The Brilliant Mind Known As Beyonce And Her Recent Video Tribute To Black Love, Strength and Beauty

This past weekend Beyonce Carter, formally known as Beyonce Knowles, broke the airwaves and media streams alike as she dropped her magnificent visual album entitled Lemonade. In the days that have followed a ton of reviews, perspectives and insights have been offered. But most notably are the rustles in the wind which highlight Beyonce’s latest work of art as a opportunity she took to bash her husband Jay-Z, but I beg to differ! Beyonce, simply took the time to engage her audience and open herself up like she hasn’t in times past to show her connectivity and understanding to all women, rich or poor, American or international, domestic or independent.

First, let me start by saying I am a man and a very macho man at that. I’ve never really been one to engage or care much for celebrity couples but I can honestly say Beyonce and Jay-Z have caught my attention since they became a married couple. Why? Simply because of their status and significance in the Black community and more importantly, for the business acumen they possess. Both are genius entertainers and they have grown to embrace their social responsibility to offer insight on events that have been occurring in the world today. These two are much more than American stars, but are figures celebrated by the global community as a whole.

I say all this too lead to the fact that the people focused on what is going wrong in Camp Carter are all wrong. These are the individuals with perhaps their own issues of infidelity and mistrust. They are scavenging around for an opportunity to verify their feelings, but I’ll digress. Lemonade’s audio and visual appeal alludes to the beauty, perseverance and loving nature of black women as a collective and not the negativity and sophista-ratchedness most would want it to become.

Beyonce paints a picture of pain by introducing how intuition, denial and anger play a major part in many relationships. Whether the man is cheating and it is a speculation or proven fact, it has become a socially accepted norm for the women to stick around and hold her man down. Generationally, we find women learning to take the cards as they are dealt within a relationship setting as she is reminded of grandfather with the lines: “you remind me of my father, a magician, able to exist in two places at once and in the tradition of men in my blood, you come home at 3a.m. and lie to me.”  While love is an euphoric, roller-coaster high that once experienced cannot be describe or replaced with anything alike, love does tends to hurt at its lowest points but it is never intended to lead to a person to being scorned. Lemonade spoke of a women not willingly taking shit or “being walked all over lately,” undoubtedly, to lay a foundation but this by far wasn’t the lasting theme or impression being conveyed.

Lemonade points out the daily struggles of Black women and offers a tribute to their beauty and resilience. Queen Bey, alludes to a concept that perhaps we all have missed and that is Black women are the most forgotten and unappreciated group of people throughout mankind. In recent history they have survived slavery, rape, birth of fatherless children and countless hours in the sun oftentimes, delivering the same levels of work as men. In modern times, black women are the back bone of their families although this fact has not changed much throughout history. Their ability to work jobs full time and financially progress the house hold is amazing. These are the women that cook, clean and let’s not forget, find time to shop, which once the dust settles and we step back and observe their juggling acts and feats, is absolutely amazing! These women are the one’s left to raise children without a strong male figure in the household as the prison industrial complex has taken charge and put so many men behind bars thanks to our good friend, Bill Clinton with the introduction of the 1994 Crime Control bill. These are the women left to shine shit and make gold out of the illegitimate pick of the litter men that never learned how to be a great man and treat his women as a queen. Instead these women are expected to be man and women and do a tremendous job doing both, because the continuation of the race depends so greatly upon the weight put on their shoulders. This is the imagery that Beyonce was alluding to and this is the imagery that we as a people should highlight and embrace.

Beyonce rounds out her wonderful ballad as she gathers a few of today’s bravest Black figures. We see blackness in its chain links of solidarity as flashes of Serena Williams, Sybrina Fulton, Lezley McSpadden and Gwen Carr gallop across the screen while the audio is paid tribute by hip-hop figurine and philanthropist Kendric Lamar. We find Beyonce intimately opening her personal life to the world in a display of imperfect but gentle Black love as she flashes memories that her, Jay-Z and Blue Ivy have shared. This is Lemonade and that is the art she spoke so eloquently about in the recipe of creating Lemonade that her grandmother once used, “First, pour 1 pint of water into a large jug. Then, add 1/2 lb of sugar and the juices of eight lemons into the jug of water. Next, zest half a lemon and add to the jug. Stir. Once mixed, gently pour the water from one jug, then into the other, making sure to do this several times. Finally, strain through a clean napkin. Enjoy.”

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!

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The Benefit of Learning From Other’s

It is often said that the human brain cannot ration what it has not experienced. Take for instance, sayings like “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” or “it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” Both, of which, elude to the notion that the human brain has trouble drawing clear connections to that  which it has not perhaps experienced firsthand. This can be further illustrated as we reflect on the perpetual backsliding, or shall we say repetitive nature of personal lived experience. What do I mean by that? From birth, we are told to listen to those who’ve gone before us, as to avoid the traps or mishaps. Unfortunately, not all the time are we privy and attentive to the voices of the past in their present condition. We can find evidence of the power of learning from other’s in the saying, “there’s nothing new under the sun”. Essentially, one person’s experience could potentially become another’s springboard forward, or better yet head start in a lifelong race.

