After watching this brief clip that someone posted on Facebook that shows a recording of an episode where Iyanla Vanzandt has Black men and women openly expressing their hurts, anger, and disappointments, I share in this multi-part reflection and plea that I’ve started below.

I know that it can apply to any ethnicity of people (for internally we all have unique and sometimes even similar struggles), but I can only speak for and directly to the group I share the most commonalities with—Black people—but I encourage all to read this, to get a better understanding of the unique struggles that Black people and specifically African Americans face daily in the US—see the commonalities within your own ethnic group—and consider the ways that even you may have unknowingly perpetuated one or more of the stereotypes that continue to divide one group of people (in this case, African Americans) and reinforce the stigmas that keep nations of people divided:

To Black Women I Say…

Ladies listen to your men. Truly listen. Don’t ignore their complaints. They are crying out and they need us.

Stop allowing the past and what society has forced us to do to survive to be the barrier that prevents us from having a genuine and loving connection with our men.

To Black Men I Say…

Menfolk, you need to come together and give each other the “pass” and approval to be vulnerable, to open up and share your hurt and anger in a way that allows women to fully understand in a healthy way, without us feeling the need to mother you or chastise you as being “weak”. Those are the two extremes that we keep repeating and reinforcing, that further attacks and emasculates you.

To Black Women I Say…

Ladies we can’t say we want a gentleman who possesses qualities of nurturing, tenderness, and compassion—but then call a man a punk when he shows sadness, fear, depression, etc.

He is human just like you.

He has feelings just like you.

He has insecurities just like you.

Just like you, he faces rejection and pressures from the world simply because of the color of his skin.

He wants to be heard and understood, appreciated and celebrated, forgiven and shown compassion—just like you.

You should be more concerned about the man who does not cry than the one who does. The former is boiling and dying from within. The latter is releasing the toxins that could do harm to him, to you, and to others.

I’m guilty of not being empathetic and sympathetic enough to realize that I placed men, especially Black men, on a pedestal of Super Hero status—with expectations that they are to be stronger, braver, and more resilient because they are men—-that they should just “suck it up and get past it” all while forgetting that even super heroes have weaknesses, flaws, areas of vulnerability that leaves them exposed and easy to harm.

I forgot the very important lessons that my Black father taught me about Black men, and how to love, appreciate and support them.

I forgot that just like the burden of being labeled “Wonder Woman” or “Super Woman” is draining on me, the labels placed on men also drain them.

All super heroes need a break— refuge.

Batman went to the bat cave, switched out his gear, took the secret door back to his “normal” life as Bruce Wayne. When Wonder Woman isn’t out there saving the world with her lasso and shields, she’s just a regular person—Diana Prince.

Super heroes can’t always be “on”. They need a break too! And they also need healthy companionship. Look at the super heroes and their love interests. There’s a sense of balance.

As Black people we have shared experiences of slavery (past and present), of injustice, cruelty, and racism. We have shared pain just as we have shared hope.

Just like we need a safe place to rest our head, men do too! They need someone they can let down their guards with and be vulnerable to, and trust that they won’t be attacked when they take off their super hero costume, or simply—just when they turn their backs or close their eyes to rest.

When they turn to us we need to be there for them. Not to mother them—society already says that they are boys and not men. But instead to simply provide refuge from the outside world. A safe place of peace, tucked away from a world of conflict and chaos.

Home is not merely a physical place. It should be what we have in and with each other.

To Black Men I Say…

Men, you need to stop negatively comparing Black women to other women. Stop telling Black women how inferior we are to other women. Stop telling us how ugly we are, inside and out.

Stop reducing us to our bodies as merely sexual props for your pleasure, to be easily discarded—as it reinforces the trauma inflicted on our women when slave masters raped and discarded us.

Please don’t keep opening that wound and torturing us.

It’s one thing to honor and celebrate us, it’s another thing to exploit and pimp us out—to basically say that we’re only as good as our booty is big.

Stop perpetuating the labels and stereotypes of Black women.

These labels and stereotypes are not merely reinforced by the few Black women who proudly or ignorantly display these traits and characteristics.

They are co-signed by your affirmations of their truth.

Others turn to the Black man and ask, “is this true about Black women?” and when you say “yes” it stamps all Black women with a seal.

What you say about Black women is a clear affirmation of what you think and how you see your mother, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, and yes even your daughters.

