Ajeé Buggam is a content writer and fashion designer from New York City and an alumna from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She specializes in writing about race, social injustice, relationships, feminism, entrepreneurship, and mental wellness. Check out her recent work at Notes To Self
I'm sure most of us have heard of the term equally yoked at least once or several times in life—but do we really know what it means? The phrase was founded in the Christian church stemming from scripture stating that Christians and nonbelievers shouldn't be in a romantic union. Being 'equally yoked' begins and ends with how much you and your partner's values and beliefs align. Here is a glimpse of what being equally yoked means from a pastor's and a therapist's lens so that everyone can apply this discernment to their romantic unions.
Being equally yoked from a pastor’s lens:
For believers, the phrase equally yoked is often rooted in spirituality. According to Pastor Malcolm from the Brooklyn-based Pathway To Life Ministries, what equally yoked means is to be joined together. "This means these individuals should be compatible, they're able to agree on most things, and their values are aligned. This is also true in secular relationships, but biblical speaking in 2 Corinthians 6:14 'that we must not be unevenly yoked together with those who do not believe. What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness?'" she conveys. 'My question is, how can we effectively communicate when we are on opposite sides? That is being unevenly yoked!"
So if we're able to dissect equally yoked further, it starts with aligning your faith within your union, and if we don't believe in those same core foundations, it's basically a no-go in the church. But you can be unequally yoked with a believer as well because we aren't a monolith, and God doesn't just prepare the world of men to be your partner for a lifetime. He assigns an imperfect yet perfect man in your life—on His timing, not yours.
"Oftentimes, Christians are engaged in relationships that are not ordained by God. It does not mean that the believer that you like is right for you," Pastor Malcolm states. "My advice is that we seek God in everything that we do. Ask Him to send the right person."
When you and your partner's values are misaligned and you're unequally yoked:
The most essential part of a romantic relationship doesn't lie in a person's appearance (though this is important) or how many followers they have on their socials or how well they dress. It is grounded on you and your partner's shared perspective in the life you want to build together, along with continuously communicating when things are great and when they aren't and what things you're open to compromising and sacrificing.
"On Sunday when she wants to go to church, and he would prefer to hang out with friends at a bar, or just stay home or better yet just not interested in church at all," states Pastor Malcolm. "This is how you know they are unequally yoked."
I'm sure we all may have a friend or family member in what seems to be in an unequally yoked marriage or partnership. Imagine the spiritual intimacy she would love to explore with her partner and isn't able to because he doesn't believe in God, doesn't believe in prayer, or is indifferent about reading the bible together. For some households, it works out because each partner respects their differences. But for others, it tears them apart slowly and creates an uphill battle of resentment.
Being equally yoked from a therapist’s lens:
I also interviewed a therapist to apply to nonbelievers and for anyone like myself that loves to explore the depths of compatibility versus incompatibility in our love lives. I asked licensed marriage and family therapist Kimberly Panganiban, from Choosing Therapy, an online therapy platform, to describe being equally yoked in a non-religious perspective. Her response?
"Being equally yoked (in a non-religious perspective) means that you are with someone that you can count on to work with you as a team. You can trust them to be there for you and to navigate the differences you have well."
Seeing your marriage or partnership as a team makes it easier for you to be more compassionate and understanding with your partner versus withdrawn and indifferent as you would with a competitor. "If you Google equally yoked, most of what you will see talks about being aligned in values, beliefs, and goals (religious or otherwise)," states Panganiban. "In every relationship, there will be values/beliefs/goals that your partner is aligned on, and there will be values/beliefs/goals where you don't entirely match up. This is because you are two different people, and so you will never completely agree on everything."
"The key is finding a partner in which you can live with the differences you have and work together to make those differences feel OK. We all have to decide what differences we can deal with and what we can't. But most importantly, we need a partner that is willing to manage these differences as a team."
Tips for finding a partner who is equally yoked:
The older I'm becoming, the more I'm learning to listen to my spirit and honor what I really want in partnership because ignoring red flags only hurts me most in the long run. I asked Kimberly how she'd advise individuals seeking equally yoked partners for them, what signs we should look into, and what red flags we should avoid? She had some insightful tips to share: "When looking for an equally yoked partner, you must ask yourself, 'Can I live with the differences we have? Can I trust this person? Is this person committed to the relationship?' If you can answer yes to these three questions, you are equally yoked. If not, it is probably time to move on."
