Whether it's the tragic shootings at the Navy Yard; the innocent bystanders shot by police in New York; the bombing that may happen in the city you live in right now in your own country or anything else; the phrase "You're still here" should mean more to you every single day you wake up. In this often volatile world that we live in, you never know when your number is going to be called. That is not a reason to live in fear. It is a reason celebrate life each day! Count every day you are here as a blessing and you will see a difference in your daily attitude. We were all put here to enjoy life, not suffer through it. Make each day your best and then make it better for someone else. You never know, your kind actions may even prevent someone from committing the next atrocity. Spread love and the world will follow your lead!
In this video on CNN.com, I talk about how sad it is that Miss America is not welcomed by some in her own country America or India, her parents' homeland. I also speak about the beauty that she has in her platform on diversity and cultural competency. We can learn a great deal from her example.
The absolute best thing about being a motivational youth speaker hands down is travelling this country and globe and meeting incredible young people. I look forward to the start of every school year because I relaunch our national “Be An UPstander, Not A Bystander” tour. The goal is simple: travel to as many schools and organizations across the globe as possible and build with a community of like-minded young people focused on doing nothing short of changing the world one person, one school, one city, one state, one country at a time. Whether it's ending bullying or celebrating cultural differences, our goal at UPstander International is to build better communities. This fall so far has exceeded my expectations and more importantly, reminded me of the great work our youth are doing across the globe and proved to me again that our youth are greater than the negative images of them portrayed in mass media.
In October, I spoke to over 6,000 students across Washington DC, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New York. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I partnered with NFL player Aaron Rodgers, actor Emmanuelle Chriqui, and the Enough! Project’s “Raise Hope for Congo” campaign to create a rally for Congo. It was phenomenal event that brought the sports, acting, and music community together along with great students and called on the leaders at the University of Wisconsin to pledge to have their campus be conflict mineral free. In New York I spoke at 5 different colleges as part of the Price of Life’s campaign to end global slavery. In Boston, I watched perfomed at one of the best showcases of youth artistic talent—the OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center 19th annual benefit entitled “Twist & Shout.” In DC, I launched year two of the UPstander Leadership Training Institute at the Upper School Washington International School. Everywhere I went, I was more and more inspired about the future of youth.
Anyone who believes that our youth are a lost cause needs a vision adjustment. Whether I am speaking at the poorest school in the most crime-ridden city in America or a top Ivy League institution, I see a bright future in the eyes of every young person I am fortunate enough to interact with. Some may have their brightness blocked by the cloud of low teacher expectations or a society that views them as a suspect before a prospect, but I can still see it. If we as adults could work a little harder to extract that brightness like we extract gold and diamonds from mines, we would find those diamonds in the rough and refine them until they shine. Most youth I encounter are passionate about something and just want to make a positive contribution to the world. It would be so amazing if we adults simply met them half way.
As a youth motivational speaker, I get to meet some of the best and brightest students on the planet.I had the truest honor to speak about the importance of being an UPstander and not a bystander at Arkansas State University. I was welcomed by the incredible students of the Student Activities Board before speaking to over 400 students. I even learned how to throw up the Red Wolves sign!
We covered a wide range of topics from standing up and being a designated driver to speaking up on issues of bullying, racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. This was my first time visiting Arkansas and I hope it won’t be my last time. Arkansas State University is a special place with very special students doing great things. I immediately felt like a part of the ASU community. Anyone who believes that young people are not doing positive things needs to visit the home of the A-State Red Wolves!
|I am always sad to see stories about Black Friday. Most media reports highlight the fights and trampling incidents at malls. This year's video highlight showcased a woman using a stun gun on another woman during a fight. As bothering as the fights have been, I have noticed a different trend that is also disturbing.|
Each year, stores are pushing back their opening hours to take advantage of consumers and our desire for discounts. Now many stores are opening at 8 PM on Thanksgiving night. I've read stories about employees missing out on Thanksgiving dinner so that they can get to work. Families are changing or canceling their dinner plans just so they can get to the mall in time. In short, families are beginning to make shopping the new Thanksgiving tradition instead of family time.
Now I would be lying if I said I have never taken advantage of a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal. I do my best however to remember the essence of the holiday seasons. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving or any other holiday, the general essence of the holiday season is supposed to be spending time with family and looking at ways to give back to your community, however you define it. Christmas for many has turned into a self-centered event where people are more concerned with what they are receiving as opposed to what they are giving. Thanksgiving is turning into a day to give thanks for early shopping opportunities and discounts instead of being thankful for your life and the lives around you.
My hope is that this holiday season, we will take the opportunity to express gratitude for those in our lives past and present. I hope we will look for more opportunities to give instead of receive. I hope that we will be grateful for each day breathing and use the time off from work or school to remember what's important. Discounts are great, but not at the expense of discounting our time with those who matter most.
They say never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes
But what happens when the man has neither shoes nor socks to walk in?
Would you willfully walk that mile?
Would you accept all adversity with a frown and a smile?
Would you still run the race against racism with grace and style?
Would you work wearily to weave a tapestry of diversity and shared fate
Against those who continue to practice apart-hate?
Would your heart shine bright when deprived of sunlight?
Would your spirit sing a song of liberation when it’s denied instrumentation?
As they tried at Robben Island to rob you of your soul
You literally rolled Rholihlahla with each punch as you crunched in your hole
We stand here because of you
We breathe freely because of you
And you walked the long walk to freedom with no shoes and socks
So that we will not have to
You walked for those without homes and even the land-dwellers
You, the son of Mother Earth
Father to a nation
Grandfather to our future
Brother to African liberation
From Cape Town to Kinshasa you led like no other
To remind us to put our arms down and hands forward to embrace one another
Because of you the world is encouraged to up rise like Soweto
So-we-too rise above the mentality of the ghetto
To claim the universe as our humble home
Overseas maligned media would disgrace the Madiba
But we saw through their lies as we looked at tattered posters into your eyes
Your hope in humanity helps us fly Tran-skeis
And when peace did not work on the path for a free way
You chauffeured us on the highway of Umkhonto we sizwe
And when so many believed that there was still no way
Your perseverance and piety led all of us nobly to the Nobel in Norway
And so we will make peace our prize
And we will walk on this path of freedom with our shoes on and heads held high
In a world where courage and pride can be hard to find like a Black Pimpernel
Because YOU have walked this earth Madiba, the future for all humanity bodes well