Are the words that you use to describe Black women the same that you would want someone else to describe the females of your family?

Is that what you want your daughter to hear and respond to?

Are the ways that you treat Black women the ways that you would want your daughter, mother, sister, and grandmother to be treated?

The negative labels devalue and destroy us.

We are not ALL one way or another. Just like Black men are not.

———————❤️——————-

Ladies and gentlemen, please let this sink in and marinate. We have to engage in dialogue and take ownership for our roles and parts in this disconnect.

I cannot possibly dive as deep as I would like because I’m limited by this medium that I’ve selected. So we will go as deep as possible to allow for discussion that can branch off into your own independent discussions.

The first step towards healing is to admit there is a problem.

Tomorrow we will continue with part two of this discussion. I hope that you will join me and share your thoughts and suggestions.

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
All footage in the video is owned and protected by Iyanla Vanzandt and the Oprah Winfrey Network. I do not claim any rights to the content.
The image art used with this post is not my creation. It was found at https://twitter.com/blaclovematters

Today marks the 22nd year that Operation HOPE has been serving communities throughout the United States and abroad.

It has been both an honor and a privilege to serve with my Operation HOPE family for the past four years as a HOPE Corp volunteer, and now as an Advisory Board co-chair for HOPE Business In A Box Academies, and the Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

As the wife of the Founder, Chairman, and CEO, John Hope Bryant, I not only share in the mission of Operation HOPE, but I devote my life to its mission with the focus on poverty eradication and economic empowerment for all. This will be my mission until I take my last breath, so I intend to give it 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time.

Today I celebrate this amazing organization by sporting my treasured Operation HOPE cycling jersey (pictured below). I represent Operation HOPE with pride.

20140505-213931.jpg

Happy 22nd anniversary Operation HOPE! A lot has been accomplished in 22 years, but we have a lot of work still left to do. Let’s do this!

~Natasha Foreman Bryant

By Natasha Foreman Bryant
 
 I shared these exact words in my Breaking Bread blog a few moments ago, but I know that not everyone who reads this blog also follows my Breaking Bread blog. So I share these with all of you….
 
 Last night my dear friend, Carman, called me and painfully muttered the words that I knew would come one day, but never knowing when—she told me her father David had just passed away. David had been fighting Alzheimer’s for several years now and it was taking its toll on David, Carman, and their family.
 
 But in David’s passing I don’t see things as though he ‘lost the battle’ to Alzheimer’s, instead I see things differently. I see that David had the opportunity to spend time with his family and be cared for by his family. During his battle his family was faced with the option of embracing change or resisting it, and they were faced with a reality that they definitely weren’t prepared for or desired. David’s battle challenged his family. David’s battle has strengthened my friend Carman, and their family. They may not see it right now because the reality of him not physically being here is clouding the reality that he will always be here, and that not physically being here means he is no longer suffering, but forever living in and with peace.
 
 I pray that in their mourning they seek out God and seek to rejoice, pray, and give thanks for God and for Him not only bringing David to them, but allowing them to spend as much physical time as they have with David. I pray that they rejoice, pray, and give thanks for the challenges, the battles, and the pain over the years because with these things they have grown stronger and more resilient. I pray that David’s life brings them closer together, helps them overcome past issues, and prevents future ones.
 
 I pray that they don’t see David’s passing as a loss, but as a gain, because David has been promoted to his next level of existence. David has gone on to bigger and better things, experiences, and realities. He physically cannot be seen or touched, but through memories and laughter, he will always be felt and seen spiritually. David was a physically fit man who loved to exercise and roller skate, his condition prior to being promoted didn’t allow for him to do the things he loved—but now he can.
 
 I know what it’s like to ‘lose’ a loved one, I have ‘lost’ many. I know what it’s like to ‘lose’ a parent, my dad was suddenly and without warning promoted by God in 2001. I had so much guilt built up because I didn’t return his phone call ‘in time’ that day, because I didn’t get the chance to say, “I love you dad” and “see you later”, and because I didn’t pay attention to earlier signs of a heart attack. I had nightmares because I would flash back to the moment I found him in his office. I couldn’t shake the image.
 
 I was torn between embracing his sudden promotion and wanting to disconnect for awhile from the world. So I found a reasonable middle ground. I knew my dad would not want me to mourn him because he lived such an amazing life, flaws and all, and he had such a giving heart, so why wouldn’t I celebrate his life, legacy, and promotion to eternal life?
 
