My husband and I with Korey Wise, July 25, 2019
So when I look at this picture, I see past hurt, fear, confusion and injustice but when I also look at this picture, I see purpose, happiness, resilience, and most of all, love. This my friends, is King Korey Wise, one of the Exonerated Five of the infamous case of the Central Park Five.
Due to filmmaker, Ava DuVernay and her ever so timely creation of When They See Us, this previous case has received much recent attention. I was almost seven years old when this case hit the news of one Latino male and four African-American males in New York City who were falsely accused of assaulting and raping a 28-year old white woman by the name of Trisha Melli in 1989. I learned more about this case during my college years when Matias Reyes (a convicted murderer and serial rapist) admitted to committing the crime in 2001 but due to the statute of limitations passing, charges could not be brought against him. Eventually, the five young men were exonerated but what really hurts about this case, is not only were they wrongly accused and convicted of a crime they did not commit, but they were manipulated into a confession without proper representation at the tender ages of 14 through 16. The oldest of the five young men was Korey Wise who was tried and sentenced as an adult and served 13 years in an adult prison.
Fast forward to yesterday, July 25, 2019, I log in to my email account in the morning and I see that Korey Wise is going to be in Chicago speaking at a screening of the first episode of When They See Us. I'll be honest, I was hesitant to attend at first because I have literally avoided watching this mini series for various reasons. First, watching ANY kind of injustice inflicted upon black and brown people just hurts. It hurts like hell. I don't know any other way to express that but through anger and tears and the residue of the visual and audio of it all takes much debriefing on my part. But I'm also a social worker who has worked in the fields of domestic violence, child welfare and school social work for the past 15 years so detaching is practically imperative in order for me to stay sane. I'm typically a very chill and zen kind of person, but when it comes to the welfare of children and adolescents, I can literally turn into an advocacy beast at any sign of abuse and neglect and to say the Exonerated Five were abused is an understatement. So hopefully this paints a picture for you as to why I was a little reluctant about this whole experience.
I watched that first episode and the entire time, my foot was tapping incessantly because of the anger and outrage that was boiling inside of me. I felt the beast beginning to rise but I practiced calming techniques in order to get through it. And as the first episiode comes to a close with Korey Wise (played by the amazingly talented Jharrel Jerome) being escorted to a police car, here comes the real Korey Wise walking in at that very scene and my first thought was how? How does he literally see himself on screen watching the moment that changed his life forever? It took me back to when I first became an intern with the Department of Children and Family Services and the many cases of abused and neglected children who had no one to advocate for them and then I see Korey; a once scared and vulnerable child himself who is now standing here in the flesh, thirty years later.
Korey spoke and he answered questions. His speech was monotone and a bit throaty; a tad bit slurred but it's a result of a slight hearing impairment since childhood. He's rough around the edges, he talks like a person who's been to hell and back because he has, literally. But he's also childlike and there's an innocence that is instantly recognizable behind those light brown eyes. He's not really into the limelight. He's still a resident of NYC and only makes minimal celebrity appearances for promotional purposes of the film but he spends a lot of his time as a public speaker and criminal justice activist. When asked questions, his responses are a bit convoluted but very easy to follow with your heart. His words reside in that safe space and even though it hurts, he's restored.
His birthday is today and we celebrated with him yesterday. He was given gifts, mainly gym shoes (or should I say sneakers as the native New Yorkers say), we ate pizza and listened to a whole lot of Biggie, lol. But he's restored.
I thank God for your life Mr. Korey Wise. You haven't checked out. You're not just existing but you're living. You're an amazing spirit who's endured a lot through your human experience but you're here and you're present. I'm not sure anyone could ever express enough gratitude for that. I guess the main thing we can do is just witness your growth and be in the present moment with you now. Happy birthday Korey!
