The Greatest Blessing in the Whole World is Being a Blessing

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I had a realization somewhere in the last year. I took a pause from asking God for the things I wanted and started asking what (S)He wanted from me. I declared daily, “God, use me for Your highest purpose! Show me how I can use my unique gifts and talents to be of service to the world.” It was at this point that I became uber-aware of the miracles occurring all around me.

In the past, if I had an inkling to say or do something, oftentimes I would ignore it for fear of judgment. After I prayed this prayer, however, I acted on my intuition, knowing that God was answering my prayer. There have been so many instances since that day where God has used me to be a blessing, and has blessed me in return.

One day, I was walking to meet my friend Caitlin to go hiking. I confused the cross street we were meeting at, and ended up sitting and waiting for her on a stone wall outside of a popular plaza. After a few minutes, the parking attendant, an older Indian man, came over and began speaking with me. We made some small talk about his job before he blurted out to me that he didn’t like black people. I was shocked. Why would he think it was okay to say something like that to me? I remembered my prayer and decided that cursing him out would do no good and decided to try another method. I asked him why he disliked black people so much. He told me that all the people that park in his lot are respectful, except black people who often yell at him and try to physically assault him. I told him I was sorry to hear that he had had this experience, but reasoned with him that these were just a few people, and not reflective of the entire race. He wouldn’t listen. He had had so many bad experiences that nothing I could say would change his mind. I explained to him that he was having these experiences because he expected to have them and that my experiences were quite the opposite. I explained that he could change the way he experienced people and events by changing his thinking. I told him verbatim, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  At that moment my friend texted me clarifying the correct street she was on. As I went to get up to leave, a beautiful black family in an SUV slowly pulled into the parking space directly in front of us. The black man looked directly at the Indian man, bowed his head, and put his hands up in the prayer pose, respectfully thanking him for doing his job. The indian man looked at me with the widest eyes I’ve ever seen. Once again, I looked at him and repeated, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” and happily walked off. Continue reading

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Don’t Be A Hard Rock When You Really Are A Gem

“Sad, but one day our kids will have to visit museums to see what a lady looks like. So if you find one, I beg of you, hold her tight. Yes, if you spot one, good sir, treat her right.” -Andre 3000

A few months ago I attended a listening session for Ne-yo’s new album. There were about 40 industry professionals packed inside a tiny studio in North Hollywood rating each song between 1 and 5. I’m not big into R&B these days, but everything sounded pretty standard to me. He sang about sex, “love”, and money, and topped it off with a Juicy J feature to give it just the right amount of ratchet. It had everything 2000-something R&B albums are made of.

As we left, my girl Dominique asked me what I thought of the album. “It was cool,” I told her. “What about that song where he was trying to convince his girl to have a threesome?” she asked. “It was cool,” I replied for the second time. “Are you serious!?” she snapped back, “I thought it was disgusting. I mean seriously, who does he think he is?” I was confused and couldn’t understand why she was so upset. It wasn’t until I took a step back and really thought about it that I realized how valid her point was. I also realized how and why I had become so desensitized.

I have been around the “industry” in some way or another since I was 19. My first trip to Miami during BET’s Spring Bling Weekend was the first of many experiences into a world that most people will never witness firsthand. My love for hip hop, traveling, and for other cultures has landed me in the middle of a diverse array of environments and situations that have shaped the way I think and process the world today.

I’ve been in love with hip hop since the moment I first heard “Hypnotize” bumping out of my speakers in 97′ on the top 7 at 9. Even though back then hip hop was laced with misogyny, there were many other more prevalent themes. It was about rebellion, it was about hustle, and it was about having heart. Over the years, it’s transitioned into odes to money, drugs, and strippers. Having heart is now not nearly as important as having Instagram followers. Having respect is valued less than having naked girls shaking it for singles in videos. Creative content is less important than having a Tuesday night Supper Club smash. The music has transitioned, and subsequently, so have the women.

I recently saw a video Jada Pinkett Smith posted about human trafficking in America. A lot of the victims she spoke to had gotten their start in the strip club. This turned into other extracurricular activities with clients and before they knew it, many of these women were sold into the sex slave trade. She was shocked at how glorified stripping had become in our society, remarking that when she was a young girl, it was considered shameful. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment the shift occurred, but some time in the last ten years, stripping became a glamorized and coveted profession. Mainstream music has become more and more disrespectful towards women and Instagram has become a breeding ground for aspiring models who take their clothes off daily to gain “likes.” Bar tending in thongs and hosting parties have become desirable career paths for many young women who value red soles on their shoes more than college degrees.

While I’ve never stripped or posted nudes on the Gram, I have definitely felt the effects of this cultural shift. I’m reminded of this often when I tell stories to my friends who have had very traditional or religious upbringings. Because of a lot of the things I’ve seen or been around, certain things are “normal” to me that would leave my more traditional friends with their jaws on the floor. While I don’t participate in many of these questionable activities, I don’t flinch when I see or hear about them. From seeing girls prostitute themselves out for a few hundred dollars, to seeing rappers getting top in public, to hearing famous men blatantly and publicly bragging about cheating on their equally as famous wives, not too many things shock me these days. Continue reading