The Well-Read Herring http://www.thewellreadherring.com Newsy Musings From a Media Junkie Thu, 19 Mar 2015 15:51:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 How I Deal: Keeping the Memory of My Awesome Dad Alive http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2015/01/22/deal-keeping-memory-awesome-dad-alive/ http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2015/01/22/deal-keeping-memory-awesome-dad-alive/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 05:19:54 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=604 There are few dates in my life imbued with so much meaning, and January 22nd is one of them. That’s the day that my daddy died. And no, he wasn’t a…

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There are few dates in my life imbued with so much meaning, and January 22nd is one of them.

That’s the day that my daddy died. And no, he wasn’t a “rolling stone,” like the lead crooner of the Temptations in the well-known song, “Poppa Was a Rolling Stone” bemoans. In fact, I’ve written before about how he was anything but.

I was a senior in my last semester in undergrad and the loss of him sent my world reeling. Not really sure (or quite frankly, caring) about whether I’d return to my university to graduate in time, to say I felt lost would be an understatement.

Never having felt such deep loss before, I didn’t know how to deal. A devastated, belligerent mess for weeks and not knowing if I was going or coming, my mom literally kicked me out of the house and told me I had to finish college (it was the best thing she could have ever done for me).

So, I went back to campus in a daze, struggling to stay focused in classes and zoning out in important meetings. I remember often running back to my dorm room at least 3 times a week for a good cry, just so I could release the tension and function like a “normal” college kid. For at least 6 months straight, I cried myself to sleep. Every night. Without fail. Longing for his presence, his voice, his laugh, his hugs. Something…anything to wake me up from what I thought was the worst nightmare ever.

Fast forward to May, the longest semester of life ended and I walked across the stage – a cum laude graduate decorated with honors. I was relieved that I made it and thankful for all the support of my close friends and family during the darkest period of my life, yet I still felt a sense of great loss because the one person I just knew would be there on graduation day, wasn’t.

And quite honestly, that’s how I’ve had to live the majority of my life each day afterward. That may sound tragic (and for the first 2 years after his death, I thought it was), until I realized that the loss of my father has contributed greatly to my resiliency. It really helped to put everything thereafter in perspective for me – VERY quickly. Since that time, I’ve experienced my fair share of loss, disappointment and betrayal, but everything else pales in comparison to losing one of the most important people in my life.

There’s this great article by Mark Manson, entitled “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” that aptly describes how important it is not to sweat the stuff that doesn’t really matter in your grand scheme of things.

My father’s death helped me re-prioritize what was important and of value to me and everything else that wasn’t? Well…as Manson so eloquently stated…I just didn’t give a you-know-what. I have been able to manage my emotional, mental and physical bandwidth much more efficiently because of this dramatic shift in life.

In these 6 years without my father, I’ve also learned how to appreciate the precious moments in life…well, I’m still learning. My boyfriend can attest to that (he says I rush EVERYTHING. I tell him I just walk, live and drive with “purpose,” and by that I really mean…I’m going 100 mph 90% of the time because patience as a virtue for me leaves much to be desired). God ain’t through with me yet, ya’ll.

But in these 6 years, I’ve also discovered how true that saying really is: time heals all wounds. I still have my moments, but one surprising thing that helps me deal is by thinking and talking about my awesome father often.

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You’d think that with how utterly devastated I was, I wouldn’t want to talk much about him but, just the opposite is true.

It’s like I have a personal mission to keep his memory alive.

So, I carry his wallet with me, the contents of which have been virtually untouched since 2009. That includes the last 4 dollars he had, which is ironic because he was always “broke”…meaning, my mom had all the money and whenever she’d ask him if he had any, he’d pull out his empty wallet. His wallet was always “cash poor” from this hilarious scenario or because my brother and I would “clip” him on our way out the door – always promising to pay whatever it was we “borrowed” back, but never really replenishing what seemed like an endless of supply of 1s, 5s and if we really hit the jackpot, 10s (and to a teenager, that was an embarrassment of riches).

I often find myself adopting his “sayings,” many of which I thought were corny when I was a teenager, but now they roll off my tongue with ease and are always apropos for the occasion of their utterance. And when that happens, I laugh to myself, shake my head and am always reminded of how much like our parents we so often eventually become, even with habits we’d swear we’d never emulate.

I look at his old pictures and laugh at his afro, or at the caption he wrote on the back of this picture with so much braggadocio – even as a 9 year old, so sure of himself.

The back of this photo reads: "Charles Herring. The one, the only. Great. Do you dig?"
The back of this photo reads: “Charles Herring. The one, the only. Great. Do you dig?”

Every now and again, I fondly sift through the bevy of pictures we have: from my awkward, brace-faced teen years to our last family vacation, appreciating how camera-happy (albeit cringing at the hairstyles and choice of clothing) I was back then, completely unaware of how those photos would help carry me through my periods of debilitating grief.

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So, that’s how I deal knowing that he’s never coming back but finally being at peace with the fact that every moment spent with him was enough to spend a lifetime fondly remembering.

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From #ByePhylicia to Hey, Keshia!: Juxtaposing Two Celebrity Responses to Bill Cosby Allegations http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2015/01/07/byephylicia-phylicia-rashad-reportedly-speaks-bill-cosby-accusations/ http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2015/01/07/byephylicia-phylicia-rashad-reportedly-speaks-bill-cosby-accusations/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 18:37:15 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=583 We were wondering when it (or if) it would happen…     Recently, Ms. Rashad became one of a variety of celebrities reportedly speaking out on all the accusations surrounding…

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We were wondering when it (or if) it would happen…

 

 

Recently, Ms. Rashad became one of a variety of celebrities reportedly speaking out on all the accusations surrounding famed comedian and America’s Dad, Bill Cosby in an exclusive interview with Roger Friedman for Showbiz 411,saying:

‘Forget these women. What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.’

‘Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV…And it’s worked. All his contracts have been cancelled.

‘This show [The Cosby Show] represented America to the outside world. This was the American family. And now you’re seeing it being destroyed. Why?’

Hmm.

I’ve long admired actress Phylicia Rashad. Since the days of The Cosby Show I fantasized about being a modern-day “Claire”: an empowered woman with a high-powered career balancing a fulfilling family life.

Even off-screen Rashad exuded class, talent and excellence. Honestly, she was one of my celebrity patron saints – next to Queen Mother of Everything Great and Magnificent (Oprah Winfrey) and Angela Bassett (which, if she messes up this Lifetime biopic on Whitney Houston, she’s going to have to be taken off of her invisible pedestal…I’m not above it).

I was actually quite surprised by her remarks. And prayed silently that she would stay above the fray and remain silent on the matter (even if she felt her long-time colleague and friend was innocent).

On the other hand, I found myself disappointed in the remarks because long regarding Ms. Rashad as an advocate for women, I found it hard to believe she would dismiss the accounts of over a dozen women saying the same things.

I mean, there’s even this viral clip of The Cosby Show circulating around the internet showing a dialogue between Claire and Elvin. Claire sets Elvin straight about the roles of women and even in 2015, making all of us collectively yell, “YAASSSSS” at our computer screens.

 

There have been numerous pieces written about the sheer cognitive dissonance that occurred when news hit (again) that Bill Cosby had not one, not two, not even three…but over two dozen women (26 at last count) claiming he had drugged them, raped or assaulted them over the course of decades.

I get it.

He’s an icon.But how do you completely discount 26 women’s experiences? Granted, HER experience with Bill Cosby may not have been the same as these other 26 women. Allegedly drugging and raping women may not be characteristic of the Bill Cosby she knows and loves, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.

He’s human. We’re all flawed. It’s possible.

And it’s disappointing that some of us have placed Bill Cosby and others so high up on a pedestal that they’re virtually incapable of doing any wrong. And when they do…we are incapable of believing it.

That’s exactly part of the reason why, according to RAINN, 68% of sexual assaults go unreported and 98% of rapists never spend one day in jail. Approximately every 107 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and the one doing the assaulting will likely never be held accountable.

Folks (especially women) who get sexually assaulted rarely speak up about it, because when they do, they’re met with a bevy of questions and critiques picking apart everything from what you wore to why you were in a certain place at a certain time to get assaulted to why you waited so long to speak up.

This is exactly what rape culture does. It silences the victim while allowing the criminal (yes…if you assault someone or rape them, you’re a criminal) to continue on with life with virtually no accountability.