My husband and I were having a conversation the other day that made us contemplate our upbringing and he said, "No matter how we look at it, most things stems from childhood." And to a large degree, I think he's right. Whether positive or negative, our first teacher are our parents. In their presence or absence, they teach us advertently and/or inadvertently. And as I reflect upon my childhood and this year's PRIDE Month, I can't help but have a sense of gratitude and here's why:
I grew up in a Christian environment, Church of God In Christ to be exact. The consistent message that was taught in church was that homosexuality was an abomination. As a child, I wasn't really exposed to anyone in the LGBTQ community that I was aware of but something still felt off about being taught that kind of hate towards anyone. Also, even though my parents were of the Christian faith, I never once heard them refer to anyone in the homosexual community by a derogatory name whether seriously or jokingly. I didn't even sense they were just "tolerating" homosexuality. I just felt like I always witnessed unconditional love in that respect when it came to my own household. My maternal grandmother was also a devout Christian who spoke of the Ten Commandments often but she always stressed how keeping all of the Commandments meant nothing if you did not have TRUE love for your fellow neighbor. I always took that to heart. Now as a family, we had our fair share of problems that I've had to work through in order to face my internal struggles and become a confident and thriving adult, but I can honestly say that a disdain for the gay and lesbian community was something I did not witness. And I really, REALLY appreciate that now more than ever.
As I'd gotten older, my associates and friends became more diverse as this included gay and lesbian friends. And with social work being my profession, this too blessed me with experiences like no other which ultimately lead me to fully embracing my LGTBQ brothers and sisters even though I was a straight woman. And honestly, it all stems from childhood like my husband said. To love someone fully even though our choices of who and how we love may be different, was very easy for me because I did not witness that kind of hate and unacceptance from the beginning. And when I sit back and observe my own children and how they fully embrace others as well, they are literally mirroring what they are taught at home. But think about if we all made a conscious decision to just embrace and love each other unconditionally, no strings attached, no matter your background, choices, and/or current lifestyle... whew, I just had a mental picture of the beauty in that and how it would cause a ripple affect in future generations. Wow.... that truly left me speechless as that would be a direct reflection of when love truly prevails.
So yes, you read that title correctly, lol. I know you're probably thinking what exactly is living apart together? Well, the other day, I was reading a really interesting article about Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband who she's been married to less than one year. She stated that her and husband have chosen to live in separate homes but not due to any strife or marital strain, but because they personally feel it's more conducive to their lifestyle. Paltrow has been married before and has teenage children from her previous marriage and her husband also has children from his previous marriage and they did not feel the need to force them into some modern day "Brady Bunch"-style family, her words not mine. Paltrow stated they typically cohabitate 4 nights a week and the other 3 nights, they retire to their individual homes. Paltrow's married friends seem to think they have an ideal relationship and should not change a thing. Paltrow stated she has what you call an "intimacy teacher" (yep, be sure to look up that term) and she advises that their separate living arrangement actually adds polarity (balance) to their marriage.
I can't help but be intrigued when I hear and/or read about various lifestyles that may be considered atypical or unconventional. I've always enjoyed learning about people and this situation is no exception. What are your thoughts?
I love this quote "I'm not punishing you, I'm protecting me." That came from my dear Auntie (in my head) Iyanla Vanzant. But this quote hits home for me in so many ways because I can distinctively remember when I broke out the big girl panties and finally declared, "I'm not punishing you, I'm protecting me". I was 19 years old and I was cohabitating with a man who was four years my senior. It may not sound like a lot of years but his worldly experience and outlook on life made me feel as if I was involved with a man twice my age. To say it was a tough journey is an understatement.
I was learning myself and I questioned myself internally so much during this time because I allowed him to infiltrate my space. I allowed his thoughts to become my thoughts and because we were intimate on a consistent basis, our energies were intertwined which produced much confusion in me.
When I tried to step away and dissolve the relationship, I wasn't strong enough so I kept letting him back in. We lived together for two years and then one day I broke free and by his reaction you would've thought I had just severed his arm or something. But in his mind, he really did feel like I was hurting him, but all in all, I was just protecting me. I had no choice as I noticed my hair thinning, I was becoming a little withdrawn from friends, I became stressed out often and I experienced my very first panic attack. It can be so easy to succumb to the life that you'd become so familiar with even if it is detrimental but it's imperative that you move! I learned that lesson very early in my life and I have applied it on so many levels and it has served me well. Of course, there's so much to that story, which we all have a story but I'm extremely thankful for that experience now more than ever because I can relate to so many people who are trying to remove themselves from toxic environments in order to secure self-preservation.
