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Asking for and Accepting Help

Asking for help can be one of the most challenging endeavors for some people to undertake. Whether it stems from a lack of trust, not wanting to be indebted to another, not wanting to be or appear to be “weak,” being hypervigilant about being independent, or some other reason, many of us struggle with the otherwise simple task of asking for help. On those occasions where we don’t even have to ask for help because it’s been freely offered, we sometimes have trouble accepting that help. There are even those of us who overcome the challenge of asking for help, but then struggle with accepting the help for which we’ve asked. I’m sure we can all recall a time as a child, or know a child now, who refuses help because he wants to conquer the challenging task on his own. We can hear that child proudly exclaiming, “I can do it by myself!” We can see the child working diligently to overcome the challenge facing her. On many occasions the child does, in fact, succeed with no help at all. When we are the child, we are extremely proud of ourselves and receive a boost in our self-esteem. When we witness a child succeed in this way, we are proud, satisfied, and receive a boost in our confidence in the child’s development. On the other hand, as a child we did not have trouble asking for help when a task was beyond our abilities or capabilities. When a child seeks help from us, we do not view the child as weak or otherwise negatively. In fact, we commend the child for reaching out when she realized the problem was too big, complex, or challenging for her to handle alone. Even when the child has not asked for our help, if he has realized he cannot handle the issue alone he openly accepts our help when offered. Where along the path to adulthood do we begin to believe and accept that we must go it alone? When or where do the rules change and we think that asking for and/or accepting help is unacceptable? Many of us battle problems alone when we do not have to. We face serious issues like substance abuse and addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault, and mental illness alone in the face of massive networks of readily available assistance. Some of us even resist asking for or accepting help with minor tasks like carrying groceries, picking up a pen dropped to the floor, or the opening of a door when our hands are full. Much of the time we believe we have control over our struggles. We truly and firmly believe that we have a handle on the issue(s) and will eventually conquer whatever is troubling us. Whether in real life or on television, we’ve heard a drug addict/alcoholic say, “I can quit whenever I want to. I just don’t want to.” Maybe, for any particular individual imbibing “illicit” substances on a relatively regular basis, that sentiment may very well be true and correct. However, we know that is not the case for most of them. We may initially believe a particular issue is not a problem per se, but there always comes a point when we know the situation is untenable alone. Yet, many of us, upon that realization, still choose to go it alone. When I was a child, all the adults in my life (teachers, aunts, uncles, parents) taught me independence, problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-reliance. They all required that I face the challenges before me and attempt to solve my own problems, first. The rule was that I could seek their help only after I had made valid, diligent effort on my own and was unsuccessful. That rule, and the experiences stemming from it, have been incredible life lessons that have served me quite well into adulthood. It taught me self-reliance, independence, boosted my self-esteem, creativity (thinking outside the box), and self-trust, just to name a few. I have had to face many obstacles completely alone, and because of that rule and the lessons that came with it, I have always been able to, in one way or another, overcome each and every one of them. However, in retrospect, I realize that I faced many of those obstacles alone because I simply refused to ask for and accept help. I made certain circumstances more difficult for myself because I refused to trust anyone else enough to help me. I didn’t want to appear weak or needy. I didn’t want to break the rule and seek help before I had done all that I could do on my own first. I still live by that rule because I know that it is more beneficial than harmful and serves me well. However, I’m not sure where I distorted the rule to the point that I had come to believe that I hadn’t done everything I can do to solve my own problems unless and until I, in fact, solved them completely on my own. I very recently faced a problem that I was determined to handle on my own even though I was well aware that I could not. Someone I trust, respect, admire, and care for deeply offered me help with this grave issue. I adamantly refused her outreach, resented the fact that she offered, and was upset that she thought I was too weak to handle it on my own. I, in no uncertain terms, made it clear I did not need or want her help. I was incorrect. I was incorrect in believing I could handle it on my own. I was incorrect in believing I had to handle it on my own. I was incorrect in believing I appeared weak by accepting help. Whatever the struggle, whether it is serious like sexual assault or addiction or minor like carrying the groceries or picking up a pen you’ve dropped, ask for help. You are not alone. You don’t have to handle it alone. You do not have to solve all your own problems alone. You don’t lose your independence by accepting help. You are not weak or needy because you ask for and accept help. Ask for the help until you get what you need. Remember to accept the help when it arrives in whatever form it arrives.

