Monday, August 8, 2022

The Art of the Apology

On a recent business trip, I was able to reconnect with one of my favorite colleagues and “wax poetic” on what seemed like everything except the business we were actually there for. Outside of family, she is probably the only person I can talk and laugh with for hours on end, and not notice time has passed thus making her an honorary “younger sister.” Because genuine spirits are often hard to find, I take time to enjoy those that are sent my way. So on the last night of the conference, we took in a final dinner and filled the evening with conversation that soon turned to the colorful topic of our relationships—be it with family, friends and, not surprisingly, loves. As expected, tales and laughter ensued along with a few “Girl bye's!” added for emphasis and several “Say what now's?” thrown in for good measure. That’s when she upped the story-time-ante with an anecdote about “the one who got away.” 

With conference sessions officially over, time to kill, and plenty of food and drinks to devour, I was able to indulge in her account of their journey which, thanks to technology, was largely archived in Facebook messages. She highlighted how they began; the miscommunication that had gotten them off track; her belief that she’d been wronged; and concluded with the update that she’d seen him in recent years, but the reception was less than friendly. Being inquisitive by both nature (and degree 😉), I dug a bit deeper in trying to connect the dots—or rather—how the dots got disconnected. So, she handed me her phone and told me to have it. 

I began to scroll, reading messages that weaved throughout their college years leading to adulthood punctuated by family deaths, the birth of children, and concluding in the last few years with their final run-in at an event of a mutual friend. I returned her phone to her and “lovingly” stated, “Girl, you were a whole -------!” Luckily thanks to our no-holds-barred style of communication, she seemingly took no offense but, instead, burst into laughter before genuinely asking, “You think so?” I stated, “Absolutely. You were NOT the victim in this story; HE was!” I’ll spare the details that brought me to my conclusion but, by the end of dinner, she shared genuine remorse regarding their detachment, which led us to the topic of if there was anything she should or needed to do. I simply stated, “Reach out and apologize for your part in the demise of the relationship. If nothing else, you’ll set yourself free and maybe him too.”

 And so, at that dinner table, with the evening sun beautifully setting on the verandah of the restaurant (and with a bit of “liquid courage” along with me rooting her on) she did…and he immediately responded—addressing her by the playful nickname he’d given her back in their college days—thanked her for her kind words and apology and, just like that, a friendship was renewed. And with both being single, it could not be denied that the possibility of more now existed in their space. At the end of the night, she stated that moment was the highlight of her entire trip (even wondering if that was the Divine reason she even came to the conference) and thanked me for helping her reconnect with a person she truly missed having in her life. I was happy to have helped a friend in such a meaningful way. However, I know I would not have been able to offer such advice if I had not begun to put this action more into practice in my own life. 

Let’s face it: apologies can be difficult. However, being human is also difficult, and so mistakes and missteps will occur whether perpetrated by us or occurring to us. Unfortunately, as perpetrator--whether intentional or not--we often times hold on to the belief that offering an apology highlights our flaws and makes us appear weak. At other times, we believe the apology lets the other person off the hook for their part in the transgression. And as a result, we'll often choose to wait for the infraction to be brought to our attention, at which time we may gaslight the other person by playing "clueless," thus diminishing or dismissing their pain; or we simply convince ourselves that because the issue wasn’t immediately raised--if at all--it obviously wasn’t "that bad."

However, what I’ve learned is that the true art of the apology is acting on that small, still voice that tells you to give the apology before it has to be asked for. It has been the most empowering and liberating behavior I’ve learned to embrace in recent years; that is, to grant that gift to a person without them having to seek it. Because truth is, most of us are in tune with our inner voice that tugs on our conscience and heart when we’ve done something or someone wrong; the growth is in acting on that inner voice without needing to be told you should. 

