Women of Color Wednesday: Sydney Bowden

I met Sydney when we had Digital Video Production: Nonfiction together last Fall. Her spunk, poise, and confidence was very evident. She definitely stood out, and I instantly knewunnamed (2).jpg that I needed to get acquainted with her because she’s definitely going to be somebody and do amazing things (more than she already has!).

Sydney Bowden was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Or as Bowden says, “Motown…Home where the Pimps and Players are born.”

I laughed at that one. That’s one of Bowden’s many attributes. Smart, beautiful, and witty!

Bowden received her Bachelor of Arts in Film, Video, Media Studies with a minor in Fashion Merchandising and Design from Western Michigan University, class of 2016.

When she’s not jamming out to her favorite motivational songs “Grown Woman” by Beyoncé and “When Jesus Says Yes” by Michelle, she is working within Corporate America for a multi-billion-dollar property restoration company. Outside of that, she is the Founder and President of The Social B., L.L.C., a social entertainment production company.

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Bowden’s life mission is “to reinvent digital media by doing away with the negative connotations and stereotypes held within media. In doing so, I have developed the mission of my company to showcase the talents and hard work of young entrepreneurs, artists, and awesome everyday individuals while empowering them to become leaders within the communities they serve.”unnamed

I resonate with this message so much. From the inspiring words of Ava DuVernay, “if your dreams only include yourself, they’re not big enough.” I love how Bowden wants to showcase the talents and hard work of others and encourage them to be leaders in their communities. We need more people with life missions that include showcasing the best in others and their stories.

Bowden’s motivational words to other women of color are, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. Failure is beautiful to endure and once you accept it and use it as motivation towards a successful future, you will begin to reap the benefits. Just remember to feed your faith, and your fears will starve to death.”

13103364_10208420681289985_5996945771446542839_nBowden’s greatest accomplishments thus far are graduating in four years at the age of 21 as the sole proprietor of her own business. “This is only the beginning towards a very bright, rewarding, and successful future,” she says.

Absolutely! I believe in the Law of Attraction. When you speak positivity into your life, you will have positive results and life experiences. So far, Bowden has been a living testimony of that!

Bowden encourages others to continue to visit The Social B. and please, please, please share our wonderful stories with your family and friends!

Be honest. Be humble. Be you. Everyone should aspire to live within those words, just as you do, Sydney. Keep shining! Continue to chase your dreams and encourage other women of color to be unstoppable.

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Women of Color Wednesday: Domonique Freeman

Domonique Tiera Freeman…there’s so much I could say about this girl. I met Domo in high school, and I’ve always noticed this glamour and confidence about her that I strived to attain for myself. She is the ultimate go-getter. Plus, she’s a highly educated health advocate, which I think is strikingly impressive.fullsizerender

Freeman was born in Franklin, Tennessee and raised in Saginaw, Michigan. She currently holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Science from Saginaw Valley State University, and is currently working on her Master’s in Public Health at Georgia State University. Freeman is a health advocate, a contracted health educator, and administrative assistant to the Director of Nursing at East Lake Arbor Nursing Home.

When asked what her life mission is, Freeman stated that it was to, “help individuals realize and live up to their full life potential. This includes improving their well-being and livelihood, helping them to see the importance of seeking and working to be in harmony with themselves, nature and others around them. I frequently talk about nutrition because it impacts all of this.”

Loving the positive vibes from this message. I think that it’s important for black women and all women of color in general to help bring out the potential in others, and help each other live fulfilling lives.

She continued, “I want people to know that in taking these fake, chemical and hormone-filled foods keep your vibrations down and alter your wellbeing. On a more professional note, I plan to help low income populations have access to healthier, safer foods and equal health care by changing and writing policies at the local, state and federal level.”

Not only does Freeman promote healthier lifestyle choices, but she also motivates others to use those choices as a guide for better self-care. She encourages other women of color to, “Love yourself. Get to know yourself, who you truly are. You are more than just a being in a body but you are a spirit with a soul that is here for a purpose. Ingest high nutrient img_0749foods that feed your soul and block anything that doesn’t come from the earth, that only helps to alter your state of wellbeing. You lose nothing valuable in letting go of what does not serve you. Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy and it’s even harder to get started after generations of wrong teachings but it starts by incorporating good habits into your life, adding high nutrient foods to your diet, and drinking lots of water!”

This is so, so important. We live in an age where food and cooking has become a chore and something that’s supposed to quick, fast, and cheap. We no longer care about where our food comes from, or what we put into our bodies. We’d rather get the $5 fill-up at KFC instead of preparing natural, hearty foods that are good for your body and overall wellbeing. You really are what you eat…which is why America is so obese. But that’s a whole other conversation. Fundamentally, I think these types of conversations need to be had more often, especially in black neighborhoods. It’s time that we start taking care of our bodies, and Freeman embodies that statement to the fullest. Take notes.

Additionally, Freeman encourages women of color to, “Teach your children the importance of a happy lifestyle. If you truly love your babies, you will work to break the attachments to toxic foods and beings. Learn to unlearn the wrong that has been passed from generation to generation, acknowledge ways that we cause our own sickness, and make changes in order to heal not only yourself but the generations of black beings to come.”

Freeman’s biggest accomplishments are being a CDC Undergraduate Public Health Scholar, which gave her the chance to intern with minority children in the Detroit area, teaching them healthy habits that they will be able to pass on to their peers. Freeman has also taught workshops to adults and children in the Saginaw area on different health topics such as the dangers of sugar and the obesity epidemic in the United States.

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How amazing is that?! It’s ALL about the youth. Freeman passing on her message to children at such a young age is how you begin to change the current situation. Teach them young so that they can be the change for the next generation. Bravo.

Freeman says that she started out as an insecure, quiet, shy, awkward black girl. However, she explained that, “Through this journey to living a healthy life, I have learned who I am, what I have to offer the world, and gained a sense of security within myself and love and value for myself that I want all black women to have regardless of whatever they’ve been through in the past, whatever flaws they may have.”