Multiply instances like this by 1,000 when you’re talking about going up against a very powerful person in Hollywood (like Bill Cosby) and you’ve found yourself up against the rest of the world when really, you only desire to speak your truth and see the person that hurt you held accountable so that no one else, not even your worst enemy, has to go through the same thing.

It’s this vicious cycle we allow in our society that has to end. But it won’t if we keep seeing high-profile cases like these treated with such dismissal by those who have powerful platforms.

You can’t just Kanye Shrug off 26 women. You just can’t.

Kanye Shrug

Celebrities often find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes to speaking out on issues like these – especially involving people they know or may be friends with.

It’s hard because as a celebrity in a culture that feeds itself on so much gossip (where it’s incredibly difficult to decipher whether said “tea” is lie or truth) and preoccupation with the famous lives of others, it’s almost impossible NOT to empathize with someone going through it in the media.

But that doesn’t mean you have to deny other people the right to talk about their experiences.

So, I’m sure right now all of social media is saying #ByePhylicia.

But I really think it’s entirely possible to remain “neutral” without bashing your friend, mentor, TV dad or TV husband in the media AND without completely dismissing what could be some very ugly yet possibly legitimate claims about that same friend or mentor.

Which brings me to Keshia Knight-Pulliam.

 

I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the responses of two celebrities, two people who have worked with Bill Cosby in the past and two people who still may be friends with him.

Knight-Pulliam was recently fired from this season’s Celebrity Apprentice apparently because she refused to call up Bill Cosby to ask for money to help her team fund raise for a competition.

Of course, interviews following broached the question – the collective elephant in the room for any Cosby Show alum – about how she viewed the debacle Bill Cosby has found himself in.

When asked about the issue, Keshia reportedly said:

‘Honestly, that’s not the man I know.

All I can speak to is the man I know and I love the fact that he has been such an example [and] you can’t take away from the great that he has done, the millions and millions of dollars he has given back to colleges and education, and just what he did with The Cosby Show and how groundbreaking that was.

The Cosbys, we were the first family that no matter what race, religion, you saw yourself in. … At the end of the day they are allegations. … I don’t have that story to tell.’

Keshia has a VERY great PR person and/or she knows how to choose her words carefully so as not to categorically deny those 26 women the right to tell their stories without seemingly coming for Bill Cosby. She simply says that’s not the man she knows, talks about his great legacy and reiterates again how that’s not HER story. It’s not her story, but she’s not dismissing the other stories or ranting about how this is all a conspiracy to see his legacy tarnished.

See how that works, Phylicia?

What do you think? Do you agree with Phylicia Rashad…or nah?

UPDATE: According to a TV interview with ABC about her comments, Phylicia Rashad says she was misquoted and never said, “Forget those women.” She still maintains that the media attention around the Cosby allegations is not about the women, but instead about “something else.” Check out the video of her interview below.


More ABC News Videos | ABC World News

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I’m A Business, Man: My First 6 Months As an Entrepreneur – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2014/10/01/im-business-man-first-6-months-entrepreneur-good-bad-ugly/ http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2014/10/01/im-business-man-first-6-months-entrepreneur-good-bad-ugly/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:50:33 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=549 I recently realized that I’ve officially been in business as The Champ Media Agency for 6 months, and what a ride it has been. By now, you know the story of…

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I recently realized that I’ve officially been in business as The Champ Media Agency for 6 months, and what a ride it has been. By now, you know the story of how my business was born in the first place, so I’ll save those pixels and get right into it and tell you that…

It’s hard.

No, really, it is.

And there’s no nice way to put that. It just is. But it’s incredibly rewarding, too.

I already knew (before starting my company) that being an entrepreneur required a lot of grit, but it’s never real until you have to exhibit some kind of resilience.

And honestly, it’s all fun, games, cocktails, wine-coolers and witty repartee when you’re networking to be able to say that you’re entrepreneur. It’s another total beast to actually live that life…every.single.day. It ain’t a game.

So, let me tell you what being an entrepreneur has meant for me in these last 6 months. Some of it’s good. Some it’s bad. Some of it’s just down right ugly…

Entrepreneur

The Good:

Helping people create, engage and nurture their online communities through copywriting, editing and social media.

I’ve been so privileged to do work that really feeds my values. Twice a month I get to have a front-row seat gleaning knowledge from some of the top people in their respective industries by facilitating Twitter chats for a great entrepreneurship livecast program, #MentorMonday. And that’s just one of the cool things I get to do. Helping to create and execute social media campaigns solely promoting value-added, positive content around personal development is something I’ve discovered that I love doing. I love being a key piece to the puzzle for clients who have online platforms connecting them to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people. I get to help inspire people for a living and it really just feeds my soul.

 Building something of my own.

Despite the difficulties and challenges, creating my own media company from the ground up is SUPER gratifying. Just knowing that what I’m building is MINE does more for me than I ever knew it would. It’s like that problem child (if you’re a parent) or that old beat up car (that’s paid for and is the source of many endearing memories)…it may be ugly, chaotic, awkward, still in development…but it’s MINE. Yea, it’s scary knowing that if something goes wrong, it’s my responsibility to fix it, but the potential for its greatness far outweighs the worries I have about potential failures.

Building my character

Along with the previous point, I’m building far more than an empire (hey…gotta claim it, right?). I’m building ME. I’m building my character. Whenever I would be in the midst of doing something I thought was challenging as a kid, I’d whine to my dad (I was a daddy’s girl…and unabashedly so), and he’d always reply, without fail: “It builds character.” Now, I see just what he meant as I’m building my own business. And I think every entrepreneur would say the same. I’m testing my limits mentally, emotionally and intellectually, causing me to constantly re-evaluate and course-correct. This thing is definitely showing me what I’m really made of…everyday.

Oh, and my work ethic has been SUPERCHARGED. It’s unreal! Why? Because it gets real when you realize that you have bills to pay and investments in your company to make. Suddenly, slacking off on submitting that proposal, client estimate, or pursuing a lucrative, platform-building opportunity becomes unthinkable.

Doing what I love

In a world wrought with people trying to find their purpose and passion, I consider myself supremely privileged in that I know just what that is – and I’m doing it. Even if I have to work at the paycheck plantation fulltime, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, walking squarely in my purpose and getting gratification from that. I’ve said before that I was a reluctant entrepreneur. And, the ONLY way I’ve survived this long is because I’m doing what I love.

 

The LEARNING

My God! The learning. I feel like I’ve learned more in these 6 months than I have in all my years in formalized education. Seriously. I’m like a sponge…soaking up information from everywhere, applying it, testing it and seeing how it works for my business. In many ways, I feel like I’m sharper than ever because I’m always learning something new and valuable. Experience is the best teacher, and I am getting my fair share of it.

Making connections and gaining opportunities

I really think I’ve networked and connected with more people now than I ever have – even when I was a fresh college grad knee-deep in the job hunt. I’ve managed to connect with so many other entrepreneurs who are grinding it out like me or who have successfully managed to go full-time with their entrepreneurial pursuits (like I want to). Learning from and “talking shop” with them has changed the game for me. I’ve written before about how important it is as a business owner to find your own entrepreneurial village and these folks constantly feed me, put me on to better ways to do business and look out for me on the DAILY with suggestions and leads. The camaraderie and community is unlike any other.

And since I’ve become connected with my “village,” I’m getting the opportunity to do more cool, platform-building stuff – all because I’m forging relationships with others who are like-minded. Without these connections, I highly doubt some key opportunities I’ve been offered would even be within the realm of possibility for me.

But…it’s not all lilacs and daisies. Uh uhhhhh. Remember the part when I said owning and building a business is hard? Welp…here’s (part of the reason) why (for me, at least)…

…or The Bad:

Uncertainty

I’m learning as a newbie entrepreneur that in order to keep at least 50% of your sanity, you need to become play-cousins with uncertainty. Everything from financial woes (like chasing client checks even when you charge late fees or a client shaving off half of initial budget) to winning over a new client (devoting non-billable hours to creating a rock solid proposal with NO guarantee of closing the deal), you’ll never have a dull moment. And if you do, check the pulse of your business because something’s severely wrong!