"Where people get into trouble is when they rationalize concerns in the relationship and expect things to change. Most of the time, the problems people face at the beginning of a relationship are the ones they will continue to grapple with so, be honest with yourself early on in the relationship as to whether the differences you have are something you can deal with forever or not. "
The more you know and honor yourself, the more likely you will follow where your spirit or instincts guide you. Finding your equally yoked partner won't be easy, but what makes your significant other 'significant' if you didn't have to go through much to meet them—offering the best you, you can be.
Keep working on yourself; take your time dating to see people's true colors to see if this is your person. Remember, it's the slow and steady that wins the race, and who and what's for you will never miss you.
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Navigating romantic relationships has been quite challenging in this season. The ongoing pandemic has created bridges apart from our loved ones–whether we live with them or not. The ongoing uncertainty based on the time we're living in has just brought on more anxiety, depression, and isolation.
There is so much data out there saying the pandemic has either torn people apart or brought them closer together. Our whole lives got flipped over a year ago, which has caused a lot of friction for people to face their insecurities and underlying issues in their relationships.
For many people, this is the first time they have paused to address specific areas in their lives and question their intentions in every category in their lives. And often, when people see the things they have to work on, they may choose to push the other person out because it's what feels safe to them versus opening up and trying to work on things as a team.
Here is a run-through of some of the major issues many romantic relationships are facing and some tips for improving your love lives during these challenging times.
The major issues couples are facing during the pandemic:couple yell GIF by Cam'ronGiphy
One of the unique factors that keep recycling itself during the pandemic is simultaneous stress. Most times in relationships, both individuals aren't dealing with stress coming at them from every angle, so it allows one person to be more supportive while the other person is trying to process the next chapter in their lives. However, COVID has made it challenging for both partners—whether they face job loss, which adds to financial stress, losing a loved one due to COVID or any other health condition, and having limited or no access to engage with other people and events to attend to take their minds off their issues for a moment.
I asked differentiation-focused therapist Dr. Paul-Roy Taylor, from online therapy platform Choosing Therapy, how he would advise dealing with simultaneous stress this season. His perspective was quite informative. "A little compassion goes a long way, which is easier when the stress is unrelated to the relationship. It's important to recognize no one signed up for this brand of coupling: together all the time, no external stimuli, no friends, working from home. It'd almost be unusual if stress levels weren't high right now.
"Start by separating those things that are actually within your control from those that aren't, then take a look and see which stressors you control as a couple, followed by talking about those particular concerns with your partner. This will help you diffuse the stress in the right directions while freeing you to focus on the stressors that are yours to bear and trying to disregard the ones that no amount of worry is going to fix."
The keyword is compassion because it's hard on everyone in this season. I know it's hard to be completely mindful regarding your approach to being present for your loved one, but the best you can do is try to be gentle and understanding as you'd like them to be for you. It's that little effort that will take both of you a long way.
Many people are also dealing with the lack of healthy boundaries during this season. Boundaries are essential because it allows individuals to deal with things first by themselves to function in their relationships. Due to the limited outside support systems like seeing family and friends to balance our emotional and mental headspaces, couples are now forced to rely only on each other for everything—which can add a lot of pressure and conflict to their union. Our amplified home lives leave very little room to separate work life, time for yourself, and couple time which interferes with maintaining a balanced routine.
Tips for maintaining a healthy relationship during the pandemic:high five tracee ellis ross GIF by HULUGiphy
Believe it or not, communication is the most essential aspect of any and every relationship. During this season, anxiety, stress, and depression are incredibly high and often lead couples to having more negative emotional reactions and arguments. And because tension is so high, it can lead to couples withdrawing from being more intentionally open about how they're doing and feeling on a daily basis.
I asked Dr. Taylor how he would advise individuals in relationships to communicate more mindfully or intentionally when they struggle with communication how they feel often. He mentioned a few insightful tips. "That's usually a problem with fear of conflict, the need for validation, a desire to keep the peace, trouble tolerating anxiety around difficult conversations, or some form of all four.
"I advise people to try out new communication skills with people they don't care about and work up. It's much easier to start working on communication skills when the stakes are low since you'll be building up your tolerance for when it really matters."
