Browsed by
Tag: black history

BYE 2016! Bumps, Bruises, Heartaches, and Lessons Learned! ;-)

BYE 2016! Bumps, Bruises, Heartaches, and Lessons Learned! ;-)

What have I learned in 2016?

You can’t do it all by yourself.  As much as we think we can, we can’t. We need a team or a tribe to hold us accountable and essentially help with bringing the bigger picture to life. 

I have items on my vision board that didn’t come to fruition this year, and you know what. That’s okay.  

Vision Board 2016 vs Dream Catching in 2017
Vision Board 2016 vs Dream Catching in 2017

Add on to them or change them.  New Goals, New Year!

I took some trips this year that allowed me to connect more with my purpose. I connected with family members that I never knew existed, and reconnected with some people during unlikely circumstances. 

I overexerted myself in some areas, and simply loss the grip on some in my personal and professional life. 

But. Hey. That’s life. 

I started a new career path, in order to give back to my community, and find peace within my current journey.

I learned that you can be unqualified for a powerful position and still secure the job. It takes guts, and you have to be willing to put yourself out there. You will have naysayers, or as the millennials say “haters” but you can’t worry about them. Do what’s best for you. 

I had to get back to me this year. I’m going to focus more on what works best for my sanity. People won’t always understand what you’re doing, but for those that trust you they will support.

2017 will be a huge year of branding for Steele Lens and what falls under the umbrella of the company. 

The first book in the Adventures of Alleykats series was released, and the support has been EVERYTHING.  Looking forward to releasing book 2 in 2017.

Alleykats Club 2016
Alleykats Club 2016

The Final 48 Project continues to prove to me that the documentary and photography campaign is necessary.  Honestly, take a look at your timeline.  A lot of your friends have suffered a significant loss this year.  We need love and support from each other more than ever.

The annual #SteeleThankful Challenge will be bigger and better and that’s thanks to you all. You trusted me, participated, and we all learned so much about ourselves.

I will continue to keep the faith, and believe that God has some amazing things in store in order to make this world a better place. 

Throwing Glitter and Lots of Love going into 2017!

img_0062

Xoxo,

RJ

I AM THE GREATEST! 💪🏾🏆

I AM THE GREATEST! 💪🏾🏆

It’s important to affirm yourself daily.  Stand in the mirror; say to yourself, “I AM THE GREATEST!”

On Friday, I viewed the funeral procession for Muhammad Ali live on ESPN.  Ali spent the last decade planning his funeral, and I must say it was everything that he represented.  His final ride through his hometown, and finally resting at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky left everyone in awe.

The pride and love from residents and fans left me speechless.  There is one memory that was expressed by Ali’s daughter Hana that I will never forget:

“My father would have a recurring dream years ago. He dreamed that he was running down Broadway Ave in Louisville. He said people were waving and cheering. He waved back. Then it just stopped. He began to fly.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.41.44 AM

Storytelling is great because I believe they are our way to keep those special moments/memories alive.  It seems as though the best stories are always told once a person has transitioned from mortal to immortal.  Over the past week on social media, and through various interviews the world was able to express their special memories of Muhammad Ali.  Especially the classic line from one of my favorite movies, “His mama named him Clay, umma call him Clay.”   Can you guess the movie? Lol.

I was able to meet Ali when he resided in a neighboring town when I was a little girl. My memory was when he singled my sister and I out to come and greet him at the Berrien County Youth Fair. One of those, “who me?” moments.  Out of all the people walking around at the fair he wanted to greet us.  It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.  To so many people he was a legend, I mean seriously he was the greatest to ever do it, but he was truly a gentle giant.

Ali was unafraid and unapologetic.  He believed in equality and justice, both in and out of the boxing ring.  He didn’t care about your religious background, color, or any other preference.  He just wanted everyone to be treated fairly.

After the tragic event that occurred in Orlando over the weekend I think it’s time that we ALL take a long look in the mirror.  Love on ourselves and each other.  Remind ourselves that we are the greatest.  You are the best possible you that only YOU CAN BE!  In this moment, you are striving to live a better life and don’t apologize for being you.  Daily we strive to be more Christ like, and we also fail in many areas but the main thing is that we keep trying.  We can never be the GREATEST person that ever walked this earth, but we can sure try to be the greatest version of ourselves.

