Monday, February 27, 2012

Knowledge Is (Still) Power

"Steve Jobs did more for me than Martin Luther King."

One day, I was perusing Twitter and found the aforementioned quote. My face grew hot as I thought about the ramifications of this statement, made by a young Black man, no more than 20 years of age.

In his own right, Steve Jobs was indeed a great man. This self-professed college dropout took the technological world by storm, leaving behind a legacy which will always be synonymous with the words Apple, iPod and iPhone.

But he was no Martin Luther King.

I wanted to reach through my phone and grab this young man's hand, taking him on a journey through our history. I would take him to restaurants, malls and movie theaters,where we would only be allowed to use back entrances (if we were allowed entry at all). I would show him all of the major businesses and corporations; Fortune 500 companies where the only title we could aspire to have was janitor. I would take him back to those scary moments when the Greenwood section of Tulsa was set on fire; when men were beaten and hung just for looking at someone the wrong way; when churches were bombed and little girls were murdered in their Sunday best; when every night was spent in fear, unsure of what violence the moonlight would bring.

I would show him my ancestors--his ancestors--down on their knees, simply praying for a better day.

As Black History Month draws to a close, it is time for us to look back once more. We must remember the men and women who dreamed, created, achieved and sacrificed; we must honor them by building on their legacy and not becoming complacent. Many doors have been opened and glass ceilings shattered, but there are more doors and ceilings to be addressed.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.
--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Freedom, change and equality. These basic tenets of humanity will always trump an iPhone.

Be Encouraged,


Monday, February 6, 2012

What Are YOU Bringing To The Table?

There's a running joke among my family and friends: I, K.Marie, cannot cook.

Now, let me clear up that fallacy. I can make a few dishes and I specialize in baking; however, I don't like to cook. While some chefs can step into a kitchen and birth works of art (S/O to Bammy Dy), I'm just left feeling like that time could have been better spent reading a book. Maybe even a book about cooking. I'll look that up in the Kindle store.

Every once in awhile, I am invited to dinner parties. Whether a casual potluck or a four-course epicurean delight, I never ring the host's doorbell empty-handed. I may have a bottle of Moscato or a bag of ice; if I forget to run by the store, I volunteer for kitchen duty, making sure the pots are spic and span in appreciation for a meal well done. Call it my Southern roots, but I just believe in bringing something to the table.

You know I'm going somewhere with this, right?

Have you ever dated someone who had a list of the most rigorous demands?

Your credit score can't be any less than 720; you must be within the average range on the BMI chart; your car must be newer than 2008 AND have less than 75,000 miles...and I'm going to need a letter of recommendation from your current employer, your Little League baseball coach and two degreed family members.

Weird, but it's okay. We all have our opinions and standards. However, what makes me roll my eyes until only the whites are showing is when you ask the aforementioned person a very simple question: what are you bringing to the table?

*sucks teeth* Don't worry about what I'm bringing to the table. You're just supposed to love me for me!

They came to the dinner party empty-handed.

I'm not saying anyone needs to be perfect. We all have flaws--even the fabulous and talented writer of this blog has a few skeletons in her closet. Hopefully, we all find that person who is willing to overlook our habit of drinking everything but the last corner of milk and putting it back in the fridge.

I mean, there might be a recipe that calls for a teaspoon of milk.

In the process of seeking, we must be honest not only with our potential partners, but also with ourselves. Sometimes, the qualities we see as must-haves have nothing to do with the person and everything to do with our own insecurities. How do I know? I've been there.

When I was about twenty-two, I made a Husband List: four handwritten pages of the things I thought I needed in a life partner. I tucked it in my bible (next to the passage about God granting us the desires of our heart) and prayed that God would allow this man to come into my life.

Fast-forward a few years, to the moment when I met Mr. Looks Good On Paper. He said all the right things; he met so many of my "requirements" that it seemed like he had written the list himself. And I fell in love...

...with the way people looked at us when we were together.

What I really expected was for him to change my life--to make me thinner, richer and desirable to the whole world. No one can bear that weight. When he ended our relationship, I couldn't even be surprised. I knew I had to work on me. I set about changing the things I could change and accepting myself for where I was in the journey. I dated; I had fun. I made mistakes. But more than anything, I learned to let go of the list. For me, love is more than a set of qualifications; you just know.

You've just received another invitation to a dinner party; this time, love is the host. Please, please, please bring more than your appetite. If I may, I'd suggest a gift basket of the following:






Your heart.

It goes with everything.

Be Encouraged,


Friday, February 3, 2012

It's A Black Thing...You Wouldn't Understand It

I love being Black. There exists in our community a collective unconscious which, in my opinion, is second to none. Don't believe me? Ask any twenty, thirty or even forty-something what show they never missed on Saturday morning.