I can relate to this. I still think I’m shy and quiet, and I am definitely awkward (lol); however, I, too, have learned who I am, what I want in life, and I am a 100% unapologetically carefree black woman and proud of it. Finding your true sense of self is when you can fully be confident throughout your life journey.

The soon to be Yogi and Holistic Wellness Practitioner is also a transitioning vegan, and helps people who are interested in transitioning to make that switch.img_1021

Freeman has a website coming soon that will consist of weekly health-related blogs, recipes, videos, and more. It will also be a way to book her for workshops, one-on-one training, and grocery store tours. So be on the lookout for DomoniqueTiera.com. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @Domoookunn, and check her out on Facebook.

You’re an intelligent black queen, Domo! You encourage me to make healthier lifestyle choices, and you inspire me to be a part of this growing movement of self-care and self-love! Your unique talents, positive energy, and deep understanding of current issues that matter most to you will get you so far! Continue to do great things, pursue your dreams, and excel in your passions. Lastly, thank you for being an inspiration to me and other women of color!

#MotivationMonday: Advice to The Freshmen Class of 2020

As time is winding down and I begin my final semester of undergrad at Western Michigan University tomorrow, I’m reminiscing on the past 4 years of my life. I have no regrets; however, if I could do it all over, here’s what I’d do differently:

 

1. Meet more people!

Though I can be an extrovert at times, I am an introvert for the most part. I’m pretty quiet and stay to myself. Meeting new people and making friends has never been my forte. I have met some amazing people and even met my best friend, Jade, in college. But I wonder about all the possible friendships I have missed out on because of my introverted behavior. I feel like I didn’t take full advantage of being around 25,000 people of different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, etc. If I were more open, who knows how many more lasting friendships and connections I could have made.

2. Make time for fun!

I’m a very busy person, and always on the go. I have a detailed schedule outlined for each day. If it’s not on the schedule, I don’t partake in it. Though that can be a good thing, sometimes I wish I could just go with the flow. There have been so many missed opportunities of making unforgettable memories because I was just so busy all the time, whether it be going out, taking a trip, or just simply spending time with my friends. I’m always so stuck on a schedule that sometimes I forget that it’s okay to have fun, take a break, and make time for yourself! Maybe if I did more of that, I wouldn’t have been constantly stressed out or had mental breakdowns every other day.

3. Realize that your mental health is more important than an “A.”

I’m not the type of person that stresses out about getting all A’s. What I get is what I get, as long as I pass the class and tried my absolute best! But still, I stress out about grades just like every other college student, sometimes to the point where I break myself down mentally, physically, and emotionally. Yes, grades matter. Or do they? I mean, all the interviews I’ve had so far for post-college jobs have NOT asked for my transcripts or my GPA. They just want to know if I can perform the tasks needed to be a good employee. They don’t care if I got an A in Film Communication! They just don’t. I guess the situation is different if you’re trying to get into law, medical, or grad school in general and you need a certain GPA to get admitted. But still, sometimes I believe that I overstressed about grades way too much when in reality at the end of the day, as long as I pass, I’m good!

4. Ask for help.

Asking for help has always been a challenge for me. I’m definitely a do-it-yourself type of person. I like to figure things out on my own and I will literally sit for hours – and sometimes days – trying to figure out something before I ask for help. Three words: Don’t do that. You’ll save yourself a whole lot of time and trouble if you just get help. College is filled with numerous resources. Use them! You’re paying for it, so you might as well. Whether it be going to tutoring, the counseling and wellness center, or just talking to your friends about a hard day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. College is already hard. Don’t make it any harder.

5. Don’t try to do everything unless you want to kill yourself.

I don’t know what it is about college, but if you were one of those overachievers in high school that did everything and was the president of every club (like me) and you try to do that in college, you will die. Point blank period. Trust me, I know. I thought I could be a college athlete, take a full load of classes, work, and be in 10 student organizations. LOL. I learned that that’s impossible. Now as a 5th year senior, I’m a lot more focused and have narrowed down my concentration on a few things that matter to me the most instead of a bunch of things I took even the slightest interest in.

6. If you feel like you’re not going to pass a class, drop it.

Personally, I hate giving up on anything. So dropping a class that I was struggling with was tough. However, I learned the hard way that if you honestly think you’re not going to pass, drop it. Had I just done that instead of being overly optimistic about classes I knew I probably wouldn’t pass, I probably wouldn’t have failed 3 classes throughout my time in college. Failing a class SUCKS. So if you can drop a class, do it. If it’s a required class, figure something out to ensure you pass or just drop it and take it a different semester. Dropping a class can be challenging, especially if you’ve done the work and already paid for the $200 book, but it’s better than failing.

7. Don’t conform to be included in the norm.

I always get teased and made fun of because I’m not a “real” college student since I don’t partake in what “normal” college students fill their life with (according to society and millennials’ expectations and definition of college): drinking, partying, and sex. But it’s not college if you don’t do those things, right? WRONG! I tired the whole party life and honestly, it’s just not for me and something I don’t really enjoy partaking in. I go out from time to time with friends, but that’s about it. I’ve probably been to like 5 parties throughout the course of my college career. And I’m perfectly fine with that! Not a heavy drinker. And honestly, hooking up with random people is gross, sorry not sorry. Don’t ever make or force yourself to like something or do something just because everyone else does. Be true to yourself.

8. Time flies, don’t rush it.

The transition from high school to college was rough for me, but with time, things got easier. Still, I remember being a freshman and could not wait to graduate! I would pray every day, “Lord, I need you to speed up time about 3 notches because I can’t do this.” Now, I’m about to graduate in 4 months. Like, what?! I’m just like, man…the best and worst years of my life are about to be over and it’s so bittersweet. I’m not going to miss college not one bit, but I am going to miss the experiences I’ve had and the friends I’ve made. It was one hell of a ride, and I glad I made it through.