Fortunately, in putting this into practice, the Universe returned the example to me recently in the form of a coworker (surprisingly, an older, white gentleman) who apologized for not speaking to me in the break room weeks earlier. I barely remembered but also was totally unbothered by the incident in the hustle and bustle of work life (and in getting coffee), but I appreciated his humility and humanity. It was an opportunity for me to delightfully be on the receiving end of experiencing that which I’m practicing to more freely give. And it was a reminder that nothing is ever lost by giving an apology, even if the recipient genuinely states it isn't necessary. For what it most certainly does is give others an example of how to extend peace and grace to those who need it and, in turn, increase one's own.

Ironically, on the departure day of my business trip back home, I woke up with a tiny tug of regret in my own heart for addressing my friend’s past relationship actions in such a “colorful way” during dinner despite her laugher. As I waited for my Uber, I sent her a farewell text message along with an apology for my offensive language toward her. She responded that no apology was needed and that she in fact appreciated when folks kept it “all the way real” with her but thanked me for doing so anyway. It was a reminder that we not only should practice what we preach on these journeys to being our best selves, but that when we’ve reached a milestone in our growth, we have a responsibility to preach what we’ve practiced as well in hopes that it will inspire others to do the same. 

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Monday, June 27, 2022

Roe v. Wade v. Kennedy

It’s been a while since I’ve engaged in the “reflection” aspect of my blog. Blame it on a lack of free time or an oversaturation of opinions on pressing topics in which I often share the same views. In other words, if somebody else has already said it—and said it well—I often don’t feel the need to add one more “amen” to the corner. However, the recent and stunning—though not unexpected—overturning of Roe v. Wade was my exception. With outrage that has been palpable, and commentaries both subjectively enlightening and at times infuriating, the “think pieces,” podcasts, and political commentaries have been in abundance. So, again, I wondered if my thoughts and feelings on the matter were possibly not needed, until I reconciled that I hold a unique—and possibly surprising to some—perspective on and connection to this historical event. 

I was born in August of 1973—a mere seven months after the January 22, 1973 passage of the Supreme Court’s 7–2 decision in favor of “Jane Roe” (later identified as Norma McCorvey), declaring that women in the United States had a fundamental right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction and striking down Texas’s abortion ban as unconstitutional. Let’s be clear: many women have made this decision for themselves for years prior to Roe v. Wade albeit illegally, which often lead to dangerous and, most disturbingly, life-ending consequences. The law did not give them permission to make these decisions; it gave them the freedom to make these decisions and be medically, legally and, at times, financially supported in doing so, regardless of their individual choice and right for needing to or simply wanting to make this decision. However, what makes Roe v. Wade so personal to me, is that my mother was facing this very decision while carrying me. 

A military wife and homemaker, and already mother of five, my mother was surprised by the news that she was pregnant (again) with me in the fall of 1972 (affectionally leading me to later be labeled the “oops child”). However, far more pressing than an unexpected pregnancy was that my mother was nearing the age of 40 in a few short months. Today, most folks wouldn’t scoff at someone starting a family at that age (even if still not being medically encouraged). Yet during those years, it was considered extremely high risk, compounded by the fact that my mother suffered from severe hypertension. As a result, the latter raised great concerns for her medical team regarding the impossibility of a successful pregnancy, stating that her placenta may not properly develop and/or separate from her uterus, thus depriving me of oxygen and leaving me severely mentally impaired. Because of this, her doctor—and without question in light of the then newly legalized abortion rights for women—presented my mother with this very option. 

Me--the Miracle Baby
Understandably, the news rocked my mother to her core and she was left, along with my father, to make a literal life-changing decision. However, being a highly religious woman from the South, my mother instead chose to rely on her faith that all would go well and decided to move forward with carrying me to full term--a decision her doctor vowed to support her through by sending her to a clinic that specialized in complicated pregnancies. As for my father, he also supported my mom’s decision and—in true fashion for anyone who knew him—casually stated to her, “Well, we’ve already been blessed with five healthy kids, so if this one is not, it’s ok.” Well, the fact that you’re reading this blog that I've written lets you know how things turned out. And although I’ve been fun lovingly called “crazy” by those who appreciate my humor, I think we can confidently say the proof has been in the "accomplishments pudding" to the contrary (wink). 