Friendship: A Different Perspective

Friend: A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affections, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. Synonyms—companion, confidant, familiar Friendship: The motions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends. Synonyms—company, companionship, fellowship, camaraderie --Oxford Dictionary Definitions and expectations. Every relationship is based on definitions and expectations. How we interact with one another is largely based upon how we have chosen to define the particular relationship and our attendant expectations surrounding that definition. We consciously or unconsciously place everyone in our lives into a particular category, define the category, and set expectations for each. Our “friend” category, depending on our definition of the word, includes any and every one with which we expect to have that type of relationship. We shuffle individuals between our self-defined categories when they don’t coincide with our expectations for a particular role or we alter our definition. The Oxford Dictionary definitions above are simply the generalized meanings of the terms. However we define those terms, we undoubtedly expect those we see as friends to behave consistently with that definition. If/when our friends stop acting the way we expect them to act based on our definition, we begin to ask questions and/or doubt that they are in fact our friends. If they don’t get it together and get back in line with our expectations, then we force ourselves to either change our expectations/definition or move them to a different category, which, in turn, tends to come with different behavior and attitudes on our part. These transitions often happen so seamlessly and effortlessly that we barely notice the change. In a few instances, there is a great gnashing of teeth, hurt feelings, harsh words, and hard lessons during these transitions. Either way, why do we choose repeatedly to force our expectations onto our friends? Why do we choose to repeatedly, and often unilaterally, define a relationship and attempt to force the other person to comply or be gone? Couldn’t we…wouldn’t we save so much energy, effort, and emotional currency if we simply allowed people to just be in our lives without feeling the need to define the relationship and then requiring the other person to live up to our unilaterally set expectations? Certainly, this concept does not suggest, imply, or mean that we must accept and tolerate any kind of treatment from the people around us. Having boundaries, maintaining, and following through on your own personal values, morals, and goals is necessary. And, if someone in your life no longer comports with those beliefs, then act accordingly. That being said (well, written), we can stay true to our morals, values, beliefs, and goals without placing our personal expectations on others. My best friend and I have known each other for nearly 20 years. I have my own set of morals, values, beliefs, and goals. She has hers. We both have boundaries for what we will allow in our lives, but neither of us expects the other to do, be, or act in any particular way because we call ourselves best friends. I don’t expect her to call/text me everyday, tell me all of her “business,” give me money if I ask, support me if I’m doing something with which she doesn’t agree, or even keep my secrets. I am grateful when she does call/text, share her “business” with me, give me money, support me even though she disagrees with it, and keep my secrets. However, I understand and accept that none of these things are required of her simply because I’d like it to be so. She is no less my friend because she keeps a secret from me or doesn’t call/text me for a couple days. No one owes you anything. So, you needn’t expect anything. Even someone you call “friend” does not owe you because he/she has the absolute right at any given moment to choose what serves his/her morals, values, beliefs, and goals best. As do you. Everything that a “friend” does for you or gives to you is a gift and needs to be treated accordingly. Let your friends be who they are and your friendships be what they are without definitions (therefore restrictions). We are often disappointed and betrayed by our own expectations rather than by anything our friends do or say. Release your expectations for what the relationship needs to look like or be like and just let it be what it is.

🎶Lies. Lies. Using Lies As Alibis🎶

Lie: "An intentionally false statement;" "Used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression." --Oxford Dictionary Your hair is so cute. I love that outfit. I won't be late. Best friends forever. I'm currently in between jobs. I'm OK. You're the only person I'm dating. I will never cheat on you. I love you. Everyone lies. Or, so the adage states. Psychologists have conducted studies showing that children as young as 3 years old lie.[1] Whether it’s the so-called innocuous “white lie—” telling your friend you like her outfit when you actually don’t— or a “major” lie—cheating on your spouse and then denying it—we all have told a lie or otherwise been deceptive. In fact, I’d venture to suppose that the vast majority of us lie every single day. I’ll even take it a step further and suppose that the majority of that group engages in “major” lies or otherwise deceptive behavior a majority of the time (as opposed to engaging in “white lies.”) We lie to ourselves, friends, family, co-workers, employers, employees, colleagues, and complete strangers. We lie on our taxes, job applications, credit applications, social media, hell, some of us even lie in our diaries/journals. Clearly, the question is not whether we lie. The question is not even should we lie. Lying is a choice, not an obligation. The main question, then, is: Why do we choose to lie? Considering that 3-year-old children lie without prompting, do we have an innate understanding that lying is necessary to our existence or survival as humans? Is there something heretofore not consciously understood about the human condition that predisposes us to lying and behaving deceptively? Simply put: Do we need to lie? What would happen if we stopped lying and deceiving and began telling the unadulterated truth? Calm down! Please don’t panic! Movies, television, and books have oft presented this concept one way: Person X cannot tell a lie, has no filter or inhibitions, and has diarrhea of the mouth. So that unadulterated truth plays out like this— Becky: “Good morning, John.” John: “Good morning, Becky. Your breath is foul, your husband is cheating on you, and no one in the office likes you. Have a pleasant day.” This is not what I mean or intend by positing that we all stop lying and behaving deceptively and begin telling the unadulterated truth. Silence is not a lie. Truth can be kind. Unadulterated truth is not antagonistic to discretion. It is not a lie if I see someone wearing a shirt I don’t like and I keep that opinion to myself. I can tell my co-worker that he has bad breath without humiliating or disrespecting him. If my friend asks me what I think of her new boyfriend (whom I despise), it is not dishonest or deceptive for me to tell her the qualities in him I find displeasing or problematic without stating that I despise him. We are so used to and inoculated by and with lies and deception that we oft represent the truth as rude, offensive, and disrespectful (hence the above-mentioned television, movie, and book scenarios). We have thoroughly convinced ourselves that it is “polite” and therefore better to tell a friend, loved one, or even a stranger a lie if we for any reason believe or think the truth might hurt. The truth only hurts when we’ve been previously convinced of a lie. The truth is only rude because lying is the status quo. The truth is only offensive when you’d rather believe the lie. Lying is initially effortless because it is a habit. The truth, initially, is difficult because it is an unfamiliar landscape. However, subsequently, we spend a great deal of energy and effort maintaining and supporting that lie. You must keep track of the lie, who you told it to, when you told it, whether you told someone else a different version of the lie, and the truth. Whereas, because the truth just is what it is, once it’s out there, you’re free. There’s no attendant juggling act to maintain. We have assured ourselves that at least a “little white lie” is necessary every now and again to save face, relationships, and apparently, to keep the world spinning. But, if we didn’t tell that first lie how would face, relationships, or the world be in jeopardy from the truth? Lying and behaving deceptively are choices. Telling the truth and practicing honesty are choices. Whichever you choose, there are consequences. Choose wisely. [1] Lewis, M., Stanger, C., Sullivan, M. “Deception in 3-Year-Olds.” Developmental Psychology. 1989; 25: 439-443; Talwar, V., Lee, K. “Development of Lying to Conceal Transgression: Children’s Control of Expressive Behavior During Verbal Deception.” International Journal of Behavioral Development. 2002; 26: 436-444.