We all have topics we aren't as fond of speaking about in a relationship, but it's essential to actively deal with the issues versus suppressing them and having them blow up in the future because you're choosing to avoid it for temporary comfort. Life has been hectic as hell to get through, but we have to continue to seek new ways to support each other actively. Being mindful of our intentions is the root of our beginning to make things better, and it starts with being open to talking about how we can support one another. Instead of hanging on to every word your partner is saying, lead with being a good listener and stop taking things personally—constructive criticism is the backbone to our growth.
Set up a clear routine to help add some form of structure to help motivate each other. Pencil in work time, you time, us time, and try your best to maintain those boundaries to help each other thrive in this season. If you're in a long-distance relationship, make sure you and your partner are staying on track with your FaceTime dates, whether daily or every other day. There are still many ways you can grow together, read books, watch movies and shows, play online games, or work out together on FaceTime.
Tips for couples interested in exploring couples counseling:
The pandemic has added many news issues in relationships, and it has also amplified existing problems. Some individuals are having a rough time dealing with how to deal with personal issues while still being present in their relationship. "It's important to differentiate a pure couple's problem from a problem that's affecting the couple," said Dr. Taylor. "Is each person a participant in this problem, such as with sexual foreclosure or boredom? Or is it that one person is having an issue, such as anxiety, depression, stress management, etc., and it's affecting the relationship? For couples problems, I do not advise individual therapy. I would suggest that unless it is a purely mental health issue, individuals should endeavor to solve relationship problems in couples therapy and not individually with their own therapist.
"After all, what do you have to say about your relationship that a therapist deserves to hear, but your partner doesn't? That sounds like avoiding intimacy to me. And it certainly doesn't help to be in both couples therapy and individual therapy if you just keep the peace in couples and then go talking behind your partner's back about the real stuff to your individual therapist, which is most often what happens."
You can pick and choose when you want to be open with friends, but transparency in a relationship is necessary all the time. Even when we have good intentions, and they end up making our partner feel bad, we have to choose to work through it together. This is why couples therapy can take the lead with learning how to hear each other more effectively and learn how to support each other in rough times.
I asked Dr. Taylor what advice he had for couples that are having a tough time in this season that are open to seeking couples therapy but aren't sure it can repair their relationship or maybe are just afraid of being vulnerable with a stranger. As per usual, he had some gems to share.
"The goal of couples therapy isn't to repair the relationship. It's not about supergluing you both together regardless of circumstances. Largely the first step in couples therapy is getting the partners to make a decision about whether they even want to try to be together. It's very common that one person sitting in the room has already left in their head, and they're just going through the motions. The second step is to agree on what the problem is. Couples don't always walk in on the same page with that issue. So I would say if you're considering going into couples therapy, if at a minimum, you have a goal of gaining a better understanding of what you each want in a relationship and a partner, as well as what kind of partner you want to be.
"If you go in with that mindset, it has a high degree of success—if not now, then in preparing you for couplehood down the line. It also helps you succeed because it does not depend on what your partner does in terms of how they handle themselves in couples therapy and their willingness to engage in the process."
I know times are rough for all of us in some way or form, but I just want us to take our time with ourselves and our significant others. Tread lightly and lead with trying to understand first rather than pointing the finger at your partner. We can't win being opponents; we can only win as a team to celebrate our shared victory.
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Black women are the core of this country and are the stern foundation of the Black race. They are often the least celebrated in history books and in our day-to-day lives because of intersectionality, being that they are Black and women. Black womanhood has evolved immensely over the decades, but unlike many other individuals, our change and opportunities have always developed slower because of the lack of support Black women often have. Either dealing with sexism, racism, or being gaslighted for their experiences.
Black womanhood is defined by unapologetic Black women that persevered through every storm regardless of the mishaps.
Here is a snapshot of Black womanhood and Black feminism in America throughout the decades. The good, the bad, and our bittersweet realities all in one.
Black Womanhood During SlaveryGiphy
Enslaved women lived very different experiences; if you were light skin, you were considered a house slave and assigned domestic tasks. Black enslaved women faced several harsh stereotypes like being the nurturing mammy, lustful jezebel, or aggressive sapphire. Light skin slaves were often favored because their skin tone was the closest to white, and they were often the main target to be raped by male slave owners.
Dark skin enslaved women were known as field slaves, and they were demanded to do more grueling tasks. Field slaves would work ridiculous hours ranging from sunrise to sunset, women worked the same amount of hours as men, and pregnant women worked until the child was born. Older Black women would be considered less valuable because of their limited strength, so they would take care of the children and younger women if needed. Slavery is the reason colorism is still a prime issue globally; it created a caste system that has evolved over the generations and across the globe, perceiving darker skin as problematic.
