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Once Upon A Time…

Once Upon A Time…

ONCE UPON A TIME is usually not how our stories begin. I can remember vividly as a child hearing my father tell my brother never go to these places after dark. You never want to be DRIVING WHILE BLACK across the bridge. I thought that I would never be faced with the same situation until 25 years later when I was pulled over by a police officer for having out of state plates. My offense: driving while black in Michigan. I can only wonder will my black people ever have a happily ever after. It is my choice to wear a pop of color on my nails because the world around me can be so dark. Sadly, I have many stories like the one above that I could tell but this time we hope to see justice at the end of this continuous nightmare.

💅🏾: #OnceUponATime by @essie

When you realize that your GIFT can take you places…

When you realize that your GIFT can take you places…

My past is more lit than the SOLAR ECLIPSE.

Well, it’s not exactly “blinding” but I can say I have been exposed to some pretty dope opportunities.

I believe I told you before from time to time I “Google” myself.  I need to know what’s out there, and the narrative that is being shared about yo girl.

I’m going through the images and even though I don’t have a common first name I share it with fellow dope brown girls like myself.  One of them has the same first and last name (Impeccable Faces by Ronnika) and she’s KILLING it.  Check her out!


I’m going through the images, and I come across a picture that I didn’t recognized at first glance.  Has that ever happened to you?  You run across a picture that you don’t remember taking.  The picture was taken three years ago during a research competition.  The platform allowed me to discuss my time as an Archives intern at the Museum of Confederacy, and improve public speaking skills.  I placed 2nd in the competition, and that experience was mind-blowing.  Who knew that learning to transcribe 19th century manuscript, process an archival collection, and speak in front an audience about my findings would lead to a career in archives, or even a children’s book!

I’m continuously amazed by the blessings that can come from following the calling that is on your life.  Even typing the post for today I was reminded that the “art of storytelling” kept me out of a lot of trouble.  As a little girl, to distract the individuals from bullying me I began telling stories about my family to get others around me to laugh.  No, the stories weren’t always funny, but they were true.  I have always loved a good story, but I had no idea that my love for archives/history, and storytelling would lead me to a place of publishing books, documentary projects, or even this platform of #MotivationalMonday on this site.

It’s unbelievable what can happen when you let go, and let God.  The opportunities are endless, if you truly believe that your gift can take you places that you only imagined in your dreams.

I’m owning that my gift is storytelling, and working everyday to perfect that craft.

What gift are you sitting on?  The world is waiting for you to share it. 🙂

Until next time…



Be Careful, Be Conscious, Be Consistent…

Be Careful, Be Conscious, Be Consistent…

That has got to be some of the most succinct advice I’ve heard in a long time.  Thank you Pastor Clark!

Be Careful.

Be Conscious.

Be Consistent.

I can apply this everything that I have going on with the brand’s that I manage across multiple social media sites.  People are looking for consistency, and something (someone) they can trust.  With that being said…

Be careful of what you post. We are living in a day and age where people are constantly on social media. They are connected, and when you think no one is watching they are. 

At times we see that the negative behavior gets more attention than the positive. Sad but true. When we’re upset the first thing we do is run to our social media to air out our dirty laundry. Makes no sense right. Why would you put anything on the close line that isn’t clean?

Do you get my drift?

Working with young people I am very aware of what I post on social media.  They are watching EVERYTHING that Ms. RJ does.  Children will often times adapt to consistency, and if I constantly produce positive behavior/content they will eventually attach themselves to that characteristic.

Don’t get me wrong we have those moments of transparency when we are able to share our shortcomings with others in order to assist them with not repeating that mistake. But, let’s be real, people are laughing because it’s entertaining. You’re depressed and angry, but they are amused at your situation for all of 48 hours and then it’s on to the next. 

Don’t constantly show your hand. Protect your personal life like it’s your hand in UNO or Spades. You are a brand. Whether you’re in business or not, you are a representative of everything you stand for.  When the urge hits you to act out on social media, pick up your journal and declare that you are over the petty stuff. 

Another reason why I enjoy going through my TimeHop memories are the reminders of how far I’ve come.  Dedicated to consistent growth, and you will begin to see the results.




P.S. Check out my feature in the U.S. News & World Report article —-> #FaveArchivist

This Challenge WILL Change Your Life! You down?

This Challenge WILL Change Your Life! You down?

Happy Halloween! I was feeling quite nostalgic, and this is probably the last time I wore a Halloween costume that I loved.  Queening since 1989-1990 Lol!

Halloween 1989 or 1990 Cleopatra style!
Halloween 1989 or 1990
Cleopatra style!

The second annual #SteeleThankful Challenge kicks off tomorrow, and I’ve had people asking me well what is it really about?