Speak Your Truth

It is important to speak you truth. So many of us assume we know the next person's story. We make statements, catch feelings, and hold thoughts as if our perspective is everyone else's perspective. We see a minuscule portion of someone else's life from the outside looking in, and immediately jump to conclusions. Social media has made it so much easier for us to not only make assumptions, but to "prove" those assumptions, and steadfastly hold on to them. I am 38 years old. I have a bachelor's degree in English (2004). I have a bachelor's degree in Psychology (2006). I have a Juris Doctor (2009). I have an LLM (2015). I am licensed to practice law in both Illinois and Florida. I own and manage The Law Office of L. E. Everett, PLLC (me). I own and manage Bleu Anchor Entertainment, LLC. I am actively in the process of starting yet another business. I am someone others choose to admire. After all of that (just to name a few), I still say to myself every single day..."Lynell, you really need to get your life together." And then, I have a panic attack wondering how I'm going to do it. I am often convinced that I don't have the strength to make it through the day. At least once a day, every single day, I completely give up on life because it's all so overwhelming. At least once a day, every single day, I seriously wonder if I'm good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, young enough, old enough, astute enough, knowledgeable enough, financially stable enough, liked enough, loved enough, respected enough... Many days I wake up and my first thought is, "Fuck! I can't do any of this today!" Our struggles are not the same. Our successes are not the same. Because our journeys are not the same. I can't tell you how I will make it through tomorrow's struggles (and successes for that matter) because I have no clue how I made it through yesterday's. I can tell you that however it happens, I absolutely will make it through. Speak your truth. Walk your truth. Focus on your truth. Live your truth. I speak, walk, focus, and live my truth by holding myself accountable to only me. For you, if you see my struggles tomorrow, don't assume I had no successes. If you see my successes tomorrow, don't assume I had no struggles. More importantly...no, MOST importantly, when you see my story tomorrow and for however many days to come, don't compare it to your story. We are not reading from the same book.

The Natural Hair 'Movement'

If you didn’t already know, you’re about to find out…there has been a hair revolution within the Black community. Simply put, we are getting back to our roots and letting our natural hair lead the way. Social media (PinterestÔ, InstagramÔ, YouTubeÔ, FacebookÔ, etc.) are full of videos and other posts promoting, explaining, styling, and otherwise presenting natural hair for the Black community in a positive and healthy way. You can find demonstrative videos on styling, washing, and otherwise caring for natural hair. To be clear, when referring to ‘natural hair,’ the community means the various curl patterns generally indicative of ethnic heritage. Although within the Black community, there are as many textures of hair as there are people, there is a general “curl pattern” chart circulating out there in the atmosphere. The “Curl Pattern” chart demonstrates and defines the various types of curls someone’s hair may have. As shown in the picture, the patterns have been given a number/letter combination. The higher the number/letter, the tighter the curl. Of course, this chart is just a general view of the possible curl patterns. The ‘movement’ has made it more ‘acceptable’ for women and men of color to embrace instead of hiding or altering their natural hair texture. Instead of seeing advertisements, promotions, models, celebrities, etc. with relaxed (or otherwise straightened) hair, Black people (and other people of color) are able to open a magazine or watch a television show or movie and see a person who looks like them while wearing an Afro, braids, dreads, etc. Although there are many representations from the 70’s and earlier eras that showcase Black people wearing their natural curly/kinky hair texture, more recent decades tended to put in the forefront the straight hair motif. During those times, Black women in entertainment were generally seen with long straight hair (although at times a short straight Halle Berry/Nia Long-esq cut was prominent), whether it be their natural hair—meaning they relaxed or otherwise straightened their own hair—or a wig/weave. This ‘movement’ has created a noticeable lift in confidence and pride within the Black community. I have seen us supporting, complimenting, and otherwise encouraging one another more online and in real life when it comes to our natural hair. For example, I see us complimenting the height one’s Afro has reached, the moisture in one’s curl, the thickness of one’s puff, and so on. I absolutely love this ‘movement.’ I love what it is doing for our young girls and boys, what it is doing for our self-esteem, and most importantly, what it is doing for our self-image as a group in this country. That being said, I do have concerns. My concerns lie not in the movement itself, but in the details of said movement. Specifically, I am concerned that the ‘movement’ is not embracing and encouraging all natural hair textures equally. I have noticed that the kinkiest or tightest curl pattern (4C, per the Curl Pattern Chart) has not received and is not receiving the same attention, support, and encouragement that looser curl patterns have been and are receiving. I have found that it is more difficult to find videos, photographs, etc. via social media promoting and representing this “nappy” curl pattern. I have also found that it is more difficult to find hair stylists and other hair care professionals who know how and are willing to work on “4C” hair. Additionally, I have noticed that there is generally less content for styling and caring for “4C” hair texture. In general, when searching for “4C” related content online, I have noticed that I must craft my search terms very specifically. I must specifically include “4C” or some similar variant within my search to find related content. In contrast, when searching using more general terms (i.e. natural hair care products), content that includes most all other hair textures appear. I know that I am not alone in this concern because I continually see in social media comments others pointing out the same issue. In fact, there are Instagram pages specifically catering to “4C” hair in an attempt to counteract this phenomenon. However, one must still specifically search for “4C” terms to find such pages. While this, uhm, oversight, concerns me, I do take a measure of relief in the fact that others have noticed it and have already begun to counteract the issue. I imagine that eventually there will be enough ‘counteracting’ that “4C” texture will take its rightful seat alongside all of its curly counterparts and help push this long awaited ‘movement’ into the mainstream.