As I pondered some of this, I came to realize, as with most things, there are two sides to any good story. In this case, there is truth and value found in learning from other’s experience, but there is also a potential abandonment of ambition, endeavor and ground breaking discovery in entertaining too many ‘nay sayers’. These are the people who tried and failed and gave up or perhaps never tried because fear stopped them dead in their tracks! These are the people we call dream crushers!

Yes, we should challenge ourselves, especially mentally, to learn from other’s and their experience! Why? Simply because all things begin with a thought, whether good or bad, encouraging or discouraging, or right versus wrong. But what we should not do is let the tales of possible struggles to come prevent us from rising to the occasion and taking the challenge head-on with as much vigor and enthusiasm as humanly possible. We can do this by creating a wiser course of action after receiving the ‘baton of experience’ from those who’ve experienced firsthand that in which we seek to conquer.

Maintainin  a balance of utilizing individual successes and formulating more efficient and effective action steps to hurdles is key. Nothing great was accomplished in succumbing to failure but all things great have been accomplished by learning from other’s and utilizing that knowledge to do better than good enough; thus, outperforming what has never been done. We have to remind ourselves as we set out to tackle a feat that there’s: “nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

 

6,660 Federal Inmates Released From Prison

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Today marks an interesting day in the American justice system to say the least! No, we are not celebrating the birth of a formalized justice system in America, but something all the more interesting took places today. Perhaps you may have been driving in the car and listening to the radio or maybe, just maybe you were stumbling, sleepily through the house on that cold Fall morning when you heard the news. Don’t worry, you aren’t going crazy or loosing your rabbit mind, it is true!

  • 6,660 federal inmates will be released from prison on November 1, 2015 (wowzers).

WAIT WHAT

My initial reaction to the news was just as shocking as yours, as I visualize first time readers being brought this news. In a sense I muttered, silently and internally the letters, WTF! Things like this do not happen everyday and I found myself on a whirlwind of thoughts asking: I wonder how this story ends, is this beneficial or detreimental to America, and what in world made a system built on mass incarceration begin making changes to that concept?

See the reality is, this isn’t your average cooler talk at the workplace. People undoubtedly have opinions and thoughts on crime, but the divergence of thought on how to address crime runs the gamete and many steer away from uttering one word about the response to crime. But this news is shocking and appalling in pretty much any circle, whether you’re pro the current system or in stark opposition.

Here we are in a system that has made its mark by boasting the highest per capita incarceration rate of developed countries and in the swipe of the pen and the blink of an eye, we may be witnessing the reversal of that trend. Three major states (Texas, Florida and Iowa) are at the forefront of this movement. Texas is set to release 2,220 inmates and Iowa and Florida are amongst the top releasors, as well, not to far behind. A great amount of these inmates are currently in halfway houses or being slowly integrated into the community but a significant amount is also being released straight from prison to a parole officer. Over the coming years, it is projected that at least 40,000 inmates will be released.

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This by far isn’t the typical response to crime in America, or shall we say response to punishments. Long gone are the days of rehabilitation via solitary confinement, labor, and personal spiritual reflection credited to the Auburn and Pennsylvania system of justice. Even longer gone are the days in which inmates were rehabilated with vocational services that were hoped to provide meaningful substance into the lives of convicted offenders. As disclosed by the Department of Justice, the decision to begin releasing offenders early from their sentence boils down to a few major factors:

Increasingly growing and presently overcrowded prison facilities

Lack of funding to properly ensure the mission of the facility is being met

With such news it is no surprise tons of people are on pins and needles, while others are celebrating this turn of events as a minor victory towards a much larger goal of reform. Those on pins and needles are focused on the ramifications of a mass amount of offenders being released. To the contrary, advocates are saying enthusiastically, “well they shouldn’t have been incarcerated in the first place.” Those advocates also find themselves cheering the reversal of mandatory minimum sentences, hard-core drug laws, and the over-policing of minority communities.

No matter which side of the argument you fall on a question that begs answering is: How does this chapter of American history end? On another note, how about the fact that 6660 offenders will released (yes ‘666’……0)!!!!!

Why The Black Lives Matter Campaign Matters So Much

Unfortunately, all too often tragedy and misfortune have to knock on our door before we are enticed to open and see what trouble lies behind. This same holds true regarding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign. Since the waking years of its inception, BLM has found itself defending it’s founding principals and philosophies opposed to defending the people it sought to provide solace and a  peaceful blueprint for organization.

