Charlottesville, Durham, & Me

I can’t say that I’m appalled by the events that have happened within the past week.  I can’t even say that I’m disgusted. Is it fair to say that something (such as racism) is what it is but maintain an appropriate level of concern and desire for change? I hope so; because that’s where I am.  

Just throwing some things out here…
I find it interesting that people in Charlottesville were injured; a life has been lost; but, no one [in the media] has referred to what happened in Charlottesville as a “riot.” I personally believe that the media should be held more accountable for the word play they use when sharing coverage. If people of color were to have a rally turn violent it would be referred to as a riot. What was so different about what happened in Charlottesville that it didn’t meet criteria?  

Throughout our president’s election I have held the notion that he is not a racist. I believe(d) he was just someone who never really had to filter his mouth because of his wealth.  I also concluded that he speaks of those of lower classes as he does because he has probably never been “exposed” to them or had to relate to them. During his administration, Obama caught a lot of slack from blacks and whites. Some whites were disrespectful because he was black. Some Blacks were disrespectful because they did not feel that the president was doing anything for “us.” The president is supposed to act unbiasedly.  However,  as I consider President Trump’s comment regarding alt-right I haven’t been able to distinguish if he was acting unbiasedly or if he condones what happened. At minimum, there is a way that one can show disdain for someone else without harming others. Why wasn’t that expressed from the platform? What happened to the twitter fingers?

From VA to NC…
I can’t lie. I guess, in this sense, I could be misinterpreted as unappreciative. Don't get me wrong; I love to see others standing up against racism but I wasn’t 100% happy to see the monument removed in Durham. I was glad to see that there are people beyond the black race that recognize injustice. I was glad to see that there are some, other than the oppressed, that are outraged and want to do something about it.  I was even happy to see that there are some that are willing to stand “for” us. I just want to see some stand with us. I’ll explain that thought process in a sec., but let me state this [first] for those that don’t understand the negative connotations associated with public display of rebel civil war leaders: it is an exalted reminder of oppression, bigotry, violence, discrimination, and dehumanization.  A statue erected in their honor is beyond disrespectful to those who are descendants of such dehumanization. Some people of the dominant culture suggest that former racism and slavery should be forgotten.  Confederate monuments and paraphernalia make this difficult. It is troubling to see and hear people that can’t understand that. I understand that we should be a people who are proud of our heritages. However, that does not mean that we have to embrace the negativity with it. While I previously stated my thoughts on the forceful demonstration and removal of the statue, I do not in anyway discredit our governor for his decision to remove the monuments. I appreciate it. 

So, back to standing with us...
There are some things about being, not just black but a minority of any race, that people who are not involved in the group would not get: racial profiling, stereotypes, discrimination, oppression, cruelty and etc. Because one does not know how it feels per se, let those that do, do the explaining. Hence my statements regarding standing with us versus for us. Allow the oppressed to have a voice while working together to support the cause. This means taking stands beyond public platforms and using the opportunities afforded to you, but denied by others, to make a difference. I was doing some reading about the heroin “crisis” and came across this quote: “‘Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as the nation’s drug czar. “They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/heroin-war-on-drugs-parents.html).’ ” If you have these type of influences and are willing to use them, this is standing with us.

We’ve made a lot of progress but there is more progress to be made. I’m Here for it.

Peace,
Marisha

The Day I Saw what I Said

As an adolescent, I had a few friends from the church that used to call me “missionary.”  I wanted to be one so badly. It was an inside joke of some sort. Years went by and I graduated from high school. I forgot all about the title. The desire to help others, to this day, has only intensified since then. I called an old friend to help me out with some braids and she chuckled as she asked me this: “Do you remember when we used to call you “missionary?” [Laughter increasing] “Now you’re going to Africa.” The irony. I’m not the “name and claim it” type (another blog for another day) but as a wordsmith, it is beyond impossible not to understand the power of words. I’ve seen it throughout my life but there was something about my friend’s reminder that sent ripples of excitement through my soul. This was a week before I was to leave. Spare me a few minutes to rewind a little.

The past 2 quarters of the year have been challenging in nearly every aspect possible. God’s grace is magnified when I look back. The departure date for the trip was July the 15th. 3 weeks before the departure date I had to approach God because I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared to go.  I believed that it was God’s will for me to go but there was a disconnect-one that I could not safely ignore.  God quickly addressed the disconnect and I was ready. I boarded a plane in Raleigh-Durham, traveled for 25 hours,  and July 16th I landed in Entebbe, Uganda.  We walked out of the airport and were greeted by smiling strangers that seemed familiar; not because I had ever spoken to them, but because of the love of God I felt. I felt their love for God.

The love transcended language barriers, customs, and culture.  I attended church services where I had no clue what they were singing but the presence of God was undeniable. I experienced people so humble that it was embarrassing when I considered my thought life and the contents of my heart. These people had a passion for God that challenged me to seek Him more. Obviously, because I need[ed] him, but even more because it finally clicked that salvation did more than secure eternal life. Life as I know it is bigger than me.

I was apart of a conference, a workshop, a revival, and an open air crusade. I did not see one Ugandan participate rush out of church or concerned with the length of time we were there. I stayed in a guest house in a village called “Kipirio.” It’s located in Tororo district. I became appreciative of everyday commodities. I ate food that I would have declined in America; not because I’m sadiddy, but because I was always a “picky” eater. I developed a new love for children. I see evangelism in ways that I never have.  I got a sweeter taste of destiny. The people of Magodesi and Tororo District have been a greater blessing than they could ever know. I’m in love with the manifestation of the spoken word and I’m inspired to do a lot more “saying.” 

God is awesome.
 "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,"-Ephesians 3:20

The Struggles of the Working/Middle Class(es)

There was a time that there were three classes: lower, middle, and upper.  Now, there are subtypes such as working, lower-middle, and etc. I’ve done some research regarding my income and come to learn that I fall within the range of “middle” class.  In the midst of research, I also came to learn that “working” class is typically referred to those who make their earnings via manual labor, also known as “blue collar” professions. Let’s not proceed any further on this topic without the understanding that this isn’t a post to slander any income class.  However, there are some things that I’ve learned along the way. One of the most recent learning experiences is the struggle of the middle/working class.