Uncivilized

During the past two weeks at work, we have had a mandatory civility training for the entire office. One would think as adults, it is not necessary to have a training on how to be civil. However, it seems we still have not figured out how to come to work, do our jobs and go home without some conflict. Although the training has provided my colleagues and me with valuable information, it is sad to say that most probably will not use the information given once the training has ended. I have always thought of myself as a civil person but during the course of this training, I have realized there are many areas within the umbrella of civility that I need to work on. Civility is defined as [1] training in the humanities, [2a] civilized conduct especially: courtesy, politeness, [2b] a polite act or expression. This does not appear to be a difficult thing to do: be polite or courteous in our actions or expressions but people struggle with it every day. Even if someone were not generally a kind or friendly person, common courtesy would be a mutual response. A simple example of this common courtesy is someone says hello, say hello in return. Every day I encounter or witness people who are foul to others for no apparent reason, apparent being the vital word here. Within this civility training, I have learned that what may not be apparent to me is a person’s inner struggle and turmoil and I should not be so quick to judge or show my bias when faced with what I see as an uncivil person. It is true that we do not know what a person may be going through, that is why civility is so important. If a person is rude or impolite, be nice anyway. The way we treat them shows more about us than it does about them. We never know how our kindness, despite his or her apparent rudeness, can change someone’s day. The current climate in this country is the absolute opposite of civil. We can observe in the news and on social media, people being rude, displaying ill manners and being downright evil to others. It seems as though social media has enabled people to be as crass and insulting as they wish without any consequences and without feeling remorse. With “keyboard protection” in full effect, people can talk about your children, your family members, body shame and engage in all kinds of disgusting behavior with people online. Now it is accurate to say we have freedom of speech and can say what we please, however, having freedom of speech does not mean we should be vile and disgusting human beings. Displaying tact and civility should be the rule, not the exception. More and more people, in person and online, give me the impression having manners and choosing to be a kind person is a lost concept. The confidence and audaciousness people display when intentionally being mean and hurtful to others is appalling. In a world that seems to thrive off negativity, let us choose to be civil. Every day, let us make a conscious effort to be kind, positive and courteous to people we meet. I know it is difficult. It is difficult for me, especially with certain people. Nevertheless, let us start to show our humanity again. Maybe your civility affects someone in a positive way and then that moves him or her to be civil to someone else. As cliché as it sounds, we must spread love and not hate. There is no shortage of depictions of horrible human beings these days, let us change that narrative and be an example for our children and future generations of how to be amazing, civilized people. [1] “Civility.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2019. Web. 26 March, 2019 [2a] [2b] #civility #kindness #positivity #whattheworldneeds