 

So yeah, no regrets, just lessons learned! To the class of 2020, I hope this advice helps you in any way! It sure would have helped me.

Women of Color Wednesday: Brittany Wright

When I hear the name Brittany Wright, three words instantly come to mind: driven, goal-oriented, motivated, confident, fearless, and bold.ae8923_1505148ae0aa4a0c9d8db23ac62a27c9

Okay, that was way more than three words, but three words just aren’t enough to describe all the Black Girl Magic this girl possesses.

Wright, a native of “the dirty mitten” was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan. Upon graduating from the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy in 2011, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Columbia College Chicago in the Spring of 2015. She is currently one semester away from completing her Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communication with a prospected graduation date of December 16, 2016. She won’t stop there. A Ph.D. in African American Studies is on deck!

Not only is Wright an educated Black woman, but she is also multitalented. “I am so many things, and the majority of which I am not paid for monetarily,” she said. Professionally, Wright is a Media Associate at an international public relations agency where she currently services the clients Walmart and Tylenol. Additionally, Wright is a storyteller, aspiring freelance writer, aspiring blogger, and public speaker.

What’s even more impressive is Wright’s ability to be there for others. “I am a shoulder to cry on, someone who gives strategic advice, a voice for the voiceless and above all, my sister’s keeper.”

When asked what her life mission is, Wright said that it is simply to help others “whether that be to help people actualize their full potential, help people take their brands to the next level, or at work where I help our clients strategically reach their target. Another extension of this could be, by publicly living my truth in hopes that another brown girl, from my hometown perhaps, can see that there is more for her, that she, too, can achieve and reach her level of greatness. Or with my latest project, Bbad Bits: The Podcast Series, where I help elevate Black voices and conjure up possible solutions for Black issues. See the essence of it is still the same, it’s all about helping people. I’ve just found many ways to extend/work on that mission.”

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Yes, yes, YES! Selfless, noble, self-effacing. What every human being should be. I’m here for it.

Wright encourages other women of color to not be selfish with their talents. “There is another brown girl somewhere looking at you as the charter of territory in which they only dreamed of uncovering. Find a way to share your story and your talents, your battles and what eventually allowed for you to prevail.”

Exactly. All of us should be able to see ourselves. Visual identity and representation matters. People need to see themselves in all walks of life, not just their stereotypes. Wright is getting into a space that we hardly see: Black women succeeding in corporate America. It’s women like Brittany Wright that people need to be looking up to. Because of them, we can. I see you, Brittany. Because of you, I can!

She continued, “So often in the Black community there are those who find comfort and eliteness in being exclusive or having some knowledge that is exclusive. Now forgive me for being pro-Black, but they walk through life as if their ancestors passed down a book on how to utilize white privilege to its greatest potential. How to run businesses, how to get the most out of college and so on and so forth. There are a few of us who are passing down this information for free to those who are willing to listen, but there needs to be more of us doing that. We can’t reach a level of success and close the door behind us, but instead look back and reach out.”

Truth! That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Ava DuVernay: “If your dreams don’t include others, they’re not big enough. Include others in your dreams.” Why dream alone when you can dream with your community, with people who have similar aspirations, even with the world? Including others not only makes your dreams stronger, but it also makes them limitless.

11064273_10152709038286851_5864064407383275242_nWright also encourages other women of color to “just do!” She is a strong advocate of a small world that has so much power and meaning. “A lot of Black women and people in general count themselves out before even allowing the ‘approver’ to count them out. So what if you fail, so what if people aren’t rocking with it, so what! You will have to hit so many nos until you get to the yeses that will really turn the game around for you. Be proactive, make a plan and be meticulous by not wavering from that plan. Don’t let someone or something stop you from meeting your end goal. There are a many of people who don’t want to see you make it, but instead of taking that energy and turning it into how to prove them wrong, work on proving yourself right, because in that instance you’re all that matters!”

Preach it, sista. Count on your fingers how many times you’ve been told no, denied, try again next time, you almost had it, you’re not good enough… What number did you come up with? Now look where you are and how those nos has shaped you today. Being told no makes you better, makes you stronger. If everything came easy, you wouldn’t appreciate the process. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, the paths you’ve walked and the steps you’ve taken to reach your objective. Personally, I’d rather be strengthened by a struggle than unchanged by an easy breeze.

When asked what her greatest accomplishment is, she explained – like myself and many other people I know – that she struggled with this question quite a bit. “I even had to reach out to some of my girlfriends like, I’m stuck right now. Part of that is because I’m never content with what I have/am doing now, so I’m constantly looking towards what’s next, leaving no time to focus on the ‘successes’ and ‘accomplishments.’”

Raise your hand up high if you’re the type of person that’s never satisfied, always hungry for more, and always aiming to achieve greater! I know I’m never satisfied; I’m always aiming to do more and be more instead of appreciating what I have accomplished and been successful at. That mindset just comes from the fact that when you know that you were cut from a different cloth, you feel like you have to live up to those expectations of being unique and being the best.

She continued, “After some thought (help) though, I would have to say moving to Chicago, for multiple reasons. Before actually moving, everyone was petrified, but me, because only I could see the vision I had for myself. Prior to moving I had a laundry list of things that I wanted to accomplish here in Chicago and to my surprise, three years later I’ve blown past that list and have done things that my 19-year-old self would not have believed.FullSizeRender Also, prior to coming to Chicago is when I gave birth to bbadpr, which has served as a platform for me to inspire and create change. Bbadpr has opened me up to give workshops, speaking engagements, blogs, podcasts, freelance writing, career consulting, and more. I think for me, the biggest accomplishment was being unafraid and fearlessly conquering what I knew was meant for me.”

