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Activate your gift 🎁 Don’t get BURNT OUT! 🔥🔥🔥

Activate your gift 🎁 Don’t get BURNT OUT! 🔥🔥🔥

When you’ve grown up in the Midwest (Michigan, on the lake to be exact) you can identify with the struggle of experiencing all four seasons within 24 hours.  Imagine running errands, preparing for a photoshoot, and snow in April! Sunny, Rain, Snow, and windy all within one day, and no wonder I’m recuperating today.

I have a habit of committing to things, and becoming burnt out.  I’ve done it with social media.  I was too focused on being present on every social media site (new and old) that I became exhausted.  I’m only one person, and Super(wo)man is a fictional character.  I’m not able to always save the day, and I don’t always have the answers.  Even though I try my hardest to solve every problem.

I was quite weak yesterday, but I was determined to complete the photoshoot for the photography campaign.  The project uploads a new story for #GriefTalkTuesday on the Final 48 Project site.  The ministry that God blessed me with is not designed for me to be burned out, but it is designed for me to draw people closer to him while addressing an uncomfortable topic.  When you are able to identify your God given gifts life can become a whole lot easier.

Last Tuesday I completed my gifts assessment at the conclusion of a four week course held at One Church Empowerment Center.  I received confirmation on gifts that I had been denying.  When I read the results, my only response was a chuckle.  One of them I had been hearing since I was a little girl.  One conclusion is for certain, when working in any gift, you must have FAITH.

That’s right, faith.  I’m sure people thought I was crazy when I was laid off from my last job, and I said well now I can work full time in my ministries.  “Well, where is the money gonna come from?”  When you totally commit to the will of God, the finances will come.  Where is the mustard seed?  You know faith the size of a mustard seed.  That kind of faith had me moving to a new state with $100 and no job, and that same faith has kept sane through this whole process of trusting God in this journey.  It’s been hard, but I have faith!

I’m sure there were plenty of times Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted to throw in the towel.  Whenever you want to examine a test of faith read an autobiography or biography of a great leader.  Start with Jesus and work your way to the present!

The reason I used Dr. King today because today marks 48 years since he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

4/4/11968, 48 years later.
4/4/11968, 48 years later.
Fighting for change in your life, and the lives of others is no small feat.  There are things that you must sacrifice to get there.  Reducing pride, and getting rid of old habits to usher in the new and improved ones.  I’m going to take a lesson from Dr. King today.  When you receive the calling that God has put on your life, keep fighting, don’t give up, and surround yourself with Kingdom people.

 

Xoxo,

R.J.

The Negros Can Now Vote in Virginia: The Power and Freedom of Voting

The Negros Can Now Vote in Virginia: The Power and Freedom of Voting

I am still attempting to wrap my mind around the #SuperTuesday results that’s occurred in 2016.  The country is divided, and I’m baffled that people are not exercising their right to vote.

I know it’s a choice for you to vote. I guess because I know my history I look at my right to vote as a privilege to do so.  The right to vote was not always accessible to my community, and the road was quite tumultuous getting there.  So, I’m sorry when you tell me that you decided not to vote I’m quickly throwing you the infamous **side eye.**

I’ve probably told you the story before about my grandfather, and how important it was that everyone connected to him exercised their voting rights.

I can remember being a little girl and my grandfather providing each grandchild that turned 18 with the paperwork so they could register to vote. My grandfather was very active in politics and a strong advocate for equal rights.

I would like to dedicate this post to those that strongly believe in exercising that right, and respect the legacy of those individuals that died for our right to vote.

Below you will find photos of the 7 page document of “Colored Negro Men” of Midlothian, Virginia and their Voter Registration Signatures in 1870.

Even though decades later there would be many obstacles to overcome in order for all of us to vote in this country.  I wanted to provide a snapshot of how it began for the Negro Men in Virginia shortly after emancipation.

Please be advised that the voting rights were for men of color, not women.  Women’s right to vote was not until 1920.  That’s right, fifty years after these signed documents were submitted in 1870.

That’s another lesson, for another day!

Negro Voter 1870 Negro Voter VA 1870

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.

 

Steele Living My Life As Carmen…San Diego That Is!

Steele Living My Life As Carmen…San Diego That Is!

Okay…Let me explain the title.  My alias online used to be Carmen Sandiego.  In all honesty in some places I still use the handle.  I’m known to pop up anywhere.  When my friends check-in or snap a photo of me to post on social media the response is usually, “Ronnika was there!”  On top of that my favorite color has always been red.  So, in my head I’m really Carmen Sandiego, add melanin and stir!

My friend found $80 roundtrip plane tickets to San Diego, and I was IN! You read that correctly, ROUNDTRIP! ORD to San Diego on a Saturday evening, you can’t beat that.  Clear skies and the weather was lovely, not bad for my first time in Cali.

Seaport San Diego

We were located in a cute boutique hotel downtown San Diego, and not far from the Historic Gaslamp District.  You already know when I heard “Historic” I perked up.  The area which is on the national registry of historic places is known for its redevelopment past.  Since the 1800s the Gaslamp District and SeaPort has revitalized the area into a hub for quaint boutiques, tourist attractions, and a social atmosphere.  The Balboa Park houses the world famous San Diego Zoo, home to the USS Midway (aircraft turned museum), I mentioned the Seaport right?  You can tell that was one of my favorite places.