Xoxo,

R.J.

The Blueprint: The importance of HERstory. Stay Lit and March 4th!

The Blueprint: The importance of HERstory. Stay Lit and March 4th!

I love when this day comes around every year. Say it aloud, “March Forth.” Move forward. How does that statement resonate with you? For me, it motivates me to keep pushing to the next level of my dreams.

We are almost ninety (Yes 90) days into the new year and how are we doing with our goals for 2016? I’ve been reflecting on the goals I have on my vision board, and I’ve made progress. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of work to do.

We went from Black History Month to Women’s History Month. Can we agree that last month was jam packed with greatness?! I know that this month will be no different. I mean Hello, March is the month for movement. It’s instructing us that everything we’ve worked for is requiring us to act on it.

March…March…March

This week I reflected on my interaction with Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson. She was the matriarch and activist behind the Civil Rights Movement and marches in Selma, Alabama.  When she was on tour last year (at 103 years old) I was given the opportunity to edit a video for her to be placed in her personal archives.

I thought about the strength of Ms. Amelia. She was in her fifties when she was apart of  the fight for equality in Alabama. When I listened to her speak in an intimate venue last year she repeated the one thing that continued to keep her going.

Faith.

Faith without works is dead, right?  It all starts with faith. The faith that this thing is gonna happen. If it aligns with God’s will, it’s gotta work!

She was brutally attacked on March 7, 1965 (Bloody Sunday), in Selma during a march for voting rights in Alabama.  After the attack I’m sure that would have stopped the average person.  Ms. Amelia was far from average.  She was determined to keep the faith until things changed.

Have you seen the movie Selma, directed by Ava Duvernay?  Ms. Amelia is played by Lorraine Toussaint in the movie.  If you haven’t checked it out please do so this weekend.  Thank me later.  😉

On this day what will you do different to make a change in your life?  I’m holding myself accountable and taking notes from the blueprint that Ms. Amelia has left behind.

 

From Fist Pumpin to West Philly: Fresh Princess of Books!

From Fist Pumpin to West Philly: Fresh Princess of Books!

I think it’s safe to say after the last three weeks I am exhausted!  The pack/unpack cycle has concluded for at least a month, but I’m definitely grateful for the Historical Tours w/R.J. that were completed.

You know I love a good road trip.  Can you believe of my many road trips on the east coast I’ve NEVER been to Philadelphia?  I rode through Pennsylvania heading to Virginia but never visited any historical sites in the state.  Our nation’s first capital, and I finally made it!

It was chilling cold the first day in Philly so my friends and I decided to venture out on Sunday afternoon.  Our first stop was the Art Museum, and also the scene for the famous steps from the Rocky Movie.   You know we had to go to the top right?! Lol.  RockySteps2

The view from the top of the “Rocky Steps” was amazing.  We hung out at the top because it was the perfect photo op for anyone who conquered the stairs!

Rocky Stairs
Rocky Stairs (Philly Art Museum) – View from the Top

Of course this stop wouldn’t be complete without posing with the statue!

Rocky Pose

By the mid-afternoon we worked up quite an appetite marching around Philly, so we decided to go over to the Reading Terminal Market.  There was so much to choose from but how could we come to Philly without getting a cheesesteak.  Sure, my friends from the area told me to try Jim’s or Ishkabibble but Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagie and Cheesesteak was President Obama approved!  Since my former alias is Carmen Sandiego I was definitely down to try.  Placed my order, took my Ace of Spades card, and waited patiently for my order.

Yum.  Aces of Spade card for my order wearing one of my fave nail colors, Essie - Mint Candy Apple
Yum. Aces of Spade card for my order wearing one of my fave nail colors, Essie – Mint Candy Apple

No need to snap a picture of my food.  We were thoroughly satisfied.  I’ll check the other places out to compare the next time in Philly.