Fresh out of college, no job experience, I was a frustrated member of the lower class-no questions asked. Jobs that offered higher salaries wanted experience (but wouldn’t provide any), and as a single woman without children, taxes were the hungry hippos in my life. Although I have never received public assistance, I believe it can be a huge asset to those who need and qualify for it. I’m so sure of this because I remember a time that dining out was a luxury.  In order for my “adulting” to be effective, I had to cover the necessities; after the necessities were covered, I had a few dollars to spare. There were two things that I learned during that time: 1) education without experience has more “social” weight that economic and 2) a greater appreciation for having “enough.”

Later, I gained more experience and a better understanding of what I wanted out of life. I was ready for my next move.  I transitioned to a job that placed me in a higher tax bracket with job skills that were sure to enhance the future I was dreaming of.  Biggie had it right when he dropped “more money, more problems.”  The more money I made, the higher taxes were. So, I have become “middle” class with continued struggles because I’m fighting against several hundreds of dollars taken out of my bi-weekly income before I ever see it. Years later, I am still frustrated because I have experienced two classes within two economic systems (lower and middle) and while one experience has been far better than the other I still boil over with frustration at times because the middle class seems to bear invisible burdens. The lower class receives various forms of assistance while upper class has no need for benefits but get them anyway. In essence, our economy has formed two extremes and you have to conform to one or the other to thrive. Isn’t that something?

Peace,
Risha

The Heroin "Crisis": Where's the War on Drugs?

I googled two drugs this morning followed by “crisis.” One drug was crack and the other was heroin. There was something interesting that I noticed. Heroin was paired with crisis more frequently than crack. One of the first and only instances that I saw “crack crisis” was directly related to “Black America.” I’ve read several articles and interviews regarding the Heroin crisis. It seems that the crisis is affecting people of all ages. I’ve seen responses from professionals in an array of fields including the paramedics, law enforcement, and social services. Some states have declared the crisis as a state of emergency, providing funds to aid for treatment. Police officers have been said to guide those who overdose or are caught with paraphernalia to treatment centers as a diversion to arrests.

I’m reading the testimonies of families who were grieved to learn that their loved ones died from overdosing. There have been appeals to government officials and other authority entities to request treatment opposed to incarceration or other punitive actions. Drug addiction is an uphill battle that has taken numerous lives. I empathize with families who have watched their loved ones’ lives diminish before their eyes. However, I can’t shake the question: Where’s the war on drugs? Mandatory sentencing? The intentional negative connotations of Heroin use? There are none. The dominant culture, or as some call it “silent majority” is feeling the same shockwaves as those from the crack epidemic and all of a sudden society becomes wordsmiths while touching on addiction. We’ve seen it several times: refugees versus looters, riots versus protests, now epidemic versus crisis.

“Black America” has been handed duds since there was a so-called black America. There are still grandparents raising children of parents addicted to crack. There are still family members grieving the loss of their loved ones to crack. There are children in foster care as a direct link to the crack devastation. In fact, there are still prisoners incarcerated from the selling and distribution of crack. While there is treatment for this new crisis what will become of manufacturers and/or distributors of the drugs? What policies will be implemented to tackle this issue head on? And then there’s my most pressing question: where does “Black America” fall in all of this?

Peace,
Risha

Beauty for Ashes: 1 Year Later

I saw a facebook memory recently.  It was a post announcing that I would be releasing my first book.  My mind “timehopped” to how I felt when I posted the cover art for the project. I was literally nauseous. Not that I find one type of nausea more enjoyable than another but, this was a terrifying feeling. I posted the cover art as a form of accountability for myself to eliminate cold feet.  From there I continued the final writing stages and I spoke to God rather frequently regarding preparing my heart and the hearts of the readers. I wouldn’t dare try to front like there wasn’t any excitement in the mix because there was some of that too.

Even as I write there are so many memories flashing that it’s hard to decide which I should describe next. I’ll begin with the process. I was writing the book towards the end of 2015 but got distracted. Once the distraction was gone I put all of my energy and focus into finishing the book.  I was done with everything around April/ Mayish. After that, I submitted it to Ms. Green and we began to talk about book sizes, the number of pages, what I would need… the “logistics,” if you will.  A while later she sent me a screenshot of the anticipated delivery date and the countdown began.  I got home from work the evening they arrived and slid my box into the house. I sat the box in my thinking chair and walked the floor for a couple of seconds. I opened it and there they were: incarnations of my vision, dreams, nightmares, and testament. I was numb-in a good kind of way. It’s like a shock wave came over me. Once I collected my thoughts, I thanked the Most High, laid hands on the box, and prayed for the readers and path of those books.

I began working on getting the pre-orders out and pubbing online.  I think my first post regarding the book was something like… “so these came in the mail today.” Not long after that I had a book launch party. I joke with myself as I look back at the pictures from that event because that was the day I forgot I had a gap. And then life resumed. My indignation was tried and hard times revisited.  Ultimately I learned that convictions are great but they only really exist when we follow through with them. I saw times that I challenged women to know their worth and couldn’t calculate my own. I found that forgiving has challenges of it’s own; I realized the idolatry was more pressing for me in other forms that sleeping. The craziest thing I learned is that every wound seems healed until it’s pressed. I have more soft spots than I knew.

Nearly 1 year later, Beauty for Ashes has been published and I’m still making trades with God… still seeking healing, still seeking growth, and still seeking his redemption.  I’ve come to see that beauty for ashes is not just a one time thing in my life. The exchange of beauty for ashes is constant. It just happens at different times for different reasons. Making a spectacle of one’s self is not easy. Transparency has its risks. Submission to God is no cake walk. But I’m here for it.  