Black Womanhood During Abolitionism And The Underground Railroad
Black women were the leading force of the abolitionist writing, lecturing, and leaders of escaping slavery. One of the most prominent women during this time was Maria W. Stewart, who was the first Black woman to publicly address slavery and criticizing Black men for not standing up and being heard about the rights they deserve. Many abolitionists were also educators like Sarah Mapp Douglass, who ran a school for free Black children in Philadelphia, and she also taught kids and adults in New York.
Harriet Tubman wasn't a lecturer but she led hundreds of slaves to the north, an activist at heart, and collaborated with women's rights groups. At the time, the leader of Black feminists was Sojourner Truth. She lectured about women's rights and anti-slavery and joined a traveling anti-slavery circuit alongside Abby Kelly Foster.
Black Womanhood During The Civil WarRosa Parks gives a speech at the Poor Peoples March in 1968Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash
During the Civil War, Black women didn't have the privilege of contributing to the Union supporting troops in the war—like their white counterparts. And they didn't have the option to fight in the Civil War like Black men. Black women's workload just increased at their plantation and household labor. Some women took this opportunity to flee slavery with their children but faced several difficulties along the way.
Black women faced "formidable obstacles to freedom: limited mobility, little knowledge of geography, and concern for loved ones, further complicated by the encumbrances of escaping with young children." Despite all of their challenges, some of them were able to stick together as a family in innovative and creative ways.
Black Womanhood During Harlem Renaissance
During the Harlem Renaissance, some Black women pursued being a librarian or a teacher, while others decided to be artists and writers, amplifying their truth.
Black women were the integral parts of the Harlem Renaissance. Taking roles as editors, organizers, decision-makers, and they helped publicize and shape the movement.
During that time, many Black women artists addressed race and gender issues and amplified their truths of what it was like to live in the world as a Black woman.
Black Womanhood During Jim Crow In The SouthWashington Dc Girl GIF by Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & CultureGiphy
Right after Emancipation, Black women tried to devote most of their time to their families by withdrawing from field labor, but they ended up having to work at least part-time because of white landowners. Formerly enslaved Black women were finally able to marry their Black male partners legally. Most Black women were restricted to just working domestic jobs, and they were finally able to get an education and build school establishments for every grade level.
America's race-based segregated economy took advantage of Black women domestic servants requiring them to work excessively long working hours, pay them tremendously low wages, and demanding them to complete an unreasonable workload.
Black Womanhood During The Civil Rights Movement
Black women were the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement, though many dealt with gender and sexual harassment. They built the grassroots organizations in cities and small towns in the South and for national movements. Ella Baker is known to be one of the most influential women in the Civil Rights Movement, working in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), starting as a field secretary and later becoming the director of branches. There were countless unnamed Black women who contributed to the movement that seem to just be shadows in society's eyes compared to Black male activists.
As journalist and minister Barbara Reynolds mentioned:
"It was not just a few leaders—it was women ... who really put their mark on history."
Black Womanhood During The Black Power Movement Late 60s To 70sPhoto by Benedikt Geyer on Unsplash
Black women were the trailblazers of the Black Power Movement. Some Black women joined serving both rank-and-file, national organizations, and leadership roles. Some Black women chose to focus on community control and self-determination through welfare rights and local neighborhood rights. Though there were issues with marginalizing Black women within the movement—Black women didn't stop fighting for inclusive Black power, demanding organizations to combat sexism, capitalism, and racism.
Black women joined the Black Panther Movement in the 60s after a year of its founding. Some of the most prominent Black women leaders in that organization were Joan Tarika Lewis, Ericka Huggins, Elaine Brown, and Angela Davis. There were also other prestigious organizations fighting for Black power, like the Black Liberation Army, with Assata Shakur at the front of their organization and the several Black women demanding justice in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Black Womanhood During The New Jim Crow
Black women have accomplished a tremendous amount of work in the 21st century, though we still deal with oppression through systemic racism. Black women have continued to persevere through every obstacle course. According to the National Women's Law Center, "almost all social justice movements were and are carried on the backs of Black women." Their impactful and lasting contribution to literature, education, feminism, fashion, music, and much more—are evident.