I saw a story on Facebook about one of the oldest African American bookstores in the country was located in West Philly, Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop.  I was excited to stop by, drop off my book, and patronize the business.  We met the late owner’s daughter, Ms. Yvonne Blake.  Her father, Mr. Dawud Hakim began selling books from the trunk in his car in 1959 before settling in it’s current location on 52nd Street.  Can you imagine the history that has been exchanged in that space for the last 40 years.You can honestly get lost in there with the collection of books that is offered in the store.  It is truly an amazing treasure to have in West Philly, and I wish more bookstores like that one existed all over the country.  When you are in Philly be sure to stop by Hakim’s and it’s possible you may see a familiar book(s) in there very soon!

Hakim's Bookstore

 

 

The Blueprint: There was NONE! Still standing over 150 years later…

The Blueprint: There was NONE! Still standing over 150 years later…

There’s something special about this time of year.  I can talk about history all day every day, but it’s extra special during the month of February.  The community comes together to celebrate black excellence in all areas of history.  It’s truly a beautiful thing.  If we could just keep the momentum going after February, can you imagine how amazing that would be?

Okay, so what’s a trip back to North Carolina without visiting my old stomping grounds.  I had a special companion with me (Flat Stanley), and I decided to turn the experience into a “Historical Tour with R.J.” I decided to revisit a place where I was an intern on and off site.

Historic Stagville was one of the largest slave plantations located in Durham, NC.  The plantations was owned by the Bennehen-Cameron family consisted of 900 slaves, and almost 30,000 acres of land.  Yes, you read that correctly, a lot of land and slaves.  I want to talk about the history of the slaves and their contribution to Stagville.

One question that I would receive when I conducted tours as an intern was, “So, the slave owners Mr. Cameron must have been nice because the slave homes are still standing, right?  I mean these are really nice compared to what I’ve ever seen.”

My response would always be, “Mr. Cameron knew how to protect his investment, his investment meaning his slaves.  I’m sure none of the slaves enjoyed being slaves.  The dwellings are a representation of what happens when you invest in your property, property meaning slaves.”

Slave Dwellings would house 4 families (5-7 people, one room per family) completed in the 1850s.
Slave Dwellings would house 4 families (5-7 people, one room per family) completed in the 1850s.

The slave dwellings are truly fascinating to experience in person.  The dwellings are still standing and when you visit the site you are able to go inside, and take plenty of pictures which is always nice!

You can’t leave the slave dwelling without knowing the history of the chimney.  North Carolina has red clay.  The bricks in the chimney are made from that clay.  The truly fascinating part is that some of the bricks were not completely formed or dry before assembly.  In a few of the bricks you will find fingerprints, and even a child’s footprint.

Fingerprint found in the chimney at Stagville.
Fingerprint found in the chimney at Stagville.
A child's footprint found in the bricks on the Stagville Slave Dwelling Chimney.
A child’s footprint found in the bricks on the Stagville Slave Dwelling Chimney.

The tour is not complete without having a tour of the Great Barn.  The Great Barn was completed in the Spring of 1860, and through all of the storms the barn is still standing.  The Great Barn was build without a BLUEPRINT.  The slaves that built the barn are believed to be from the coast.  The roof of the barn has the resemblance of an upside down boat.  Some of the original wooden beams and pegs are still intact and only with minor updates to the structure.  The barn housed the mules and other products that were used on the plantation.

One of the photos taken inside of the great barn.  Please see featured photo for an outside view of the barn.
One of the photos taken inside of the great barn. Please see featured photo for an outside view of the barn.

It is important to highlight African American architecture, which a lot of times goes unnoticed.  The dwellings and barn that are still in it’s original condition over 150 years later is absolutely remarkable.  The blood, sweat, tears, finger and footprints are an indication of our strength, culture,  and continuous excellence.

The path is not always straight or easy.  The journey often brings about uncertainty, but if we choose the right path it can lead to something truly amazing.

Historic Stagville Path

Thank you for being apart of this “Historical Tour with R.J.”  during Black History Month!

R.J.

 

Why I’m not going to church tonight!

Why I’m not going to church tonight!

It’s the last day of 2015. This year has taught me so much about myself. I have everything within me to be great, and I need to step it up a notch in the new year.

It’s no secret that I grew up in the church, but I’m amazed at how much things have changed.  I’m not sure if we ever discussed where  “Watch Night Service,”  derives from.  Do you know?

