When my husband, John Hope Bryant, and I first started dating, we would play each other songs that expressed how we felt. One of our favorite artists was Alicia Keys. Her songs hit home with us. One being, “Un-thinkable” (“I’m Ready”).

For me, it was a song proclaiming a love, a readiness, and a desire for something more, deeper, and more committed. For me, it was a song declaring that no matter what outsiders thought, said, or did—I was ready to be by my now-husband’s side. I would fight for and protect our love. I would stand by his side and always have his back. I would smash anyone who dared to attack him or us.

Neither of us were looking for the other, but we found each other anyway. It’s amazing how God works, especially when you stay out of His way!

I’m a “ride or die” kinda woman, so hearing lyrics that expressed this sentiment, touched my heart. So much so that I had this same song played at our wedding reception. We danced together, looking into each other’s eyes, knowing exactly what this song meant to us and our relationship….

Us against all others.

Us against everything that would stand in our way.

Us making sure that we put God first and our union second.

Us—two people in love with each other, with life, with the possibilities, and most importantly–with our Creator.

So let me ask YOU some important questions as we near the end of 2016…

What are you ready for? What are you committed to doing right now? In the New Year? What are you willing to fight for against all odds? What goals have you not defined and pursued out of fear? What person are you not committing to out of fear? What cause are you not leading, out of fear?

Claim it and go get it! Watch this video. Listen to the lyrics. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way!

~Natasha

The day that changed my life…

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The day that I married my husband, John Hope Bryant, changed my life.

The wedding is easy (hence why I wasn’t a bridezilla)…it’s the vows, decluttering your lives and meshing parts of it together, coming together as one, being loving even when you don’t want to, thinking for two not just one, truly being ride or die…it’s all WORK!

For some odd reason, even if you lived with the other person for years before marriage (which we did), matrimony changes certain dynamics. Maybe because while dating you always had an exit strategy, nothing truly kept you there. But as a married couple, there’s a bond that’s not easily broken (or shouldn’t be). You have made vows that you didn’t have to make while single. Is your word worth anything? Or are you all talk?

I took and take my vows seriously. People who attended our wedding walked up to me and said, “wow I could feel those words as you recited your vows. You truly meant what you said!” I don’t play with the commitment that I made to God, my husband, and our families. If you recite marriage vows and have some hesitancy or absolute repulsion, then save you and him/her the grief, and don’t say them.

If you’re lazy or self-centered, then don’t take this leap. It truly isn’t for everyone. Marriage takes work, you have to be actively engaged. Marriage is about being self-less NOT selfish, unless of course you’re preserving your marriage from outsiders…then that team selfishness is acceptable—it just can’t be a solo experience, both of you have to take part in that preservation.

Some people are quick to marry, desperate for the image and appearance of marriage. But if you aren’t putting in the work NOW as a partner, then how do you think you will mystically, magically alter yourself once you become that person’s spouse?

If you don’t have his/her back now, being married to them won’t change that, and if they don’t have your back, guess what? Yep, marriage won’t change that. If they can’t come to you and lean on your shoulder and back, and whatever else they need in order to stand back up on their feet…then guess what? You won’t let them do it once you’re married. If you can’t lean on them, being married to them most likely won’t change that for the better. If the two of you aren’t willing to share the responsibilities of a union now, you won’t be inclined to do so as a married couple.

If the two of you aren’t willing to toss away some of your bad, nasty, ignorant habits and behaviors now, you most likely won’t toss them away once you say your “I Do’s”.

If the two of you struggle to live together (or spend several days in the same place), then how can you possibly live under the same roof as a married couple?

If you don’t make the time for your significant other now, when in the world will you make time for them as a married couple?

If you don’t want children (or you don’t want anymore), but they do, then why subject the two of you to the pain of a battle? Marriage isn’t going to change either of your minds.

Look folks, it’s more than ‘putting a ring on it’. It’s more than sharing someone’s name. It’s more than the public perception of marriage.

Heck, if you want a ring, then you can go get one. Call it a commitment or promise ring. Are you really obsessed with changing your name? Ask yourself “why?” What does it really mean to you? Is it the public appearance and perception that sharing the name guarantees that you’re married to each other? There are a lot of married people who chose not to change their last names, probably because of the headache it causes trying to change it professionally and through the numerous government agencies, etc. They are secure within themselves to not get hung up on a name.

As far as public perception goes, if you’re overly concerned with what other people think, say, and do, then you really should not get married. Marriage is about two people. Your decisions should be made by and for the two of you, not others. No one should have a say in your marriage, not even family. The union is supposed to be supported by your loved ones. They are the ones who are supposed to figuratively (and sometimes literally) smack you upside your head and remind you of your vows and how you don’t have the right to slack in your marriage. They are the ones who are supposed to keep you and your spouse prayed up.