In a world where there is so much chaos, unhappiness, fixation on material things, I feel there is a need to really look inside of ourselves, and find what we are truly thankful for.  The best time is to do so in the month of November.  The month that we observe Thanksgiving.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to not only encourage yourself, but encourage others as well.

So, how does that work?

Have you looked in the mirror today?

Seriously.  If not the mirror, clip the camera icon of your cell phone, and have it face you.

Let’s start with being thankful for being able to receive this message today.

I’ll help you out.

Example: I’m #SteeleThankful that I’m here to celebrate another day with my family, because last year I didn’t know how I would make it to the next day, let alone another month or year.  Everyday is a new opportunity to strive for greatness, and continue to make myself happy.

As I stated before this challenge is only in the 2nd year.  I can see this challenge gaining momentum, and I have to truly let the process flow.  There will be changes along the way, so let’s enjoy this ride of transparency, and thankfulness.

I know that it sounds easy.  But, I’m here to tell you that it’s not.  I can tell you how empowering it feels to share your struggle with others on the road to absolute gratitude.

When I was in Rhode Island for the World Burn Congress a couple of weeks ago I realized how hard it was to tell my own story.

YES. You read that right.  Hi, My name is R.J. I’m a storyteller, and I’m sensitive about my SH*T! No one can tell my story like me, but that’s difficult.  When telling our own story we sometimes tend to ramble, or leave out the portion of the story that we don’t want to own.  I feel the same way it comes to sharing my journey during the #SteeleThankful challenge.

Can I be honest?

When I have to edit, and post a story for the Final 48 Project I will read it NUMEROUS times before I decide to schedule the post to go live.  I’m super protective of the stories that are shared on that platform, and I try my best to uphold the integrity of every person’s story.  I mean they chose to share their stories with me, in order to share with the world.  Encouraging others along the journey of grief is never easy.  Especially when you are still dealing with your own.

When I unlock another level of transparency I feel empowered.  Often times I can be reluctant to dangle my foot from the ledge of fear in order to show the world that I’m not apologizing for my past experiences, because they have shaped me into the person I am today.  And for that I am #SteeleThankful

I can’t wait to share this experience with all of you this year.  So much has happened from November 2015 to Now.  I’m sure the same for you.

Let’s embark on this journey together, and tell the world what we are all #SteeleThankful for?

#SteeleThankful Challenge 2016
#SteeleThankful Challenge 2016



P.S. On this Halloween of 2016, I am #SteeleThankful for the little girl that learned at a young age that she is a Queen, and you must always address me as such. **Featured Photo** THROWBACK! 😉

P.S. S. I share the true meaning of the #SteeleThankful name during the challenge this year.  Are you ready?  It’s going to blow your mind!

Dear Benton Harbor, You will always be my secret place…

Dear Benton Harbor, You will always be my secret place…

Population of over 10,000.  Predominately black in population.  Some would say that most are living at the poverty level.  It’s home to the Whirlpool world headquarters.  Right on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I’ve taken you for granted before.  I must admit.  I love you.

I’ve lived and worked in many cities across the country.  I’ve traveled.    At the end of the day, there’s no place like home.

We all need a secret place.  A place to regroup.  It’s always been my secret place.

I can remember living in Raleigh, NC, and I would be itching to go home when things became absolutely unbearable at work, or in my personal life.  My friends would joke about my retreat back home would leave me recharged.

But sometimes home changes.

After my father died I knew that home would change.  I just didn’t know how it would change.

I often ride by the old family home, and think about what could have been.  What should have been? What was?

Home isn’t the same, but it’s up to me to make new memories.

This week I will embark on a journey that will absolutely blow my mind.  I will be traveling to the World Burns Congress.

Being a burn survivor has become a part of my life now, and so I’m traveling to a secret place to regroup.  I didn’t intend to make this a long post today, but thought that I should prepare you for the what is to come.

I will be looking forward to sharing all of the upcoming events that will come out of this week excursion.

I’m leaving my secret place in order to bring more love and inspiration to you.

We shall chat soon.

Benton Harbor, I love you.  That will never change.  It’s time for change, and a remix to my secret place.




It’s a “Mines” Thing: Loss vs. Gain and Aha Moments

It’s a “Mines” Thing: Loss vs. Gain and Aha Moments

I wrestled with writing the post for today. I guess I didn’t want to lose myself. It’s funny because that’s where I’m heading. Letting go of some things that I once said was “mines” in order to gain something greater.

After the weekend I had getting my #FaveArchivist on I feel it’s a must that I talk about some emotions that I have been experiencing.

#FaveArchivist - Lost in the papers and boxes. Estate style.
#FaveArchivist – Lost in the papers and boxes. Estate style.

You can remember growing up and possibly saying to your siblings, “nuh uh that’s mines!” Meaning that item belongs to me, and you can’t have it.

Now think about the older we get we still have that mentality in a way. It could be a breakup. The argument is over who bought what for the house, and everything is “mines” but it can be deeper than that.