Peace,
Risha

Life Hacks for Depression

Depression is something else! It's something that many people have wrestled with at some point. Either past or present. There are some who are unaware that they are or have been depressed. There are others who are in denial. I’ve heard some argue that they don’t get Depressed. My interpretation of such is that they may not necessarily know what they've experienced; however, I believe everyone encounters Depression at some point in their life.  Depression tends to have a negative connotation within some cultures. Thus, some people are reluctant to share their experiences.

There are several signs of Depression. It can be an isolated incident or a recurrent one.  It can be for a short period of time or over an extended period. It ranges in severity. Some of the symptoms include: feelings of loss/emptiness/sadness/worthlessness/excessive guilt, loss of interest/motivation, a change in sleep pattern-either excessive sleeping or the lack thereof, a change in appetite-either overeating or no desire to, fatigue or loss of energy, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, continued thoughts of death of feeling that one would be “better off” dead. The symptoms can be experienced in a combination of ways.

The good news is Depression doesn’t have to be long-term or recurring. It’s a matter of thinking and will power. A person has to be willing to get past Depression and not be victim to it.  They also have to change their way of thinking. Negative thinking is a sure way of landing in the cesspool of Depression which, by the way, sometimes does not just stop at a "feeling." 

Take a look at a few life hacks for Depression:

  • Positive thinking-thought life is E V E R Y T H I N G! Thinking on the good things in life improves your mood and overall outlook

  • Positive expression-finding a way to communicate thoughts and feelings in a healthy manner; releasing feelings opposed to suppressing them (my favorite is art-written, visual, and audio)

  • A solid confidant- “one good person” you can talk to with confidence in their ability to keep secrecy (and possibly provide sound insight)

  • Guard your heart! Be leery of negativity and do not allow yourself to be around it.

These are just a few hacks. There are countless others. Find one (two, or three) that work(s) for you and start your process with kicking Depression!

 

Peace,

Marisha

My Truth about Small Beginnings

I saw a post on IG recently that read “every great artists started as an amateur.” This spoke volumes because I am notorious for focusing on final products.  I remember when I began writing spoken word, my brother told me that there was two keys to being a dope poet: “prayer and practice.” I secretly thought surely that could not be the foundation of his excellence; there had to be something else he was doing to produce the leaps and bounds in his art like he was.  Time has backed his claim and I have come to see it true in my own life.

I’m a vivid dreamer: night dreams, day dreams, or visions.  I dream big.  This is where my conflict comes in with small beginnings.  It can be discouraging to “see” yourself doing something grand, or expecting something grand and the results yield the opposite.  It has happened to me plenty of times: planning events and the turnout is not as big or aiming for fundraising and gaining small profits, anticipating mass support and landing with a faithful few.  I believe God is an artist: a visual artist, a writer, a poet, a musician, a designer, a sculptor, the list continues. There is nothing that I’ve seen from the foundation of the earth on its axis to the complexities of our creation that was not done in excellence.  Our projects should be the same. This is where it has become sticky for me in the past.

Because of my desire for excellence I have passed up projects because I did not have the resources.  I have later kicked myself because I despised small beginnings. Small beginnings, from a personal perspective, have caused me to be humble. More than likely, I would be feeling myself if everything always lined up the way I dreamed.  They have also caused me to appreciate the “come up” or, “progress,” if you will. They fuel hope, provide an opportunity to think clearly without being overwhelmed and open several doors for learning opportunities that I would not otherwise have had if  I walked directly into everything sitting in my lap.  Small beginnings have given me an opportunity to see God’s power, wisdom, and plans for my life. It amazes me when I think I know which direction God is coming from and he comes from somewhere I didn’t know existed PLUS some details that never crossed my mind.

n a nutshell, don’t be afraid to dream, don’t be afraid to step out, and don’t be afraid of small beginnings. Cultivate what you have from where you are and let God do the rest.

Peace,
Marisha

 

Seasons and Cyles, Cycles and Seasons

2016 has been an interesting year for me.  It was far better than the other few years before.  It was full of untapped potential. That is probably the most annoyingly noteworthy thought about 2016: the amount of greatness afforded to me that I did not use. Even though there have been moments of frustration and wasted chances-as well as wasted resources, (time, energy, mental space, and money), there have also been milestones and life changing events to take place. I’m grateful for that.

This year I learned a lot about myself as well as a lot of lessons.  I took writing in my journal to another level and the results were amazing.  I noticed weaknesses that I did not know that I had.  I realized how some of my weaknesses were related.  I was revisited by “giants” in my life that I had not previously beheaded.  I evaluated and reevaluated friendship, kinship, and love. I developed a new theory: the reason the devil doesn’t show you a way out of his traps is because he knows God warned against it in the first place. Yet, the biggest lesson that I learned was how seasons and cycles are not synonyms.  

Sure, seasons are a part  of a cycle but they in and of themselves are not cycles. A season has its time of activity before there is a transition into another time of new activity. A season begins changing and preparing the moment it begins.  A cycle can occur during different seasons but that does not make it a season.   There were things in my life like repeated [failed] tests or self-inflicted opposition that I misinterpreted as seasons.  These were cycles because I was not putting things to death; I rocked them to sleep until I wanted them re-awakened. How foolish! Because I am officially hip to what I’ve been doing wrong. Some things have to change.

I never wanted to be the “new year, new me” type, but…follow me. December 31, 1862 the slaves were on edge.  The next matter of hours and moments were monumental for them.  Every thing that they knew about their lives would be changing. I’m sure it was exciting but what about the other emotions they may have been feeling? Nervous. Perhaps, scared. Curious. Grateful. Skeptical. Maybe a few were in disbelief. This countdown was not just a joyful invitation into a New Year.  It was a countdown to freedom. Freedom to liberties like reading, travel, the right to choices-even the right to say “no,” freedom from beatings and breeding, and a slew of other things.  