The Black Lives Matter campaign was spearheaded by California State/Los Angelos professor Mellina Abdullah after the untimely death of Trayvon Martin in February 2012. This movement, founded nearly three full calendar years ago was sent into full fruition on the heels of the death of Martin and the national criminal case which took place thereafter, but the movement found its importance and need in history over the past several years that have followed.

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Many may ask, why was this movement needed? Many may ask, who does this movement serve? And others will ask, plain and simple: Do black lives matter or do all lives matter?

Yes, all lives matter, White, Asian, Hispanic, mixed and unclassified. Young life matters, old life matters! Your life matters, just as my life matters. Police officer’s life matters, just as city and public officials life matters. We’re not here to debate what’s already understood, yet we’re hear to discuss what appeared to become forgotten: Black Lives Matter, too. And in saying “Black Lives Matter” it’s not our intent to say that any other race of people are therefore unworthy of life. Instead, this had to be explicitly addressed for many reasons, namely because

1) beginning with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 African Americans all across America began loosing their lives in high rates

2) these crimes, which explicitly and intentionally omit black on black crimes, are concerned with police officer/citizen encounters that end with death and/or shooting of African Americans.

BLM is not a campaign to discredit or turn a blind eye to the problem with black on black crime, but in sticking to founding principals, it was not created to address that side of the story. BLM is not a ‘anti-cop’ movement to illicit violence against those that serve and protect, but instead it is a drawing board for peaceful dialogue as we work alongside one another to serve and protect all of our interests.

In embracing the peaceful fruits of BLM, we all prove that “All Life Matters” as we better understand one another and fight for universal equality that fails to omit any race–inevitably serving us all!

Health, Fitness and Longeiveity: The Couch Potato Versus The Health Nut

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The United States of America, the beautiful mosaic melting pot offers a ton of diversity from culture, to appearance all the way to cuisine. In our great country, especially in geographical environments that house a variety of ethnicities, food in vast selections are readily available. Not only is homemade food available but we live in a microwave society where fast food restaurants are on every intersection. This shouldn’t be a problem so to say, especially in a world where millions struggle to find proper nutrition and others starve altogether. But it is a problem to say the least.

America has one of the highest obesity rates of modern day, civilized countries with nearly 78 million Americans obese, which translates to nearly one-third of our population. Not only have Americans widened their belt lines but it appears to be negative correlation amongst the two, in turn decreasing lifespan.  The effects of excess weight on the physical body in the long term of life is of particular interest in this article and healthy fitness solutions are presented to help those along their fitness journey.

  • The Black and White: Obesity in America has been on the rise over the past three decades, almost doubling! Over 50 million Americans suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure).

According to the Center for Disease Control, from 2006-2009 Non-Hispanic African Americans were reported to have the highest rates of obesity rates at just about 45%. Close behind were Hispanic Americans who reported a rate of 37%. Non-Hispanic Caucasian rate was about 31%. Asian Americans were excluded.

If we fast forward in time a bit in 2013 the National Center for Health Statistics reported 60% of African American women and 37% of African American males were obese. Hispanics were reported at 40% of men and 44% of women, while Caucasians were reported at 32% for men and 33% for women, respectfully. This study also included Asian Americans who proved to be the most weight conscience group reporting 10% for males and 11% for females. Although disproportions exist amongst racial groups regarding overall obesity rates, these numbers were presented to relay one major message: Obesity is prevalent amongst Americans!

The Grey: The debate, physical fitness or the ‘do nothing, everyone dies someday’ mentality. 

A few measures can be taken to limit the negative effects of obesity and a balanced, exercise driven lifestyle is one measure. Exercise should be completed 4-5 times weekly and an increased heart rate for 30 minutes or more should be the target goal. More sophisticated workout segments will focus on the main regions of the body (i.e. lower body, chest and back, arms and core, etc.).

Just as important as exercise is the type of food being ate to nourish the body. Keep these small tips in mind:

  1. Meats like bacon, tuna, pork and beef stay in your digestive tract the longest…. 5-7 hours on average.
  2. Whole grain breads and scrambled eggs sit on the stomach 3-4 hours
  3. Liquids, especially body temperature fluids pass through the digestive tract the quickest….. 1-2 hours on average.
  4. Fiber and high fiber foods kickstart metabolism and the digestive system
  5. High fat and high grease containing foods sit on the stomach for longer durations of time.
  6. Pre-workouts meals should be 400-500 calories

Finally, never forget the liquid life we have known as water. The human body is nearly 80% H2O itself!

  1. Two, 8-ounce glasses of water in the morning activates internal organs.
  2. One, 8-ounce glass of water before and after a meal may help digestion.
  3. One, 8-ounce glass of water before a shower may help lower high blood pressure.
  4. One, 8-ounce glass of water before bed may help reduce stroke and heart attack.