Your bridal party (no matter how big or small) is assembled to be your foot soldiers, not just super cute models for one day. Your bridal party is supposed to be made up of the people who are sworn to protect your marriage and family from all attacks, even when the attackers are you and your spouse. Your bridal party members are supposed to be there to help lift you and your spouse up in your time of need. So why in the world would you be concerned about public perception? Who cares what other people think and say about you? It’s supposed to be the two of you side-by-side, looking out for each other, like a positive Bonnie and Clyde (please no shooting sprees and robberies…please!).

Here are some other things to consider:

Are you willing to sacrifice all for this other person? Would you give your life to spare theirs? Would you do whatever it takes to care for them in sickness, and/or if they lost their job? If the answer is “no” then back away from the altar.

If they are close to their parents but you can’t stand their parents, just leave the marriage thing alone. They aren’t about to choose you over their parents. Marriage isn’t going to make them like you or you like them. If anything, it will pull you farther apart.

If you don’t bring out the best in him/her and they don’t bring out the best in you, don’t even consider marriage. You’re bound to end up in divorce court, wasting money on legal fees, and contemplating changing your name back to the one you had for so many years.

Marriage takes work. It’s labor intensive. But when you truly love, value, respect, and appreciate each other (and your union), then it’s all worth it—and you will do whatever it takes to protect it.

I work each day to protect my husband, our marriage, our family, and our legacy. I can’t risk being lazy or casual about our lives together. We both have the power to lift each other up, or tear each other down. We have a responsibility to each other. I don’t take this responsibility lightly. If you’re also married, you shouldn’t either. If you’re contemplating marriage, please don’t do so casually. Take your time to understand the commitment, the bold as well as the fine print, layout the ground rules and expectations about everything that matters most and least to you, and get plenty of pre-marital counseling so that you both know what you’re getting into before you jump into the deep end of this pool.

With love,

Natasha Foreman Bryant                                                                                                                             (or you can just call me “Mrs. Bryant”)


I want to wish my husband, John Hope Bryant, a happy anniversary. 


Here’s to three years of marriage, six years of love, and a long, bright, bold and adventurous future together. 

I LOVE YOU! 

Loving you always,

Natasha                                         

(“Effortless”)

Almost thirty years ago I first learned about the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Freedman’s Savings Bank (officially known as the Freedman’s Saving and Trust Company).

While in college I was able to do further research on the legacy of freed Black slaves in America, and the one thing that stood in the way of their financial inclusion and the future of economic development in Black America more than one hundred years later— that one thing was FEAR.

The southern white “establishment” was fearful of what inclusion and development of freed Black slaves would mean for them (the former slave owners), and whether or not the tables would be turned on them— if the human “property” they enslaved for more than 100 years finally decided to “get even”.

The Freedmen’s Bureau and the Freedman’s Bank struggled and failed in 1874 (after 9 years) for many reasons, but what triggered their fall was the fear of seeing freed slaves rebuild their lives and join the competitive landscape of the country that they built through their own blood, sweat, and tears.

How could the enslaved now have the right and financial capability to own land and property, live by, and exist at the same level or above the same people who had enslaved them? How could they be as or more educated than the people that outlawed slaves from being taught to read and write? I’m sure for many white southerners, this was tantamount to blasphemy.

Today, the U.S. Treasury Department is celebrating and honoring the renaming of the U.S. Treasury Annex, back to its original name, the Freedmen’s Bank.

Yes, what most of us did not know is that although the bank failed and shut down, the building in Washington D.C. (the relocated national headquarters) was never destroyed. No one struck a match to it or bulldozed it. It’s been here hundreds of years later staring at all of us. Isn’t that ironic? Fear is only capable of doing so much. It is not all-powerful. It can’t hide for long. It can only destroy so much, but mostly it destroys itself.

You have to know the history to understand the relevance today…

(more…)

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.

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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 L. Foreman, MBA

 

I wanted to share my thoughts regarding John Hope Bryant’s brilliant article that was posted on and by Bloomberg BusinessWeek today. I also wanted to have a healthy dialogue with those individuals who showed their lack of critical thinking skills before they reacted, and quickly responded in the negative, to the article.