 

The Balancing Act

This is the most difficult for me, personally. Especially because my “side hustle” has not yet shomoney’d it’s way over into “main hustle” territory. It’s almost like I’m living a double life…working the 9 to 5 by day and plotting to take over the media world (Pinky and The Brain style) by night. Because currently, the job that pays the bills isn’t really related to what I do as an entrepreneur…so exit strategy game is at one hunnid right now. I know that pretty soon this set up for me is going to be unsustainable (as I gain more clients), but right now, it’s one of those “ya do what ya gotta do things.” Build character, right?!

 

Building

Didn’t I juuuuust write so glowingly about how cool it was to be building something? Well, that same thing can be a thorn in the side. Why? Because I’m impatient (I’m working on it). It’s not one of my strongest virtues, admittedly. Aaaand because it’s not fun. Building this thing brick by brick takes resilience because – newsflash – it ain’t always gonna be rainbows and sunny skies. Building a successful business is akin to running a marathon…or climbing Mount Everest…or jumping off the edge of a cliff and hoping that you deploy the parachute in time. It just takes time. And hard work. And grit. And all those other concepts folks tell you when talking about entrepreneurship. Yeaaa…I want to be Oprah status, but building that -ish? Gets rough sometimes.

The things I mentioned above are things that have to be managed on the daily. These here I’m about to share? Are occasional occurrences, but enough of them together (and if not handled correctly) are enough to make one want to shrink into a ball and hide out…

The Ugly:

Imposter Syndrome

Yep. I have dealt with this (and still do sometimes). If you’re not familiar, the imposter syndrome is feeling like you don’t belong where you are. It’s a running script your lizard brain runs when uncertainty abounds. It goes a little something like: “I don’t know what I’m doing”; “I don’t know enough about x”; “I don’t know enough people”; “this isn’t working, maybe I should do something else”; “I don’t have enough money”; “that client I really wanted rejected me? I’ll never get work.” And on and on it goes.

 

I honestly had one of these moments (to the point of shedding tears and crying on bae’s shoulder) just 2 weeks ago. I mean it was baaaaad. Like, questioning if I should even be doing this, bad. Like, wanting to cut my losses and send out some more resumes and work for somebody else, bad. And after I dried my tears and talked to someone (who is in business, too) about how I felt, I had a breakthrough, made more connections, took advantage of some more opportunities and got back on the grind again.

What’s important to remember is that if a certain set of circumstances are true (you really do know what you’re doing and you do a great job at it), most of the time the imposter syndrome is a bunch of dirty little lies that creep in during some of your most vulnerable times.

What do I do when it happens to me? I talk to someone I trust, meditate, pray, remind myself of the good work I’ve already done, and try not to make my current situation so catastrophic. It’s imperative to remember that there are times you WILL feel inadequate, but the key is to not wallow or stay there.

Rejection

This is part of what feeds the imposter syndrome. Rejection is a beast to deal with…especially when you’re still in the building stages. Whether it’s voluntary rejection (having to walk away from a client/project that will not or is no longer serving your best interests) or just plain ole rejection from someone that decides to pass on your goods or services, rejection in any form can be unpleasant. And if I didn’t have a reservoir of resilience built up, I would have packed up my Macbook Pro and quit.

 

So, when these things happen, I give myself a day to get in my feelings, rant, punt kittens and then I get back to business. And I’m pretty sure that 24-hour “feels fest” will get severely limited to an hour MAX once I mature more as a business woman.

It’s especially hard when you’ve been so good at nearly everything you’ve done (was that a humblebrag?!). Entrepreneurship is different because you WILL fail, but the key is to fail fast to rebound faster. That’s where learning and course-correcting comes in. As they say, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to find another room. That said, as an entrepreneur, I feel like I’m a student first and with every rejection, loss or failure, I learn how to do what I do even better.

But you know what else I’ve learned from all this? I’m stronger than I often think I am and wayyy more resourceful, too.

Loneliness

I know I talked about the power of your entrepreneurial village, but there are simply times where you feel alone – especially if you’re a solopreneur like I am. I find that this feeling of loneliness happens when you think your entrepreneurial problems and challenges are unique to you. Granted, everyone’s business has its own set of hurdles, and being so head-down and knee-deep in them can cause you to really believe you’re truly alone – but honestly, most times you’re not.

And sometimes you are. Although it’s become a contemporary buzzword of sorts, entrepreneurship really is taking the road less traveled. And when you’re on that road, you sometimes will be by yourself – especially if you’re blazing a new path, or diving into blue oceans.

There are occasions where I feel lonely and overwhelmed as an entrepreneur. For the first three or four months in business, I felt like this was the way it was going to be – with only occasional pats on the back and patronizing words from peers to comfort me temporarily. But lately, I’ve been trying something new, this whole “closed mouths don’t get fed” idea of asking for help and advice. I used to think that if I asked, I’d be a burden, but nothing could be further from the truth. As an entrepreneur, I’m learning that if I don’t ask, I’m doing myself, my business and my clients a disservice because this journey was not made to go it alone all the time. Every entrepreneur needs a support system.

Burn out

For part of the summer, I experienced what I honestly believed was burn out. After grinding for nearly 6 months straight in earlier this year, I had a few moments of “eff this” and had to step away from the relentless “grind” for a taste. I was head down for so long in the following sequence: work (at the dayjob), gym, work (on the business)…daily…for months. I was my own living embodiment of that Kanye lyric, “lock yourself in a room doing 5 beats a day for three summers” and I didn’t have much balance. And because of that, when I did manage to take a break…I BROKE.

 

What I learned from that is how vital balance is. Just because you’re clocking more hours doesn’t mean you’re exactly being productive. I realize now that it’s not the end of the world if I’m not using every free second to do something business-related. In fact, I find that I operate better when I live my life and sometimes engage in activities totally unrelated. I find I come back refreshed, renewed and really ready to do impactful work.

This list is not at all exhaustive, but it does encompass many of the most important things I’ve experienced and learned about myself while in business. It’s certainly a labor of love. A couple things I know for sure: I won’t be the same in 6 more months and I’ll have so many more lessons learned.

Who’s in business? Can you relate? What have you learned thus far? 

 

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I Don’t Think I’m Going To Spank My Kids… http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2014/09/17/dont-think-im-going-spank-kids/ Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:07:19 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=520 I don’t have kids yet, but I’ve already been thinking about ways in which I’d parent them for the last couple years now – and even moreso in light of…

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I don’t have kids yet, but I’ve already been thinking about ways in which I’d parent them for the last couple years now – and even moreso in light of the current Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice controversies.

When issues like these come to the national spotlight and attention, it makes me not only want to talk about them (in intelligent and nuanced ways), but it they also make me reflect on how I would act and what I would do should I find myself in similar situations. And after marinating on it and having some great conversations with close friends…

I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t think I’m going to spank my kids.

Other people have written great, thought-provoking pieces about this, too. This is not an attempt to repeat what has been said ad nauseum, but instead an effort to come to a better understanding of how I’ll approach parenting should I become one in the future.

Now – full disclosure here – my brother and I were spanked as children. So, I’m quite familiar with this form of discipline (as are a lot of my Black peers). And honestly, I think he and I turned out pretty great. So, this isn’t about blaming or villianizing my parents or any other parents that do choose this form of discipline while parenting.  (My parents were great to us. In fact, I wrote before about how awesome both of them are/were) .

But I do think that when I have children, I’ll do things differently.

Oftentimes when events like these make headlines, many people automatically go into defense-mode, defending the choices and methods of their parents (and even their own choices) with the catch-all logic of: “my parents did __________ and I think I turned out fine,” or some iteration of: “if folks got a video tape of my (insert parental figure here) raising me, my whole family would be in jail.”

Spanking

But that’s not the point, and that line of reasoning can be a dangerously myopic way to structure the narrative. In fact, that’s often how we get stuck in family pathologies that turn out to be damaging for future generations, because what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander.Finally, this kind of logic shuts down intelligent conversation, when really, if we don’t talk about (and work through) this stuff, we’ll never progress. It’s like we’re limiting ourselves from evolving by defaulting to previous generational methods of parenting. And that doesn’t have to be.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Adrian Peterson story, he’s an NFL player indicted by a Texas grand jury, after spanking his young son with a “switch” (a thin tree branch) after he refused to share a video game. The reports noted that the young boy had welts and bruises on his butt, back, ankles and scrotum. Peterson has since been placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list and ordered to stay away from Viking team activities until these legal matters have been resolved. Now, there are rumblings of him injuring another son.

