If there is anything I have learned from rap songs, it is that “there’s nothing like hood love”. That Nelly and Kelly Rowland “Dilemma” kind of love. That 50 Cent “21 questions” kind of love. And to throw it way back, that Bonnie and Clyde kind of love. Now to bring it way to the front, that Nipsey Hussle (Ermias Asghedom) and New-New (Lauren London) kind of love.
At first look, Nipsey was an intimidating looking kind of guy with his tall frame and face tattoos but we now all know, that he had a heart of gold. Lauren London (best known for her performance as New-New in the movie ATL) dated many of the richest rappers in the game such as Lil Wayne and even had his child. However, she found true love with Nipsey. Why? Because like she said in her speech at his funeral, she did not have to wear her “cool girl mask” anymore with Nipsey. Nipsey was her “turn up and her church”. He was not “perfect” and she would never ask him to be. He was and still is “the coolest guy ever” to her. “His soul was majestic.” He was a “gentle father” and a “patient leader.” These are all direct quotes from her beautiful speech at his funeral where she shared a text message that she wrote to him during January of this year while she was watching him sleep. Clearly, Lauren knew what she had found with Nipsey was truly special and I am sure Nipsey made her feel special as no woman would talk like that about a man that mistreats her. I repeat her “turn up and her church.” Many guys can fall into that “turn up” category but very few can be your “church.” That is a spiritual connection which is “beyond this earth”.
Based on her and Nipsey’s spirituality, Lauren is probably better equipped to handle what has happened to her and her family. In her speech, she shared how Nipsey taught her that “you cannot possess people, you experience them.” The few years she got to experience him will last her a lifetime and maybe beyond that. Furthermore, he had told her that “the game is gonna test you, never fold.” “Stay ten toes down.” “It is not on you, it is in you and what is in you, they cannot take away.” I don’t know about y’all, but her speech gave me life and her strength was the real definition of “gangsta.” Even though the perpetrator of his death took Nipsey’s life, the love he shared with Lauren and his family can never be taken away. In fact, she shared that her greatest sadness is realizing that their 2-year-old son is “probably too young to remember how much his dad loved him”.
I hope we may all experience such “gangsta love”. Not gangsta in regards to being in a gang or involved in crime (in the traditional sense of the word), but gangsta in how fiercely we protect it. No side chicks have popped up from the woodworks stating that they were with Nipsey because he was all about Lauren. He was faithful, loyal, and most of all, he financially protected his family so that they would not have to starve without him. Instead of flashing his money for all the world to see on cars and other depreciating expenses, he invested in his community and educated people about financial literacy. As Lauren says, “he was brilliant” and the world is at a loss for such a man. One of Nipsey’s face tattoos says “PROLIFIC” and I had to google exactly what that word means: “producing much fruit or foliage or many offspring.” I believe that based on Nipsey’s hustle alone, his investments will continue to bear fruit for his community. His love, on the other hand, is limitless as it has even inspired people like me who are not a part of his direct community. Maybe we all get to experience this gangsta type of love in this lifetime and those to follow. As Lauren said, “the marathon continues.”
I like to regard myself as sort of a dare devil. I loved jumping from trees and was not really afraid of heights as a kid. Now I am bit more reserved since I really do not want to die a stupid death, especially after watching 1,000 ways to die with my dad and brothers growing up. But despite my reservations, I have still experienced at least 3 near death experiences (that I know about). I’ll start with the least frightening to the most:
When I was born and still in the hospital with my mom, she fell off the hospital bed and fortunately she was not holding me and luckily, I was lying on the side facing the wall so I did not fall with her. Obviously this is not an experience that I remember but when my mom told me about it, I realized how fortunate I am to have been spared from the numerous infant mortalities that happen on a daily basis. They say that when a woman is pregnant, she is between life and death because of how dangerous pregnancy can be at times. Childbirth still scares me to this day but I guess if others have done it, so can I.
In 2005, my mom and I went to Kenya to visit for the summer. While there, we went to a place known as Eastleigh in Nairobi where the place is surrounded by vendors all over the streets and malls filled with more vendors. I was about 12 years old so I shopping trip with my mom and aunt was a little bit boring for me because they were talking about grown up stuff that I knew nothing about. Anyway at some point, I bent down to tie my shoe and didn’t say anything because I did not want to interrupt my mom and aunt. Next thing I knew, I was essentially lost as I could not find them at all. Now picture me as an innocent looking girl all along in a street filled with people and chaos. The female vendors were looking at me like, “be careful” and they kept telling me “fungua macho” which means “open your eyes”. Since I was young, I didn’t realize they were saying this because they wanted me to look at their products. Instead I thought they knew that I was lost and were warning me of danger. So during these period of being lost, my mind went to dark places as I started imagining myself kidnapped and used as a child slave. Fortunately, that did not happen, as my intuition led me to a three-story mall and I walked through all the booths until I heard the sound of my mom and aunt’s voice. Remember this was the age where kids didn’t have cell phones and Eastleigh was so far from where he stayed that I might have been really doomed if I did not find them.