Words...continued

As discussed in my previous post, there is power in words. Many people believe that through words, one can speak positivity or negativity into existence; that words are so powerful, thinking and/or speaking something can cause it to manifest. Whether you believe that deeply in the power of words or not, the fact is that many people allow words to have such power over their feelings and their behavior. We all can point to at least one point in time when the words of someone else hurt our feelings, angered us, excited us, or raised some sort of emotion within us. There are many sets of circumstances when words led to emotions, emotions led to actions, and actions led to consequences. Sometimes that chain ends in devastation: Immature kid ridicules his classmate; Classmate’s feelings are hurt and he gets angry; Classmate brings gun to school and shoots multiple people; Classmate goes to prison or morgue. Other times that chain ends in joy: Teacher praises child’s work; Child feels proud and confident; Child studies more to maintain accomplishments; Child earns academic scholarship to college. Words are meant to evoke emotions, and thoughts, and even actions. Society as a whole recognizes this and even plans for it. The US Supreme Court has held that there are certain words so inflammatory that if a speaker uses those words and is physically assaulted by the listener, the listener was duly provoked such that the physical attack should have been expected.[1] If a white person calls a Black person a ‘nigger,’ considering the meaning and intent of using that word, no reasonable person could argue against the fact that its use might incite the Black person to anger and/or violence. If a man calls a woman a ‘cunt,’[2] considering the meaning and intent of using that word, no reasonable person could argue against the fact that its use might incite a woman to anger and/or violence. However, it is also quite reasonable to argue that words alone, no matter what the word is, should not be enough to provoke another to violence. Barring some mental/brain issue (psychotic break, immaturity, etc.), people should be able to control their actions in the face of provocative words. No one should have enough power over you such that her mere words can control your behavior, thoughts, and/or emotions. Or, at least that’s the argument. Before you form an opinion one way or another, take stock of your life and honestly consider whether the words of someone you’ve crossed paths with has incited you to action. Has a boyfriend or girlfriend’s words ever gotten you to change your hair, clothes, or behavior? Has a parent’s words caused you to reconsider a friend or a lover? If someone else’s words has led you to act, stop acting, or what have you, why? Is someone else’s words has not led you to act, not act, stop acting, etc., why not? The most important point to consider (individually and societally) is whether there are certain words and certain circumstances when an individual or group is justified in allowing another’s mere words to move them to action—negative action that is? [1]Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire 315 U.S. 568 (1942); Street v. New York 394 U.S. 576 (1969); Cohen v. California 403 U.S. 15 (1971); Gooding v. Wilson 405 U.S. 518 (1972); Lewis v. City of New Orleans 415 U.S. 518 (1974); R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul 505 U.S. 377 (1992); Snyder v. Phelps 562 U.S. 443 (2011). [2]“Obscene: the female genital organs; sexual intercourse with a woman; usually disparaging and obscene.” “Cunt.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2019. Web. 6 March 2019.

Sorry Not Sorry

We are living in an increasingly racially divisive society. People are as offended as they are offensive and don’t seem to care until it gets them in hot water. In the past few years, we’ve witnessed a wave of celebrities and corporations make egregious errors in judgement resulting in obvious racism and disrespect. Once they face back lash, in the form of either losing endorsements or being boycotted, they then offer an apology and agree to some superficial sensitivity or diversity training. For example, just recently the Italian luxury brand Gucci released a turtleneck sweater modeled after black face. In the photos circulating online, there was a white woman wearing a black sweater with big red lips covering the mouth. Blackface is a historically racist stereotype of black people; jet black face with huge white, pink or bright red lips. Of course after public outrage and receiving negative press, Gucci issued a statement, apologized and removed the sweater from its online and physical stores. Are we to honestly think this product was created, made it past an entire marketing team, was distributed to stores and NO ONE thought it was a problem until some people commented online? This company knew exactly what they’re doing, they just didn’t care! They think giving an apology and agreeing to diversity training is going to make everything OK. And what do we do as consumers? We feel outraged, hurt and appalled, boycott for a while and go right back to business as usual. As much money as these corporations make off the black dollar, we must do better so they feel the hurt in their bottom line. Personally, I’m sick of it. I no longer have the patience or tolerance for adults who make purposeful decisions and then apologize as if they had no clue what they were doing or saying would be offensive. The blatant disrespect is at an all-time high and the I'm sorry's feel like an insincere slap in the face. I would rather a person own up to how they really feel, stand on it and take whatever criticism comes their way, instead of delivering some bullshit apology their PR team advised them to say. The whole “apology tour” is getting exhausting and a bit ridiculous to watch. Someone says something racist or offensive to a certain marginalized group, they get “dragged” on social media, we boycott for a while, they offer an apology and we’re on to another subject until the cycle repeats with another offender; no pun intended. How long are we going to keep just accepting apologies from individuals that know better? Support Our Own Now is the time to take away the power these people think they have and redistribute it. Stop subscribing to artists and corporations who love everything about the culture except the people in the culture. Stop being so forgiving of those who do not have our best interests at heart. Stop giving them our money and instead let’s invest in and empower our own. With the increase of social media, we now have access to more information than we’ve had before as a society. There are ample black owned businesses, apparel lines and fashion houses, etc., we can patronize so there wouldn’t be a need to support the likes of Gucci. Because let’s be honest, there isn’t anything remarkable or extraordinary about these brands other than the name. Cancel these people and businessesforever and give our green dollars to our black entrepreneurs and continue to circulate them throughout the black community and do so unapologetically. #unapologetic #sorrynotsorry #keepyourapologies #bleuanchor