That is what this countdown to 2017 is like for me. A joyful invitation to freedom from cycles and a launch into seasons with progress. Similar to how I suppose the slaves must have felt, I am nervous, sometimes scared or skeptical, curious, and excited.  Truthfully, fear and skepticism, would have me stay where I am.  There are things that I can point out and say well at least on this plantation I know I have this or that, but there’s land and rights for miles and miles past my limited vision. I choose freedom. Join me.

Peace,

Marisha

[From] The Mind of a Savage Woman

I’m going to do my best to approach this unbiasedly.  As a wordsmith I pay close attention to words: trends, wordplay, context, things that are said without being said, etc. I remember when something was said to be bad, it was supposed to be interpreted as good. (Ie. “Girl those shoes are bad.”) A person that is “dope” is awesome, when in the dominant culture, drugs are referred to as “dope” with negative connotation. “The B word” was once offensive but now  comes in the form of a double negative “Bad B*tch.”  That’s a woman that has it all together and is especially attractive.  The saying “times are changing” is everlasting. The role and characteristics of women has changed throughout the centuries and as of now it has become agreeable and respected for women to be “savages.”

A savage is a woman that overcomes heartbreak and becomes a heartbreaker.  She may be manipulative, a player, “sexually liberated,” a user, so-on, so-forth.  She’s the embodiment of Steven Harvey’s concept “think like a man, act like a woman.”  It’s disturbing that women have to use these types of mindsets as guards for the heart.  A savage is a woman that can enter a relationship or relationships without emotional commitment and return the favor to the stereotypical cheating man.  While on the surface, a woman who can engage with a man without emotional ties seems praiseworthy, it should be alarming.  The “savage” women is actually a bitter one.

Bitterness presents itself in many forms: grudges, vindication, anger, Depression, pettiness, [covert] fear, jealousy-the list is extensive.  One of the more saddening facts about the bitter or savage woman is how she seems to fail to see the damaged condition she’s in.  Woman was created for the pleasure of a man; not because a woman is a second-class human, but because the man was created first. God is a God of love. I honestly believe that humanity was created to love because man took on attributes of God.  I further believe, it is our makeup as women to love and be loved, nurture, and wallow in the strength of a man.  Unfortunately, the greater representation of men do not always present character that would make a woman comfortable in falling back into the words (or “promises” of a man).  My point: we as women were not created to be savages.  It is unnatural.  We are literally not built for it.  Although the savage mindset is one that seems to be easier and is widely accepted these days, it’s unhealthy and devastating to emotional growth.  All in all, I don’t think there is one savage that can step forward and truthfully express happiness in her state of fragment.  Why is fragment even mentioned? Because a bitter woman is a broken one.  A woman that gives her body but not her heart is only giving a piece of herself.  A woman that gives her time but not her attention is giving a piece of herself.  A woman that offers portions of herself to someone but keeps other portions to herself cannot fully experience love and that’s what the savage woman wants; to control how deep things go and walk away victimizing without being victimized herself. Why? Because the savage woman is a bitter woman with patchwork and self-medicated wounds.

My theory: The newer generations are doing too much. No one wants to show their cards or be hurt.  Former hurts are released because forgiving and forgetting is seen as weak.  Commitment is taboo. Standards are despised. Love is misused and and altogether misrepresented. Relationship goals are based on social media posts and reality shows. People have recreated a facet of God that was here before we ever existed (love). Relationships have been manufactured based on trends.  Pride fuels heartbreak and revenge. However, I can assure the savage woman that life will be much more beautiful when you heal and and move forward with full knowledge of true love and a willingness to embrace it.  I really want to “take it there” and mention the role of the irresponsible man in a bitter woman’s life but I’ll save that for “another day.”  Ladies don’t be afraid to love and be loved.

Peace,

Risha

My Two Cents: The Christian Citizen and Politics

My post wouldn’t follow the pattern if I did not lace it with transparency.  I am greatly disturbed by the election as well as the results. It’s not so much that I am concerned with the violence and “racism” that may occur as some predict.  If we allow truth to further prevail there has always been an uncanny way about our government and politics.  I honestly don’t want to make this a “race thing” but let’s skip down our country’s timeline: there was slavery, American-based concentration camps, Jim Crow, the infiltration and destruction of Black leaders, terrorist groups trained by the US government, school-to-prison pipelines, the list continues.  Television has a way of distorting reality; it makes us believe that what we see “live” is real time when there are some conspiracies and actions that were in the makings behind the scenes before the media is ever involved.  Our government has some mess with them. Do I want to “go back to Africa?” Heck no; but let’s face the facts.    
 
My concern with politics and Christianity is the fine line and sole shades of black and white.  I have found myself at crossroads in every election because I have pondered questions such as “who would Jesus vote for?” “Would God agree with the morals of this person or that?”  I have written names in because I did not want to find myself choosing between the lesser of two evils.  I don’t know it all, nor do I proclaim to be “woke” but I have learned a couple of things about voting. While prayer is a fundament of the Christian life there has to also be action.  This concept is true on many levels. First, let’s consider this: what does not voting do?  How does not choosing a candidate help the cause other than help clear the “Christian conscience” of not putting an “evil” representative in office?  While we walk away (myself included) with a clear conscience the election continues and a candidate is chosen.   I understand why it is acceptable to choose a person that reflects Christian values.  I am pro-life and I do not condone same-sex marriages or transgender bathrooms.  I have found myself riddled when a candidate matches my beliefs ONLY in those areas;  I am a social worker by trade so I understand public assistance systems very well.  I have worked with all populations ranging from children to geriatric so I have seen the needs that exist.  I realize that “welfare” has a negative connotation.  I also realize that it is abused but I have concerns with politicians who want to “do away” with them or minimize them.  There are people in our society with dire needs; some children go to school to eat the only meals they will have for the day. Some people seek medical attention with benefits they would not have without the welfare system. I believe it is a disservice to the elderly population when they work all of their lives to live in a nursing home that requires they eliminate all of their resources for health care and $50 a month.   

