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Archive for the ‘Inspiring’ Category

What is Black Joy?

Written by Michelle D. Jackson

Michelle Jackson, founder of the Black Writers Workspace (BWW), and poets Leonora Martelly and Cameron Sykes share what Black Joy means to them.

For those who may not understand why I love the phrase ‘Black Joy,’ it is essential to remember that the harrowing realities of slavery, poverty, discrimination, lynchings, and police brutality have stained the Black experience in America. To reverse the impact and to maintain our crown, I find joy, peace, acceptance, and laughter in moments shaded by cultural acts of pride. Simple pride. Fierce pride. It doesn’t matter because I know that where Black joy exists, pain diminishes, and authenticity thrives.

Black joy is happiness. It is when you walk into your grandma’s house, smell the warm buttery flavor of a sweet potato casserole browning in the oven, unbutton your jeans and get ready to eat all day long.

Black joy is empowering. It is a spades game where slamming cards on the table rattles from every corner of the room, and boastful pride permeates the air you breathe.

Black joy is acceptance. It is sharing your truth with your tribe, crying tears of reflection, and screaming in the face of inequality with no judgment.

Black joy is unity. It is never knowing your homeboy’s real name because calling him by his nickname is how you honor the strength of your bond.

Black joy is winning. It is a celebration for being ‘the first’ yet refusing to settle with one accomplishment because Black excellence is a way of life, not an isolated incident.

Black joy is honoring what makes our blackness pure magic.

In celebration of Black joy, the Black Writers Workspace, an online community of writers and avid readers, featured poets sharing original work about the black experience. Poet, author, and community activists Leonora Martelly’s work Black Girl Joy illustrates her love of blackness, authenticity, and sisterhood. Click to listen:

IG: @whois.leonora

Poet Cameron Sykes’s poem, Black Boy Joy, serenades Black men with an inspirational song about joy, pain, faith, and brotherhood. Click to hear him recite his work:

IG: @storiesbyprophet

Honoring Black joy is not about dishonoring the joy of any other race. Instead, it is our way of celebrating what makes us unique and extraordinary. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to follow the Black Writers Workspace.

To connect with Michelle D. Jackson IG: @jackson.Michelle, FB: authormichelledjackson or email events@prsolutionsllc.org.

11 Things We’ve Learned as Black Writers

Eight writers from the Black Writers Workspace share what they’ve learned on their journey to publishing

A writer’s job is to challenge a reader’s imagination and draw them into a new and exciting world that inspires, entertains, engages, and informs. Writers are visionaries, adventurers, and innovators who dedicate their craft to composing unique and exciting experiences on paper.

As writers of color, our mission is heightened. We are not only responsible for engaging readers with dynamic stories and real-world lessons, but we are also responsible for honoring our heritage by weaving cultural experiences into the fabric of our work.

Reaching deep within my treasure chest of experiences after years of owning a public relations firm, authoring three books, and building digital media content for various platforms, I’ve discovered several vital lessons about the power of writing while Black. These lessons may be familiar to some, but for me, they are entrenched in my core beliefs and are essential to help build and sustain diverse writers who struggle to find their path in the publishing industry.

Below are 11 lessons written by seven fellow writers from the Black Writers Workspace and me. This list includes motivational, inspirational, and instructional lessons learned and concepts for writers, readers, and publishers:

Lessons Learned

· Black writers have a gift that empowers the world with beautiful stories entrenched in the Black experience. The Black experience is the American experience. Race does not determine patriotism. This country was built on the creativity and innovation of immigrants; without us, there is no American story. (Michelle D. Jackson)

· Black writers are changemakers. Activism starts with the written word, which evolves into the spoken word and is then translated into action. Movements are built when writers become the voice of the people. (Michelle D. Jackson)

· Storytelling is a talent that starts in the writer’s imagination and ends in the reader’s consciousness. A good writer keeps the reader in mind. Readers are smart. They know by how much time and detail we invest in our work to whether we are writing for ourselves or them. Work written for ourselves is driven by passion. Work written for the reader is driven by passion and professionalism. (Michelle D. Jackson)

· Black writers need community. The writing process can be lonely. Community is important for many reasons, including mental health and morale, but more importantly, we all need a network of support, resources, and connections to be successful. (Tee Price)

· Black writers must be committed to fixing each other’s crown when needed. We must learn to encourage each other when we’re wavering and share information and connections so we all can win. (Tee Price)

· The Black voice is worthy of being heard; there is power and healing in the pen. Writing is therapeutic. It is medicine for the soul. (Tunisia Nelson).

· Black writers should never let detractors steal their voice. There is always an audience for what Black writers want to share because every life experience matters. (Micki Berthelot Morency)

· It is a myth that Black people don’t like to read. We enjoy stories to which we can relate. (David Muse)

· Black writers must know they are enough! Accept that some people aren’t going to like what you write, but never work to be like other writers. (Renea Linsom)

· Black writers no longer have to wait or ask permission from publishing companies to recognize them as authors. The ability to self-publish empowers all writers to share their stories with the world. (Tanell Allen)

· Black writers should never give up. However, they must be smart when deciding who to trust and share their work with. (Gregorystone Vojislav)

There is so much to learn and share. This is just the start.

By Author Michelle D. Jackson

Three Things Fear Helped Me Accomplish

Fear is an emotion often associated with feelings of uncertainty, danger, shame, and rejection. It is a dark room where creatures wait to prey on me, a dangerous journey towards the unknown. But every emotion, good or bad, has its purpose, and fear is no different.

Where love brings me joy, warmth, and connection, fear drives me out of my comfort zone. It forces me to fight against my inherent nature to run away from what is unfamiliar. 

Fear is born out of change, and progress cannot exist if we do not accept change. Therefore, if we live trying to avoid fear, we ultimately limit our progress in life.

