better father for her kids, she would go with the latter. So with that, thank you to the fathers who help to bring up good human beings into our society. Apparently, some countries celebrate fathers’ day in March so I guess this early fathers’ day blog post for those of us in the U.S.A while it is in due time for others. Either way, thank you for reading. 🙂 ❤

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 🙂 ❤

Music – the greatest love

music pic
Feb 2019

Since February is the month of love with my previous post delving into love & divine intervention, I would like to dedicate this post to my second love (music). I am saying “second love” because it is more logical for your parent (s) to be your first love. Side note: when I was a little girl, my parents would try to ask me which one of them I loved more and I would smartly avoid the question by saying that I loved them both equally. Luckily, they never asked me that question during my teenage years because music was definitely my greatest love (cue that Ciara track) at that time.

            After long days filled with teenage angst and drama, music brought some well-needed peace to my life. Specifically, Bob Marley music was what really spoke to me at that rebellious time. I would listen to “redemption song” at least once a day and knew the lyrics word for word. The guy I shared my first kiss with actually told me that he didn’t think Bob Marley was a good singer and that was a total deal breaker. I think one of the greatest moments in relationships, friendships included, is discovering each other’s music.

             In the past year, I have added new music to my collection from Latino, French, and even fellow African friends. But the greatest moment is when someone collects your music and appreciates the songs you adore. On my last Houston trip, I met an African American guy who listened to Davido and thought Davido was Hispanic. I was so happy to tell him that Davido is an African like me. Also later in the year, I met a Hispanic couple who love listening to another African artist known as Koredo Bello. In both incidences, I asked how they discovered such an artist and YouTube was always the answer. So the invention of the century award deserves to go to YouTube, in my opinion, for bringing us music lovers together and helping us discover new music. So in the spirit of sharing music, here are 3 songs that I am currently obsessed with:

  1. Shakira- “Whenever wherever”. I have always loved this song but it wasn’t until this year that I really listened to the song, looked up the lyrics, and realized what a beautifully written song it is. Here’s a little cameo for those of you who don’t have time to look up the full lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weRHyjj34ZE

Lucky that my lips not only mumble
They spill kisses like a fountain
Lucky that my breasts are small and humble
So you don’t confuse them with mountains”

  1. Sam Smith ft Normani – “Dancing with a stranger’. Definitely a song with better use of the lyrics “look what you made me do” (little shade to Taylor Swift fans). And both artists can really sing the hell out of those lyrics and those that follow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brmW88EO_cI
  2. Patoranking – “Suh Different”. When I need energy, this song delivers just that. It’s also that goodbye weekdays, hello weekend song that never fails. If you listen to the song, you would think Patoranking is from the Caribbean but he is actually Nigerian which goes to show that music transcends borders. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WOHZ9QhI9M