Also known as “Freedom Eve,” happened for the first time on Wednesday, December 31, 1862. Slave and free blacks gathered at churches and homes anticipating the news that a law changing decision was around the corner by way of the Emancipation Proclamation. January 1, 1863, the law was passed but unfortunately that did not mean that slavery was over. What it did mean is that the black community came together and believed that their faith would get them through to the other side, freedom. From that New Year’s Eve going forward the Freedom Eve now known as Watch Night Service is still an annual tradition in the black community every year. The faith that God will bring closure to the past, and bring forth a prosperous and healthy new year.

Whether you decide to watch the ball drop, drop it low at the club, chill at home, or attend church, I am hoping that you, YES YOU, are surrounded with love and happiness as we close out 2015.

Oh what am I doing?  I’m not sure yet.  I thought about hanging with friends tomorrow night, instead of tonight because personally I want to go to a place where everyone is believing that their faith will take them to the next level.   I don’t want to say that I’m going to church because it sounds good.  I’m going because I know that I personally need to go.  In 2016, I’ll continue to be transparent, and unpack more of my story.  I can’t wait!  The mission for 2016 is to continue to bring awareness, educate, and encourage.  Are you with me?

It’s been an amazing year, and I’m looking forward to 2016!

Xoxo,

R.J.

Our Ancestors Footsteps…

Our Ancestors Footsteps…

For the last year in my 20’s I decided to take on an adventure every month until my 30th birthday.  The last weekend in my 20’s I decided to embark on a mini road trip from North Carolina to Maryland.  I didn’t care if I went by myself or with a group of friends.  I was determined to get to the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore.

It was overwhelming from the beginning to the end.  That is definitely a museum that you need to visit more than once.  There was so much to see (and learn), and there was no way that I covered everything within one visit.  So, if you can catch my drift, I need to go back soon!

I attempted to get as many photos as I could.  I snapped this picture of, “Walking In The Footsteps Of Our Ancestors.”  That’s a powerful title/statement.  A few figures that are featured in the photo are Thurgood Marshall, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Mary Church Terrell, symbolizing education and justice, right?

Let’s take a look at the events that are going on around us.  There’s so many movements that are taking place.  The time is now to dedicate ourselves to strategically prepping our cultures for generations to come.  For example, Mary Church Terrell, being the first African American woman to receive a college degree, and a national activist for civil rights and the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  She used her activism to progress the lives of African Americans in the 19th and 20th Century, and now in the 21st century what are we doing as a people to follow in her footsteps.  How can we keep this train from going in reverse?  Everything that our ancestors died for shall not be in vain.  Let’s start with educating ourselves, and our children. #teachthebabies

Let’s revisit the practices of Ida B. Wells, and read with our children every night before bed.  Let’s teach our children how to be leaders, and to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors.  I am reminded of a quote by Thurgood Marshall, “Sometimes history takes things into its own hands.”  It’s all about action, no more talking!

How can we continue to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Working together on one accord for the future!

Steele History 101: Girl Power

Steele History 101: Girl Power

This summer I participated in a road trip with one of my best friends. We flew from Chicago to Dallas, and then we drove from Dallas to Michigan; within 24 hours. Crazy right?! We even stopped at a few historical places. Briefly in Arkansas and Tennessee. You didn’t think I was going to do a road trip without history did you?

We decided to stop for a couple of hours in Memphis to eat and take in a mini tour. We decided to go on Beale St. We picked the right day. There was a live concert in the park, even though we weren’t able to enjoy it in its entirety it was cool to experience some of the city’s culture.

I was walking down the street and observed this historical marker. My face lit up because I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Ida B. Wells.   She was a visionary that didn’t apologize for her decisions, and that’s something to admire. I can remember watching a documentary that featured Wells, and it stated that she learned how to read by reading to her parents every night.  Literacy was clearly very important to them, and it made me think about my upbringing.

Every night I would read the newspaper to my grandfather. If I didn’t know a word I was instructed to sound it out. I wasn’t allowed to ask what something meant. I would have to grab the dictionary, and find out the meaning of every word. Not only did I learn how to read, but I read for understanding.