So in essence what I’m saying is, it’s great that there are candidates that reflect Christian morals but what happens to morals when it’s time to better society and help one another?  On the other extreme, we have candidates that reflect Godless morals but help the people [more] than the other.  So what is a Christian to do?   Ultimately, I believe that we do have a responsibility to vote, and to do so responsibly but if the only time that we speak up about the [despicable] laws of the land is when it’s time to hit the polls, then there was a problem as a Christian citizen before any candidate ever took the podium. I’m still patting my way through this but I’m simply not satisfied with laws enforced while my way of life is negatively impacted because the rich are richer and poor poorer in efforts to make America great again.

One thing I’m certain of: “Donald Trump” has become “President Trump” and we are to pray for those in authority. #AddHimToYourPrayerList
Peace,
Risha

Writing to Heal

I’ve always been better at expressing myself in written form.  I’ve also always found comfort in writing my feelings; while my primary purpose is to encourage readers to consider the power of writing I have to throw a couple of things out there as there is a “pro” and “con” to nearly everything.  The biggest “con” to keeping a journal is the possibility of a breach in confidentiality; as a child I cringed at the thought of someone reading “my diary” with the mini padlock that anyone could pick with a hairpin.  I still cringe at the thought as an adult.  There is freedom when one can express their innermost thoughts and feelings without any inhibition; in fact, I don’t believe journaling can be 100% effective without “the nitty gritty.”  It’s in these types of lines and writing that we are able to remove masks and lie back in honesty. Otherwise, we may as well continue walking around in hiding.

A journal helps keep a timeline for one’s life’s experiences (if it’s kept up). I can go back through my journals and recall where I was in my life at the time that I was writing.  It shows me how God brought me through adversity.  I am able to notice cycles and habits in my life-good or bad. I am able to share revelation from God with myself in my journal too. My journals have served as mirrors in my life: they have shown me the wicked crevices in my heart, they have shown me my struggles, they have also shown me some good things about myself.  I can process my thoughts. It clears up “static...” unclear areas that, sometimes, I did not know were even there. It’s similar to connecting the dots.

The healing that comes from [honest/transparent] writing is phenomenal. It provides a source of closure.  It allows the release of feelings that would otherwise be trapped inside. The healing is thought-provoking and can lead to healing that a person may not know that they needed.  For those that are into therapy and mental health services, it is a positive coping skill.  All that is needed is consistency and transparency.  Write the good, bad, and ugly, and watch how things begin to unfold.

Why #NoLivesMatter

I believe it’s human nature to gravitate towards people we identify with. It’s not always physical characteristics; it can be beliefs, political parties, tax brackets, age groups, and etc.  This is what has prompted me to consider #NoLivesMatter closely.  Some may hate the very thought of such a concept but the issues that we are seeing today present all the facts.  Based on my observation, everyone wants to be acknowledged.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting acknowledgement.  It becomes problematic when one group (or person) cannot allow another group (or person) to “be great.”   There is a growing controversy between #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter.  In the wake of cries for justice some believe that identifying the significance of black lives is an attempt to omit the importance of other lives.  The very fact that lives matter has to be mentioned should raise concerns.  Our society is self-centered.  It seems that no life can matter without being interpreted as a threat towards another. The problem with “lives mattering” is the absence of balance and consideration for others. As long as humanity continues in self-centered perspectives and actions, no lives will ever matter with the exception of an individual’s own.  We were prepackaged to love and be loved.  Here’s my take:

 

-EACH AND EVERY PERSON MATTERS. When a person says “black lives matter” it does not mean that black lives are solely important.  It expresses the sentiment that some of the injustices we’ve seen were or are racially biased.  Additionally, while we communicate black lives matter, we as African Americans should ensure that we do not focus solely on “black lives” because social injustice is occurring across the board.

 

-There is a vicious cycle occurring.  Citizens become afraid of Police. Police get on edge or “leery” of citizens. Citizens distrust the justice system.  The system distrusts citizens. Does that justify the “trigger finger syndrome?” Absolutely not. But I believe that we should consider two things at minimum: (1) Not all cops are bad cops (2) when they hit the clock for their shifts they want to return home to their lives and families in one piece.

 

-We all have a role to play:
    Parents have responsibilities to teach their children how to respond to particular situations. This statement does not mean that teaching has not taken place.

    We have to know our rights.  There’s no time for assumptions or DIY responses from social media.

    We have to be consistent. What’s happening should not be dropped when the media drops it.

    We have to be informed.  Please understand that the media does its job well. Respond to facts. Let’s not get caught in race wars, hidden agendas, or fads.

    Lastly, although I know people don’t want to read this word: pray.  Pray for justice. Pray for wisdom in how to interact with others.  Pray for government officials to act with wisdom and integrity.  Pray for wisdom in how to promote and execute change.  Is prayer all that we need? Heavens no! But prayer should be in the forefront of our responses as it should be anywhere else (He will direct our paths in all of our ways if we acknowledge him).

Everyone is not going to acknowledge, accept, or agree that the bloodshed is senseless and inhumane.  That’s okay. Stay focused and play your part in bringing about change. Rise above division and fads. Make love and share it.

Why we Should Love Side Chicks

I do not condone infidelity in any way shape or form, but there are some things about side chicks that should be considered the next time we blast or glorify them.  Let's have an educational moment; a side chick is a woman who is "the other woman" in a relationship.  Here are a few names: Monica Lewinski, Olivia Pope, or "Barbara"-for those who need to go a little further back in references ("Woman to Woman").

Society has really distorted common principles.  Presently, it's acceptable and a form of bragging rights to be a "savage"or cold-hearted.  Love has been used as a means to manipulate, control, abuse, and other things so much that people claim to no longer want it.  Marriages are no longer sacred.  Monogamous relationships are no longer respected.  A man is respected for having more than one significant other.  Nowadays, women boast about "stealing" someone else's man or having their resources provided from another household.