Take some time, if you will, and reflect on Queen Vanzant's words and let it resonate with you. Are you not protecting yourself in fear of hurting someone else? If so, remember in order to give, you have to have something to give. It's really not that deep, it is what it is. Have you had to make that declaration before? If so, how has it affected you?
I'm such a fan of history and I bask in the opportunity every time I get a chance to go to the museum and step inside of an old train car that feels like it literally transports me back to the 1800's or seeing exhibits of how people hunted for food or even the clothing they wore. Even though, I'm what you would consider an 80's baby; also a product of Baby Boomers, I am still excited and eager to learn more about the past. It tells a story on so many levels for which I can make more sense of my existence.
But sometimes, I find it extremely saddening that history continues to repeat itself in a way that we have yet seemed to learn from. In the wake of the recent Abortion Laws of 2019, women are still being forced to make decisions about their well-being at the hands of their male counterparts. This is why I feel women's literature/fiction is so important. Even in literature, women are not always taken seriously and the value appears to decrease even in the positioning of women's literature in the bookstores. Now when I speak of value, I'm not speaking in terms of who actually purchases these books because statistics show that women are the majority novel purchasers, but with regards to pricing. So much can be said about what a person values when the pricing standards are much lower than books written by men.
The disparity between men and women has been so ingrained in our psyches that we just assume that a woman really has nothing to talk about of substance in a women's fiction book so it might as well be priced lower. But women's fiction is so much more than that. Women's fiction provides a space to share experiences, empathy, understanding, and for your voice to be heard because we all know that fiction is still based upon some truth. If women's literature was praised and valued more, maybe that would spark a deeper understanding of the woman's experience and maybe even change the political landscape of our country. I don't have all the answers but maybe if those stories were valued more, we would be less likely to repeat those cycles that have proven to be detrimental to society as a whole.
I'll be honest, I don't exactly follow the #metoo movement but I started thinking about the more subtle ways women continue to be silenced, even in this era:
1. "She's too aggessive/masculine."
2. "She's not nuturing."
3. "I don't trust women who are too successful."
4. "Women who don't want to be married and/or have children are bitter and selfish."
5. "She's too premiscuous."
6. "You wanted equality, so now you have it. Don't come crying to me when you need your tire changed or you want me to take out the garbage."
7. "It's natural for men to cheat. But women shouldn't do that. Stop trying to act like a man."
8. "My job is to protect and to provide for you. Nothing more, nothing less. Stop trying to get me to talk about my feelings."
9. "I just lie to my boyfriend/husband to get what I want because men can't handle the truth."
10. "Girl, you know how men are. He's going to be who he is. Men are naturally selfish and stubborn. You just need to figure out how to deal with it."
What are your thoughts? What do you think are some subtle ways women are repeatedly given the message to just fall in line and not utter a word?"
I thought I'd share this because I just think it helps. Once you read it, you'll know what I mean.
Wow... the pic on the right was taken in June 2016 and the one on the left was taken September 2018. Nothing was wrong, I was just 30 something and happily eating, lol. I wasn’t watching calories and I wasn’t leading an active lifestyle except for the occasional roller skating once every other week. But I was just cool. Now some of my family members did mention I was looking a little fluffy but I was like “whatever, that’s what happens when you’re happy.” But one day I went to try on some clothes at a store and I was not happy with what I saw. I told the hubbs these mirrors in these dressing rooms these days are a hot mess, lol. But then I noticed I was buying bigger clothes and every dressing room mirror was starting to look a hot mess. I said to myself, ”Naw Angie, ya just gaining weight hun.” I can’t lie, I was a little sad. Hubbs was such a sweetheart, he offered to buy me some new clothes that accommodated my shape more but deep down inside, I knew that wasn’t gonna work.
I had to change, but I wasn’t quite ready to commit. I guess the weight was such a shock because I had always been a petite girl growing up so I didn’t have a clue as to how to go about leading a healthier lifestyle. So I just remained stagnate... fast forward to 2017, I saw a pic of the singer Fantasia and whew! I was like, oh I’m so going to do this. I bought a fitness journal and that day I started doing 2 min of jumping jacks a day! No gym membership or nothing. I just Googled some exercises, watched YouTube and got to going! I was determined. For the first month, I also cut out sugar and bread. That’s all I focused on. I gradually changed my diet more, I learned more about my body type and shape, and I started committing myself to working out 3-4x a week. I had a few moments where I slowed down or didn’t always eat the right things but I never stopped.
