A Motivational Speaker’s Take on White Supremacists

            Motivational speakers are supposed to be objective. We are supposed to speak about how there is always a window opening when a door closes. We are supposed to speak matter-of-factly that life doesn’t care about our excuses, only our results. We are expected to be apolitical and focus on the bright side no matter what. While I have been proud to call myself a motivational speaker, I was an activist and an upstander before I was anything else. Whether I am motivating, teaching, or rapping, fighting for social change will always be at the root of what I do.

When I see our nation facing increasing hostilities from white supremacists who blame others for their own station in life, I am obligated to speak. To that end, I would like to share some words that I hope will inspire these individuals to see the real problem that is facing their advancement—themselves. There are certain motivational principles we speakers share that in the end, will help these individuals take control of their lives and stop attempting to destroy the lives of others, if they have the will to do so.

  1. “When you point a finger at someone else, there are three pointing back at you.”

Les Brown once said that life doesn’t care about your excuses, only your results. While you attack immigrants for taking your jobs (they’re not), DACA students who became valedictorian over your child, or grab your TIKI torches, the question you should be asking is what have you done to improve your life in the last few years? Have you signed up for any certifications? Have you decided to go back to school? Learn a trade? Learn a language? It is impossible to look at yourself and take personal responsibility when you spend so much time looking down on others. As we say in the ‘hood, do YOU! Part of the reason hatred is so strong towards others is because it is partially rooted in envy.

  1. “A negative mind will never give you a positive life.”

You will be whatever consumes you. If you are consumed by hate and ignorance toward someone else, that feeling will eat you alive. When the late South African President Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years, one of the first stops he made was to the home of his prison guards to show that he forgave them. The hate you give others could be a manifestation of some form of contempt for yourself. How much time is spent thinking positively about your future as opposed to practicing evil against others? Your hatred towards others is literally preventing you from forging a path that could change the course of your life. Once you run out of people to hate and attack, you’ll have no one else to judge but yourself. Self-reflection is harder than negative outward projection but in the end it’s worth it.

  1. “Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.”

These powerful words spoken by Carol Burnet should be your mantra. There is no cavalry coming for you. No matter how much ignorance you express online or in real life, you still have to look at yourself in the mirror and do something with your life. Someone once said to pray as if it all depends on God but act is if it all depends on you. What is one thing you did today that helped advance in your own life, build on your knowledge, or improve yourself professionally? If your answer is “nothing” than you have no one to be upset with but yourself. If every person whom you hold in contempt disappeared today, it still would do nothing to improve your chances of success if you have done nothing to improve your chances for success.

In closing, it is important to remember that whiteness is a construct, designed to ascribe a certain set of privileges to white people that they neither earned nor had to compete for. As the country has become browner and a bigger part of the global community, there is no way to avoid competition from others. Extremism is on the rise in America in part because of a perceived threat of the “other” coming to take jobs and other opportunities from white people. In 2017, most of the acts of terrorism committed on American soil were committed by white men, emboldened by an administration that has members with their own history of racism, including President Trump himself. If the same anger was focused on looking inward instead of acting out, these individuals may learn that there is indeed a better future for them if they are willing to do the work to prepare for it.

Is Leadership In YOU? (a poem)

The chosen few are the few who chose

To step up and open doors tightly closed

So you call yourself a leader, but what does that mean?

Getting green, turning green, badly running your team?

Sadly killing the dreams of a hopeful teen?

Madly willing your ideas, not even listening?

Does it mean you celebrate on election day

Because you can add your new position to your resume?

Can you handle criticism when your peers dis’ you?

Because you don’t care about theirs but only your issue?

Pass the tissue, makes me sad how some leaders let

Power get to their head, constituents they forget

You’re just a leader in name if you’re just searching for fame

For acclaim, it’s a shame why some get in the game

Leadership ain’t for the lame, don’t take it in vain

Time to rethink your position, understand why you came

You see a leader’s someone who listens firsts then speaks

Someone focused on being the change we seek

Leaders understand they represent all people

Don’t do that your leadership will never have a sequel

Do you seek to understand before being understood?

Do you take time to visit other neighborhoods?

We need real leaders to step up to the plate

To take a swing at racism other types of hate

To stomp out bullying, help end genocide

Do your best to help others hold their heads with pride

A leader builds a team, can’t do it all by yourself

And a leader remembers to practice good health

Because you’re no good to others if you’re no good to you

So let me ask you again, is leadership in you?

Navigating The Path To Great Student Leadership

“Leadership ain’t for the lame, don’t take it in vain

Time to rethink your position, understand why you came.”