Ray Rice is another NFLer who was videotaped punching his now-wife (then-fiance, Janay Palmer) in an elevator earlier this year. Video of him surfaced as he was dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator, resulting in both their arrests on simple assault charges and a 2-game suspension handed down by the NFL for Rice. However, in more recent days, the full video surfaced, showing him delivering the blow to Palmer’s face, her head hitting the elevator rail and him finally dragging her body out of the elevator. As a result of public outcry, Rice has been suspended indefinitely.

I mention these two cases in tandem because they are more related than some many think initially. But, a little more on that later…

 

As I’m coming closer to the conclusion about my proposed parenting and discipline methods, I realize there’s really a few key reasons why I don’t think I’ll spank my kids (and it doesn’t stem from liberal, mumbo-jumbo):

1. I never want them to equate fear with love.

I want to raise intelligent, emotionally mature, critical thinking, disciplined, healthy and autonomous human beings. And since there are only ever two emotions, fear and love (all other emotions are sub-components), I’d rather choose love and ditch the fear as much as possible.

That sounds all tree-huggy, but I’ve thought deeply about this.

I realize that I don’t have to pass down confusing messaging to my kids by raising my hands to them one moment and declaring that I love them (either in word or in deed) in the next in order to raise healthy, well-adjusted, well-accomplished children.

The last thing I want to do is cause cognitive dissonance and confusion with the logic that, “I as your mother can spank you or inflict trauma upon you but bet’ not nobody else (who doesn’t claim to love you) touch you.” That’s inane to me. But, in my mind, that’s the way I’m starting to see what we often show and tell our kids – especially in the Black community.

And while that’s a gross simplification of what parents who choose to spank their children often do, it’s the simplest way I can put it.

I don’t want my kids to fear me. I don’t want them to fear anyone, for that matter. I don’t want to keep my kids “in line.” I don’t want them to do what I say simply because “I said so.”

I want to my kids to respect me. I want them to respect others. I want them to know right from wrong. I want them to understand the logic behind the rules my future husband and I have set forth for them to abide by. I want them to be autonomous beings that have the self-discipline and power to think and be themselves.

I really think there are healthier ways to raise children than by spanking them with my hand or any other tool (like a belt or a “switch”). I don’t want to associate a form of violence like spanking with love, which would ultimately result in them fearing me. This dovetails with my next reason…

2. I don’t want to raise “Little Slaves”

This is bound to get some side-eyes, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how I truly believe spanking – at least for those of us in the Black community – as a method of parental discipline is a psychological by-product of slavery.

Many have heard and are familiar with this logic – slave mothers and fathers would often “whip” their children as a way to discipline them, thereby training them to submit to their masters, and prevent those masters from beating those same little beings within an inch of their lives for the simplest infraction.

 

While reading various opinions on discipline and child-rearing, Twitter user Kim Love‘s reasoning resonated with me particularly. She said she wanted to raise “future leaders,” not “future slaves” – children who choose to obey her as a parent instead of obeying out of fear. It makes so much sense to me and I feel the same way.

She made some other great points, including the fact that children require great patience and it’s best to teach them right from wrong over the long haul instead of resorting to short-term fixes. Also, she noted that many in the Black community often dismiss alternative styles of parenting that don’t involve spanking and associate those methods with whiteness, which is true. She mentioned something else particularly salient, too – “we brag about how ‘ours’ don’t kill parents. They kill each other.” It’s true. Why? Because they have to take that resentment of years being beat into submission out on someone. It may not be parents, but other folks in the community, instead: their own children (Adrian Peterson), intimate partners (Ray Rice), friends and peers…and those are not better alternatives.

Ray Rice; Adrian Peterson

And while many in the Black community, specifically, take pride in the physical disciplining of children because that’s the way “it’s always been done,” and we often theologize spanking by using the Christian bible verse, Proverbs 13:24 or “spare the rod, spoil the child,” we all know that tradition isn’t always right or the best way to go. That’s the beautiful part about being human. We get to choose growth and better methods of doing things.

Also, did we forget that back in October of 2013, one of Adrian Peterson’s other sons died, succumbing to injuries after literally being beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend? 

We in the Black community often talk about the “slave mentality” and the necessity of climbing out of it. In fact, we’ve been so mentally scarred and traumatized as a community that it’s no surprise many of us still adhere to this method of child rearing. But, I think this is one way we can continue to shed the mentality of the dark past – by choosing to evolve our perspective on parenting from raising little “slaves” or blindly submissive men and women acquiescing to every authority figure without question – simply because “they said so.”

We all want our offspring to be future leaders. I think that’s something we can agree upon. But how will they get there? That’s often a point of contention among people. They can’t do that if we’re raising them as slaves. They can if we give them the tools to think critically, make conscious decisions and become empowered beings.

Again, I don’t have kids. I know that parenting – while an incredibly rewarding experience, is also very difficult. So, my perspective may change once I do have children, but for now, I don’t think so…

 So, what say you about this? I’m curious to know your thoughts.

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We’re Better Than This: Thoughts On Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda Video http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2014/08/21/better-nicki-minajs-anaconda-video/ Thu, 21 Aug 2014 20:29:48 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=505 I finally forced myself to watch the now-viral (now at over 24M views!) Anaconda video by Nicki Minaj. After much hoopla surrounding its debut, I decided to take a break…

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I finally forced myself to watch the now-viral (now at over 24M views!) Anaconda video by Nicki Minaj. After much hoopla surrounding its debut, I decided to take a break from all the tragedy in the news to check out what else is going on in pop culture (besides EVERYONE and their grandma doing the ALS ice bucket challenge. I have not been challenged yet…phew).

…and I can’t get those 4:50 of my life back.

Anaconda is the second single off of Nicki’s soon-to-be-released The Pinkprint album. And if this is what we have to look forward to, well, I’ll pass.

Actually, I watched the video at the behest of my beau, who wanted to know my thoughts. After all the social media buzz, I was curious, admittedly. But as a woman who identifies as a womanist and as someone who tries not to judge other women for expressing their sexuality as they see fit, the entire time I spent watching this video, I cringed.

 

Why? Well, there are really 3 main reasons why I’m NOT here for that Anaconda video:

1. The song SUCKS

I mean, really. Anaconda samples Sir Mix-a-Lot’s classic, “Baby Got Back” and that’s mayyybe the only likable part of it. The rest? Well, between all the expletives and sexual innuendos, it was hard to distinguish just what the point of the song was…well, other than glorifying sex.

And while I’m neither a lover or hater of Nicki Minaj (I can admit she spat BARS on Kanye’s “Monster.” But everything else I am honestly quite ambivalent about), this particular song and its accompanying video really rubbed me the wrong way. Honestly, the video carries the song. And that’s not saying very much if you’ve seen it. I don’t even believe the song could stand alone without this highly anticipated (and highly disappointing) video.

2. I have yet to understand the point of the video – other than being a gratuitous display of soft-porn

Minaj had been teasing the internet with snippets of images from the video for weeks, and finally decided to drop it at midnight on August 18th. And quite possibly every red-blooded, heterosexual male on the internet happily clicked on the link to see just what all the anticipation was about.

I waited as long as I could, and again…I can’t get those 4:50 of my life back. EVER.

I’ll spare you the frame by frame analysis of this video, but all you need to know is it is full of hind-parts, slim on subtlety (and clothing), and jam packed with…twerking. And not even “good twerking” (does that even exist?). Think…a 21st century update to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” video…on steroids, crack and molly. 

Of course, Nicki’s front and center and scantily clad giving the camera all her “sexy” (?) while mouthing the raunchy lyrics to this (terrible) song. And if you know what Nick Minaj looks like, best believe much of the attention was on her tush.

I guess Nicki said eff it and decided that the concept of the video should be to solely appeal to the “Anaconda”…if you get my drift. Because, while she had dancers, there was no choreography. And while there was a video, I have yet to understand what the story line was. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there wasn’t one.

3. (Black) Women are portrayed as objects…yet again

I (think) I get it. That video wasn’t made for me (as a heterosexual female). I get the (sometimes unfortunate) fact that sex sells…every. single. time. I understand that this is the mainstream music industry we’re talking about. And, I also get the fact that Nicki Minaj isn’t exactly the poster child of female role models (argue to the contrary if you must, but again, that’s my opinion). But what I have a lot of trouble with is the fact that throughout the entirety of the video, all I’m seeing is women being reduced to objects.