I can relate to this in so many ways. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you even if no one else agrees. You have to take control of your life, execute your plan, and seek to make the visions you have for yourself a reality even if no one else can see or believe them.

Through the good days, and the bad, Wright encourages herself to, “Dream into the unknown. Pray. Spend a lot of time alone, and in your thoughts. Understand who you are, what your purpose is and where you want to go. Help people, let people help you, and always remember to help yourself.”

If you’re feeling inspired and want to continue following her journey, check out Brittany Wright’s website, blog, and podcast!

Thank you, Brittany, for all that you do and all that you are. You embody everything that a Black woman should be. I’ve been looking up to you for years now. Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration for Black women like me that want to make a change and motivate others to chase their dreams. Your brilliance, wisdom, and vision for yourself is going to take you so far. I can’t wait to see all of the astounding goals that you will continue to accomplish, and never stop being the voice and the representation that women of color need.

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#MotivationMonday: Never Feel Guilty About Doing What Makes You Happy

I had to take a proctored exam this past Friday. I walked into the office at Ellsworth Hall, and a middle-aged African American woman approached me (I didn’t catch her name), explaining the process of the exam and whatnot. When she was done, I took a seat and awaited the exam time. Having a severe case of exam anxiety, I quickly took out my laptop and swiftly studied as many notes as I could.

The woman politely interrupted my frantic studying and asked, can you come here for a minute?

 Sure! I walked over to her desk.

She turned her computer screen towards my direction and asked is this you on the computer, on WMU’s homepage?

 Honored and blushing, I told her yeah, that’s me!

 Her reaction: priceless.

She went on explaining how she has always wanted to meet me after reading my story about my nationally awarded documentary Painting Dreams: The Story of Johnson Simon and all the recognition and honor I’ve received since its completion. She then told me that God has amazing plans for me and my future and that I had a gift that I need to continue to share with others. She said I was smart, beautiful, and that I was going to make it so far in my life. She then shared this Bible verse with me: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3. She said that my time, my season, is now. I need to embrace it, and don’t hold back.

Wow I thought. She moved me so much that I forgot all about the exam I was stressing out about.

Later that day, it got me thinking. So many amazing things have happened to me since I transferred to Western Michigan University 2 years ago from Alma College. Then I thought, what if I never transferred? What if I would have stayed because that’s what everyone else wanted…my friends, parents, boyfriend at the time, teammates on the cheer team? What if I had sacrificed my happiness for theirs?

Transferring to WMU was honestly the first time I actually did something for myself without caring about what other people said or thought about my decision. People said I wouldn’t survive at a big school. People said I wouldn’t get noticed as easily as I did at Alma College. People said I was making a mistake and that I’ll regret leaving.

They. Were. WRONG.

Now, two years later, I’ve done more and accomplished more in these last two years than I have in my entire life! When I transferred to Western, my main goal was to make a name for myself. That’s exactly what I did. I got featured in the last issue of WMU Magazine. I’m on the freakin’ homepage of the University’s website! And so, so much more. I’m a national award-winning documentary filmmaker. Everyone knows Tirrea Shanice Billings. Not too long ago, a faculty member walked passed me and said hey, superstar!

 So much for not going to be noticed.

Not only that, but I’m happy…so, so, so happy. Happier than I’ve ever been. Kalamazoo and WMU has given me a sense of belonging and self-discovery. I truly found myself and my purpose here. And whenever I’m away, I don’t say I can’t wait to get back to Kalamazoo. Instead, I say I can’t wait to get back home.

All this would have never happened if I sacrificed what I wanted for what other people wanted. And at first, I felt bad about transferring and leaving what I had at Alma. I’m a people pleaser, and it was hard seeing people disappointed about my decision to leave. I felt guilty.

Now, two years later, I’m realizing that I should never feel guilty about doing what makes me happy. Nobody knows what’s best for me better than me. I’m graduating from WMU in 5 months with so many accomplishments, goals for the future, and memories that I will cherish forever.

For once, I put my happiness and what I wanted first before anything else, and it payed off.

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#FilmMajorFriday: The Merze Tate Explorers Club Is Empowering Girls Through Writing, Photography, and Videography

Last week, I had the opportunity to be the personal videographer and videographer instructor for the Merze Tate Travel Writers Club‘s 2016 Tate-Stone Travel Writers Academy.  IMG_0041The Academy is a program for 4th-12th graders, and is a 6-day residential academy on Kalamazoo College’s campus. The program provides travel opportunities and interaction with women where they work while serving as reporters to capture the adventures through writing, photography, and videography for the annual Girls Can! Magazine. The program was created by Sonya Bernard-Hollins.

I must say, it was one the greatest and most rewarding experiences that I’ve had to date. It was an amazing feeling being around so many girls that were as passionate about traveling and media just as much as I am, and girls who really wanted to advance their skills in writing, photography, and my personal favorite, videography.

IMG_0003Throughout the week, I filmed the events that took place throughout the week. We went to the Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan where the girls had the opportunity to meet and interview the CEO. We participated in Youth Day at Bible Baptist Church as part of the Black Arts and Cultural Center’s 2016 Black Arts Festival.  Later in the week, we traveled to Detroit, Michigan and went to the Motown Museum and ate dinner on the Detroit Princess River Boat. We ended the week by traveling to Niagara Falls, Canada where we were able to take a tour and ride the boat through the Falls!

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My favorite part about the Academy was just simply being a positive influence and that person the girls could look up to not just as a videographer, but a mentor as well.IMG_0110 Representation matters, and when you see someone who looks like you, doing what you want to do, and desire to be like, it gives you all the more reason to chase your dreams. If she can do it, so can I.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of this fantastic week with girls who are inspired and passionate about traveling, writing, and media. I wish I was a part of a program like this growing up. I think that it’s incredible that these girls are gaining these experiences at such a young age. We need more programs like this that give children the opportunity to learn, explore, and see the world. There’s so much out there and if more children were given opportunities like this, I know that it would give them more hope and motivation to work hard, achieve their greatest aspirations, and reach heights higher than they could ever imagine.