It is my opinion that the moment many of us don’t understand something or it rubs us the wrong the way, the remaining of what we read or hear turns more into an episode of Charlie Brown, just a bunch of whah whah whah blah blah blah…and we don’t hear or interpret anything else. We are then too focused on a counter argument, but never on seeking clarification. Here is the link to John Hope Bryant’s article: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-04-04/if-bill-gates-were-black-dot-dot-dot

Below is my comment that I submitted to Bloomberg, that they will hopefully post in their comments section below the article. After you read John’s article and the comments made by other readers, please share your thoughts about the article and comments (inclusive of mine). Let’s have some healthy dialogue and if possible, some positive solutions to issues facing the Black community specifically, and all underserved communities in general. Here you go:

Economic empowerment and the eradication of poverty first begins with understanding the history of how this country was built, how we rebuild during economic downfalls, and how the least of God’s children are impacted. It requires us to look at the missing piece between the have’s and have not’s. So yes, possessing a bank account versus being robbed blind at check cashing centers is a bonus. Yes, having a credit score around or higher than 700, instead of 550 and lower, is a huge predictor of a community’s growth and prosperity—as well as an individual’s ability to thrive not just merely survive. Yes, being financially literate is imperative, because if you aren’t then you run the risk of falling prey to predatory lenders who can smell your desperation miles away.

If you don’t have a bank account then how are you depositing or cashing checks? Are you going to check cashing centers and giving them a portion of YOUR money to gain access to YOUR money? That doesn’t sound like the wisest of choices when you have a choice. Show me one millionaire or billionaire who doesn’t have a bank account. Show me one entrepreneur without a bank account. Show me. I’m sure you can’t.

The banking system isn’t corrupt, there are corrupt INDIVIDUALS in the banking system; just like there are corrupt individuals in countless other systems including government, religious organizations, educational institutions, charities, etc. You can’t blame a crisis caused by unethical behavior on an entire system, because just as there were predatory lenders who knew customers were potentially high risk for loan defaults, there are some ‘victims’ of this economic downfall who knew they bought more house than they could afford, who knew that they didn’t have true job ‘security’ but gambled with the odds anyway, who claimed to earn more than they actually had (and eventually they had more month than money). So unethical decisions from individuals caused our country to suffer these past few years.

This is a brilliant post by John Hope Bryant, that clearly expresses the sentiment that if African Americans had a Bill Gates-type-entrepreneurial role model then the vision for the Black community would not be limited to a mindset of ‘only the lucky get out’, and the ‘victory’ would not be narrowed to simply having a ‘Black President”. 

Think about it, if Bill Gates was a Black man, the money he donates and invests would be injected within his community first and then worldwide. Don’t most of us consider taking care of ‘home’ before we take care of the rest of the world? Don’t we start local and then go global? Well if this were the case, then Black communities would be resuscitated through Gates community giving, and the country (and world) would see a different ‘picture’ of these communities. 

John Hope Bryant is NOT saying that Black people don’t have entrepreneurial role models; he is saying that we need MORE business owners who are employing thousands, not merely hundreds (or less). He’s saying we need more innovators, more businesses in technology, etc. that provide a competitive advantage within the U.S. in general, and within Black communities specifically. He’s saying we need MORE Black entrepreneurs going into the community, going into the schools and teaching and sharing the ‘magic’ in their success. 

He is saying that in order to eradicate poverty and gain economic empowerment in the Black community it is going to take the Black community, not government, not charity, not handouts, but hard work and each person reaching back to an open hand and providing a hand up out of the pit. It’s going to require Black people with 700+ credit scores teaching those with 550 and lower credit scores how they did it. It’s going to require Black entrepreneurs to hire within their community, to bring on interns to learn the ropes at their company, and to mentor young Black children.

The majority of our role models that our children regularly see come from entertainment and sports backgrounds, which there is nothing wrong with that, except if you lack talent in either area, then what?

Additionally, and no disrespect, but Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, Bob Johnson, and others have built BRANDS that employ–but none to the extent of a Bill Gates level; and all three brands represent entertainment or sports. In 2007, Microsoft employed a reported 79,000 people. That was in 2007. Name one Black-owned company that employs 79,000 people? 

So John Hope Bryant’s article says, “what if Bill Gates were Black?” What changes would you see in the Black community? What would Black children aspire to become if they saw a Black employer hiring thousands of people within their community? How many Black people could be employed (since unemployment is HIGHEST in the Black community)? How many of our children would be encouraged to excel in STEM courses and pursue careers in those fields so that they too could grow up to ‘be like Bill’?

We need to take the emotion out; we need to stop wanting to attack everything we don’t understand, and start acting like we are intelligent enough to ASK for clarification if needed, and to ASK how we can individually and collectively help solve the problem.

How many of you volunteer in the Black community? How many of you work with the underserved and underrepresented? How many of you are helping to work towards a solution? Or are you merely only focusing on picking at and tearing down the things you don’t understand, and the things you are against? If you aren’t doing anything to help the Black community, and other underserved and underrepresented communities, then what does your opinion really mean, and what are you truly adding to this conversation?