Without getting too deep in academic speak, the gaze of the camera is all you need to see to come to a similar conclusion (which mimics the stereotypical male gaze). It’s primarily fixated on one body part: the butt. And while this certainly isn’t the FIRST music video to gratuitously display pornographic views of the female body, this one got a very real visceral reaction from me for a few reasons.

First, Nicki is a woman, and the headliner of this video. She’s participating in her own objectification is seems. Now, some may argue that she’s not – she’s simply acting as a sexually liberated woman who is merely expressing her sexuality in the ways she sees fit and other people shouldn’t judge her for how she chooses to do that. That’s a very cute, liberal-minded argument on the surface. But it’s not the position I take this time.

This video doesn’t hold back and there’s something disturbingly disrespectful about it. Maybe because it’s so blatantly pornographic. Maybe because the whole point of the video is to put T&A on display. Maybe because as a (Black) woman, Nicki is front and center in the coonery foolery. It’s like she’s unapologetically cooning for these coins, and I can’t deal.

Which brings me to my next (sub) points…

This is not my attempt to make Minaj the representative for all Black women in America, because she’s not. But it’s the sad reality that in pop culture, Black superstars usually are (in the eyes of non-Black consumers).

So, while this video doesn’t represent what I’m about (or what many of my friends are about), people who don’t understand the subtle nuances of Black culture and those who see Blackness as a monolith will be inundated with stuff like this, causing them to come to the erroneous conclusion that Black women are merely modern-day hottentots on display for very little else other than pleasure – when there are so many more dimensions to us. And whether we like it or not, Black women are already disproportionately hyper-sexualized in our society. This Anaconda video does nothing to help combat that myth or to display Nicki’s lyrical talents.

To be clear, this is not me pandering to the well-worn tenets of respectability politics…at all. People of all shades and genders are multi-dimensional beings, but as we’re seeing in the news about Ferguson, MO – not everyone has accepted this as fact. What Nicki should do about this?  I can’t answer that. I don’t know, exactly. All I know is I’m not feeling what she’s doing here.

Thirdly, let’s get back to this idea of the male gaze and how this very problematic video caters to that. Now, again, some argue to the contrary, stating that Nicki’s video is very intentional about expressing her sexuality through resistance. And that’s a very smart set of arguments – except I argue that most folk (especially hetero men) don’t see it that way. At least, most men that are on my social media feeds (and in my life) don’t. Many are using it as “material” to…you know…pleasure themselves and could give two craps about whether this was about female sexual expression and resistance.

Nicki Minaj; Anaconda
Nicki had dudes like…

Now, is that Nicki Minaj’s problem? Not exactly because societal expectations of men and boys were in place well before the Anaconda video dropped. So I’m not blaming her about what other people do with the content she creates, as she can’t possibly have much control over how it’s used. What I am saying is that until it is common knowledge among men and boys – I mean until it is REALLY internalized – the fact that women ARE NOT here as mere objects to be looked upon and used, stuff like the Anaconda video will forever be controversial.

And this is the part where I have to hold some men (heterosexual) accountable for viewing this material as something for other women to aspire to or as an acceptable form of media to consume. Now, I’m not saying that all men can’t parse out the difference between superficial and unrealistic standards of beauty and what they can really snag in real life  the characteristics they can really appreciate in real life. Because I know that it’s possible to “appreciate” the Nicki Minaj’s of the world as well as the regular, everyday women they encounter. But at what point will a critical mass of men and boys no longer find this (pornographic) stuff to be entertaining…or even acceptable media to consume? What about our young boys who inevitably will soak this stuff  up and use it as a way to navigate in the world (and in their relationships with women)? What about young girls who will think this is the way to be revered and adored?

I know I’m wishing on a star here, but I look forward to the day where I see our menfolk (and people in general) resist the very base, pornographic objectification of women and when female entertainers and those with influential voices and reach will lead with something else other than stuff that’ll excite the Anaconda. We’re better than this. And we’ll all be the better for it.

 

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What Maya Angelou Taught Me http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2014/05/28/maya-angelou-taught/ Thu, 29 May 2014 02:28:52 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=488 I was at work when I received the news that one of the world’s greatest mentors, writers, activists, artists, teachers and treasures had left the world, I honestly had to…

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I was at work when I received the news that one of the world’s greatest mentors, writers, activists, artists, teachers and treasures had left the world, I honestly had to take a moment to shed a few tears. Selfishly enough, it felt like Dr. Maya Angelou should somehow be here among us, dropping gems of wisdom forever.

Mother Maya embodied strength of character, wisdom, courage, razor sharp wit and intelligence, and perhaps the most powerful of them all…love. Though I never got the privilege to meet her in person (thankfully, I did get the opportunity to hear her speak), her words were more than enough.

And, I know that despite all my efforts, mine will never be enough to pay tribute to such a giant upon whose shoulders I stand.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s work had been canonized in my collection of prolific writings. Both her life and her work had a profound impact on my coming to “be” as a Black woman. Like many little Black girls, works like I Know Why The Caged Bird sings changed my life – and that’s really an understatement. But it doesn’t end there. Dr. Angelou’s work resonated so deeply with me  (and I’m sure the lives of others) and in so many various stages of my life as I navigated through my teens and my college years. And, it continues to as I wade my way through adult Black womanhood.

Almost immediately after the news of her passing was made public, people on Twitter filled my timeline with the harvest they gleaned from Mother Maya’s rich field with the trending topic: #WhatMayaTaughtMe. We learned – as some of us already knew – just how deeply countless others were impacted by her life and her work.

So, I’d like to share 4 (there’s so many more) things that Dr. Maya Angelou taught me – each lesson speaking to a different stage of my life:

1. She helped me embrace my identity as a Black girl/woman – fiercely

Growing up and coming of age in a VERY homogenous town, it was rare to find anyone else who looked like me (outside of my own household) in day-to-day life. With that, came struggle as I fought to understand my place in the world as a Black girl. Thankfully, I was surrounded my the love and affirmation of my parents, but outside of that, my identity wasn’t affirmed in the ways that are the “norm” for other peers whose skin lacked melanin. Nearly every child wants to just “fit in” and I was no different, but I knew that was different.

My hair wasn’t the same, my skin wasn’t the same and my body shape wasn’t the same, nor was it celebrated outside of my own home. But, the moment I read the words:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size…

from Phenomenal Woman for the first time, I knew that it would be a sin not to celebrate the things that made me different – even if I had to do it by myself in the company of others who may not understand. From that day on, you could not TELL me I wasn’t everything in life.

Mother Maya’s words were a saving grace for me and other women and girls surrounded in environments where our kind of beauty was rarely acknowledged.

2. She taught me about courageous love

Then, when I got to college…I fell in love for the first time. Overwhelmed and scared out of my mind, not knowing what to do with myself or even how to care for the person I had clumsily declared my love for, Mother Maya’s wisdom helped teach me one of the most enlightening things about love:


She said:

“You have to have courage to love somebody. Because you risk everything. Everything.”

And risk everything I did – without feeling weak, without feeling ashamed, and without regret.

I still try to love that way – embracing the frightful vulnerability and enchanting euphoria of it, each and every time.

3. She taught me how to be disruptive – on purpose

Mother Maya had a front row seat to the ugliness of Jim Crow segregation and all the guile that came along with it. Within her very rich life, she was, among other things, an activist – returning from living and working abroad (also as an activist) to lend her hands and her voice to the American Civil Rights Movement.

She understood the importance of service in this way, but that’s not the only way she served as a disruptor. Dr. Angelou’s work – after devastating losses of two close friends, Malcolm X (El-Hajj El Malik Shabazz) and Dr. Martin Luther King, helped disrupt the world’s ideas of what it meant to be black and what it meant to be a woman.

During those angsty college years of mine, I, too, learned what it truly meant to disrupt. I tell everyone that my undergraduate years was a time where I found my activist voice (and arms and legs). It was a result of her influence and the influence of many others that I made the decision to stand against injustices I saw happening on my college campus. It was then I truly learned and demonstrated the courage to speak truth to power. I credit Dr. Maya Angelou (and others) for emphasizing the importance of telling the truth, no matter how ugly, uncomfortable, and unpleasant it may be.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” 

4. She taught me to give myself the permission embrace re-invention

One of the many other wonderful things about Dr. Maya Angelou that I love to celebrate is that she fully embraced other ways of “being,” reinventing herself over and again…and only getting better.