 My middle ground was living my life, growing comfortable speaking about his, doing everything and anything I could to be a great student of Christ and servant leader, and doing what I could to make him proud and to make myself proud. I have spent the past 13 years growing, healing, and celebrating life—mine and my dad’s. I have failed and succeeded, fallen but always gotten back up. I know dad is proud of me. Yes, there are times I cry because I miss him, because I want to see and hear him experience the great things that are going on in my life, and because I want to ask him for professional, personal, and spiritual advice. Then I eventually smile, thank God, tell my dad I love him, and talk to him anyway, knowing he can’t interrupt me [smile].
 
 I pray that my friend Carman and her family find a comfortable middle ground that they can eventually grow and mature into a higher ground of acceptance and celebration, because honestly, David wouldn’t want them to be constantly mourning him, depressed that he’s not physically around, and falling short of the greatness that he challenged himself and them to reach each day. David always wanted the best for his family, and flaws and all, David did his best to provide what he could when he could to his family.
 
 I hope by sharing David and Carman’s life and experience, and by sharing my own, that each of us take this time to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. I hope that we make this a natural habit each day. Life as we know it has a time limit, and we don’t know when that time will end, but what we can do is live our lives to the fullest each and every day, forgiving ourselves and others, shaking off depression and guilt, pushing ourselves to greatness, so that we and our families are better prepared for the day when we too are promoted.
 
 Carman I love you and your family. You all are a part of my extended family and I want you to know that you can thrive and shine brightly because God has equipped you to do so, and your dad gave you many examples of how to do it here and now. Don’t let the enemy convince you that life can never be good or better because David isn’t physically here. David is in each and every person that he encountered, embraced, and spent quality time with. Just as we are to look for Jesus in others, look for your dad in others—then smile, laugh, and say, “thank You!”
 
 I share these same words with and for all of you reading this. We must be selfless during change. We must embrace the change in order to grow and see the rainbow after the storm. The longer we resist the longer it takes for us to breathe and be free.

 
 Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks.
 
 
 
 Copyright 2014. Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 

After reading this brief bio, testimonial, story about Steve, please stop for a moment and consider the “what ifs” of Steve’s life had he accomplished his initial goal. Then consider your own life and what blessings that you are blocking, what you aren’t fully expressing, and what mission you aren’t accomplishing or even attempting.

Now let me be clear, I don’t know Steve, never met him. We follow each other’s blogs. Today I was drawn to learn more about Steve, and I’m grateful that I made the effort. I’m also grateful for Steve’s dog. His love for Steve is one major reason why Steve is still here and blessing the world. Steve’s story is amazing. Please share it with others!

About Steve.

A coward is a hilarious yet pitiful sight to see and experience. A coward hides behind aliases, anonymity, avatars, masks, lies, and other people. A coward yells loudly behind mommy’s dress and daddy’s coat, but never stands out and speaks up for the world to see. A coward spits venom like a serpent but is too scared to face those they attack. A coward has little to no self-esteem, self-worth, dignity, or grace, so lacking a spine they sneak around trying to drag others to their level. A coward will hide behind a title but never live up to it. A coward is never dependable, reliable, or consistent…except in their cowardice. They simply exist, but never live, and even in their existence they don’t leave much of an impression.

I’m not too sure if I should feel sorry for the cowards of the world, sympathy, or nothing at all. They are a sad group of people. They can never stand on their own, they can never fight their own battles, they can never truly lead, they always make excuses for their inadequacies, and blame others for their shortcomings. Cowards are always the victim, always the damsel in distress, always the ones needing saving, always the ones complaining about what’s wrong and why they can’t do something. The words, ‘can’t’ and ‘impossible’ begin and end their sentences, and sometimes their days.

Cowards live for revenge, wanting to pay back those who hurt them, but they don’t have the courage to actually face this person head on. Cowards like to pick fights, but never stick around for combat, or they find a way for others to join the fight so their weaknesses are never revealed. They are the ones who spread rumors and cause drama, but in a sneaky, cleaver kind of way–that always make them look innocent. They pretend to be someone they aren’t because they don’t have the courage to be who they were created to be. They are weak-minded, weak physically, weak morally, and weak spiritually. They live in constant darkness; for only in light can one find true strength. It’s no wonder why cowards always prefer playing devil’s advocate, because for them it is too great a mountain to climb reaching up towards hope, possibility, and excellence, when they can use less effort kneeling down towards mediocrity.