Words: The "N" Word

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” I remember saying and hearing this little adage when I was in grade school. Even then, however, I knew it was one of those lies we tell ourselves to help us get through a difficult situation. I knew this because the only time such a saying was used was when in fact someone’s words had hurt another’s feelings. A word can hurt because of the meaning the speaker gives the word. Or, a word can hurt because of the meaning the listener gives the word. Further, the speaker’s intent when using certain words can dictate the meaning the words should have for the listener. Word and phrase meanings change over time and vary between locales. Variations of the same word can have very different meanings. As the story goes, ‘nigger’ has a very different meaning than its allegedly more positive descendant, ‘nigga.’ Although it is commonly believed to mean, “An ignorant person,” the word ‘nigger’ has never had that meaning.[1] ‘Nigger,’ as far back as 1574, which is its first known use, has always been a racial slur.[2] It has only ever meant to be used as “an insulting and contemptuous term for a Black person.”[3] ‘Nigger’ is considered so offensive that even when merely discussing the word, people only refer to it as, ‘the N-word.’[4] It is generally considered, and I would argue universally accepted, as a word forbidden from use by white people and virtually never used by Black people. I further posit that any time anyone of any race uses the word, he/she intends it to have its historical and universally accepted purpose: to insult and convey contempt. On the flip side of that coin is ‘nigger’s’ allegedly more positive cousin, ‘nigga.’ There is no hard and fast definition of ‘nigga,’ as it is used to convey a variety of meanings in a variety of situations. Most commonly, ‘nigga’ is used by Black people to refer to other Black people. In defense of the word’s use by Black people, some have argued that ‘nigga’ is simply a way to turn a negative word into a positive one. I have heard celebrities and non-celebrities alike defend the use of ‘nigga’ by attempting to distinguish it from ‘nigger’ as a completely different word with a completely different meaning as if ‘nigga’ is not simply a variation of ‘nigger.’ What weakens the, ‘nigga’ is a way to turn a negative word into a positive one,’ argument is that ‘nigga’ can, has, and is often used as synonymous with ‘nigger.’ ‘Nigga’ is often used by Black people towards other Black people (and other races) to insult and convey contempt. Additionally, many Black people are just as offended when white people (and non-Blacks) use ‘nigga’ as they are when they use ‘nigger.’ Black people have also made the argument that the speaker’s intent behind using ‘nigga’ is different than when using ‘nigger.’ I am not convinced by the ‘nigga’ vs. ‘nigger’ argument. I have not and never will sign on to the ‘nigga’ bandwagon. Despite the fact that pop culture, hip hop, and rap music have helped to make it seem as though ‘nigga’ has a positive meaning (or at least a different meaning than ‘nigger’), I don’t buy it. I don’t believe the people who freely use ‘nigga’ believe it either. If they did believe in its transforming powers, then why would its use be restricted to Black people? If there were truly no negative connotations within the use of ‘nigga’ and it’s a completely different animal than ‘nigger,’ then why was there controversy when Jennifer Lopez used the word in one of her songs? Why is there controversy when Cardi B uses the word in her songs? And so on and so on… To me, the truth is that Black people subscribed to the use of the word for the same reasons we subscribed to the use of relaxers and other hair straighteners, skin bleaching, nose thinning surgery, and the other countless mechanisms we’ve used over the centuries to minimize and/or erase our Blackness—white oppression and brainwashing has caused us to hate ourselves and all those things that define our Blackness. We have been conditioned to see our Blackness as ugly and dirty and their whiteness as beautiful and clean. Whatever spin you may want to put on the word to justify using it does not change its historical and present meaning. Using a term to refer to yourself and others that look like you, that is so universally considered offensive to Black people specifically, in whatever variation you choose, is so antithetical to positive and uplifting behavior that I must wonder if we as a people will ever truly be free of the chains our ancestors endured. [1]“nigger.” Merriam-Webster.com Merriam-Webster, 2019. Web. 6 March 2019. [2]Id. [3]Id. [4]Id.