The next year, I was ready for a little more and decided to participate in a 6-week fitness challenge. It was brutal, but it was beautiful. I was challenged in a way physically I had never been before (unless you count birthing two kids) but I learned how strong and committed I was. Now, the pic of me in the green, is the result of more purposeful living. I have a daily schedule of everything: when I wake up, when I go to work, when I work on my writing, when, how and what I eat, spending time with loved ones, when I workout and go roller skating and most importantly, when I reflect and have “me” time. It’s a lifestyle now and believe it or not, discipline can be extremely sexy. Don’t ever hesitate to link up with me and say “Yo, Angie, I need an accountability partner” because change can be difficult but it’s worth it and it’s always nice when you have someone encouraging you along the way.
According to USA Today's Best Selling Books List of 2018, Michelle Obama's, "Becoming" is ranked number one in a list of 100! Now my question is, are you really surprised? Many times, this list is filled with fiction reads but this memoir of our former FLOTUS stood out amongst the crowd and is has even remained #1 on Amazon since the book debuted in November 2018.
Now I must admit, I enjoyed some of that success as well as my first novel, Discovering Lita literally debuted just a week earlier on Amazon. With Black Friday sales on the horizon and Christmas season fastly approaching, "Becoming" was on many people's shopping list. How I benefitted from this was while my readership shopped for Discovering Lita, many of them bought "Becoming" as well which increased the likelihood of those unfamiliar with my work seeing it under the infamous title "Customers who bought this item also bought"... The end result was the former FLOTUS' book popping up in on my book's page. That was a pretty cool victory in my eyes.
But what's even cooler is that my dad, gifted me with "Becoming" and in my opinion, it was a very pleasant read. I didn't have specific expectations for the book, but what I found most interesting was her detailed description of her road to the White House which really started from childhood. "Becoming" was not a short read but it's length is very necessary in understanding the Michelle Obama we are familiar with today.
"Becoming" also made me think of my own story and as an African American woman who grew up on the South Side of Chicago from humble beginnings as well. I did not experience the consistency of a two parent household with a stay-home mom per se, but I can relate to the love of family that carried us through while growing up in the inner city with limited resources and opportunities in comparison to our Caucasian counterparts. But that's what makes this book so unique is because even with all of the odds stacked against Mrs. Obama, she still managed to become one of the most famous and admired women in America.
So I looked at this picture of myself the other day when I was a little girl saying my Easter speech at church and I started thinking about the "Becoming" journey I've been on my entire life. This picture speaks volumes to me as it is a reminder of where it all began. For those of you who read "Becoming" did the book make you think of your own personal journey?
Circa 1988 with my mommy on Easter Sunday
November 7th is the official launch of Discovering Lita and I'm extremely excited but also humbled by the feedback I have received from all of you so far!
To show my appreciation, if you purchase a paperback copy of Discovering Lita between November 7th and Saturday, November 10th by 11:59pm CST, you will be entered into a random drawing to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card on me! This is exclusive to my mailing list ONLY. You can join my mailing list here.
Once you make your purchase, please email the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org:
1. First and last name
2. A forwarded email or screenshot of your receipt that indicates the date you purchased Discovering Lita (feel free to block out your address and/or any identifying information that you may feel uncomfortable sharing)
3. Email address (you will receive your e-gift card via email for you to use instantly if you want)
I will announce the winner on Sunday, November 11, 2018 no later than 1pm CST via my email list and social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
Thanks again everyone and happy reading!!!
I can't even begin to describe how much fun we had at the Ladies Night Pajama Jam at the Hyatt Midway Hotel in Chicago this past Friday! When you get amazing women, PJs, music, a buffet dinner, open bar, manicures and pedicures, massages, line dancing and sex toys together, you're bound to have a wonderful night. And to show my appreciation to all the beautiful women there, I gifted them with the first full chapter of my book, Discovering Lita! If you missed it, well I won't sugarcoat it, you really missed a great evening. But not to worry, here are a few images from the event. And be sure to follow me on my social media handles to see video footage!