I have encountered many cowards in my time, some as recently as today, and I am amazed at how much time they have on their hands to focus their energy on doing absolutely nothing of relevance in our world–except in their minds. It is pitiful that these insecure people spend so many hours of their day thinking about me, plotting and planning against me, and envious of what I have that they wish they had. We all have had our run-ins with cowards like this. See, cowards have plenty of time and energy to spread lies and hate, try to destroy other people’s reputations, families and businesses,  yet they don’t invest the time and energy to bring goodness and love into our world. They don’t have the time and energy to make a positive contribution to society, yet they can waste all of their resources trying to drain someone else and destroy their dreams. They don’t have the time and energy to build, create, innovate, inspire, embrace, uplift, and shine. Yet they have the time and energy to tear things apart, destroy, manipulate, deceive, and play childish games. They have time to send stupid messages and make phone calls to others hoping to make them feel as miserable as they do; post idiotic things on the Internet for even the tiniest bit of attention; make claims without supporting evidence; and just take up much-needed space in the world. They eventually leave this world as they entered it and lived it…clueless!

I have more respect for the person who tries and fails, than the one who never tries. I have more respect for the person with bumps, bruises, cuts and burns from falling down in life, because in their walk I see that they found a way to get back up. I have more respect for the person who comes to me directly, without masks, anonymity and code names, and just speaks their mind. I have more respect for the person who comes right out and confronts me with the goal to fight, than sucker-punch me in the dark. I have no respect for a person who isn’t brave enough to stand up and speak their mind. I say what I want to say, and clearly say my name when I’m speaking. I don’t post to my blogs or anywhere else as “anonymous” or with some made up alias, or using a picture not mine, because I have the courage to speak up, speak out, and back up what I say. My parents didn’t raise a punk, so I don’t cower over like one. I’m no bully and I won’t be bullied–never have and never will!

So I have one last thing to say to the cowards of the world…you can say what you want and do what you want, because just like your anonymity, you really don’t exist!

 

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved. First Published on The Paradigm Life

Earlier today I was typing my daily prayer, scripture, and reflection for my spiritual blog, Breaking Bread With Natasha. As I was typing I was realizing that my passion was taking over and it was getting lengthier than any post I have ever written for that blog. So I decided to shorten it, take the remaining work and post it on my other blogs. Below is the entire reflection but I have changed the title of course to reflect a change in platforms. I’m sure I’m going to step on some toes, but change doesn’t come when we’re feeling great, it comes in times of rain and pain. Take it all in and then share your thoughts:

Stop Relying on Government to Change Your Circumstances

We elect officials to help govern this land from a human perspective, to provide a human touch to life’s circumstances that we created generations before and we make worse for generations to come. Yet, we only support these officials in the early days or when our specific needs are met consistently. We don’t consider the thousands and millions of individuals this official must take into consideration with every decision made, because in our twisted minds he or she should be able to do all things for all people, starting first with us.

We create Messiah’s and forget that only God can do all things, be all places, see all things, and has the power to change the impossible to possible. Our lack of commitment and devotion to God clouds our thinking and our understanding of human government, and that man is limited even as a pure reflection of God. If we want to see change in our neighborhoods, communities, cities, counties, states, regions, countries, and throughout the world we must be the change and bring about the change we want to see.

Why have we grown content with the lazy person’s approach to service and community development? Why have we taken on a welfare mindset where we are waiting on something to happen, waiting on the graffiti and trash to disappear from our streets, waiting on money and resources to come to us?

God didn’t tell Moses to wait on the Egyptians to free His people, God said for them to take their freedom. Then He molded them for over 40 years, reprogramming them from a slave mentality to that of an empowered, enlightened, self-sufficient, resourceful, and educated people. Yet then, as we do now, the Israelites complained and whined about how they were better off before Moses freed them because at least they knew what was coming each day, and they had food and shelter, and a routine they could depend on.

Freedom was too disturbing of a concept for many of them. Freedom and the concept of free enterprise seems too disturbing for many of us to grasp and accept as a way of life today.

Now present day we have people complaining how life was better in the past, “better three years ago“, and during each Presidency we hear the same ignorance just re-phrased different ways, and in each Presidency the current President gets blamed not only for what has happened today but what took place 20-40 years prior that led up to the crises of today. We humans never seem to be satisfied. We don’t really want what we ask and pray for.