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Changing The Movement: Why It’s Not Enough To JUST Protest

In light of the recent tragedies that have occurred around the United States, citizens are taking to the streets, outraged with the reoccurring issues of police brutality and social injustice. This year alone, about 561 people have been killed by the police.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with protesting. It’s an act of standing in solidarity, making a physical statement against injustices in our society. Protesting is a way for individuals to be heard and seen in the public eye, demanding justice to be served. However, it’s not enough to just protest if we want to see real, significant changes being made in society.

Recently, I read an article called “Why Street Protests Don’t Work” written by Moisés Naím. Though it was published back in 2014 and is not geared directly towards police brutality, it’s still extremely relevant, probably more than ever.

Naím suggests that the problem with protesting is what happens after we protest. Most people that participate in protests have “no formal affiliation with one another, no clear hierarchy, and no obvious leaders.” For the most part, these protests lead to little to no government response and no major political reforms. She asks: “How can so many extremely motivated people achieve so little?” Answer: “Behind massive street demonstrations there is rarely a well-oiled and more-permanent organization capable of following up on protesters’ demands and undertaking the complex, face-to-face, and dull political work that produces real change in government.”

According to Zeynep Tufekci, “Before the Internet, the tedious work of organizing that was required to circumvent censorship or to organize a protest also helped build infrastructure for decision making and strategies for sustaining momentum. Now movements can rush past that step, often to their own detriment.” You see, protesting and ranting is appealing to Twitter and Facebook. However, it takes more than a few tweets, Facebook statuses, and signs to achieve the change that we need. Ranting on social media and protesting without a real plan of action is not equivalent to activism that effects change.

Protesting and viral hashtags were okay at first, but now we need to take different means of action and start asking serious questions. Being a “social media activist” and a protestor creates a feel-good illusion that weakens true activism needed to make significant changes. We can’t just protest in large numbers when someone dies at the hands of police for two weeks and then let the issue fizzle itself out. We need to start implementing more permanent, political work every day and fully devote ourselves to building stronger, political organizations that form energy and outrage into real public policies.

Police brutality and gun violence happens far too often to continue to do the same tiring routine. I’m tired of shouting ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter yet nothing is being changed. I’m tired of having to explain how “black on black crime” is different than civilian fatalities by the police. I’m tired of people profiting off of black bodies. EVERY single police/black shooting that was publicized by the media has made a profit off of someone’s life, making us think that our lives can be bought. I’m tired of having to prove the worth of human lives in general.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of just marching and protesting and not seeing any results. I’m ready for real change.

Protesting is a great way to get our voices heard, yes. And this movement has and continues to make great strides in race relations and social issues within the black community. However, it’s not enough to just yell in the streets with signs and speeches without targeting the real work, too. We also need to be engaged in political processes and implement sustainable, political organizing if we really want to change society. The same problems keep reoccurring over and over and over again. It’s time for a different narrative, a different means of action.

Enough is enough. We need more than a movement. We need a revolution.

Small Town Summers In Kalamazoo, MI: Fourth Coast Café

I actually discovered this hidden, 24-hour café known as Fourth Coast Café a few weeks IMG_0261ago when I had a meeting here about a job opportunity.

I’ve been going back pretty much every other day since! The café is literally an embodiment of Kalamazoo culture, and I love it.

The excellent choices of coffee shop music, the picturesque feel of the café, and the hipster-type crowd of people that fill the small space makes it a comfortable, homey chill spot. Whether you want to do homework, catch up with friends, or grab a coffee, Fourth Coast Café is the place to go.

And my favorite part – as I mentioned before – is that it’s open 24 hours!

IMG_0241The café has been serving Kalamazoo residents for the past 20 years. They have a diverse selection of coffees, lattes, teas, artisan breads, vegan and organic desserts, and a full selection of baked goods. My personal favorites are the chai tea latte and their blueberry muffins!

Fourth Coast Café is located at 816 S Westnedge Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008. Check it out sometime!

#FilmMajorFriday: I Survived My First (Production) Runner Job

From Wednesday, July 6 to Monday, July 11, 2016, I received the opportunity to be a runner for Rogan Productions for a documentary they are producing about the daily life in a gun shop in Battle Creek, Michigan called Freedom Firearms.

You only see the extremes on TV, i.e. people who are super pro-gun, people who are super anti-gun, and the mass shootings. You never see normal, everyday people that practice gun safety and use guns for things such as hunting and protection, so this documentary aims to show that middle ground. Rogan Productions is based in London, and guns aren’t allowed in the UK, so this is all quite fascinating for them.

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When I received the job offer, my first initial thought was of the movie The Devil Wears Prada when Anne Hathaway’s character Andy was basically a slave to Miranda (Meryl Streep) and had to cater to her every need. That’s basically what a runner is. You assist the director and producer by doing miscellaneous tasks, as well as do things like getting coffee and lunch. This was my first runner job for a major production, so I was REALLY nervous!

However, my experience was nothing like Andy’s from the movie at all! I feel like I got lucky with it being a smaller, more independent company, on top of the fact that the crew was very small and that this was for a UK documentary, not a major feature Hollywood film. Had I been a runner for Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther movie or something like that, I’m sure the experience would have been much more intense.

However, it still wasn’t easy! I worked 10-12 hour days every single day during that week. I had to write down and consent every single person that walked into the gun shop, along with detailed descriptions. I was responsible for picking up lunches and Starbucks. The most technical thing I probably got to do was change the batteries in the microphones and mic the employees of the gun shop.

The first two days were rough because I’ve become complacent with my little 5-hour shifts, 3 days a week at my part-time job where I pretty much sit at a desk all day unless we’re out shooting a video. So going from that to literally being on my feet from 9am-8pm (and sometimes longer) every day for 6 days straight was exhausting! However, as the days went on, I got used to the long hours.