When people speak of Mother Maya, they have no choice but to describe her by her various roles: activist, dancer, singer, poet, writer, teacher…the list really goes on. That’s because she was not afraid of self re-invention.  In fact, she gave herself the permission to many times over.

From being San Fransisco’s first Black woman streetcar conductor to becoming a Calypso singer and dancer to being a Madam, to becoming an actress to being a teacher, writer and poet…

She really lived a full, adventurous life – one that should be celebrated for decades to come. It’s like she thrived on the ability to add another dimension to her identity.

And, as I’m in the midst of a major reinvention of self of my own, I’m reminded that to be able to do such a thing requires bravery, encourages continual learning, and is absolutely necessary for survival.

I partly have her to thank for that, too.

Rest in peace and power, Dr. Maya Angelou. I’m forever grateful for your wisdom, your words and your work.

 

 

 

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So, I Had a Baby… http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2014/05/27/so-i-had-a-baby/ Wed, 28 May 2014 02:35:33 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=465 …and its name is The Champ Media Agency. (We’ll use that as the reason excuse as to why I haven’t written anything substantive here in quite a while). Did you…

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…and its name is The Champ Media Agency.

The Champ Media Agency

(We’ll use that as the reason excuse as to why I haven’t written anything substantive here in quite a while).

Did you miss me?

Although I didn’t give birth physically, I feel like I definitely birthed something. It’s amazing, rewarding, scary, frustrating and challenging – all at the same time…just as I imagine parenting to be (except without the stretch marks). And yes, there are times when I contemplate giving this joint up for adoption. Then, I come to my senses. I’m pretty sure all parents have felt that way. 😉

The Champ Media Agency is my baby, but it took a while to get to this point.

I actually had the idea or the inclination to start my business 2 years ago, but I procrastinated, made excuses and just flat out ran from it for just as long (if not longer) out of fear.

I tell everyone that I was a reluctant entrepreneur – a VERY reluctant one, in fact. Why? Because I knew first-hand what it was like to always be “on,” to experience vicious cycles of feast or famine, and to outwork everyone else because of passion, reputation with the lives of your family and business depending on it.

What I didn’t realize was that all this time, I was being prepared for the journey ahead…

I grew up in the entrepreneurial trenches. My mother was an entrepreneur, who built a fairly successful catering business and restaurant from the ground up. No investors. No MBA. No outside funding (including small business loans). No prior business experience.

She started that business a couple years before I entered high school and I remember spending entire summers, nearly every weekend and just about every major holiday…working. It was truly the family business because as the saying goes, “good help is hard to find.” I lived in kitchens, banquet halls and churches throwing working parties for everyone else (even some of my high school classmates and their parents).

I put my writing and marketing skills to work early, creating marketing material (pamphlets and brochures, a logo, formatting a menu) and writing contracts at 12 years old. I would record meetings, calculate invoices, and send e-mails and faxes (this was before the massive growth of social media). I was knee deep in it. I really didn’t know I had a gift (or skillz) because that part came so easily for me.

But, when I graduated from high school, I decided that I was going to attend college out of state, get my education and find a great job. No entrepreneurship for me. Nope. Uh uh. I did. not. want.

The funny thing is, though, I also had these magnificent dreams of building my own omni-media empire (kinda like Oprah). But I thought that wouldn’t (or couldn’t happen) until I gathered enough legit “experience.”

I had it all planned out, really (in my mind at least). I’d gather as many internships (those dreaded FREE internships, at that), get my resume and cover-letter iron clad, graduate with honors from both undergrad and grad…and ferociously job hunt so I could get all this paid “experience” I needed to grow my knowledge-base…so that I could be the next Oprah…or the beast COURTNEY I knew I could be.

Buuuuut that didn’t happen. Life has a funny (or tragic) way of guiding you. I found myself with a perfectly formatted (and populated) resume, a compelling cover letter, more letters behind my name than I needed…and jobless.

I mean, I could not BUY a job for a solid YEAR after I graduated from grad school. No lie.

It was during that very difficult time of self-loathing, resume-shipping, business professional attire-wearing, and interview-traveling (which ALL ended in rejection…LOL) that I started feeling something…ideas…bubbling up inside me. It was the first time I had really entertained the idea of maybe starting a communications company.

But I was scared. I was petrified, actually. I didn’t know the first thing about business (at least I THOUGHT I didn’t – catering/food service was a far cry from media), I didn’t have any real clients (my friends who would hit me up to edit their grad papers, CVs, resumes, cover letters, commencement speeches, etc weren’t enough to sustain me), I felt like I didn’t have enough “legit” experience (because…every agency, company, organization, etc wouldn’t hire me), and of course, I thought I needed more money.

So, I procrastinated. I job hunted some more. I “networked.” I got some great leads and then found myself back at square one once again. I wrote. I made excuses. But, all the while, I was voraciously reading everything I could about social media marketing, entrepreneurship and personal development. Still, I felt I wasn’t quite ready to take that leap yet.

But, just like there’s never a perfect time to have a baby, there’s never a perfect time to start a business. I was waiting for that perfect time – all the while delaying the inevitable and becoming more frustrated and disillusioned.

But then, one day, this matchmaker I had been following online for YEARS appeared in my Facebook timeline saying he needed an intern to help him manage his social media and personal website. I happened to see it, thought I had absolutely NOTHING to lose, responded to the call for applicants, and BOOM…

I was in there like swimwear. I was nervous, but I had been following his online platform for years, so I knew where I could come in and help improve things. And, he was actually open to my suggestions. I was actually helping to manage an online platform for a person whose values matched mine, whose dreams and goals were just as big and audacious and my own, and who valued my “expertise” (I have that?!).

I mean, he trusted me with his brand. ME. The same person that hundreds of media agencies and PR firms told I needed more experience or that I wasn’t a “good fit” (whatever that means).

Pretty soon, he inquired about becoming a client of mine. That experience helped give me the confidence I needed to start. Like, seriously launch my own media and communications company. For real this time.

…So I did. Still scared as ever. Still unsure about how it all was going to work out. Still not rolling in the dough or “financially stable” as I thought I should have been in the past.

But, things were different this time: I actually believed…no…I determined in my mind that I WOULD do it. and be successful. I gave myself no other choice. I stopped hedging my bets. I burned my “plan B” bridges and I leapt.

The net is still manifesting itself and I’m still in mid-air, but I’m either going to make a net appear, or I’m going to tuck and roll.

My life depends on the former.

I had to sit with myself for a long time and determine just how I was going to go about using my skills, passions and talent to build a life for myself. And, it finally dawned on me that I’d have to build it myself. I’d have to make my own dreams come true.

So, I had a baby. I went through what seemed like YEARS of preparation, incubation, perspiration and frustration (a preacher is going to steal that, I just know it), but it’s here. A bouncing baby business that is testing every ounce of fortitude I have (and will continue to do so in other ways).

…Its name is The Champ Media Agency and it’s one of the most rewarding (and scariest) things I’ve ever produced. I named it that because that’s been my childhood nickname given to me by my mom since before I can remember. It means a lot to me because even in the toughest struggles I realize that she employed the unbelievably powerful nature of words and spoke over my life, declaring me a “Champ,” a winner – even before I knew what winning was or that I was one.

It’s what I spend my days and nights thinking about. It’s what I pour all I have into without regard to time or space. Its survival is solely dependent upon my choices and the moves I make…

…and -ish is about to get real. :)

“There but for the grace of God, go I”

The Champ Media Agency

You can learn more about this new venture by visiting my website: GoChampMedia.com. The Champ Media Agency is a media and communications company helping your messages “stick” in a noisy world. The mission is two-fold: I’m dedicated to helping time-starved individuals communicate more effectively, and I help entrepreneurs manage inspired and engaged online communities. I take the headache out of editing, social media and web content maintenance, allowing you to be successful in other pursuits. Together, when we work, you win! You can also connect with my business on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

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Because of You, I Know I Can: A Letter to My Father 5 Years Later http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2014/01/21/know-can-letter-father-5-years-later/ Wed, 22 Jan 2014 04:44:43 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=423 Five years ago today, I lost one of the most important people in my life: my father. I’ve written before about how much of a Daddy’s girl I was and…

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Five years ago today, I lost one of the most important people in my life: my father. I’ve written before about how much of a Daddy’s girl I was and how much he meant to me. The grieving process has been difficult; yet, I take comfort in knowing that I had one of the best fathers a child could ever ask for.