I didn’t appreciate growing up near water until I was an adult.  It reminded me how we can take some things for granted.

The Real Carmen

 

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.

Day 29 – “Choices” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

Day 29 – “Choices” #SteeleThankful Challenge (30 Days of Thanks)

I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of the challenge (insert sad face here). I chose to post everyday, and I’m happy about the outcome.

Now, I’m ready to talk about “Choices.”  You can choose your destiny.  I’m sure you’ve heard that, over, and over, and over again.  Our life’s journey is based upon the choices that we make.  One choice can change the course of your life forever.

Spending my summers in Virginia was a choice.  I either had to decide to stay in Michigan or go for what ended up being the last summer of the program that I was fortunate to be apart of for two summers in a row.  Without hesitation I made the right choice to be a leader that summer, and became apart of some unbelievable moments such as the one in the photo.

My last summer in Richmond, Virginia, the interns of the Museum of the Confederacy were able to tour the Lewis F. Powell Jr. United States Courthouse. It was pouring down raining but we pressed on!  The court is still being used today so cell phones were not allowed in the building and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t have my digital camera (Still kicking myself).  We were able to go through the entire courthouse including the office of President Jefferson Davis, the court room that President Davis trial took place, and the door and stairs that President Davis exited after the trial.

Yes, you read that correctly, I said trial.  At the end of the Civil War the President of the Confederacy was on trial in the courthouse where I am standing.  He exited these doors.  You know who else was tried here, Mr. Mike Vick, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I know you’re probably wondering why am I mentioning these two men.  They were tried in this courthouse over 200 years apart.  It boils down to a choice.  A choice that they made landed them in this place, with someone else making a decision for them that would change the rest of their lives.

I’m not here to reflect on their choices, but I am here to tell you that it’s about a choice.  Our choices, both good and bad effect the course of our life’s journey.  We must also realize that we can be redeemed from our bad choices though.  What are you going to do with that second chance?  I’ve made some bad choices.  I’m sure we’ve all made some bad choices, but how are you going to change the negative into a positive?

You have the opportunity to begin again.  There will be people that will continue to judge you for your bad choices.  SO…WHAT!  Don’t allow them to decide your destiny.  You are in control! You have a choice to make.  As we close out the challenge I ask the same question at the end of my post, right?  Take advantage of your second chance, and continue to strive to make the BEST choice.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Day 6 – “Experience” #SteeleThankful (30 days of Thanks)

Day 6 – “Experience” #SteeleThankful (30 days of Thanks)

Once upon a time I worked at a slave plantation.  Sure did.

I was a docent (tour guide) while in grad school.  From an early age I was constantly looking for a good story.  A plot twist, the unpredictable outcome, a strong protagonist, the whole nine yards.

I went to visit Historic Stagville with a group of classmates in the fall of 2010.  I began thinking I’m going to need some experience so I checked on internships.  I interviewed and was offered a position as a Graduate Research Intern/Docent.  The docent position is what scared me.  The introvert side of me thought, “I have to exercise public speaking, answer questions, and make sure the information I’m telling them is correct.”  PRESSURE!

The interns were assigned a research project, and what project did I choose?  Researching burial rituals on the slave plantation by reading through the Bennehen/Cameron family papers (the original owners of the plantation). EASY…or so I thought.  Try reading 19th century handwriting.

Bennehen Home completed in 1799.  Owner of the largest plantation in North Carolina.
Bennehen Home completed in 1799. Owner of the largest plantation in North Carolina.

The experience taught me to #DoItAfraid **In my Christine from momsncharge.com voice.”  When it was my time to take a tour out, all of my fear was out of the door because I had to provide an experience for them.  The tour began with the home, hopped in our cars and drove down the road to the slave quarters and Great Barn (erected in the 1850/1860 and still standing).

The research experience was invaluable, and led to another amazing project in the fall of 2011.  I’m #SteeleThankful for this experience.  I was able to interpret the stories of the families that were enslaved on this plantation.  The only black girl that semester giving tours at a slave plantation.  Imagine that?  What are you #SteeleThankful for?

IMG00054-20111107-1349

Historical Tour Series – Greensboro, NC

Historical Tour Series – Greensboro, NC

I’m R.J. and I love History.  I just wanted to get that out of the way.  So, you aren’t confused at all. Lol. There are many things that I enjoy but I honestly love history more! On Periscope, I present live broadcasts of myself (and sometimes I’m able to drag a friend along) touring the country doing tours at varies historic sites and I call them “Historical Tours w/R.J.”  I like to challenge people with the question of, “What’s in your archives?”  Your personal archives expresses so much about you and helps you focus on your legacy in a more succinct way.  Today is #TBT (Throwback Thursday) right?  Well, I decided to reach into my archives and pull out a photo from my days as an Americorp member, (amazing experience I might add).

The historical tour took place at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina.  The center and museum is housed inside of the former Woolworth & Co store.  College students from a local Historically Black College and University (HBCU) decided on February 1, 1960 to take a stand against segregation at the “whites only” lunch counter.  Their efforts at the “Greensboro sit-ins” would go on to change the course of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

To learn more about this amazing place, please check out their website, www.sitmovement.org

I highly recommend this place as your first stop if you’re ever passing through on I-85 in North Carolina or visiting for the weekend.  Don’t forget to tell them that R.J. sent you!

XOXO,

The girl behind the lens…