John Hope Bryant you did an awesome job with this piece. We need our children to aspire to be entrepreneurs as much as (or more than) they aspire to be athletes and entertainers. Great, they want to be a football star, but let’s teach them to also start and build a business (now) as an additional revenue stream—so when their football career ends, they still have a career…and wealth, not just temporary riches! 

A broke mindset only gets the same results…an unfinished puzzle!

 

 

Copyright 2012. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.


By Natasha L. Foreman

Sunday I had the honor and privilege to not only attend the 124th Commencement of Spelman College at the Georgia International Convention Center, but an hour before the commencement I was given an opportunity of a lifetime to meet, speak with, hug, and take pictures with our country’s First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama in a private room with a small, select group of people which included Atlanta’s Mayor, Kasim Reed, Elder Bernice King (Spelman graduate class of 1984), her assistant (and right hand) Ms. De’Leice Drane, a few members of the senate, congress, and state legislature; several community leaders, and philanthropist Derrick Watkins also known as ‘Fonzworth Bentley’ and his incredible wife, actress Faune Chambers (who I always enjoy chatting with when I see her). In total I would say it was about 20 of us who took part in this special moment.

I look forward to seeing the White House pictures (taken by their photographer), since they asked that we refrained from taking pictures so that the flashing cameras wouldn’t serve as a distraction to those having their ‘moment’ with the First Lady.

Mrs. Obama is beyond amazing and her presence is beautifully overwhelming and refreshing as her tall stature, elegant grace, obvious brilliance, alluring beauty, warm eyes, and confident voice only makes her hand shake and sincere hug especially touching and worthwhile. I was surprised I got to speak with her as long as I did and I am honored for the opportunity, and thankful to those individuals both in and connected to the White House who made that day and that moment possible for me.

After meeting the First Lady our group was escorted to our seats to witness the commencement which was touching, and very heartfelt as we listened to the Reverend Dr. Lisa D. Rhodes deliver an amen-filled invocation, followed by the spiritual sounds of soloist Daria Burgess (Spelman class of 2011) and the Spelman College Glee Club sing “Wade in the Water”.

Source: Natasha L. Foreman

Soloists from the 2011 graduating class had everyone clapping to “A Choice to Change the World”.

Source: Natasha L. Foreman

To hear the story and history of Spelman College as shared by the First Lady during her commencement address was like a combination of listening to a favorite teacher reading a book during story time and the moving, electrifying take charge-and-make-something-happen conversation with a trusted mentor. Mrs. Obama shared how Spelman got its start (with two determined African American women and a mere 11 female students), how they respectfully declined the offer to merge with the now Morehouse College, and overcame the odds (and the naysayers) as they grew from 11 students in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church 1881 to now thousands, 130 years later.

First Lady Michelle Obama speaking to graduates and guests. Source: Natasha L. Foreman

It was also very exciting to see sisters Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad receive their honorary doctorate degrees in Fine Arts. Debbie Allen was clearly excited as she danced and trotted during the processional, and beamed brightly as she waited patiently for Spelman’s President, Dr. Beverly Tatum to confer her degree. When called, Phylicia Rashad stood on stage waiting to be hooded and her poise and demeanor made you feel as though you too were receiving this honored degree. As the First Lady’s name was called by Dr. Tatum to receive her honorary doctor of law degree, the convention center became extremely loud inside as we rose to our feet clapping, and yes some people were screaming and whistling loudly. I got so caught up in the moment during the commencement ceremony that I missed some great shots (especially of Ms. Allen and Ms. Rashad) but captured certain moments on video that I will upload to my “NatashaForeman” YouTube channel. The lighting was not the best inside the convention center so my iPhone 4 did not get to ‘show out’ and display its stellar capabilities, so the resolution is not the best on the pictures I have decided to share in this post… please accept my apologies.

Source: Natasha L. Foreman
Mrs. Obama receiving her honorary doctorate Source: Natasha L. Foreman

It was especially nice to see Teach for America Founder and CEO, Wendy Kopp receive the Board of Trustees Community Service Award. I have the utmost respect for Ms. Kopp and her organization, together they are helping bridge the educational gap affecting our children nationwide. In 2006 my dear friend John Hope Bryant also received this national award, so I’m sure he did not let the day go by before congratulating his friend and colleague Wendy Kopp on this great honor.

This day was exceptional. It was beautiful, and it was definitely a blessing to take part in such a historic moment. Thank you again to each person who made this day possible for me. You know who you are, and I hope that you know you are truly appreciated!

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