The crew was amazing, and it was a fun experience working with the British! They’re such lovely, nice people. Plus, I could listen to their accents ALL day. The gun shop staff were also really cool and very knowledgeable about firearms. You could tell that they are passionate about what they do. The free food and Starbucks everyday was nice as well!

image2 2I even got to shoot for the first time ever! It was quite the experience. I might even go back and get my CPL (concealed pistol license).

This experience definitely reminded me why I love documentary films, and reassured me that I’m in the right field. I learned so much about documentary film production, and what it takes to make it to the top.

Additionally, before this experience, I was kind of anti-guns and didn’t want anything to do with them. All you see in the media is the harm that guns do, but you never see anything about the normal, day-to-day people who use guns wisely and practice gun safety, which is what this documentary is about. This experience gave me a different perspective on guns, and how the media really distorts and puts a negative stigma on guns even though 90% of gun owners use guns wisely.

THIS is why I love documentary filmmaking. It allows you to gain unique learning experiences, opens your mind to different viewpoints, and you learn perspectives that are different than your own.

I expect to be directing/producing my own documentaries by the age of 30, if not sooner. I know that’s a stretch, but I can do it. I can only go up from here! I’m thankful for having this opportunity, and I know that there’s much more to come. This is only the beginning.

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Women of Color Wednesday: Laurie Hernandez

Lauren (Laurie) Hernandez is the first US-born Latina to make Team USA for the Olympics since Tracee Talavera in 1984. Hernandez is on her way to the Olympics in #Rio2016, and is excited to be representing Puerto Rico and Hispanics everywhere. 3a4b04_746e3599a6734aad8ce298c294d8d30d.jpgHer floor routine truly embraces her roots, which is an infusion of Latin-inspired music and dance moves.

The second generation Purtero Rican was born in New Brunswick, NJ, on June 9, 2000.

The very sassy, “young Shakira” started gymnastics at the young age of 5 years old. Currently, she is one of the youngest American athletes to compete at this year’s Olympics. Wowing the judges at the Olympics trial, Hernandez scored first place in Beam, and second in All-Around.

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Her road to stardom was not easy. She had to take six months off in 2014 after a series of injuries, including a fractured wrist, torn patella ligament, and dislocated knee. However, she overcame her injuries and came back stronger than ever.

She will compete on the USA Gymnastics team alongside Simone Biles (19), Gabby Douglas (20), Ally Raisman (22), and Madison Kocian (19).

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I cannot wait for #Rio2016. I will be rooting for you, Laurie Hernandez. Stay sassy, and I know you are going to KILL IT!

NO GMOs

Mark your calendar, folks! The very talented Alfield Reeves and Keyon Lovett will be having their first art exhibition collaboration at the Black Arts and Cultural Center as a part of Art Hop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The project is entitled, “NO GMOs.”IMG_4707

“We live in a society that is losing its authenticity, so much that we have to add to ourselves instead of being who we are at the core and who God created us to be. NO GMOs is aimed to highlight that authenticity in its rarest form.”

Reeves, with his gift of photography, will be highlighting his #MelaninatedNaturals series, which focuses on encapsulating chocolate ladies of all shades and their natural hair.FullSizeRender

“My project is entitled #MelaninatedNaturals. It entails individual and group portraits of black women highlighting all their eclectic shades of skin, natural hair styles, and an array fashion senses,” Reeves explained.

Keyon, with his gift of illustration, will be highlighting his #BlackCinema Series, which takes viewers down memory lane by revisiting movies that would be considered staples in the African American community, adding a twist that you — the viewer — will have to point out.

“I just thought it would be cool to recreate some of the iconic scenes from the films. Then I started to make connections to us as black people,” Lovett said.

Authenticity is the core of the two projects. NO GMOs means nothing artificial. The artwork that Reeves and Lovett created identifies the realness of black essence and black culture.

When asked what his favorite part of the project was, Alfield said, “I’ve always been someone that loves the process and seeing the transformation of things. So in saying that, my favorite part is the process of getting the ladies together for each photo session, their interactions with each-other, the positive vibes, and of course going through the portraits sorting and editing, and seeing the transformation while being amazed at the final result.”

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Reeves continued, “I wouldn’t say I have a least favorite part, but probably the most difficult part will be selecting the ones that will be in the exhibit while trying not people please, but instead choosing the ones that are the most excellent and fully portray my idea.”

Similar to Reeves, Lovett explained that his favorite part is always creating, and that his least favorite part “will probably be selecting which pieces make the cut.”

Though the creative process is the most fascinating and exciting part about this collaboration, it can get a bit difficult at times. Reeves mentioned that there was an influxFullSizeRender 4.jpg of ladies interested when he put the project idea out there, so having to plan each group session and making time to select and edit the pictures was a bit tedious.

Similarly, Lovett added, “The process has been exciting. Al and I have had the ability to live with each other and with that we’ve been able to understand how we think creatively. His organization meets my spontaneity.”

For additional information about the event such as dates, times, and social media followings, check out the Eventbrite link!

Oh, and it’s FREE! So if you love art and want to support this amazing collaborative project, be sure to check out the exhibit September 9th!

 

6 Black Media Outlets That You Should Be Supporting

Essence Magazine? Not black-owned.

Ebony Magazine? Not black-owned.

Huff Post: Black Voices? Not black owned.

The Root? You guessed it! Not Black owned.

Crazy, right?! And all this time I thought that these were outlets for black people, BY black people.

Finding out this information inspired me to research and look for other media outlets I can support, ones that are actually black-owned. I came across a thread on Twitter that had a list of black-owned media outlets that every person should be supporting!