If none of the previous stories scared you, this is the one that probably will. So this probably happened when I was about 19 years of age. I was home for the summer from college and my older brother had just bought a motorcycle. So me being the dare devil, I decided that I could convince him to let me park it for him in the garage. Somehow he agreed and gave me a quick tutorial on how to press the gas and the break. I guess in my excitement, I got the gas and break confused so I quickly pressed the gas thinking it was the break and the motorcycle (with me on it) sped off so fast that even my neighbors who were outside ran to our garage to see what was going on. Fortunately, our garage had a door to the backyard so I did not crash into the concrete walls of our garage. Next problem was that there were huge oak trees in the backyard that I could crash into and break my head in two as I was not wearing a helmet. Fortunately, I steered left and hit one of the bushes adjacent to the house. The motorbike fell on me and scratched my lower leg a little, which to me was a miracle considering how bad that situation could have been. Like everyone involved in this situation, especially me and my older brother were in shock. It took a while for my heart to stop racing and when we told our dad about it, he was not very happy. However, my brother still kept riding his bike and I decided to just be happy with being his passenger. By the way, the featured picture above was taken about a week or two before my doom while posing with my brother’s bike that was parked in the garage at the time. Little did I know what was to come lol.
When I remember any of these near-death experiences, I realize that I would already be dead by now if I was not meant to be alive at this point in time. There has to be reason that none of those moments were not my time to go meet my maker or just turn into dust. Therefore, they keep me motivated to make good use of my time here on earth. We really never will know when we are going to die, even some people who attempt suicide end up surviving their self-injuries so you never really know. To end on a lighter note: here is a new fun fact that I learned recently. For those who participate in the U.S. daylight savings time, what is the longest month of the year? If you guessed October that is the correct answer as the 10th month has 31 days and because of the extra one hour gained during daylight savings time, it surpasses the other 31 day long months. 🙂 ❤
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:
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 🙂 ❤
I would like to start off with a quote that I wrote below my goals in my journal. Here it goes: “each person deserves a day away which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” That quote is by Maya Angelou and really speaks to the importance of self-care. In 2019, put yourself first and if you haven’t already, please write your goals down. There is power in pen and paper. And at the end of the year, it is wonderful to revisit them to see what you achieved. In total, I wrote down 10 on paper but I will spare you from all that so I picked the top 5 goals.
Reduce impulse shopping. Last year, I truly enjoyed my first coins as a fulltime earner post-graduation. I was shopping online like nobody’s business. To the point, I had to make up excuses for why I was buying these things. My Kenya and Zanzibar trips was a great excuse since everyone wants to look good on vacation. But to be honest, I have so many clothes now that my two dressers with 5-6 drawers each cannot fit any more clothes. My closet is also full to the point that I am using the guest room closet for some clothes. My brother and I donated some clothes to Goodwill before we went on vacation but still no space. So I am going to try not to buy any clothes I don’t really need this year.
Travel More. This year I want to travel smart by getting a credit card with free travel miles so I don’t have to foot those tickets (Who getting “flewed out” in 2019?). So travel more and save money while doing it. I mainly want to do short local trips this year; I don’t have an international trip planned this year yet. When you have vacation hours, there are two travel strategies. One is to do short trips so you refresh a lot throughout the year and the other is two save all your hours for mainly one big trip. I did the latter last year but I want to try the former this year.
Focus on my spirituality. I went to church last weekend and can’t remember the last time I was there before that. In 2019, there’s no excuse to not getting a sermon in since we have church streaming online and even have YouTube channels filled with videos. My personal favorite is Elevation Church based out of Charlotte, NC with Steven Furtick. The pastor is pretty young so he appeals greatly to us millennials.
Develop business ideas. I think employment is great as you can learn a lot about a field by first working in it as an employee. Over the years though, you start to itch for more so I hope I can start working on my own ideas and chisel them down to feasible projects.
Work on myself externally and internally. I think a lot of times we just focus on what is on the outside but we should never neglect our character as well. My mom and I have started to do yoga together once a week now with the hopes of increasing it to two. I find YouTube videos such as Yoga with Adrienne and we do a video together on Mondays. I also signed up for pole dancing classes with my friend that I do kickboxing with so we’ll see how that goes. I barely have any upper body strength so this is probably going to be a real challenge for me.
I hope my goals can inspire you to pursue your goals too. Let us all win in 2019. Thanks for reading 🙂 ❤