"Out of the huts of history's shame, I rise. Up from a past that's rooted in pain, I rise." - Maya Angelou
Black women are the most educated group of individuals in America, and they are the leading group of entrepreneurs opening businesses in America. It's simple; Black women are the future, the group that was once seen as the most neglected is rising on top to show how rich they have always been in spirit.
Featured image via Unsplash
Black women have been trailblazers since the beginning of time. However, many people lack knowledge of historically famous Black women because there is very little Black history taught in American school systems. Malcolm X never lied when he said, "It is the process of mis-education that inhibits the full potential of a nation."
According to the National Council for Social Studies, "Only one to two lessons or 8–9 percent of total class time is devoted to Black history in U.S. history classrooms." So no need to sweat about how you could have done better when you were given limited tools to do so. This is why self-educating yourself about Black history written by us should be a continuous journey you choose to explore. Here is a mixed list of some of the most groundbreaking Black women figures that lead the way for all of us.
Famous Black Healthcare Workers You Oughta Know
It's only right to start off honoring the heroes that help save our lives daily.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler
In 1864, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first Black woman in America to receive an MD degree. She was the only Black graduate at the time when she earned her degree at New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts. After the Civil War, Rebecca moved to Richmond, VA, and worked with other Black doctors who were taking care of formerly enslaved people in the Freedmen's Bureau.
In 1883, Crumpler wrote a book called A Book of Medical Discourses: In Two Parts. Her book amplified the experiences of women's and children's health and is written for "mothers, nurses, and all who may desire to mitigate the affiliations of the human race."
Alexa Irene Canady
At times, we all lack self-confidence like Alexa Irene Canady did while attending college—but even in our weary seasons, we can gain momentum to overcome our fears. And she did just that, becoming the first Black neurosurgeon in America in 1981. In just a few years, Canady even rose to become the Chief of Neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital of Michigan. Alexa continued working for several decades as a pediatric neurosurgeon until June 2001, when she retired.
Mary MahoneyAccording to the National Women's History Museum, Mary Mahoney became the first licensed Black nurse in America in 1879. She wasn't able to work in a hospital due to discrimination towards Black people in the 19th century, so she became a private nurse instead. In 1908, Mahoney co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). Several years later, after the 19th Amendment was approved, she became one of the first women registered to vote in Boston, MA.
Famous Black Political Women Leaders You Oughta Know
Angela Davis is a profound Civil Rights activist known for her involvement in the 1960s with the Communist party. She was also a part of the Black Panther Party for a few months until she got weary of the political group's sexism issues. Davis was later targeted by the FBI, making its 10 Most Wanted List, due to her launching a campaign to free "The Soledad Brothers"—who were also all Black Panther Party members arrested in the 60s after being charged for allegedly murdering a white prison guard.
Davis is a scholar at heart; she attempted running for Vice President twice in the 80s and is the author of several books about civil rights. She is still alive today, teaching at colleges and leading trailblazing conversations about civil rights, mass incarceration, and intersectional experiences Black women face in feminism.
The first Black woman to refuse to give up her bus seat for a white person was not Rosa Parks; it was actually Claudette Colvin. At the time, she was only 15 years old, and the event occurred ten months prior to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. Colvin wasn't as spoken about because of colorism issues, and her mother told her to keep quiet. In an interview with the New York Times in 2009, she stated that her mother told her, "Let Rosa be the one. White people aren't going to bother Rosa—her skin is lighter than yours, and they like her."
Assata Shakur, a.k.a. Joanne Deborah Chesimard, was a former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army activist. In 1973, Shakur was pulled over by New Jersey state troopers, shot twice, and charged with allegedly killing a police officer and several other alleged crimes. Law enforcement was trying to put her behind bars for months prior because of her association with those civil rights political groups.
She ended up serving six and a half years in prison and was brutally beaten during her time in jail. In 1979, she escaped jail with the help of Black Liberation Army members that posed as visitors and fled to Cuba. Assata was the first woman to be placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list because of her alleged charges and escaping jail. Over 30 years later and Cuba's government has still protected Shakur offering her political asylum.