These are two lines from a poem on leadership that I often recite when I speak around the world to student leaders. I share this line to underscore two points. The first point is that leadership is not for everyone. Though everyone can be a leader, leadership is a calling that few people answer and therefore, it should never be taken in vain. The second point is that leaders must always rethink why they chose to be a leader, and whether they still have the capacity or even the desire to lead. In today’s political climate, these two points are more important than ever for student leaders.

Whether one is a supporter or opponent of President Donald Trump, no one can argue that his presidency has not only shaken up our system of government, but has also had an impact in every aspect of our society, especially in schools. Some students feel that they have a leader in office who can speak for them in ways that President Obama did or could not. Others believe that President Trump’s rhetoric makes them less safe in school, evidence by instances of middle school students walking into their cafeteria to fellow students chanting “Build a wall” and others being told that they are going to be sent back to their country, even though they may have been born here. The bottom line is that there is a level of divisiveness taking place in our schools that require our student leaders to “rethink” their position in order to evaluate if they are built for the task of leadership today.

When I speak to student leaders, I challenge them to jump head first into whatever challenges their schools are facing. The example of America’s political climate is on the more extreme side of challenges students may face in school, but there are a multitude of other challenges that student leaders face in school. There are issues from cafeteria food and infrastructure to the curriculum and school climate. Regardless of the issues, there are four simple steps that I share with student leaders that can help them better navigate these issues. The four principles stem from my book G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness! 10 Steps To Living Your Best Life. The steps are Give, Release, Overcome, and Win.

GIVE

                  Student leaders must do a review of the quality and quantity of their giving. Dr. Wayne Dyer said that the more we give to the universe, the more it gives to us. Conversely, the more we take from the universe, the more it takes from us. Student leaders cannot be self-absorbed and only concerned with the title of leadership as a résumé builder for their college applications. Their elected position means that they must always remember that they represent their constituents, even those who did not vote for them. To that end, student leaders must be giving of their attention to students in their schools. They need to be able to do more listening than talking to really understand what is transpiring in their schools and they must be willing to be giving of the time requisite to lead their school towards effective change. I remind them as Les Brown said that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in proportion.

RELEASE

                  Student leaders must learn to let “it” go and let “them” go. By “it” I mean they need to let go of any hatred or even simple bias they may have towards certain groups. I study leadership across the globe from corporate CEOs to country presidents. I have seen situations where someone becomes a CEO and actively works to undermine particular departments they simply do not like. I have seen situations where someone becomes president of a country and exacts revenge on the ethnic group they viewed as their oppressors. I encourage student leaders to practice forgiveness and inclusivity, similar to former South African President Nelson Mandela who, upon his release from 27 years in prison, went to visit the home of his former prison guards to express forgiveness.

Once students forgive or let “it” go, they can work towards letting “them” go. Student leaders must let go of people around them who no longer represent where they want to go as a leader. I cite actor Will Smith when I tell leaders that they are a direct reflection of their five closest friends. If their friends are racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, islamophobic, sexist or anything else, chances are the leaders are as well. Student leaders must associate themselves with people who represent not where they are, but where they want to go. Furthermore, student leaders must understand that with the advent of social media, they need to be even more careful with their “friends” because they will be associated with posts from their friends and it could affect their academic and professional careers, most recently evidenced by the students who had their admission from Harvard revoked after their racist social media posts were discovered.

OVERCOME

                  Student leaders must overcome their fears. Leadership can be a daunting task, but it is a task worth pursuing if they are truly interested in serving their communities. I cite Zig Ziglar who said that fear simply means False Evidence Appearing Real. This means that most of the issues they worry about will not happen so they must work daily towards their goals. Student leaders must be guided by their goals and their vision and not by their fears. One cannot govern effectively if they are governed by fear. Fear keeps leaders from thinking clearly. It keeps them often from even attempting to start a program because they fear what people will think. As Dr. King said: “cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?” Student leaders must acknowledge the fear they may feel but focus more on what is right.

WIN

                  Student leaders must believe they will win if they do not give in. In this age of instant gratification, student leaders must practice patience. They must realize that some of the changes they seek in their school may not occur during their tenure as a student leader. They must think like some Native American communities who believe that they should think of how their actions will affect people seven generations from now. Depending on the schools they are in, at one point their school may have allowed no women or people of color but people fought for the right to attend those schools even though those fighters for equality never did. Students must believe that they will eventually win. Change does not happen overnight and student leaders must not be seduced by the sitcom nature of society where they see problems resolved in a thirty minute show with commercial breaks.

GROW!