I must say, it’s a pretty fantastic list:

 

  1. TWiB! Nation Unknown

This Week in Blackness (TWiB) is an award winning multimedia digital platform founded by Elon James White. TWiB houses the online broadcasting network TWiB.FM, the digital magazine VALID, and the video on-demand site Blackness.TV.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. Seven Scribes                                                                Unknown

Seven Scribes is a new media site that is committed to creating a space where black and allied young writers and artists can offer commentary and analysis on politics, pop culture, literature, and art. The Scribes include Josie Helen, fivefifths, Frank Jackson, Eve L. Ewing, Trey Smith, and Erika Stallings.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. Black Youth Project                                                                                      Unknown-1

Founded by Cathy J. Cohen, the Black Youth Project examines the attitudes, resources and culture of the young black millennials. Their three areas of focus are knowledge, voice, and action. It is the ultimate cyber-resource center for black youth and all those who are committed to enriching the lives of black youth.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. Blavity                                                                                         Unknown-2

Blavity is another outlet that serves as a voice for black millennials. This community of multi-cultural creators and influencers aim to reach a wider audience, amplify their message, and fund their hustles. Blavity is a fairly new media outlet. It was founded in 2014 by Morgan DeBaun.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. Afrikan Black Coalition                                                     Unknown-1

The Afrikan Black Coalition was created in 2003 by black students within the University of California system who found the low admittance and retention rates of black students intolerable. Founding members included Jewel Love (UCSB), Ainye Long & Edwina Williams (UCSC), Na’Shaun Neal & Catherine Sylvester (UCLA), Raniyah Abdus-Samad & Renita Chaney (UCB), Adia Smith & Venita Johnson (UCD), Tiana Lynch (UCI), and Stephanie Akpa (UCSD).

For the past 13 years, the organization has branched out to be more inclusive of all black students and community members in California. Though maybe not technically a “media” outlet, I still think it’s a cool organization that everyone should support, especially if you’re a student residing in California. Plus, they have a blog!

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. PushBlack                                                                                           -nDb-zD-

Being the first mobile-based black civic engagement group, PushBlack attracts and engages black people through their text news service, PushBlack Now. Throughout the week, they text their subscribers the top black news stories of the day, representing black people and people of color and their unique experiences. The media site was co-founded by Darrell Scott.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

Feel free to add to this list by commenting on this post!

 

Women of Color Wednesday: Jereshia Hawk

I met this amazingly intelligent young woman when taping Episode 10 of Season 3 of The Social B. Show. I must say, I was wildly impressed by her determination, hunger for success, her clarity, and her focus.

This girl knows what she wants, and stops at nothing to move to the next level of achievement.

Ms. Jereshia Hawk is a native of West Bloomfield, Michigan. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering with a minor in Mathematics at Western Michigan University in April of 2014. Currently, she works as a Transmission Pipeline Engineer for Michigan’s largest electric and natural gas utility. Other engineering roles she has had since May 2014 include metering and regulation, and damage prevention public safety outreach, enhancing the quality of life for over 6 million Michigan residents.

Additionally, she has also been dedicated to creating a more engaged workforce whose diversity enables best-in-class performance by chairing a multi-generational employee resource group, co-coordinating the gas engineering intern program, and by being an overall diversity champion. She served as a Product Specialist for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles from 2011 to 2014. She also served as the Chief Executive Officer of Love Struck, LLC. from 2012 to 2014, an online women’s boutique that provides high quality products to customers in over 20 countries.

It doesn’t stop there. Hawk is also an entrepreneur! She is the Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of the Goal Getter Group, a platform for professionals and entrepreneurs to get to the next level of their lives through self-awareness, support, strategic planning, and accountability. This organization is dedicated to preparing and advancing the empowerment of millennials.

Hawk’s life mission is to advance the empowerment of women. She aims to remove barriers, challenge the status quo, defy stereotypes, and go beyond what is expected; to not only have a seat at the table, but to have a voice, and to create platforms for other women to do the same.

Yes, honey! I’m here for it.

Her inspiring words to women of color are, “You have the power to design and dictate your life. You have the power to choose how you live your life. Raise your bar of excellence and engage in high quality experiences. Define your own standards. Choose who and how you want to engage with the world. Command the types of experiences you want to have. Choose not to settle. You are worth it!”

Hawk’s biggest accomplishment to date is the awareness of growing into her own greatness and defining what that meant for herself. “I was moving through life for so long not knowing or feeling like I had control, that I didn’t have the power to set my own standards and design a life I wanted to live,” she said. “As I became older and grew into my maturity, I discovered that I am a woman of excellence and that I could make the choice to live a life of abundance. Discovering that power within myself took me to the next level!”

Not only is Hawk young, educated, and the real definition of “goals,” she is also a woman who lives beyond her expectations and aims to inspire others to do the same through her actions.

As she progresses through her career, Hawk is fully committed to addressing under-representation of females and minorities in high level leadership positions in business, government, and nonprofit organizations by establishing more robust and sustainable pipelines geared for the development of diverse leaders.

Jereshia Hawk is a woman of action, an empowerment enthusiast, absolute optimist, and a solutions architect. Her drive, tenacity, and resilience to pursue her passions is remarkable. She knows what she wants, maps out a plan, and goes for it. She owns her greatness, works tirelessly to climb the corporate ladder, and is constantly #MovingThatNeedle!

You are awesome, Jereshia! It’s women like you who inspire me to empower others, have full confidence and control of my life, and give me the drive to make my dreams become a reality.

 

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#FilmMajorFriday: That One Time I (Almost) Landed an Internship in LA

You want to know what the worst feeling in the world is? Giving something your all, but still falling short.

Back in March, I applied for an extremely competitive internship with the Television Academy Foundation in Los Angeles, California. The requirements were extensive: application, resume, statement letter, transcripts, and two letters of recommendation. I spent hours and hours perfecting my materials before I mailed them off, and prayed for the best.

To my surprise, I made it as a finalist! I, Tirrea Billings, was a finalist for a PAID internship in LA! I was elated.