In a world where 70% of Black children are born or raised within a single-parent home, I count myself tremendously blessed to have had the positive influences of both my mother and father growing up. There are so many reasons why I admire this man and still thrive from the fruits of his hard work and dedication,

If I could write a letter to a my father today, here’s how it would read:

A lot has happened within these last five years, and I know that even more will occur in the future. And even though you’re not here to physically witness these things, I can now say I know a few things for sure:

Though you couldn’t share my college graduations with me, I know for a fact that I couldn’t have finished my last year of undergrad (which was also the most difficult year of my life) without knowing that before you left this earth, I never questioned the fact you were proud of me. I remember you being so excited for my college graduation and telling everyone who would listen that your first-born daughter was going to follow in your footsteps to be a college grad, too. You showed me all the funny dance moves you were going to try to embarrass me with during that time of celebration and you encouraged me to keep going when difficult times arose. 

College Graduation
My College Graduation – Denison University, 2009
Dad - College Graduation - Oakland University, 1981
Dad’s College Graduation – Oakland University, 1981

After you left, I just knew I’d have to take at least a semester off and I questioned whether I would graduate on time because of your sudden departure. But, with my family’s encouragement and support, I came back to college ready to finish my last semester so that I could continue to make you proud. You even got a chance to wear my other alma mater’s t-shirt and cap I got for you before we even knew I was going…You were a Nittany Lion before I was!

DadPennState
My brother and Dad rocking Penn State gear before I was even a student!
PennStateGrad
Me, Mom, and Jonathan (my brother) at my Master’s graduation ceremony – Penn State, 2011

Though you’ll never meet the person who I will marry or walk me down the aisle, it’s your involvement, nurturing, and love that provided me the necessary tools to seek out healthy relationships. I say all the time that you were the first man I ever loved, and It’s because of you I can go forward and confidently choose a life partner who knows, understands, and cherishes me. Because you helped me identify my worth, first. My entire life, I witnessed you love, provide for, and respect my mother and your wife with all your might. I never doubted your devotion to her or to us as your children because you displayed it everyday. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for what a healthy marriage should look like, all because you modeled it before me every day of my young life.

Dadandme
Daddy and I right before high school homecoming, 2002

Though you’ll never meet your future grandchildren, I know that when they do arrive on this earth, they’ll be my top priorities because that’s what we were in your life. Because of your influence, I understand how serious parenting is and how much of a joy it will be. We were your pride and joy and it’s because of you that my future children will know unconditional love, support and grow up in a healthy, nurturing environment.

Courtneybaby
Me as a baby :)

Though you’ll never see me reach great success, I know I will get there because you told me that that the sky was the limit. When I do get “there,” I know I would have gotten there because of the many lessons you taught me about hard work. You taught me that there’s no substitute for it and that any success will require a lot of it. I witnessed you work day in and day out, set goals for yourself, and accomplish those goals. And because I saw you realize your dreams, I know I can and will, too.

fambam
The family celebrating your promotion to lieutenant on the police force

Five years seems like a lifetime without you and this time without your physical presence has made me appreciate the meaningful memories we created for the first 21 years of my life.  Now as a young woman navigating a world of uncertainty, I realize just how much your presence and active involvement in my life set the stage for who and where I am today. I look forward to honoring your memory every day and in everything that I do.

I love you and miss you.

Love Always,

Your “Tootsie”

DADDY
Charles E. Herring, Jr.
Sunrise: July 25, 1959 – Sunset: January 22, 2009

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Justine Sacco and Phil Robertson Learn How This Free Speech Thing Really Works http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2013/12/21/phil-robertson-justine-sacco-freedom-of-speech-consequences/ Sat, 21 Dec 2013 17:12:14 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=401 Justine Sacco and Phil Robertson teach us Freedom of Speech is not freedom from consequence… The Internet erupted when A&E Duck Dynasty star, Phil Robertson’s GQ Magazine interview was published. In…

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Justine Sacco and Phil Robertson teach us Freedom of Speech is not freedom from consequence…

The Internet erupted when A&E Duck Dynasty star, Phil Robertson’s GQ Magazine interview was published. In it, he made some disturbing comments. He condemned homosexuality as sinful and compared the lifestyle to bestiality. In addition to being an armchair theologian, Robertson also seems to be a revisionist historian. He also claimed that the African-Americans he interacted with were content with their circumstances in the Jim Crow South, “pre-welfare and “pre-entitlements.” Because, who more qualified to speak on the behalf of the African-American experience in the Jim Crow South than he? 

Duck Dynasty is one of A&E’s most popular shows. As a result of those comments, A&E decided to suspend Robertson from the show indefinitely. That’s when the proverbial -ish hit the fan, causing a debate about Freedom of Speech, of all things oh, with a dash of a discussion on homophobia with a pinch of racism, for good measure.  Many Christian conservatives, fans of the show and Free Speech “advocates” decried Robertson’s suspension, calling it a violation of his First Amendment rights. Meanwhile, the rest of us were talking about Robertson’s homophobia and racism.

Robertson’s comments aren’t unlike any we’ve heard before, but thanks to social media, both the news of his comments and involuntary hiatus are more pervasive than without these platforms. Social media acts as water-cooler of sorts, allowing all of us to have an opinion – whether or not it’s solicited, which keeps conversations and debates surrounding issues like these brewing.

But let’s talk about this Freedom of Speech thing, shall we? It seems like the First Amendment is used as a way to excuse or justify polarizing, marginalizing comments, or those made in poor taste. Free speech advocates do have one thing right: it is true that as citizens in these United States, we all have a right to speak our piece. Yet, free speech advocates should also understand  those same “rights” are hardly ever free from consequences. This, especially when we’re talking about big media corporations looking to minimize risk to their bottom lines and the unforgiving media space.

But one thing I’m not hearing a lot of discussion about is: how may have A&E come to their decision, and so quickly? Of course homophobia (and in some instances, racism) are becoming more intolerable positions, but that’s not it. With just about anything, part of the answer lies in tracing the money. A&E is a network that answers to two huge media corporations: Hearst Corp. and Disney-ABC Television group. And, I’m willing to wager all that is in my bank account the network considered the loss of ad revenue as a result of Robertson’s comments, decided it wasn’t worth ignoring and suspended him indefinitely. Those offended parties are also parties who are consumers. It’s not just about the LGBTQ or minority “agenda” being served. Television has to generate revenue. If it doesn’t make dollars, it won’t make sense. A&E didn’t want the headache of trying to balance a VERY popular television show with what’s becoming an increasingly unpopular position in this society (homophobia). Consider the money (or potential for making money) and you’ll find that other networks (save TBN) would have likely made a similar decision. So, while Robertson had every right to express his thoughts on homosexuality, A&E also had every right to suspend him because of said thoughts.

It’s now being reported that the Robertson clan (no pun intended)  are strongly considering leaving the show, which would likely end the show’s successful run.

Just as we were heatedly debating Robertson’s suspension, a PR executive by the name of Justine Sacco, who works (worked?) for IAC (a huge internet company with over 50 brands including OKCupid and TicketMaster) created another internet PR disaster windstorm. Sacco recently came under fire for her controversial tweet while on a flight to Africa that read as follows:

Justine Sacco's Tweet
Justine Sacco’s Tweet

In typical internet fashion, the tweet went viral. In a matter of hours, Sacco’s Twitter mentions were in shambles and a hashtag was created mocking and critiquing her tone-deaf, insensitive statement (#HasJustineLandedYet). Twitter goons tracked Sacco’s flight from London, conducted a countdown and waited for the “eagle to land” – where she would inevitably find thousands of responses to her statement (and maybe even a pink slip).  A schadenfreude on steroids.

Before Justine Sacco could land in Africa, the New York Times was covering her tweet
Before Justine Sacco could land in Africa, the New York Times was covering her tweet

The story gained so much traction, that IAC’s operator, Barry Diller issued a statement, attempting to distance the company from Sacco’s remarks. The story was featured in the New York Times – all before Sacco could reach her destination. As they say, “it ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun,” and Sacco surely must be reeling from what could only be described as light-hearted lapse in judgement, at best. Yet, if anyone should have known better, it should have been her, which makes me question just how she got the gig at IAC in the first place. As a PR exec, Sacco’s job is to help craft and protect the image of her company, but because of comment(s) made on her personal social media account, she did the exact opposite.