I was in my storage space yesterday, and I wondered if I was too attached to some things that were in it. I realized it wasn’t the things I was attached to. It was the thought of what it meant to get rid of some of the items.


I was overwhelmed with the idea of calling one place my own permanently, and slowly relaxed when I realized what my problem was.

For the last year my prayer has been for stability. In my former life (honestly still apart of my business) I was known as Carmen Sandiego. Even though I enjoy popping up places for travel or work I was longing for one thing. A place to call home.

As I approach the day of calling a place my own I had to reflect on the message from church yesterday. What am I willing to lose in order to gain?

You know you can ask yourself that question too.

I need to relinquish my pride in order to keep moving to the next level. I have personal goals set in place and the only way they will get accomplished is if I give up my pride and time.

I know some things don’t happen overnight even though we wish it did. I’m willing to sacrifice more than I ever had in order to gain the abundance that God has for me.

What are you willing to lose?

You can share in the comments or connect with me on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) @Steelelens



The girl behind the lens…

Click Accept or Decline: DAMAGED GOODS

Click Accept or Decline: DAMAGED GOODS

“Please bring your gently used items to the church’s yard sale.  We want to bless others within our community.”

Can you identify with a statement similar to that?  It may not even be for the church.  It could be for an employer, a friend, or a nearby thrift store.

You look over at the pile of clothes that you don’t wear, and you think about dropping them off, but then you decide otherwise.

You would rather take the items that you painted your house in, or the clothes that could honestly walk themselves to the trash can.

Are you selfish?  Are you constantly negative?  Are you always in a glass case of emotions?  Sweetheart, are you damaged goods?

I was in church on Sunday, and the message was titled, “Damaged People.”  It’s the second installment in our series, “Soul Food.”  I was compelled to break down some of the things I could identify with even within myself.  You know the things that keep me from moving to the next level:

Past Relationships (Friendship, Work, and Love): I had a very hard time with forgiving people.  I used to write them off as if they never existed to me.  I would write them off without forgiving them.  As if I didn’t learn some very valuable lessons from the encounter.  I had to let go.  I was CLEARLY DAMAGED, and didn’t want to admit it.

Changing Others Around You:  Guess what.  You don’t have the secret power or potion to do that.  They have to want it for themselves.  Our fitness coach is a constant reminder of that.  If I don’t want to lose the weight that’s on me.  I have to want it for myself.  The same goes for the people that you are keeping around you that are stagnant when you are trying to move forward.  Say it with me…real slow if you have to…DAM-A-GED.  Release yourself from the negativity, and keep it moving.

Stubbornness: Uh oh! **turns mirror on self** “I got this, I can only rely on me.”  <— how many times have you said that?  Be honest. Well, it’s not necessarily true.  Often times I find myself thinking like that, too.  People won’t know that you need anything unless you say something.  <—- Last line courtesy of my mother! 😉 There is something that happened to you in your past that when you feel your back is against the wall you feel that all you have is YOU.  Not true.  I’m sure God placed some amazing people in your path to assist along the journey in life.  Don’t abuse those people now.  Admit to them your shortcoming, basically that you’re DAMAGED, and you need help.

Whew chile.  Preaching to myself, but do you feel me?

I refuse to be in the throw away pile.  There’s someone counting on me, and it would be selfish of me not to deliver.  I have plenty of content to bring to the world, and I’m not about to stop now.

Don’t walk around carrying the baggage from your past.  Unless you prefer to continue clicking “Accept” for damaged goods, and if that’s the case, you are on the wrong page.

**No Pity Party Zone**






Will the gate (door) always be OPEN?

Will the gate (door) always be OPEN?

New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana

Can you believe it’s August 1st???  At the beginning of the month I like to make adjustments to my budget, and check my goals checklist.  What do I need to follow-up on, and what opportunities have I missed?

Yes.  You read that correctly, what opportunities have I missed?  Whenever I visit New Orleans I’m always fascinated with the rich history, but in the feature photo I was mesmerized by the gate.  The gate is open, right?  Could I take this picture if the gate was closed?  Well, I could, but that’s not the point.  If the gate was closed I wouldn’t be able to walk through the park.  Now, if the gate was closed it could also mean that I arrived to the park too late, and would be denied legal entry.  In the past seven months how many times have you allowed the gate to close?

Think about it.  **Jeopardy Game Show Final Round Theme Music**

Do you have an answer?  You can leave your answer in the comments section if you’re bold enough to do so!  Be accountable that you’re going to do better in the remaining months.

I would say that it’s happened at least a couple of times, especially with social media.  I can let an opportunity go cold because I didn’t follow up, and when I decide to reach out again, well you know what. It’s TOO LATE.

That gate may not reopen, and I simply must find another avenue.  It is life.  You live, and hopefully you learn.