If you knew what may kill you years from now, would you have the strength to stop it now?

The Missing Pieces of Lamar Odom’s Story: Addiction And Divorce But So Much More

Lamar Odom was once at the peak of his pro basketball career and heralded as an intricate piece in the Los Angelos Lakers lineup. Unfortunately, that moment in history is now in Odom’s rear view and the basketball great has struggled, to say the least,  with a few setbacks, namely that attributed to the addiction to a drug all to familiar to inner-city 80’s babies. Yes, crack cocaine became the culprit in Odom’s demise, but this article seeks to explore deeper viewpoints that have been introduced. These outliers illustrate a complex narrative and play a vital role in the writing of Lamar’s story. But if we’re not careful we run the risk of missing the main point while complicating the argument.

A walk down memory lane reveals Lamar Odom as a successful pro-basketball player with the L.A. Lakers  for seven years before being traded to San Antonio in 2011. His production was mediocre and following year he was back in L.A., but this time with the Clippers opposed to the Lakers. Odom finally ended his pro-basketball days in 2013 after playing for an overseas, Spanish league.

During the stretch of 2011 to present day, a few other important events have taken place in Odom’s life. One of particular interest is the marriage to Kourtney Kardashian in September 2009. The marriage came to a screeching halt when, WHAM, Kourtney presented Odom with divorce paperwork in December 2013.  Let’s view that portion of the argument in greater detail!

  • The Black and White: Love finds Odom before quickly running out the door.

The divorce between Kourtney and Lamar is an important piece in the telling of Odom’s story. This is the foundation of the dialogue and provides context to the conflated dynamic of the situation. Why is this so important? Simple. Famous or not, Odom remains an African-American male in the public eye. It is rather easy for the media to conveniently attribute negative perceptions and stereotypes of African-American male ‘blackness’ in the telling of his side of the story (crazed, addicted, sex-aholic). Kourtney on the other hand, remains a Caucasian female in the public eye. She is afforded and receives the remorseful sentiment of a world convinced she, herself alone, is receiving the short end of the stick of their marriage. Kourtney’s story reads of one severely suffering and caught up in the tangled web of divorce from a demonized African-American male.

This point alone adds a layer of perspective in Odom’s and Kourtney’s story. Odom deals with the terrible reality of drug addiction but also is forced to bear the weight of constant negative public perception presented and supported be the media.

I can’t say enough the role race plays in this story. The racial lens provides a backdrop which some may not realize plays a part in our basic understanding and shaping of the story. Which, however true, nonetheless, complicates Odom’s story if we don’t task ourselves to understand the foundation before adding additional layering. Divorce itself, by nature, is an ugly process and it tends to be a slandering show (what side can put the most blame on the next). A few questions we should ask as we explore or offer opinion, is what enticed these two to marry in the first place and what role does race play in the public eye as the portrayal or demonization of the other ensues.

  • The Hint of Grey: After love runs out the door, Odom receives an even harsher reality.

As stated earlier, Odom was once an important player on the L.A. Lakers playing alongside superstar, Kobe Bryant. When the troubles of addiction and divorce talk arose, Kobe and the L.A. Lakers front office offered little, if any, help to Odom. Not that the Lakers paid Kobe millions to be a relationship or life counselor, but he was the ‘captain’ of the team after all (perhaps this is because Kobe was going through his own 150 million dollar relationship blunder). Being the captain of a national powerhouse like L.A. comes with tremendous responsibility. Odom, at the time, was an important piece in the Lakers lineup and perhaps a gentle nudge or a constructive, real-life conversation with Odom could have changed the outlook of Odom’s situation.

Perhaps, Kobe and the Lakers did have a conversation with Odom keeping it shall we say, 100! The point is it has never been reported by the media that Kobe and Lamar had one of those type of conversations. And one thing we know about the media is that they report it all!

This point is important to Odom’s story for two main reasons 1) Odom receives little help or direction from basketball superstar, Bryant or the L.A. Lakers management and 2) In the ensuing years to come, Odom begins getting slandered by the media with negative coverage attributed to his drug addiction by way of the divorce.

  • The Darker Grey Matter: Addiction, itself, is not really understood.

Odom not only faced and is still facing highly publicized divorce proceedings, but he dealt with lack of support from his pro-basketball team captain and front office and is being portrayed as an addicted drug fool to say the least. Let’s stop there. I repeat, he is addicted to a powerful drug.

Many Americans can’t say they ever have dealt directly with an addicted family member or unrelated associate. Few can, however, say they have and those are the few I argue may relate to Odom’s list of problems on a different plane.

Once the dust settles and we are done pointing fingers and attributing blame, Odom remains “addicted” to a drug that has torn countless happy homes over the past several decades. The situation should be first viewed and treated as an addiction problem before any of the lengthy alternative points are thrust into the discussion.