Sis. Ida’s story has taught me about being fearless, and truly sticking to what you believe in. Refusing to give up her seat on a train in Tennessee in May of 1884. She created her own path, and was able to do what she believe to be morally right. Her passion led her to launching an anti-lynching campaign, and many organizations that strived for the advancement of African Americans.

We can all learn something from the life of Sis. Wells.  She not only wrote about what she was passion about, she fought to make a difference.  Her activism is truly something to model if you want to see a change in this world.

The Chains of Willie Lynch

The Chains of Willie Lynch

Last night I was on the couch, and I was reading/watching various news stories that were in my social media newsfeed.  I was thinking here we are celebrating the bicentennial anniversary of the abolishment of slavery, and we are still concerned with RACE.  How far have we come and how did we get here?

Okay so slavery “ended” in 1865 with the 13th Amendment right, or was it the Emancipation Proclamation?  I need you to know the difference between the two.  If you have questions I can help you out with that. Blacks were in search of opportunities to provide for their families, and acquire land.  We wanted our “forty acres and a mule.” Some of our ancestors decided to stay in the south, and others decided to move north (The Great Migration) like my family.

Slavery is abolished, so blacks are free from physical bondage (somewhat), but now they are experiencing mental bondage?  Let’s insert Jim Crow and Willie Lynch.  I call them Mind Games Masters, because they are fictional characters that we have somehow made REAL!  By the way lynching does not derive from “Master Willie Lynch,” and if you don’t know about the Jim Crow Museum you must visit!

Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan
Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan

Fast forward to Brown vs The Board of Education and the Civil Rights Movement, people marched, were hosed down, participated in sit-ins, and murdered for equal rights.  It’s 2015, and brown skin ain’t in! How in the world did we get here?

When I was pulled over by the police in October I immediately pulled the “race card.”  I sure did.  There was no reason to pull me over.   I was legit, and I wasn’t speeding.  I finally knew what it felt like to be driving while black.  That one tear that I shed while driving away reminded me that the incident could have possibly went terribly wrong.   The only thing that kept me calm was hearing my dad’s voice in my head, “never let em see you SWEAT.”

Chains keep you from trying, leaves you repeating the cycle of fear, and depression.  I look at the chains in the featured photo and can’t help but to think about who died in them, because they were never broken.   Are you allowing what’s going on around you to keep you in mental bondage?  Again I ask how did we get here?  If I ask that question, I need to ask myself the same question.  How did I get here?  What am I doing to free the future generation from mental bondage?  I have to evaluate the chains in my life that are not broken.  I think we all need a history lesson to realize the power of these chains.  The chains are not always in the physical, they are truly apart of our mental.  The future must know how we got here, and work tirelessly to assure that we don’t stay here.  Look around, we have a lot of work to do.  I Steele Believe!

Day 28 – “Fear” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 28 – “Fear” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real

I was afraid.  Let me be honest, sometimes I’m still afraid of failing.  I guess that would be fear.  Anxiety can be a phase of fear too, right?

How can I eliminate fear?  I honestly don’t have an answer that works for every situation.  Try.  Try to believe that everything is going to be okay.

I was looking for a picture that would symbolize someone that overcame fear.  The picture I decided to use is myself inside of a replica box used to ship Henry “Box” Brown to freedom.  I’m sure Mr. Brown was fearful when he decided to get in a box and ship himself from Virginia to Pennsylvania.  Or was he?  The fear of living as a slave for the rest of his life may have overpowered the feeling of not surviving in that box on his way to freedom.  He had to try!  No matter how long it was going to take he still had to try!

That can be encouraging in itself.  If Henry “Box” Brown decided that he would die trying to get to freedom, what was my problem?  Why would you let fear keep you from completing a project, writing the first page in your book, accepting a public speaking engagement, traveling, or falling in love?

I know it may be scary, but you have to try!  Can I tell you something?  I was afraid to write my first blog post.  I was afraid to start this challenge, because I had to be transparent in some areas that I’ve never been before.  If I was afraid to do all of that was I afraid to succeed?  I guess I was afraid of no one reading the posts.  I honestly can’t worry about any of that.  I can say that I’ve tried.  I’ve tried to encourage someone, and ended up encouraging myself in the process too!  No what ifs left behind is the mindset going forward.  Bye Fear!

What are you #SteeleThankful for?