The last step I had to complete was a video interview answering multiple questions about myself and why I wanted to intern with the TV Academy. Honestly, I felt like I completely nailed it.

By this time, it was the end of May. I had been working on this for two months! I gave it everything that I had, and I was fully confident that I would be chosen.

But…I wasn’t.

For the past month, it’s really been bothering me. Yeah, I was a finalist. But I didn’t win. I felt like I was worth more than 2nd place. And it’s not that I feel like I didn’t try hard enough because I know I did. It’s the fact that I did try my absolute hardest and I still wasn’t good enough. I fell short, and I really let myself down.

Being the competitive person that I am, I’ve been asking myself what did I do wrong? What could I have done better? What do I need to improve on? Who got chosen and what did they do better?

Yet, after beating myself up about it for a while, I grew tired and knew that it was time to change my perspective and look at the situation differently.

For a long time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t discover my love for filmmaking until my sophomore year of college, and didn’t produce my first documentary until late last year during my senior year. I literally just started taking film seriously only 1 year ago.

And to make it as a finalist for a very competitive internship in LA after only doing this for a year says a lot. Then I reminisced on this past year, and really had to pat myself on the back.

My first documentary I ever made received an honorable mention in the 2016 Broadcast Education Association’s (BEA) Media Festival of the Arts – a highly competitive, national competition for student filmmakers. I’ve interned at several different locations, continue to receive a tremendous amount of opportunities for paid, freelance work, and I’m all over Western Michigan University’s websites and news for my work.

People are noticing me, and that’s an amazing feeling.

So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I had to realize that my work is definitely not going unnoticed, and I have accomplished more during this past year than what some people have accomplished who have been doing this much longer than I have.

I had to realize that in this field, and in life in general, there are going to be times when you are told no, when you get denied, and when you give something your all but still fall short. And you know what, that’s okay. Though finally being able to catch a big break in LA would have been amazing and that $4,000 would have looked pretty nice in my bank account, I know that God has even bigger, better opportunities planned for me in my future. I just have to keep working hard and continue improving as a filmmaker.

Most importantly, I can never give up.

I also have to remember that this career is not easy at all, that there will probably be more times when I’m told no versus being told yes, and that I’m still young and new to this field! So I just need to relax. As long as I keep striving for greatness, I will make it to where I want to be: a director/producer for documentary films and advocating for more diversity and inclusion in the film/media/TV industry.

Lastly, to anyone reading this and to everyone that I know, thank you so, so, so much for your undying love and support. I am a very confident woman, but affirmation always feel good! Thank you for seeing my potential even when I don’t see it in myself. Thank you for your continuous encouragement and motivation, and thank you for believing in me and my dreams.

Celebrate your victories, and celebrate your losses. Actually, don’t even look at them as losses. Instead, look at them as opportunities to learn, grow, and become better. Don’t get discouraged because when one door closes, another door opens. You just have to keep striving for greatness, and want it for yourself.

I want it, and I will get it. It may not be right at this moment, but I will make it to LA, I will prosper, and I will reach heights greater than I’ve ever imagined.

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Women of Color Wednesday: BreAna Allen

I met BreAna Allen my freshmen year of high school at the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy. Ever since I can remember, she’s always had this professional aura about herself. I thought she was a teacher when I first saw her, but she was actually a junior in high school!

Born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, Saginaw Valley State University senior BreAna Allen is the ultimate role model and a true inspiration. Majoring in Business Management, she is the CEO and founder of Beaute Inc., a growing corporation that specializes in retail, health and beauty, food eateries, and special events. She is also the author of the book, Let Me Show You, and is a business life coach.

Talk about a jack of all trades!

Allen aims to encourage both women and men to exceed all goals, at all ages, with high faith and clarity. Her life mission: “To further God’s kingdom with the witty ideas and inventions I’ve been endowed with.”

She is everything that Black Girl Magic embodies. Allen strives to teach individuals how to reach their highest moments of achievement in life. Allen says, “When God created your skin tone, your purpose, your value, He knew you would be unstoppable. Embrace the quality He has placed on your life and dominate! You were made to win in every single area of your life, no matter how you look. Winning has no favoritism, only willing mindsets.”

Allen’s ultimate accomplishment is when she hosted her first fashion show at SVSU, which had 750 attendees! “I was a brand new transfer student with a LOT of success on my mind. 750 attendees came and watched my ladies strut their stuff on the runway. To date, it was the largest fashion show in Michigan,” Allen says.

That’s absolutely incredible.

Becoming the shining star that Allen is today was not an easy journey. For a long time, she was insecure about her physical appearance and struggled with bulimia nervosa. However, her self-esteem issues is what motivated her to create her first T-Shirt line in December of 2008 called Beaute Marc to inspire women to discover their beauty and worth.

Looking at BreAna Allen, I would have never guessed that she struggled with self-acceptance. However, her diligence and her faith allowed her to overcome these obstacles. There really is “beaute” in the struggle, and Allen is a living testimony of that statement.

What I love most about Allen is her spirituality and her faith in God, and how she runs her business on faith. She stands firm with 1 Peter 4:10. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faith stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

She does exactly that, and more. With her confidence and her drive, I doubtlessly believe that Allen will be a millionaire by the age of 25!

BreAna, I have been following your accomplishments and watching you grow for years now, and I just want you to know that you inspire me more than I could ever describe! Thank you for showing me and everybody around you that with confidence, faith, and ambition, you can reach the highest of heights.

To add, Bre’s Hair Extensions, LLC will be opening its first location in Fashion Square Mall in Saginaw, Michigan – located at 4787 Fashion Square Mall, Saginaw, MI 48604 – on August 20, 2016! Be sure to like the Bre’s Hair Extensions Facebook page, and check out BreAna Allen’s website!

Keep climbing and keep shining, BreAna! You’re amazing, and inspire me and those around you more than you know.

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