We want hand outs in the form of “hook ups“, even though we claim we want hand ups, but a hand up requires hard work and effort from both participants; our society just wants it to mystically, magically appear and we want the President and our elected officials to do it yesterday, because we’re too impatient to wait for next week, let alone next month or next year…heaven forbid we must a few years.

We’re too self-absorbed to wait for God to provide on His time, so we throw our expectations onto men and women who are just like us and have less power than we know, and then we complain when they can’t perform to our standards…standards we can’t even reach or sustain.

We want crime eliminated today. We want streets to always be clean and bump-free, and buildings and walls graffiti-free every second of the day. We want pollution to be no more. We want millions of jobs created right this very second. We want the economy to always be up, booming and prosperous. We want new technology and innovative ideas flowing through and bringing more jobs to our country. We want teen pregnancy to disappear right now. We want all diseases gone like yesterday. We want marriages to mean more than temporary moments of insanity and selfishness, we want…we want…we want!

But how many of us are uniting to bring our communities together to pick up trash and debris on our streets, paint over the graffiti, and tell those who terrorize our neighborhood, “not here, not now, not ever again!”? How many of us are practicing safe sex, getting tested regularly, remaining monogamous and committed to only one person and sexually active with only one person? How many of us are saying marriage vows and devoting ourselves to that one person as a declaration and pledge to God and family? How many of us are starting small businesses and then hiring people in the community so that there are jobs? How many of us are mentoring our youth and sponsoring our peers into positions of access, knowledge, and wealth?

A great leader has discernment and knowledge, and through God they are able to bring order to the chaos. It requires each of us to be leaders in our homes, in our neighborhoods and communities…united we bring about the change we want to see…united we bring the order. Let’s stop talking about it, complaining about it and placing blame on others, and let’s start doing something about it! Take back your neighborhood from the pimps, drug dealers, prostitutes, murderers, rapists, child molesters, con artists, gang members, taggers, and knuckleheads. Change the thinking that sagging pants and too-mini-to-be-a-skirt is sexy, and re-program the minds to believe and embrace that a person of intelligence and wisdom (with great common sense) is the ultimate embodiment of sexiness.

Become a mentor and tutor to our youth and to those adults who need help most, show them through your daily walk what a servant-leader truly is! If you want to change the mindset and the motivation of a person, you need to present a better model for them to emulate. Be that model!

Stop seeing your neighbor as a liability and instead see how you can both be an asset to your community. Take back your neighborhood from the slave mentality of, “when we gonna eat?” and reprogram a mindset of, “I’ve gotta get up and go to work to put food on the table“. Take back your family and stop saying, “I can’t get a job” and go make a job if none are available by starting a business. We all have talents, find yours and market it to the world. Take back your life by getting past your pride and ego that refuses to take a job that pays less than what you desire, or has duties and responsibilities that are  “beneath” you.

Opportunities just like ideas are not solely for one person, if you don’t take advantage of them someone else will.

Take back your life by removing the words “can’t” and “impossible” from your vocabulary, and find the person, group, or organization that can help you get where you need to be. My dad always said, “don’t say you can’t do something, you might as well just say you don’t want to do it…” My dad despised laziness and mediocrity. He used to tell me, “…Tasha even if you marry a garbage man, it doesn’t matter, as long as he’s one of the hardest working garbage men out there…and make sure you give him all of your love and support because he will get psychologically beat up every day in the world, but when he comes home he needs your love, care and support” and I have always held those words close to my heart and applied them in my personal life for my father was a wise man beyond his years and he never gave me empty words of counsel.

So I say to you, if you want to see change, starting first with where you live then research how to form community clean-up days, neighborhood watch groups, mentoring and tutoring groups, and see what you can do to make this world a better place!

If on the other hand you’re waiting on the government to solve all of your problems, feed you, clothe you, provide you with a job, provide you with housing and a way for you to get loans from banks you will later curse; a government that will then make sure the economy is doing great so you can spend money you don’t have so that you can later complain about being broke…then you will have to wait in line with the other “talkers” and complainers. But make sure to move far enough out of the way for the dreamers, doers, and ambassadors of hope who are marching through with a new goal to achieve, a new mission to fulfill, and a new vision for the future. For we don’t have time to dwell on yesterday, or complain about today, because we’re too busy making things happen for tomorrow.

Once you decide your role you’re claiming in this big ole’ world let me know.

– Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

 

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.