Objectification

Misogyny and the objectification of women are deep-seated cultural diseases that have been imbedded in our society for centuries. Women objectified and broken down as mere body parts that exist only for men’s pleasure. Even with all the progress women have made in the world, we still are not valued and treated fairly by our male counterparts. Pay inequity, the glass ceiling, sexism in all parts of society are aspects of misogyny that keep women feeling like second class citizens in this country. It appears women are only loved and adored when we are society’s standard of beautiful, half naked, or giving people something to look at. Observe the movies, television shows and even social media; sex sells and it’s usually the women who are doing the “selling.” Even though we are far past the days of Women’s Lib and burning bras, there are still many steps to take before we get to the promised land. Rape Culture From early on in life, girls are taught to act, dress, and speak a certain way. “Don’t wear this.”, “Don’t sit like that.” “Girls are supposed to act this way.” Those are common instructions I can remember being told when I was an adolescent. I never questioned why my grandmother and other women in my life told me this. I just fell in line and did as I was told. Growing up I started to realize that it was not because of me or anything they felt I did wrong. It was so I wouldn’t “agitate” boys. “Cover up so boys won’t be distracted!” “Sit this way so boys won’t stare!” “Don’t act like that or boys will behave inappropriately.” Why are we to adjust ourselves to accommodate boys? Shouldn’t boys be taught not to be inappropriate, make rude comments, and have self-control? Even now some 20+ years later, I can read off the list of my daughter’s school dress code where 90 percent of the clothes that are banned are girls’ clothes: camisoles, anything that shows shoulders, any type of skirts or shorts that are not below the knees, etc. Why is society placing these rules on little girls? How is my daughter wearing spaghetti straps to school hindering her education? It’s not, these rules are in place because we live in a society where rape culture is the norm and women and girls should be cautious not to provoke the males. Rape culture, simply stated, is the concept in which rape and misogyny are normalized and accepted because of society’s approach to gender and sexuality. Victim blaming, victim shaming, slut shaming, all fall under rape culture. “She was asking for it.” “Look at what she’s wearing.” “She said ‘No.,’ but really meant ‘Yes.’” “Boys will be boys.” If you’ve said any of these statements yourself, you have propagated rape culture. Rape culture is much deeper than what’s stated in this post. However, the point here is to bring awareness to a problem that many people don’t even realize they’re apart of. Once we’re aware of the problem that is rape culture and the many ways we’ve all helped to perpetrate it, we can then work to alter our thinking and then our behavior. Change the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality, start holding men accountable for their thinking and actions, and start calling out anyone who is perpetuating rape culture. It is important to reiterate here that women are just as culpable as men in perpetrating rape culture. Raise Our Boys, Change Our Men Boys are taught early on that being aggressive and liking several girls is acceptable—it’s just what boys do. Girls are taught if a boy bothers you or hits you that just means he likes you. We are raising our boys to objectify and abuse women while at the same time raising our girls to accept such behavior and ideologies. We make excuses for and allow our boys to make excuses for their ill-treatment of girls. To add salt to the wound, we then blame the girls for being mistreated. We place such heavy burdens on our girls, going so far as to make small children responsible for the actions of grown men. Girls are chastised for dressing, walking, or even just being a certain way around adult men. This mentality raises two very serious questions: (1) why are girls being sexualized at such young ages? and (2) why do we continue to find it acceptable for a grown man to be, apparently, uncontrollably enticed by a young girl? Those questions raise additional, but broader questions: (1) Why are women dispensable?; (2) Why aren’t we loved, valued, and protected?; (3) Why do we coddle our boys—who are supposed to be tough, strong, and unemotional—but abuse, neglect, and abandon our girls, who are supposed to be soft, fragile, and passive? We, as women, are dehumanized and demonized when we are the ones disrespected and mistreated. We must raise our sons to respect and love women. Just as importantly, we must raise our daughters that they are not responsible for how a man behaves. Our daughters, sisters, mothers, and aunts are not here for men’s sexual gratification. have to teach our boys to respect and love women and not just for sexual gratification. Teach our boys to respect the word no. Teach our boys to protect the women in their lives. Teach our boys that women are not things. When boys are raised to value women and treat them as equal, they have a better chance of becoming men who do the same. Giving boys the right tools will help build great men. Break the Cycle We all have to be in this fight together. Women and men must coexist so that as a society we can prosper. I teach my daughter to be respectful of everyone, not just a certain group of people. We are all humans and have work to do while we are on this planet. No one is better than the other. I believe it is never too late to change and it all starts with the mind. Changing the way we think about women will change the way we talk to women, how we view women, and how we treat women. Ending rape culture and misogynistic thinking does not only protect girls and women. It also serves to protect our boys and men. You must remember that the girls of today will grow up and raise the boys of tomorrow. Do we want insecure, emotionally and psychologically damaged women marrying our sons, brothers, uncles, fathers? Do we want them raising our sons, grandsons, cousins? Change the narrative and stop feeding into the stereotypes. Not all girls are these delicate little flowers who need rescuing and not all boys are these aggressive little troublemakers. Give our children a chance to not be boxed in with what the world wants them to be. We have to be forward thinkers and progressive movers if we are to win this fight in inequality. Cancel the misogynistic views of society, end rape culture, and love our women, not for what they give us but because of who they are. #bleuanchorentertainment #objectification #misogyny #protectblackgirls #protectblackboys