There are two extremes to every point of view so let's take a moment and look at the other extreme.  Side chicks are typically frowned upon for being classless, home wreckers, or worse.  I believe we were created to love.  We all want love whether we are willing to admit it or not.  This includes the side chick. I do not have stats or surveys but somewhere down the line, the disdain for love has evolved from hurt or having an incorrect understanding of it.  Some women want it because they fear serious monogamous relationships of their own, some reek of misery and want to spread it to others, some have low self-esteem and look for validation in being pursued by a man. 

I'm not saying that side relationships should be accepted or encouraged.  I'm saying that we should consider that everyone needs love.  We as women should build each other up: point out beautiful attributes about each other, encourage each other, and share words of wisdom.  We should respect ourselves and each other.  Men (who also seem to seek a form of validation) should consider the emotions of both women involved and think of how their decisions impact others.

Case and point: there's nothing cute about having or being O.P.P.

There's a passage in Matthew 22 in which a lawyer tries Jesus (in a bad way) and asks which of the 10 commandments is greater.  Jesus tells him two commandments: to love God with our entire beings and to love others as we love ourselves.  When we love God with our entire beings and love others as we love ourselves, we won't violate any of the 10 commandments or do anything that would hurt ourselves or anyone else.  It's simple: The side chick should love herself because she deserves it.  Once she masters it, she can love others.  We as onlookers should love the side chick because she needs it.

Two Worlds Collide

May 31, 2016, will be a day that two worlds collide.  I tried to keep them apart as long as I could but this moment is imminent.  The fact that there will be no casualties is a bonus, but it doesn't make me any less anxious.  May 31, 2016, my first book entitled "Beauty for Ashes: The Introduction" will be released.  I use the phrase "two worlds collide" because it means my world of semi-introversion will collide with the world of others: family, friends, colleagues, consumers-everyone.  Quite a few people ask me what I like to do "after hours;" my response is always the same: "writing and sharing poetry."  This project will allow people into my journey, one that was well guarded.  Make no mistake, my book is not a "tell all" but, it shares my thoughts, my heart, life's lessons of tough love, my observations, and plenty more.  I've gone through multiple cycles of giving myself the third degree: "Am I ready?" "Am I dope enough?" Of course, the "what if's" have a series of their own.  

I don't want to give too much away but... It's comprised of my testimony, my struggles, my fears, my outlook on life including society and humanity, as well as my relationship with God.  There are a few excerpts from my journals.  Some of the topics covered are Christian living, greed, love, forgiveness, maturity, and etc. There's something for everyone, I promise.  Although getting to this point was not easy-I'm looking forward to sharing. 

Every now and again I do something and I experience a form of confirmation; it's like my heart gives me a nod of approval.  Despite the barrage of fear and worries I've experienced since I began to focus on this book, once I completed the project my heart gave me "the nod."  Should I never learn of any other gift from God, I know and will be forever grateful for my gift to write.  Sometimes I write purely from emotion.  Sometimes I get the pleasure of being the scribe.  He tells me what to write and I do as He says.  I can only hope that every reader gains more love and adoration of God after reading my book.  I also hope that it sparks hope and catapults others into healing and growth.  I now realize that God wills for me (and you) to be whole.  There are some cracks holes that He's had to fill.  There's breaking and healing that I've had to and continue to experience.   My relationship with God is a journey; I've had my first taste of redemption and in the midst of growing further in His grace and love I have purposed in my heart that I want to bring as many people along as I can. 

Care to join me?

A Letter to my Younger Self

Dear Marisha,

You’re such a sweet heart… I wish you would allow more people to see it.  Imagine how different things would be if people knew how much you laugh and joke behind closed doors and circles!  Sometimes life has a way of hitting hard. Don’t lose that smile. Don’t lose the life in your eyes.  We both know that parents don’t know everything, but they know a great deal. Listen to them. It will keep you out of harm’s way.  It’s imperative that you get to know and accept yourself as soon as you can.  This will prevent you from being put in boxes, seeking validation and acceptance, or all together pretending to be someone you aren’t.  Size 3 or 13, you’re beautiful inside and out.  You have always been a dreamer-never stop dreaming.  Use your passion for words to help you during hard times but more importantly commit that passion and gift to God.  You will encounter malicious people.  The world is full of them.  Some of them will pretend to love you, others will blatantly show that they don’t.  Do not allow them to change who you are unless its for the better.  Otherwise you have let them win, and we both know how much you hate to lose!  Guys are a dime a dozen.  The one that really cares will respect your convictions and will show interest in your goals, he’ll admire your physique without objectifying it, and he will value your soul.  Should you encounter guys that present qualities other than these, and you will, don’t entertain them.  You know your worth.  Do not be ashamed to assert it.  Heartbreak may or may not be inevitable.  I haven’t figured that part out yet,  just know that God heals broken hearts and spirits and you don’t have go through life broken.  It’s okay to cry sometimes.  You’ll find that a “good cry” will do you good from time to time.  Appreciate life, God, peace of mind, family, Godly connections, and even chaos.  Make the best of every situation.  Don’t be lazy-you’ll have plenty of time to sleep.  Love God at your tender age and don’t be so anxious to see what all the world has to offer.  Don’t be fooled by the appearance of riotous and carefree living.  It has it’s consequences.  The devil wants to sift you as wheat.  He’ll try to do anything he can but remember that your heel will bruise his head.  You are a winner through Christ Jesus and every thought and plan He has for your life is good.  Continue through life with hope or you will die without it. Love love in everyway imaginable.  God will see you through every situation. Be courageous. Everything will be fine.

