During my early years of full-time freelance consulting, I got the chance of a lifetime when I landed a huge client. As a member of this client's team, I would be witnessing the launch of an amazing initiative in Accra, Ghana, and I would be part of the ribbon-cutting. The parents of the young founder of the organization gifted me tickets and accommodations---something I will forever be grateful to them for doing.
The experience changed my life---and my perspective on travel, race, spirituality, and Africa---for the better.
When they told us we'd be visiting the slave castles on the coast, I had mixed feelings. One, I've never been a fan of reliving slavery or the history of it. (Since childhood, films like Roots would always make me feel super-sad and then super-angry for weeks on end, and I'd even fainted on a Virginia plantation tour as a teen.) Two, most of the people on the trip were white.
Someone might read that and say, "So?" but that person is disregarding the fact that some experiences, especially that of visiting a place where your ancestors were kidnapped, raped, starved, beaten, and taken away from their families forever, can be very personal and traumatic. To be honest, it was something I thought I'd rather share with my loved ones who could relate due to our shared heritage and culture.
Image by Giphy
Let me explain something about myself: Though I respect and love all people, I have always been pro-black. (This does not equal anti-white, and I'll leave it at that.) I went to a historically black science- and math-focused high school, graduated from an HBCU (hey, Pirates!), and worked for and with several top black companies which I consider top without the insertion of "black" in there. I have spent my entire career giving voice to the diverse stories and experiences of black and underrepresented people, especially stories that contribute to providing balance in how black people in particular are depicted. It is something I've dedicated my life to.
I was raised in a proud family of black achievers---part of a community where educational, political and business leaders were black and where black nationalism was a way of life.
I've had my own experiences with racism, both blatant and covert, and those experiences would only strengthen my career mission as an adult.
An Emotional Shift and Lesson in Empathy
In Ghana, at the slave dungeon designated for women (Image via Janell Hazelwood)
While visiting the slave dungeons, I never really thought white people could truly understand the half of what it meant to stand in the very rooms where their ancestors packed mine in by the hundreds---including women who were not given accommodations to bathe, use the bathroom, or enjoy dignity during their menstrual periods---and treated them like animals before taking them to faraway lands to live their days in forced servitude. I knew they could offer apologies, but I felt they really couldn't relate in a way that wouldn't be perceived as forced, superficial, or something done out of obligation.
Real talk, that's how I felt.
Standing in those spaces, the sadness again turned to anger, especially when I saw other white tourists taking photos---some more in awe or disbelief than in total disgust and disappointment---and I began wishing I had taken the trip to Ghana earlier in life with my own friends and family who could really share in the moment in a way that was more private and respectful. (Disclaimer: None of the participants in our travel group were being disrespectful or insensitive. This was something I noticed in other groups.)
A commemoration plaque at the dungeons (Image via Janell Hazelwood)
Once the tour was over and we'd all gathered to go back to the hotel, everyone began talking among themselves, and people were asked to share their thoughts about the visit. One woman's tearful sentiments in particular really touched me. I remember her talking about how she'd studied her Caucasian family's history. She felt bad because of the things she'd uncovered, and visiting the castle really triggered even more feelings of remorse and empathy.
She said the trip really solidified for her that we all must face horrible truths about our places in history and, for her, that meant coming to a deeper understanding of the divisions of racial biases and discrimination she'd witnessed--and maybe even ignored---in her own community.
Meeting of the Hearts
Image by Giphy
It wasn't her words that moved me. It was the tears and the transparency she showed to over a dozen people, some who hadn't known her before the trip, including me. She was a grown woman---much older than me---and I felt it took courage to express herself in the way that she did.
My anger began to melt away.
The fact that the woman even gave the experience a chance made me recognize what it meant to share in the humanity of hurt and trauma, and I respected that she even attempted to open herself up to dialogue about the biases and discrimination with all of us. That really struck a chord in me. I felt bad that I had not shown her the grace she was showing me. I'd let anger, past experiences, assumptions, and stereotypes allow me to place a wall up. I was guilty of the very thing I expected white folk not to do to me or my people.
As we continue to share stories and experiences during Black History Month, I hope we can all learn lessons of humility, empathy, and self-awareness that will allow us to move forward in a way that allows every human being to face their truths--the good, the bad, and the ugly. I pray that we do this with kindness, empathy and authenticity. This is the only way we will see a long-term resolutions to end discrimination and division among our cultures and races once and for all.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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