My loving parents. RIP.
Throughout my mother’s life, she would recount this story to me on occasion and every time it would make me as emotional as it does now. Moreso because it demonstrated to me that my parents embodied an amount of faith that I am not ashamed to admit I do not (yet) have and—in a similar situation—cannot for certain say I would have been able to lean on in order to make the same decision. My parents would continue to demonstrate such levels of faith throughout our family’s history of tragedies and triumphs that would provide my siblings and I a blueprint to rely on in navigating our own trials and tribulations. So why am I sharing this story? Because despite these unbelievable demonstrations of faith and the blessing that occurred in the form of my miraculous birth and very existence, I remain Pro Choice—not just for me but for every woman who may need to make this decision for a myriad of reasons that should never have to be explained. 

Although most would look at my mother’s decision as her being Pro Life, the irony is that being allowed to CHOOSE to be Pro Life is in itself Pro Choice. Am I grateful for my parent’s decision? Of course. But would I have been disappointed if they chose not to make that ultimate sacrifice just for me, and undoubtedly impact their own lives and those of my siblings? Of course not. How could I be when I would have had no existence or knowledge of a world with me in it? It is because of this reason that arguments “on behalf of the unborn fetus,” have always felt both audacious and flimsy, but I digress. Without a doubt, I am certain my mother made her choice because a life of “what if’s” would have been far harder for her to bear than any hardship of caring for me but, again, it was a choice she was allowed--and had full governmental rights--to make. 

Therefore, seeing this reversal of history has been nothing short of egregious, not only because of this country’s long-standing obsession with governing bodies—be it a woman’s or, most historically, people of color—but because the ramifications of this reversed decision will be catastrophic and the Pandora’s Box that has been opened, thus threatening human rights of every ilk will, without a shadow of a doubt, be called into question mostly under the guise of Christianity, backed by conservatism, yet fueled by greed and control. Spanish philosopher George Santayana once stated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Sadly, as the recent 2022 Sundance Film Festival selection documentary, “The Janes,” so captivatingly explored, remembering the past is not the problem; forgetting we need to fight to keep from returning to it is. 

Unfortunately, the past is very much now our present. Yet the only sliver of hope is the truism that history always repeats itself—for better or for worse. Therefore, the same fight that was required leading up to the 1973 landmark decision is the same fight that must be reignited now. It is a fight we all must engage in because regardless of where your political, personal, or spiritual convictions fall on this debate of life versus death, what are someone else’s rights that lost today will be your rights that are lost tomorrow. What you choose may not be what I choose; what I choose may not be what you choose, but every choice should be left to the individual doing the choosing. And although this country has not always delivered on upholding those unalienable rights especially for those who often needed them the most, it in no way absolves us from relentlessly demanding these promises be fulfilled. That can never be a choice; that must always be mandatory.   

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Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Sundance Festival Debuts Several Must-See Black Films

As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to hold its grip on our return to normalcy, the Sundance Film Festival kept things moving forward by offering its attendees a virtual experience for the second year in row. Although a limited number of events were held in Park City, Utah, and at satellite theaters across the country, the switch from in-person to virtual did not cost the festival its greatest commodity: an array of quality films on the horizon. Therefore, in the spirit of Black History Month, make note of a few must-see films and documentaries about and by persons of color heading to your local theater or your favorite streaming platform soon. 


I thought perhaps I was being a bit over-zealous when I selected Director Carey Williams' film "Emergency," as my festival kickoff pick, since it debuted at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night. I needn't have worried since the rollercoaster ride writer K.D. Dávila takes viewers on not only kept me wide awake, it also kept me on the edge of my seat. "Emergency" follows straight-A college student Kunle and his carefree best friend, Sean, as they plan for the most epic night of their lives by attempting to be the first Black students to complete their college's legendary end-of-semester, frat row, multi-parties stroll. However, their plans are suddenly and frighteningly interrupted when a quick pit stop home finds them discovering an unidentified white girl passed out on their living room floor. Faced with the decision of calling the police and possibly risking their own lives under such questionable circumstances, Kunle, Sean, and their Latino roommate, Carlos, must find a way to de-escalate the situation and save a life while not risking their own, simultaneously pitting the roommates--and their ideologies surrounding police brutality--against each other. Although leveraged by several comedic moments, the laughs will in no way allow viewers to avoid asking themselves that critically important question: "What would I do in this situation?" "Emergency" is slated for a spring release in theaters and on Amazon Prime. 