Know Your Role and Stay in Your Lane

An Introduction to Lynell E. Everett and Bleu Anchor Entertainment, LLC Pigeon Hole It is the human condition for us to categorize, or pigeon hole, everyone and everything in our environment. We enjoy and even feel satisfied when we can place all the things that look like tables into the furniture box or describe all of the women who stand 5’ 9” and above as “tall.” Such categorization is so engrained in our psyche that not having the ability or opportunity to place everything and everyone into the appropriate box can cause anxiety and discomfort. When we shop for shoes online, we must decide whether we’re looking for men’s, women’s, or children’s. From there, we must then determine if we want dress, casual, or athletic. Moving forward, we have to narrow down the choices between running, walking, or cross-trainers. If that weren’t enough boxes before we get to the correct pair, there’s size, color, insole style, brand, etc., etc. We’ve created so many categories for all of our things and even for each other as people that we enter an infinite Russian nesting doll realm when describing just about anything or anyone. It may be true that we need all of these descriptions within descriptions to fully understand and safely navigate through our world. Undoubtedly, not having the appropriate category for some things and people create unnecessary danger. Humanity wouldn’t be long for this world if we failed to separate poisons from edibles. Our children would be and are in constant danger if we did not denote and separate pedophiles from the remainder of adults. How would we obtain the appropriate treatment for our illnesses if we didn’t categorize the various medical fields into manageable and understandable disciplines? Despite the ever-growing list of details by which we can describe things and people, categories are essential to human existence. That being said, such delineations can be harmful and unnecessarily restrictive. Just as everything else necessary to human existence can be abused, categorization, or pigeon holing, can be as well. Unnecessary Categories We oftentimes, as humans, place each other in certain categories not to understand our environment, but instead to define and control the individuals we’ve so placed. We look at a new born baby and immediately attempt to determine whether it’s a boy or girl, more specifically whether it has a penis or a vagina. But, we don’t necessarily do so to understand how the child fits into our environment or how we fit into the child’s environment for any essential human needs. The primary reason we are so concerned with the child’s genitalia is to immediately place him/her into a specific box because that box comes with tacit rules, regulations, and expectations. We expect and insist that the babies with vaginas be emotional, chaste, to wear dresses, and to become teachers or nurses, etc. We expect and insist that the babies with penises be logical/rational, play sports, have robust sexual prowess, and be the higher wage earner in their households, etc. However, most of these imposed make-shift gender roles have nothing to do with our genitalia. A vagina isn’t less of a vagina if the woman who owns it chooses to play football. And a penis isn’t less of a penis if the man who owns it has a good cry while watching Bambi. Nevertheless, we’ve convinced ourselves that superficial delineations like this somehow enhance and protect the human experience. Bleu Anchor Mission We here at Bleu Anchor Entertainment, LLC have taken it on as our goal, nay, our mission to step outside these unnecessary boxes and then crush them into nihility. We want to show you all through our lives, work, and business that we are not who “they” have tried to force us to be and more importantly, that you do not have to be who “they” want you to be. This doesn’t just apply to gender roles, but to any category, box, pigeon hole, or any other descriptor “they” try to place you into. You are not 1 of a thousand job applicants, or 1 of 10,000 students, or 1 of 100,000 writers, or 1 of 1,000,000 recording artists. You are 1 of 1 of You. You are not the next Beyoncé, or Johnny Cochran, or LeBron James. You are the first You. You should act accordingly. My Categories A few of my boxes: Black, Woman, Attorney, Floridian. Objectively, I technically fit into all of those boxes. However, I have a bad habit of refusing to play by all of the rules associated with said boxes. I embrace, nay, clutch my culture, my “Blackness” as it were. I wear it with pride. In considering this, in all reasonableness, that should not be a statement that I should have to make. It should go without saying that I relish in my culture if for no other reason than I have no choice because it is the natural state of my being. Nevertheless, I state it here just to be clear. In symmetry with such relishing, I wear my hair in its natural (4c) state when I don’t have braids (blue, purple, red, etc) or other protective styles. (If you’re not familiar with the term “protective style,” stay tuned to Bleu Anchor Entertainment and we’ll educate you on that and so very much more). If It Doesn't Fit... Apparently, when you simultaneously fit into the four boxes mentioned above some of the rules are mutually exclusive, or so I’ve been told. On more than one occasion, I’ve been told that my career would suffer if I did not remove my braids or take the various “unnatural” colors out of my hair. I’ve been told that I should wear a skirt or dress while practicing before a particular judge (elderly, white, republican, judge). I’ve been told that I should be less “pro-Black” in my online presence. I’ve been told that I should be less “militant” in my fight for my people. I’ve been told (by a white woman) that saying “my people” when referring to other Blacks is offensive to her. I’ve been told that I’m making myself unemployable by speaking out against systemic racism, police brutality, rape culture, Black love, white “supremacy”, and white privilege. An Introduction To all of you who don’t know me yet, let me introduce myself. My name is Lynell Estelle Everett and I do what the f*ck I want. I’m not here to be what the world wants me to be. I was created for a purpose and the only way I can live out that purpose is to be wholly and completely Me. A little insight into Me: When I was six years old (1987), I went to Lucas Elementary School in East St. Louis, District 189. At the time, the school had on one side of the building the girls’ playground and on the other side of the building, the boys’ playground. The boys’ playground consisted of a jungle gym, monkey bars, a slide, and some other cool equipment. The girls’ playground consisted of absolutely nothing. On the first day of school, the teachers tossed us a cut up phone line (that’s a land line cord for you millennials) and told us to jump rope. When I questioned my teachers to find out why the girls were not allowed to play on the playground equipment, I was told more than once that girls’ shouldn’t get dirty, we might get hurt, girls don’t look good with scars, and some other misogynistic nonsense. Let me state that all of my teachers were women at the time. Those reasons didn’t sit well with me, so every day for the first three days of school when it was time for recess I ignored my teachers and went directly to the boys’ side. And every day for the first three days of school, I was forcefully told to go to “my” side for recess. My teacher used that tone that I believe now days on people my age and older will understand, and I swiftly got myself to the other side. When I went home on that third day of school, I told my mother what had been happening. She told me that I had every right to play on that playground equipment if I wanted to and to not let anyone stop me. On that fourth day of school, I again went to the boys’ side, only this time my resolve was fortified, and I shan’t be moved. After several forceful admonitions, my teacher physically grabbed me and took me to the other side. She handed me a piece of phone cord and told me to jump rope. I slowly, deliberately, and purposefully walked back to the boys’ side and finished out recess on the jungle gym. To say that she was livid is an understatement. When recess was over, I spent the rest of the day standing facing the corner. At the end of the day, she was escorting me to the principal’s office to wait for my mother to come pick me up instead of being allowed to wait in class like everyone else who didn’t ride the school bus. Little did she know that I shan’t be moved. While in the office, there were several parents present to pick up their children. I slowly, deliberately, and purposefully announced to every one of them that the girls were not allowed to use the playground equipment and that I was physically removed from the equipment when I tried to use it. The parents were not pleased. On the fifth day of school at recess all of the kids were playing on the “boys’” side. I’m 37 years old now and I wear pants and purple and blue braids to court. And I win. #BAEblog #BleuAnchorEntertainment #zetaphibeta #motivation #inspiration #strength #blackempowerment #blackwriters #zetabaddiez #success #weshallnotbemoved