                  At the end of the day, if students look at how they give, release, overcome, and win, they can become effective leaders for their school community. If they use these four steps to “rethink” their position, they will better understand the serious job they have undertaken as leaders in their school. As advisers, you can be the ones that can help them along with this process. Your experiences as educators and leaders in your own environments can greatly aid students in their development. Whether it is the National Honor Society or Student Council or any other form of leadership, we need to make sure that students understand the great responsibility of the leadership roles they have undertaken. I fully believe that with your guidance, our student leaders of today can continue on their path to the greatness that we know is inside of them. I wish you the best as you walk this path with them!

Donald Trump Is Losing, But We’re Not Winning…Yet

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-is-losing-but-were-not-winningyet_us_59ca9a9ae4b0e02ffdb77f37

TV Show Arrow Has Every Right To Discuss #BlackLivesMatter

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tv-show-arrow-has-every-right-to-discuss-blacklivesmatter_us_59babf92e4b02c642e4a14a7

Trump: The Racist President WE Made In America

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-the-racist-president-made-in-america_us_59960b5de4b033e0fbdec27a

4:44 – The Album JAY-Z Always Wanted To Make…But We Wouldn’t Let Him

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/444-the-album-jay-z-always-wanted-to-makebut_us_595e6066e4b08f5c97d067b3

Sally Hemings (a poem)

Get your violins out, your flutes and cellos

As I recount my days back in Monticello

The year America breaks from Europe’s chains

I’m still a slave shackled in America’s chains

And I’ll make it plain I was more than a slave

A founding father found me and he couldn’t behave

Y’all can call him what you want, America’s son

I call him a rapist under Virginia’s sun

Put him in the books for the country he claimed

But me, I’m just a blip y’all don’t know my name

Know nothing about from whence I came

Call me Sally or Sarah, some say I’m to blame

But I ain’t ask for this I was part of a deal

So hear my story as a slave just recountin’ the real

While Jefferson was workin’ so hard to plant nation

I was his concubine on his plantation

Tried to make it slick and just call me a nurse

While I was savin’ lives they put my soul in a hearse

Doin’ nothing but my best to help heal Mary

Then she go to sleep and I’m screamin’ hail Marys

Prayin’ I won’t be raped by this man so scary

Y’all venerate this man but on the contrary

I was in the room taking care of wardrobe

He comin’ from behind and he never wore clothes

Now he comin’ from behind and I’m caught in the throws

I’m special, presidential w-h-o

R-e, he birthed nation, I birthed his kids see

Y’all see his face everywhere but mine don’t exist see

I’m Sally Hemings case you didn’t know

And I was more than a slave more than Jefferson’s ho

So know my story it’s an American classic

How I survived for centuries from life so tragic

See I rep for my sisters that you’ll never know

The ones mastered by the masters, sexed on the low

Y’all say it was just a sign of the times

Then you rewrite history, rewrite the lines

But I ain’t ask for this and some say it’s my fault

Look down at my sisters now it’s still their fault

Janet sabotaged her bra, it wasn’t Justin

Rihanna pissed off Chris Brown—musta been

Tina Ike-d up just cause she tried to mic-up

Anita knocked off the Hill she tried to rise up

Halle Berry had it comin’ who she think she be

Damn… in retro she kinda look like me

But I digress, I distress when I have to digest

Centuries of women being blamed for men stress

But until we tell our story won’t nobody care

So sisters rise up and tell your tales without fear

Malaika (a poem)

When you educate a girl, you save the nation

When you teach girls to lead, they become our salvation

Digging wells isn’t just about digging holes

When a community is nourished, you’ve nourished its soul

Malaika Malaika, Swahili for angel

YOU are Malaika, helping girls succeed from every angle

Creating change agents for tomorrow

By focusing on the good, not the sorrow

If each girl can wake up with a possible new beginning

She’s waking up every day with the chance of winning

Building community, one girl at a time

And day after day, we’re seeing the signs

That an investment in girls is some thing never wasted

Because day by day, new trailways are created

All our girls need is hope and a chance

Then we can get out of their way and watch them advance!

I’m a Preexisting Condition (a poem)

I’m a preexisting condition because I was born
I breathed
I sneezed
I wheezed
I coughed
I delivered
I was born
I loved
I worshipped
I immigrated
I crawled
I walked
I marched
I talked
I yelled
I resisted
I persisted
I served
I taught
I sought
I said my life matters
I said my zip code shouldn’t
I said my education shouldn’t be separate and unequal
I bled along side my oppressed people
I’ve been told that poverty is expensive
I’ve been sold on the false directive of equality
I’ve been told inequality shouldn’t bother me
I see daily the rich getting richer
I was born into a world that doesn’t want me
I was torn by a past that continues to haunt me
I was ensured my country would cover this
I know no insurance policy that can cover this
I’m still waiting for this country to be as good as its promise
I just hope my preexisting condition won’t kill me in the process