When I saw Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of the legendary Roots hip hop band listed among the executive directors of the documentary, "Descendant," I was confident it would not disappoint, especially after viewing Questlove's much lauded 2021 Sundance debut, Summer of Soul. Directed by Margaret Brown, "Descendant" tells the story of the Clotilda--the last slave ship that illegally arrived off the coast of Mobile, Alabama in 1860--and its enslaved ancestors who mobilized after emancipation to form Africatown, which still exists today and remains populated by the ship's descendants. Although the ship was intentionally destroyed after its final voyage in an attempt to erase history, the desperate search for any pieces of the ship's remains are fueled by a community fighting against the threat of also being erased due to "industrialized racism" and their fight to keep their rich heritage and legacy alive. Of important note, after "Descendant" debuted, it was announced that it had been picked up for worldwide distribution by Netflix and Higher Ground, Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company. Now if that doesn't give it the stamp of approval, nothing will. Check it when it drops later this year. 

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy

It's safe to say that the antics of Kanye West as of late have been akin to a trainwreck you can't look away from. Ironically, I couldn't look away from "jeen-yuhs" either, but for a completely different reason. Now make no mistake about it: Kanye is always going to Kanye, but it's something engaging about seeing young Kanye; southside of Chicago Kanye; producer-only Kanye, desperate to be a something more than a beats maker and even more desperate to convince those around him that he could be. The documentary, which was born one fateful night at Jermaine Dupri’s birthday party in 1998 when Clarence "Coodie" Simmons, a Chicago public access TV host, first interviewed the 21-year-old, follows West and his move from Chicago to New York City to land a record deal. Simmons decided to keep his camera rolling, and recorded West for years, highlighting the hustle of his now friend and budding producer through his rise to global icon. Although Sundance only debuted part 1 of the trilogy, which included scenes of a young Kanye pacing the Roc-A-Fella hallways playing any staffer who--often irritably--would pause from their duties to give his early version of "All Falls Down" a passive listen to the intimate conversations captured between Kanye and his mother, Donde, it was enough to make me look forward to parts 2 and 3 for a closer look at the man behind the music and often the mayhem."jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy" is set to debut on Netflix February 16th. 

We Need to Talk About Cosby

Sigh. Actually, make that super heavy sigh. Before comedian and now director W. Kamau Bell's documentary of the fall of America's favorite TV dad--Bill Cosby--could hit the screen, the debates had begun regarding whether Bell should have embarked on this project at all, which many saw as a betrayal to the black community. However, just as Bell stated the loss of an icon was one that he struggled with personally, it quickly becomes evident that he was not alone and that "we" all needed to talk about this loss as a family. This is why--akin to Bell's relaxed yet quirky conversational approach to the hard-hitting subjects he features on his weekly CNN series, United Shades of America,--the documentary feels less like "trial by armchair jury" and more like that late-night conversation you have sitting around with family after Thanksgiving dinner, when everyone is too full and too tired to keep it anything less than real. With that, Bell digs into Cosby's nearly 50 years in show business as one of the most recognizable Black celebrities in America and what his work and actions say about America then and now. With commentary from such notable analysts as Jemele Hill, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Todd Boyd, fellow actors and long-time friends of Cosby, and, most importantly, several of Cosby's victims-turned-survivors, "We Need to Talk" urges us to reconsider not only what we know about Cosby but also about the culture that produced and celebrated him. The documentary which is currently airing on Showtime, is delivered in four, hour-long segments. 

That's it; that's all for now, folks. As you trudge through these last few months of a more-brutal-than-expected winter, may these hot releases and the promise of those to come, keep you entertained until we're all back outside. Continue to stay safe!

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