 

Sincerely,

 

Risha

What it's like to be "Cute for a Dark-Skinned Girl"

It's impossible to dig into this post without revisiting the ugly scars of slavery; the primary concept in this context is Willie Lynchism.  For those that are unfamiliar, Willie Lynch constructed a letter to other slave owners that provided insight to ensure division among the slaves by using their complexions, hair texture, and other factors.  This may have been one of the most influential implementations as it is a form of slavery that continues to exist.  There's nothing wrong with preference.  However, there is something wrong when a person's physical appearance causes personal bias.  I have dark skin. Throughout my 30 years, I have experienced the transition of being a "dark-skinned girl" to "being cute for a dark-skinned girl."  Now, being "cute" for a dark-skinned girl is a much more pleasant experience than just being dark-skinned.  Frankly, there are some other complexions that make it seem as if being dark-skinned is a curse or misfortune. Neither of which is so.  Complimenting someone of darker hues by telling them they are cute within their own box or glass ceiling is really not a compliment.  It's a subliminal message that dark skins are naturally unpleasant to the eye with a hint of congratulations.  The congrats is a cherry on top because it insinuates that while you are not quite "pretty," your features helped you when compared to the greater percentage of others who are undesirable simply because they're darker complected.  Although it isn't the case for me, I believe the "curse" of being dark-skinned is what drives some women to self-hatred.  As a child, I experienced it.  I wanted to be lighter because I thought "light" was pretty.  It was that way for many years until I saw Lauryn Hill with her coarse hair and dark tint.   I came to appreciate my features that complimented my skin: my eyes, high cheekbones, full lips, keen nose-whole nine.  Being "cute for a dark-skinned girl" has challenged me to first evaluate my character because a beautiful personality beats all.  Second, it has challenged me to consider others' opinions without always internalizing them.  Third, it's encouraged me to encourage and compliment others.  You will never know what others may struggle with.  I too have been a victim to Willie Lynchism.  There was a time that I totally disregarded others who were light-skinned because I felt they assumed they were better looking.  I glorified being dark-skinned because it was what I identified with. This was one of the very goals of the letter.  As a dark-skinned cutie, I continue to encounter people in 2016 who assume they are better looking, better qualified, and frankly have the right to say what they feel about dark skin because they are lighter. The difference is I don’t go away feeling less of a person or less attractive because of their dispositions. In fact, over the years, I have begun to venture away from boxes.  I experiment with hairstyles and colors that ideally would be untouched from some who are stuck in the groove of their physical appearance.  In all humility, I’ll be the first to tell you that my skin makes mustard, burnt orange, magenta, royal blue, royal purple, and turquoise pop!  I’m ok with needing a camera flash in darker rooms! Being cute for a dark skin girl is an everyday experience, but just as much as anything else its what you make of it.  There aren’t many “Lauryn Hill's" left.  In fact, as time progresses I suspect that self-hatred increases. Self-love and acceptance are better embraced sooner than later. One thing for sure: your shape, size, hair length, and etc. may change, but your complexion will not. Might as well love the skin you’re in and show the world that beauty doesn’t come with categories or stipulations...

Artistry Odyssey

I have enjoyed art, specifically writing and art for as long as I can remember.  Truthfully, I don't remember when I came to love poetry. I guess it sort of happened sometime in elementary school or something.  My brother introduced me to music; all types of music, which in our home was taboo.  He would play rap, R & B, and oldies.  He also taught me how to freestyle, sing, dance, and beat box.  I think it's where I came to appreciate eclectic music. I've also seen writing as a form of expression.  Even as a child I always felt that it was easier for me to share what I felt through writing it instead of verbally.

Fast forwarding to my adult life: I continued to write poetry in college.  I had a strong interest in spoken word, but I did not know how to make my rhymes so that they reflected a rhythm opposed to a simple rhyme scheme.  In 2010, I went a Power of the Tongue Cafe here in Durham.  There was spoken word artists there.  There was also a group there called, "Sound Word and Holy Strings."  It was a group comprised of four people, two rappers/poets, and two singers, one who played a guitar.  They were super dope.  Later that night I connect with one of the guys there who was calling himself "Preach" at that time (now known as "Pat Junior").  We chatted a bit and I expressed my interest in poetry and spoken word.  I shared with him what I had and he provided feedback.

He later taught me about word play and gave some coaching.  Less than a year later I wrote my first spoken word poem.  It was called, "Wave of Technology."  Pat taught me how to deliver and I debuted at a Power of the Tongue under the direction of Brother Charles Freeman.  I remember being so nervous that when Brother Freeman called my name that for a series of seconds my feet would not move.  I got up, shared my piece and I felt awesome.  I never [ever] thought that I would share my poetry publically, and certainly audibly.  I believe that's one of my favorite memories about this journey.

Later in the year, I began my first transparent piece called "Soul Ties."  It was personal.  I shared it with Pat and he encouraged me to share it publically.  It was very difficult for me because I was a private person.  The other fact about the piece is, I wrote the piece inspired by God, but it took over a year to write.  It was prophetic in that it revealed to me that I was in a stronghold and it became a roadmap to being free of it.  That was the beginning of me as a poet. I'll tell yall the rest in a little bit.  

Sleeping with the Enemy

Truthfully, I don’t know that this blog will make much sense to one who has never seen Twilight or one of the movies in the saga.  For the sake of understanding, I’ll briefly provide background.  Twilight has a “vampire and werewolf” background with an undertone of romance.  Before you grow disinterested I ask that you continue reading. I promise that I’m going somewhere with this. Okay, so, there is a teen named “Bella.”  She falls in love with a guy to later learn that this guy is a vampire. A blood sucking vampire, so his nature is to kill humans and consume their blood as they have throughout history.  She spends time with him. Their love is mutual.  The saga continues over a few years as their relationship grows and they have to overcome several obstacles in their relationship.  It’s a movie so of course love prevails. Ultimately Bella is turned into a vampire (sorry to ruin it for you).  

When I used to watch the movie(s) I would always say Bella is an idiot.  Why would she lay in bed with a man who’s nature is to destroy her?  Why would she continue to put herself in harm’s way? Why would she allow herself to fall in love with someone who has made it known that ultimately he could hurt her?  He even goes as far to describe her as her own brand of Heroin.  In retrospect, I realized that I have been Bella. It wasn’t that I fell in love with a man that was a monster, but I put myself in harms way on several occasions by simply playing with temptation-things that [I knew] were intended by nature to destroy me. It’s not always sexual.  I have found myself in various situations that I knew at any moment things could go south but the desired outcome, or in this analogy “love”, outweighed every pending negative consequence.