And, while we’re talking Free Speech rights here, we can all just about agree that Sacco had the right to her remarks – whether or not they were meant to be humorous quips. Still, free speech advocates also have to remember that, when statements are offered up for public consumption (especially those posted on social media spaces), audiences have the right to question and critique said statements…aaand companies have the right to rid themselves of you. That’s no rights violation. That’s business. That’s how good ole American capitalism works.

Twitter meme #HasJustineLandedYet went viral
Twitter meme #HasJustineLandedYet went viral

I think it’s safe to say that whether you agree with the responses, Phil Robertson and Justine Sacco are two people who have learned this week, that freedom of speech does not absolve one from the freedom from consequence.

I’ve written before about the power of hashtags as tools of power and resistance, but these two particular stories reach beyond mere humorous hashtags and memes. It appears that the tide may be shifting. No longer are homophobic, racist, and other exclusionary statements and ideologies acceptable to the larger public. Even marginalized communities (#BlackTwitter, anyone?) have a voice, and they are using it loudly. It’s like an intolerance for discrimination and bigotry are starting to outweigh the tolerance for those things. Thanks to social media platforms like Twitter, privileged positions no longer get a silent pass. People are calling out things like homophobia, white supremacy, and other forms of exclusion on a larger scale, and I’m just crazy enough to believe that world may be changing because of it.

Says it all

But, it’s not enough to create viral hashtags and memes mocking ignorance. These two stories are glaring reminders that while demographics and ideologies are changing, similar change is happening too slowly where it matters. Media executives in the C-suites of these companies offering us fodder are still overwhelmingly homogenous. That means there aren’t enough people with diverse lived experiences and diverse worldviews making important decisions about the things that entertain and inform us. It’s being reflected in the foolishness we see (ie: Justine Sacco’s tweets), hear, and have to call out consistently. It’s high time companies start vetting people from diverse demographics, or pay the price big time: with continued PR disasters and lost revenue.

What do you think of the Phil Robertson debacle? Should he have been suspended? What about Justine Sacco? Should she get fired for her Twitter comments?

 

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Why I Can’t Rock With R. Kelly http://www.thewellreadherring.com/2013/12/16/cant-rock-r-kelly/ Tue, 17 Dec 2013 03:16:15 +0000 http://www.thewellreadherring.com/?p=394 Perhaps R. Kelly’s Black Panties should be re-named Black Pull-Ups? He may have penned the inspirational anthem of the 90s with “I Believe I Can Fly.” He may have helped you…

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Perhaps R. Kelly’s Black Panties should be re-named Black Pull-Ups?

He may have penned the inspirational anthem of the 90s with “I Believe I Can Fly.” He may have helped you conceive your kids with 12 Play. He may have had you Stepping in the Name of Love. He may even have a new album set to be in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 charts. But, I just…can’t rock with R. Kelly.

Ever since a sex rape tape of R. Kelly leaked with an under-aged girl (though he still denies it) and the criminal trial that followed (of which he was acquitted of charges), I gave up R. Kelly cold turkey. I mean, I went from belting out “I Believe I Can Fly” along with the children at 8th grade graduations and Youth Sundays, to scurrying off the dance floor at every gathering every time Step In the Name of Love came on (and I loooove to 2-step, ya’ll).

He’s a pedophile. And, really, unabashedly so it seems. I know what you’re thinking: this song and dance is old news. Didn’t we read some of the same things in the early 2000s? Yes. But, with the release of a highly anticipated album Black Panties just last week (and reading a re-hash of his sordid past on Village Voice), I just couldn’t help myself. It’s certainly not R. Kelly’s first release since the allegations “died down,” but it is the one album that apparently is reminiscent of his sexually-laced, mega-hit 12 Play. Because it seems nearly all of us forget (or ignored) the fact that this is the same man who was under investigation by the Chicago PD for inappropriate sexual activities with under-aged girls. The same man who allegedly married the late R&B singer Aaliyah, falsifying the marriage documents because she wasn’t even 18 yet. The same man who paid off his young victims, leaving their lives forever altered and destroyed.

It’s well-documented that R. Kelly likes ‘em young. No, really…march up to the Cook County courthouse in Illinois and check those documents out. They’re public record. If you can’t…well, here are some documents to get you started.

It’s clear he preys on young women whose brains aren’t fully developed and who cannot give legal consent. Young women, who may look like grown women but are really impressionable children. Young women who have effectively been rendered voiceless by our collective apathy toward him and his proclivity for them. You add money, manipulation and star power, and you have a perfect cocktail for exploitation, and that’s just what R. Kelly seems to have pulled off all these years – all the while scarring the lives of young women.

I just can’t help but think that MOST of his music (especially those of the bedroom crooning variety) is inspired by his lustful thoughts about underaged girls. Like, the lyrics to “Check the Vibe,” (Little cute Aaliyah’s got it?! She was 12 when that song was made, ya’ll). Or, perhaps the title to Aaliyah’s debut album, Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number, which was largely written and produced by R. Kelly. And those aren’t even the most egregious or explicit examples.

But, he clearly gets a pass partly because he’s a huge R&B star who is probably the reason why most of the younger members of Gen Y are even here. He’s the often-conflicted, uber-talented artist whose music can move and inspire. Perhaps we tolerate his antics because he reminds us of the Marvin Gayes and the Rick James’ of the world. But, his demons are different – and arguably, more damaging because there’s little doubt in my mind that his “art” is inspired by his predatory behavior.

R. Kelly is so problematic for me because, much of the time, the Black community’s attitude toward him (and those like him) is disturbingly laissez-faire. We make jokes about his sordid past. We even give him the side-eye. Yet, we don’t hold him nearly as accountable as we should.

The way we let R. Kelly make it mirrors the way we often treat some of those in our family or friend groups: we ignore the damaging impact of their abuse. We know something ain’t quite right, yet we never really investigate the problem fully. We sweep allegations and maybe even outright eye witness confessions under the rug. We allow them around our young daughters and sons. We ignore or try to rationalize red flags. We invite them into our lives and in our homes and unbeknownst to us (and perhaps because of that), we render their victims silent. Each time we celebrate the predator, we further degrade the prey and give them permission to keep doing what they’re doing.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why so many cases of sexual abuse and assault go unreported. According to RAINN, only 3 out of 100 rapists ever serve jail time (and R. Kelly is one of those who slipped through the judicial cracks). What’s more, 60% of young Black women are sexually abused before the age of 18, but most of these crimes go also unreported – often because of the negative stereotypes that surround young black women and their sexuality.

Statistics for sexual assault, according to RAINN

Ask anyone whether they endorse the sexual abuse of young women (and young men), or anybody, for that matter, and 99.9% of us would enthusiastically reply with a “No!” Yet, what are we doing when we don’t advocate for the young victims of sexual abuse in our every day lives? How often do we call some of our young women “fast-tailed girls”? How often do we listen to the stories of young girls who were seduced and manipulated  into engaging in sexual activities with men old enough to be their fathers and dismissively declare that they “get what they deserve” simply because they “look/act too grown”…even though they aren’t at the age of consent? How about we marginalize the predators and hold them legally and criminally accountable because they should know better, instead of the teenaged girls who may be looking for attention and love in all the wrong places – girls who may not be sophisticated enough to understand the ways they are exploited?

A great Twitter discussion on Fast-Tailed Heffas
A great Twitter discussion on “Fast-Tailed Girls” started by Mikki Kendall

Far be it from me to dictate or critique any one else’s musical tastes. To be clear, this is not an indictment of anyone who happens to listen to R. Kelly’s music. I just can’t, and for good reason, I think. We all are walking contradictions and as cultural consumers, everything that we enjoy won’t be all straight-laced or won’t make sense. But this? There’s nothing I can say that would justify my enjoyment of R. Kelly’s music. I just can’t. Not when so many young women (who look like me) are exploited without the wherewithal or the advocacy that they deserve, and when (in the words of journalist and music critic Jim DeRogatis):

 “The saddest fact I’ve learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.”

If you’re like me and won’t be supporting R. Kelly’s newest album, but you happen to care about rape and other forms of sexual abuse, I suggest you check out this list of organizations that are working to end such atrocities. The list was compiled by writer Britni Danielle, who was tired of just ranting about R. Kelly and wanted to add a call-to-action to the ongoing discussion.

What are your thoughts on R. Kelly? Can you separate the man from the music?

 

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