Famous Black Women Writers You Oughta Know
I'm sure that most of us all heard of the late Maya Angelou at this point in life, but did many of us know her ethics, morals, and all that she stood for? Maya Angelou was a Civil Rights activist, author of several books, and a nominated Pulitzer Prize poet. Angelou's first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, received critical applause for its depiction of sexual assault and racism. She was also a lead factor in Black feminism, and she worked with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Audre Lorde was a Black lesbian feminist writer, librarian, and poet-activist. Her book Sister Outsider has become one of the most recognized and studied text in Black studies, women's studies, and queer theory. Her writing voice was confrontational, direct, and she stressed that it is up to the oppressor to educate themselves. Lorde is also known for her essays about sexual identity, homophobia, feminism, sexism, and class.
Bell Hooks is an activist, feminist, educator, and the author of over three dozen exquisitely written books. Hooks is known for writing critical essays regarding social injustice and several topics about the Black community. Some of her most popular books are Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, All About Love, and my all-time favorite Salvation: Black People and Love.
Famous Black Women Figures In Sports You Oughta Know
The first Black woman to compete in the U.S. National Championship in 1951 was Althea Gibson. Gibson opened the doors for Black athletics globally trailblazing as the legendary tennis player she was. She won single titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958, and the Associated Press recognized her as the Female Athlete of the Year two years in a row. Gibson wasn't only excellent at tennis; in 1963, she also became a professional golfer right after winning some of her legendary tennis titles.
In 1960, Wilma Rudolph was named the fastest woman in the world and became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in the same Olympic games. Rudolph used her platform championing civil rights, refusing to attend a segregated homecoming parade celebrating her victories. After she retired from track and field, Rudolph earned a degree from Tennessee State University and was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1994.
Sheryl Denise Swoopes
In 1997, Sheryl Denise Swoopes was the first player to be signed by the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). Swoopes was nicknamed "the female Michael Jordan" because of her defensive and offensive skills on the basketball court. Over her fourteen-year WNBA career, she was a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a four-time WNBA champion. Sheryl was the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her.
Black women have been lighting the way since the beginning of time—regardless of their setbacks, they are always known for their resilience and persistence through every storm.
Featured image by Giphy
Malcolm X was an African-American Muslim and one of the most prophetic human rights activists in history. Courageous and determined with every word uttered from his mouth—yet humbled and teachable by his mishaps. He was filled with passion advocating for human rights for the Black community, regardless of all it's cost him. If you haven't read his autobiography that he had predominantly written alongside Alex Haley—you are definitely missing out.
X's autobiography shed light on how disciplined he was despite his circumstances and how willingly vulnerable he was in return for transformation to become a better version of himself. Malcolm X will forever be the muse for justice, as he mentioned, "A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything."
Here are some inspiring Malcolm X quotes to remind yourself of the power that lies within you for the times where you forget.
Malcolm X + Self-Love QuotesGiphy
"There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time." – Malcolm X
I know life has flipped many of our lives upsides down due to the ongoing pandemic, but just know that all that we are enduring is serving a purpose in a significant way. Our God is an intentional God, so this season serves a purpose; even if life still looks a bit blurry, keep going.
"Anytime you see someone more successful than you are, they are doing something you aren't." - Malcolm X.
So when you have your moments of comparison, pause and pay attention to the little details because that's the part you're missing—focusing on the little details that work for your story, not someone else's. Focus on your lane, things may not always come on your timing, but they'll come when you're ready for that blessing; until then, stay present and do the best you can with what you have.
Malcolm X’s Appreciation for Black Women QuotesGiphy
If y'all didn't know prior, let me just tell you now Malcolm X was the hero for Black women. He recognized our struggles, spoke up about colorism issues, and he was ready to fight our battles if we were ever harmed.
"The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman."—Malcolm X
His goals were set on doing whatever he had to do to uplift the Black community. Fifty plus years later, we're still dealing with the mindset of not feeling good enough or working twice as hard to get noticed in white spaces. We still have issues with colorism and texturism that was started by the white community and frowned upon within our own community. We have to do better, but we can only do better if we're willing to hold ourselves accountable for shifting such toxic mindsets.
"Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?" - Malcolm X
You are beautiful as you are. To my dark skin sisters, I see you and value you; you do NOT need to settle for just anybody because society claims your options are limited. Throw that myth away; you are as exquisite as they come, and you deserve the world, nothing less. Stop fetishizing light skin or biracial Black women; it's uncomfortable to be appreciated for our skin tone versus our character and what we add to society. To my sisters with 4C hair, learn to love it despite what the world perceives of how 'unmanageable' your hair is. Let out your afro shine or slay your natural styles if that's what you please.