Soul Train. RIP Don Cornelius.

As fun as it is to sit around and recount the days of our youth; as inspiring as it is to observe Black History Month, celebrating the achievements of our forefathers and present-day leaders, there is something else that binds us together:

You never forget the first time you were targeted based simply on the color of your skin.

I was in kindergarten, playing with my peers in the sandbox. One of my classmates looked me in the eye and said: "My mommy said that you're a n*gger." Even though I was only four at the time, I knew that word wasn't right. I did not like the way it made my heart feel, nor the waves of anger that washed over me.

Unfortunately, I have felt that feeling more than a few times in my twenty-nine years. There was the time a university representative was quoted as saying "there aren't enough of you people on campus to observe Martin Luther King Day." Or the day I was dragged out of the music store and searched because, according to the security guard, I had been seen stealing from Eddie Bauer.

Of course, my favorite has been workplace racism, where people assume you only got the job because of affirmative action. You are officially the spokesperson for the entire African-American community, so you better have a good answer as to why our names are hard to pronounce (SN: if you can't pronounce Kayla, I don't know what to tell you) or where they can obtain the official copy of President Obama's birth certificate. And if you have a complaint, it's not really valid. You're just pulling the race card.

I'm strong. I know that who I am is so much more than my melanin. My whole life has been about defying stereotypes and breaking boundaries. But every time I hear those racially-motivated words, I'm drawn back to the sandbox.

And I hurt.

Is racism here to stay? I hope not. I am looking forward to the day when no one ever has to experience that all too familiar whirlwind of shame, betrayal and anger. But until then, I have learned how to cope with racism. You might want to get a pen and write this down so you don't forget.


Keep living.

I will inform with my words, not retaliate with my fists.

I will vote in every election. My voice will be heard.

I will continue to teach the next generation that mediocrity is never enough...not when extraordinary is within your reach.

I will not perpetuate the cycle by discriminating against others.

I will not abide in fear.

I will forgive.

I will pray that God helps us to see one another as He sees us:

Red and yellow
Black and white
All are precious in His sight

If you want to, you can understand.

Be Encouraged,


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Theft Protection

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
--Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

When I was a teenager, I had a bad habit of leaving my purse in my car. Because I tend to be forgetful, I thought I was better off leaving it in the one place I knew I would be on a daily basis.

One day, I walked out to my driveway and noticed various bits of papers strewn in the grass. Upon further inspection, I saw these were things which had been in my purse. Sure enough, I opened the door and discovered my purse was gone. I had to go through the arduous task of obtaining a new driver's license, student ID, Social Security and bank cards. For me, the consequences were over and I had heard my lesson; that is, until I tried to apply for my first credit card. I soon discovered that whoever had stolen my purse graciously helped themselves to my credit, ordering cell phones and applying for loans across the state. Before I was even old enough to rent a car, I was the victim of identity theft.

These days, I guard my purse like a hawk. I don't go anywhere without checking and double-checking that my purse is either on my shoulder or sitting right next to me. If anybody even so much as places a pinky on my satchel, I have a can of Mace with their name written all over it.

But these are just material things. What about the things that really matter?

What about our hearts?

I have been guilty of granting unlimited access to my heart. In friendships, with co-workers and even with people I've dated, I have allowed people to take as much of me as they wanted. I have poured out everything I had--time, money, energy, encouragement, love--to the point where there was nothing left. I thought that was what a Christian is supposed to do; give and give until you can't give anymore.


Sorry. Wrong answer.

This verse in Proverbs reminds us that our heart is our most prized possession. It is the source of our lives, and we should treat it accordingly. Now, that's not to say there is anything wrong with being an encouragement to others. In my case, that's just who I am and that will never change. However, when you're dealing with "heart thieves," there comes a moment when you must ask yourself:

Are they making more withdrawals than deposits?

Let's be honest--not everyone is sincere. There are people who, God bless 'em, don't know how to do anything but use others. They operate through guilt trips, deceit and (my personal pet peeve) passive-aggressiveness. And when they have taken all that they believe you have to offer, they will walk away, more than likely taking with them a piece of your heart.

You get mad. You cry. You feel like everyone in the whole world is against you. You feel like the answer to this current heartache is to place your heart under lock and key and never allow anyone to get close again. FBRs, there's no need to be so drastic. All you have to do is learn how to control who has access.

A lot of people I know have a general idea about where I live. A smaller group can tell you my address. My inner circle knows when I'll be at home. But only two people other than me have the keys to my house.

Guard your heart. In this life, you only get one.

Be Encouraged,