As the saga continues we see Bella fall deeper into love with Edward (the vampire).  She has close encounters with death as a result of her association and love for him.  She is forced to choose sides and eventually becomes a vampire. What I gather from the fate of Bella is that one cannot lie in bed with something without ultimately subjecting themselves to the fate of that temptation-Death.

It’s imperative to closely consider what we entertain and allow in our lives. Let’s not  ignore warning signs. They are there for a reason.

My Beef with Transparency

I've been mentally vacillating on this topic for some time.  Although I believe it is intended to be simple, somehow, I find it multifaceted.  I understand it to mean being open (to some degree) and honest about what may be occurring or has occurred in one's life. It's a form of keeping things 100.  I have a theory that everyone has been a criminal at some point, its just that not everyone has been caught (littering, dishonoring the speed limit, whatever it may be.  everyone has done something). Nevertheless, sin is the same way. Everyone has been a sinner at some point.  I take issue when some present themselves as they have always be "spotless."  The main reason being that there will never be a time in this life that any of us are completely clean. It's always something. The Bible instructs believers to confess our faults to one another so that we may be healed. The two concerns I'm examining at this moment are 1) false humility projected as transparency and 2) lack of discernment with what is revealed. I believe the enemy can take some of the most beautiful situations and pollute them. This is why he is able to take someone being honest about a flaw or struggle and convince them that their decision to keep it real is worth the pat on the back.  Please understand, it is not my intent to make anyone feel some type of way about being transparent. I am in agreement with transparency in the proper context. I am an avid user of transparency. Its just that as with anything else, the motive of the heart should be examined.  It seems that transparency has become an overused term that is transitioning into a fad.  Again, I'd like to stress that this is not the case for everyone that shares the content of their hearts.  

Secondly, simply put, stop telling everything! There are some things that should remain between a person and their Lord unless he leads them otherwise.  Truth be told, not everyone can handle what some people have to say.  Allow me to elaborate: a person stands up amidst a congregation and discloses severely personal information.  "I'm not ashamed to say that I ..." you fill in the blank. We've all seen this.  Later the person wonders why they are getting side eyes and in some cases, ostracism.  The word tells us that we overcome the devil by the blood of the lamb and testimonies.  Case and point; however, there must be wisdom exercised in what we share.  Lastly, I wonder to myself if accountability and transparency are twins.  If I confess what I have been experiencing to a sister or friend, should it be difficult to accept sound counsel, warning, or the truth? No shade, but I was very disturbed to see the Periscope video of Leondra Johnson and her follow-up interview.  She told the interviewers that she intentionally put herself out the way that she did because she wanted to be transparent.  Time and time again I have flipped that situation in my mind and questioned if that was a situation in which transparency went "too far."  The lines seem to be blurred when deciphering what is appropriate and what's not.  Specifically when interpretations of scripture are the deciding factor as people understand things differently.  However, I can't help but think how many people may be led astray by someone else's transparency with an issue that is unbiblically justified.  The systems of our world and society are changing abruptly and there will be a time that people will no longer be able to hide behind "maybes" or jump sides of the fence. Therefore, there is no longer time to justify our unaddressed weaknesses with "God's knowledge of our hearts."  There must be something beyond transparency, and that's my beef with it.  It's just put out there and left to morph into other things-sometimes a stumbling block.

My Journey from Pampering to Perfection

Before everything begins I should probably explain that this entry is a reflection of my work in progress; thus, this entry will be as well.  I am the third of three children.  I am the baby by “ a long shot.”  Both of my siblings, a brother and sister, are significantly older than me.  My parents are very loving and supportive.  As a child, I did not want for anything.  It was like my support system was on a ten all the time: my mom and dad got me what I asked for and my sister followed up with what they did not to ensure that I was trendy (hair, nails, clothes, and etc).  As a result I became spoiled; I also became particular in that I wanted: what I wanted, when I wanted it, and how I wanted it.  At the age of 20 I wrote a 10-year plan that included my boyfriend at that time, a law degree, his job as a Spanish interpreter and children.  9 Years later I literally have none of the previously listed.  Not that that’s a bad thing. The 10-year plan was written without consulting God.  I was not born again then.  Now, I am single, a mental health professional with no children.  I am seeking God for what he will have me to do, go, help, and etc.  As I continue to grow in His grace I learn more.  One of the biggest learning experiences for me has been that of perfection: getting on the potter’s wheel; opening my heart to God exposing my wickedness, hopes, dreams, plans and giving him free reign to do what he sees fit to his vessel.  God has shown me that he wants to use me and I want it to be optimal.  I’ll admit, I had a season that I wanted to be in “ministry” so badly.  Imagine my surprise when I learned the least common denominator of true ministry is servitude.  Servitude caused me to learn other things such as selflessness and humility-neither of which have been easy for me.  My concept of getting what I want and operating within my own will are challenged daily as I strive to be perfected: letting patience have her perfect work, walking out Matthew 5:44, humbling myself in the presence of God to be exalted in his time, resisting envy,… the list goes on and on.  There are days that my carnality would have me to run to what I know to be comfortable.  Some days it’s a struggle to put one foot in front of the other in fear of what may or may not come next.  This process has provided me with a preview of what it means to trust God.  It has also taught me that it must be ongoing, it is essential, and that there is no other way.  As I continue in transparency I will admit that there are times I would like God to pamper me: respond to my calls in urgency just like my daddy would, pat me up when I’m crying-whole 9.  It's a beautiful experience in the natural.  However, in the spirit I am learning that I have to learn to wait.  I have to learn to humble myself.  I have to be disciplined. These are all factors of being a soldier.  Even as I type God has just reminded me that if my father knows how to give me good gifts, how much more does He? With that said, I’ll sign off here.

Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:
Psalms 102:18niv