We have to take away these beauty standards formulated by whiteness. Black features are astounding, I have my personal receipt of being teased for my big full lips as a child, and now every woman wants them. Our features are not trends; they hold timeless beauty.
Malcolm X + Education QuotesGiphy
Among the many character traits I absolutely adore about Malcolm X, one of my favorites was – he was always trying to learn something new; he was a student and teachable scholar for a lifetime.
"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."– Malcolm X
One of the most transformative moments in X's life was when he was incarcerated for ten years. He had such a rough childhood that robbed his youth and drew him into life on the streets. In jail, he was finally able to be reflective—to see how far he's come and question if this is all life had to offer him. He rejected the mindset of missing out in the world because he was behind bars. X was so ashamed of not reading or writing well, which is why he dedicated his time there to educate himself socially, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
As Malcolm states, "Without education, you're not going anywhere in this world."
Self-education matters as much as traditional education is taught in schools, where so many things are taken out of history because it doesn't suit white supremacy. The system was set up for us not to know ourselves, so it's every Black individual's duty to seek knowledge about our roots, whether through a book, podcast, documentary, etc.
"Education is an important element in the struggle for human rights. It is the means to help our children and thereby increase self-respect." – Malcolm X
If you don't know your history, you can't combat the issues we're having today because you're unaware of the marginalized system's patterns that were built to hold us back.
Malcolm X + Justice QuotesHuman Rights Unity GIFGiphy
I don't know about y'all, but there was never a lick of text in my textbook talking about all of the work Malcolm X has contributed to society. And that information was held back to hold back our power of knowing our worth.
"America's greatest crime against the black man was not slavery or lynching, but that he was taught to wear a mask of self-hate and self-doubt."― Malcolm X
Many people dismiss Malcolm X's ideologies because of fear and self-doubt. He was the definition of articulate and unapologetic about his stance, which in itself was his most significant threat. Malcolm taught us that complacency wouldn't make the changes we want to see; you have to get uncomfortable to demand the respect and care you deserve.
"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." ― Malcolm X
Malcolm's legacy taught me self-worth is something you have to fight for; you have to define it for others and be vocal about your boundaries. Some people may be dismissive because of his radical behavior, but Malcolm and Martin Luther King Jr. had the same goal, but they just had different ways of getting things done.
"I don't even call it violence when it's in self-defense; I call it intelligence." ― Malcolm X
Your power lies in your voice; if you don't use it effectively, you are enabling anyone to have their way. So live your life unapologetically speaking your truth and claiming what's yours!
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Toxic masculinity has been masquerading as traditional masculinity for centuries. Toxic masculinity bans men from a healthy relationship with themselves, where they are allowed to be vulnerable, sensitive, empathic – basically every emotion society often labels as feminine. And it stunts their mental and emotional growth that perpetuates false ideologies of manhood that hold them back from having a better understanding of themselves and showing up for their loved ones.
The stress toxic masculinity puts on menGiphy
Men are continuously given the objective that they must be independent, self-reliant, physically tough, etc. Society often tells men this false narrative as the only way to make them successful in terms of business, maneuvering in society, and finding a partner. They are taught that they simply can't afford to be vulnerable because it'll be ridiculed.
The American Psychological Association's Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men mentions that raising boys into "traditional" masculinity is harmful to their health and wellness. Licensed professional counselor Eric Patterson at mental health startup Choosing Therapy notes that "toxic masculinity is an ever-present issue." I asked him some questions regarding the mental and emotional distress toxic masculinity puts on men. His response brought forth insight and clarity.
Patterson stated, "Unfortunately, toxic masculinity puts very little stress on the men who are actively perpetuating notions of superiority. They tend to be oblivious to the impact their views and behaviors have on others. The men that hope to be more enlightened may struggle with their place and their role. They want to support equality without denouncing their entirety of their sex, which can prove challenging at times."
Sadly, toxic masculinity is like a domino effect; it affects all of us. So if we don't call out toxic traits, we are enabling them to continue. It begins and ends with accountability – you can't do better until you know better.
Everyday examples of toxic masculinityGiphy
Toxic masculinity is often poured into men from their childhood days. Their parents telling him he shouldn't cry because he's a boy and 'real men' don't do that. Men are often taught that masculinity is supposed to be hypermasculinity, being aggressive, suppressing their emotions, and always feeling the need to be a dominant figure. They are often excused for being promiscuous compared to women – who would be easily labeled a hoe. Either party shouldn't be applauded for this; it's not a fruitful sport, but if people feel that's the life they want to live, keep your comments to yourself or make sure you judge them the same way, instead of it being one-sided.