A couple of weeks ago I commented on a thread on a Linkedin page about a podcast that interviews authors.  Well, I honestly abandoned the post after I commented because I didn’t get a response right away.  And then…I heard a clear voice that said, “go back to that post.”  I did.  The author of the post responded at the very bottom.  I emailed her, and she responded to me right away.  I received the interview information this morning, and looking forward to getting on her calendar in early 2017. (Yes, she’s that popular, and booked until 2017)

So, you see I almost let the gate close on that opportunity.  Who knows there could be some other opportunities out there waiting for me.  I mean I did have a dream that Oprah and OWN endorsed Adventures of Alleykats last week.  Anything is possible right?!  I could be on Ellen talking about my projects, and chopping it up with Steve Harvey about my purpose and passion.  Sky is the limit.

Just don’t let the gate close, and lock.  If you do look for another gate!



How Long? Frustration…Confusion…Intimidation…Distraction…

How Long? Frustration…Confusion…Intimidation…Distraction…

How long Lord?

How long do I have to wait for the right opportunity?
How long do I have to wait for “the one?”
How long before you bless my kids to do better or want better?
How long before you deliver my family member from their addiction?
How long do I have to wait before I can pay off this debt?
How long before this flight leaves? (Lol my life in 2015 😩)
How long do I have to pray before I see a breakthrough?


I think the answer to all of these questions is in God’s timing. We have to be aligned within His will, or there’s really no way this thing called life will work.

At times I can become distracted.  That feeling usually leads me down a path that is hard to recover from.  We can become distracted by window shopping, and enter a store front that we had no business entering.  The intimidation of investing in that new shirt or skirt.  Receiving the credit card statement, or looking at your bank account the next day/month is a level of confusion.  A month later when you’re unable to make a payment on a bill, you become FRUSTRATED.  Do you get my drift?

It leads me back to the first question.  How long?

How long do you want this cycle to continue?  How long before I am delivered from the terrible decision making in my life?

Do you want to be delivered from the situation that you’re currently in.


Shoot, I do too. Lol.  I can go through all of the above emotions within one day, and I find myself saying, How long, Lord?  When will that windfall that I really need happen?

Are you ready?
Are you ready? Where are you going?


You aren’t ready!


What changes do you (we) need to make in order to choose the path that is right, and stop expecting God to do EVERYTHING.  We have to roll up our sleeves, and get dirty.

So, How long before the breakthrough?

No one knows the answer to that.  You have to keep believing, keep plugging away, and don’t get defeated.  It is TOUGH, but I know it will be worth it.




Matters of the Heart <3: when children don't see skin color...

Matters of the Heart <3: when children don't see skin color...

I’m exhausted.

Seriously.  The media, law enforcement, #BlackLivesMatter, racism, broken relationships, networking, webinars, allergies, editing, I mean this list can go on and on. **in my Erykah Badu voice**

I’m not able to wrap my head around the level of hate that is going on around the world.  Over the last week with the murders of two black men by the hands of police in Louisiana and Minnesota, that lead to the protests in cities across the US that resulted in police officers being wounded and killed in Dallas.

For a quick second I wanted to be granted the capability of phoning a friend from history to come back, give us instructions on how to unify the nation, and then disappear.  SO UNREALISTIC but I honestly thought “What would Dr. King or Malcolm X do?”

This is a matter of the heart.  All of our hearts.  These practices begin at home.  I’ll give you an example.  I was volunteering in the neighboring town over the weekend for their annual art festival.  My hometown is predominately black, and the neighboring town is predominately white, separated by a bridge…stay with me.

I was outside directing traffic for the artists, and a couple is walking towards me with their child in a stroller.  The child had to be about one or two years old.  Every one that passed the family before me was white, I was the only black person on the block.  Do you know what that child did when he saw me?  Take a guess.

He began to smile and wave.  The same as he did everyone else.  That child saw a person that he had the free will to speak to in hopes of receiving the same in return.

With everything that has happened over the past week I experienced a wave of emotions.  Dr. King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and countless others gave their lives in order for there to be equality among the races.  The greatest leader of all times (JESUS) performed miracles, and we forget that we have the power to create change.

Our country/world is in the fight for our lives, and it still comes back to the same thing.  What’s in your heart?

When I created the characters for my children’s book, The Alleykats I wanted to display diversity to the masses. I know everyone is not equipped to be a leader, but every small step counts.  What can you do today to bridge the gap?  Look at your community.  How can you give back? Give back to someone that looks like you, and talk to someone who doesn’t look like you.

This problem didn’t happen overnight, but we do have to work at finding the solution to unify us all.

One more thing…when you hear #BlackLivesMatter it doesn’t mean that others don’t.  It simply means that black lives matter TOO! Don’t forget about or count us out.

Until next time…Spread a little more love, and clean out the hate in your heart.