I asked some men about their most toxic trait and how they are actively unlearning those perspectives – their answers were quite insightful.
"I would say my most toxic trait is that sometimes I think so highly of myself that I'm mostly unwilling to take advice from others because I'm under the impression there is no way they could understand what I feel I have more knowledge on," said Johnny Welch, program coordinator in Philadelphia, PA. "I simply think I know best, even in cases when I know nothing. This trait has left me numerous times feeling the burn when I could have simply not touched the stove. I'm well aware of the issue and try to make steps to correct it."
A good start at overcoming toxic masculinity is acknowledging your issues and then building stepping stones to combat them. The goal isn't perfection; it's about progression. Talk about this with your male friends and ask them to hold you accountable or ask them if they can suggest ways for you to change your old habits. Get used to not always leaning on women for vulnerable conversations; she can't be your therapist and partner; that's too much stress for anyone.
Normalize talking about your emotions with other men.
Another man echoed a similar sentiment regarding communication, "I would say my most toxic trait is being inconsistent when it comes to communicating," said Carrell Calhoun, operations manager in Bethlehem, PA. "Sometimes I have this, I-don't-feel-like-talking type of attitude when I feel like something isn't a major issue, and how I work on that is to just allow my partner to express themselves."
Frequent communication is essential in every relationship, whether it's platonic or romantic. Just because you're with someone, it doesn't mean you are able to read that person's mind all of a sudden. Let's normalize leaning on each other in times of need instead of perceiving it as a way to emasculate men.
How do women and society play a role in toxic masculinity?Giphy
Believe it or not, ladies, some of y'all play a part in enabling toxic masculinity. Telling a man he's soft or shouldn't be emotional is problematic. I asked some men what they would tell women that said 'you're not a man' if you show vulnerability in any way, crying or expressing how they felt. They had some interesting tea to spill.
"Emotional intelligence matters, empathy matters. Men that are viewed as crazy, non-communicative, toxic, or nonchalant have probably become that way due to a woman or man telling them that same sentiment as they grew up," said Cedric Calder, CEO of Artisan Echelon in New Jersey. The same men that are told they "ain't shit" have become like that for a reason, and while everyone should be accountable for their own actions and grow/learn from their experiences – not everyone has the mindset to get through it [and] receive assistance in doing so. Human beings are social creatures, and being social creates some sort of stress, whether good or bad, and these feelings need to be released one way or the other."
Amen, on the necessity for emotional intelligence! Toxic masculinity robs men to tap into their emotional intelligence. This is a collective Black issue we have because I was also taught to repress my emotions because it made me look weak, but as I got older, I learned how important it was to thoroughly understand my emotions so I can show up better for myself and others.
How to combat toxic masculinityGiphy
Combatting toxic masculinity is NOT a woman's job. I've heard the saying that 'it's a woman's job to make a man a better/evolved man' countless times – and that's too much of a burden. As Marlon Dundas, digital investment professional in Queens, NY, stated, "I believe a relationship is a mutual agreement to learn from each other. If you trust and value the person you're with, then you will be made a better person. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman."
So yes, back to the daily televised show, it's a partnership. Both partners can help each other, not completely burden each other in specific areas, and expect things to mend themselves over time because they won't – they'll just get worse if you don't address them. As licensed professional counselor Eric Patterson mentions:
"Women can support this shift in men by pointing out undesirable aspects of toxic masculinity and times when it presents. By addressing the situation with love and support rather than anger and judgment, there is a better chance for success. Women must remember that the man must want to change, and even if he does, he could be working against decades or generations of problematic behaviors. It will not change overnight."
Ladies, I know bending backwards comes easily to us sometimes, and that's something we have to work on collectively. But you can't change a man that is not ready to change himself for himself first, and then you can benefit from it. Change only sticks when we do it for ourselves versus for others. You can only guide him and cheer him on along the journey, but you can't make the changes he needs to make within himself.
Men don't have to be hypermasculine to be considered man enough; show how you feel, reveal the real you from under the mask. Toxic masculinity can't thrive if you choose to work through your issues, so you can be an evolved man for yourself and your loved ones.
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