If fear is designed to hold me back, why did God give me the emotion of fear? And how do I manage my fears and reach my destiny in life?

I’ve asked myself these questions countless times when fear was not my friend when fear caused me to miss out on opportunities in life that God meant for me to experience. But now, after years of learning that every emotion carries good and bad energy, I look back and know that I was better equipped to accomplish my goals when I embraced my fears.

The three biggest goals accomplished in my life were done with love, fear, and change in the passenger’s seat. Below is what fear helped me achieve:

1) Open my life to others.

I am a closet introvert who refuses to hide. That means I love being alone but don’t choose to be alone. Most days, you find me in front of a television clicking back and forth between the news, Lifetime movies, true crime, and Family Feud. I enjoy the sound of my heartbeat in a quiet room and listening to the noise the keyboard makes when my fingertips tap against it. But my fear of true isolation forces me to live out loud. To fight against anything that prevents me from being who God said I am, “the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).” Despite my love of being alone, my life cannot be lived in isolation. Therefore, I live in the open. I write in the open. I love in the open because fear inspires me too.

2) Find true love.

As the story goes, true love is hard to find. This is not only factual, but it is humbling. When the greatest gift God gives us is hard to find, fear, and the anxiety and isolation it often creates, can kick in. Before I met my husband (over twenty years ago), I feared I would never find true love. I’d watched people struggle with fading, wavering, and conditional love, but true love was still a legend. Then I met my husband, a military officer who lived a life that was foreign to me. He was moving around every 3 to 4 years. From city to city. Military base to military base, and he wanted me to be a part of his life. Instead of doing what fear called me to do — stay within my comfort zone, say ‘no,’ remain in my hometown and continue pursuing my career; I pushed against this and instead used my fear of the unknown as my motivation. I decided to join him on his journey, to be his wing-man, his rib, his family. I found true love because my fears allowed me to.

3) Become a mom.

I never played with dolls. Honestly, I never liked them. As a young girl, I would rather play football with my cousins than play dress-up with my friends. So, when I reached my late twenties, and my girlfriends were becoming mothers, I didn’t know how to feel about it. By the time parenthood became an essential part of my dreams, I discovered I could not get pregnant. This sent my husband and me on an 11-year infertility journey with fear and uncertainty. Eleven years! But in the end, regardless of the tears and frustrations, I became a mom. Fear forced me to trust life’s process and gain the patience I needed to overcome longsuffering. It taught me to move in ways that celebrated wins before they became a reality. The day we adopted our son was the day we understood that even in the darkest hours, fear propels us towards our blessings.

Do it afraid. That’s the message. 

Fear should never stop you from moving forward; it should empower you. Let your fears be a beacon of light on your path; let them motivate you to live life out loud, seek greatness in every situation, and trust the process. Because what’s on the other side of fear is true love and achievement.

Today, I pledge to love myself.

Burdened by contrasting views about beauty and likeability, too many of us (women) suffer from feelings of worthlessness.

Based on the world’s standards, we are expected to be authentically ourselves AND entirely acceptable to others. We are to live in virtue of man AND pleasing of God. We are to expect our beauty to be fleeting YET never rest on mediocrity. We are to seek perfection in everything we do YET know it is an unrealistic pursuit.

The bar is set too high. Perfection is a fantasy.

But for those of us determined to play the game and achieve our badge of excellence (at the detriment of our sanity), we are often forced to give up one key life-empowering attribute – self-love.

Self-love inspires true greatness. It is the confidence to be kind to ourselves even when the world is not. It allows us to love the parts of our mind, body, and spirit that are different and unappreciated by others. Self-love is knowing that we are strong, courageous, and fabulous even when no one else thinks so.  

When our self-love is depleted and destroyed, we cannot feel authentic, virtuous, or beautiful. We were never born to hate ourselves; self-hatred, or feelings of inadequacy, are the results of engaging with hypercritical people, seeking perfection, and setting standards of acceptability based on the world’s demands and not our own.

Negative feelings and unhealthy thoughts easily damage the road towards true self-wholeness, self-love, and self-respect. To maintain self-love, we must embrace feelings of worthiness daily by reaffirming that who we are, regardless of our physical beauty, weight, intellect, or economic status, is acceptable. We must release the burdens of perfectionism and celebrate everything that makes us unique and extraordinary.  

Therefore, regardless of the past, I have decided to reclaim my love for who I am and who God made me to be. So, today, I pledge to love myself unconditionally.

The person in the mirror versus the person in my heart

When I look through the distorted lens of an unbridled world, I see a broken vessel, an incomplete soul, and a queen with no crown. I worry about my looks when no one is complaining. I wonder if my femininity and blackness are good enough. I question my intellect and talents. I look for reasons to be ordinary when God made me extraordinary.

Over the years, I realized that my self-love and self-talk didn’t match how I felt on the inside. On the outside, I am an overachiever who struggles to be who God created me to be versus what the world expects of me. Yet, on the inside, there lies this fantastic person with no insecurities who is filled with power, fearlessness, and uncontrollable joy.

See, in my heart, I’m a writer wielding the pen like a samurai. Crafting works of art like glowing brown faces placing limestone at the foot of The Great Sphinx of Giza. Masterpieces churn from my soul like poetry dripping from Langston Hughes’ emancipated mind. I’m a great writer, by no measure set by man, only the heavens.

In my mind, I’m a beauty queen twirling towards the sky. My white chiffon dress is covered in diamonds, and my Jimmy Choo’s have wish-granting powers. When I click twice, a harem of handsome admirers rises to greet me. But when I click three times, the world becomes my playground. 

In my soul, I’m a warrior shuttered in the trenches, strapped head to toe with armored gear, preparing to protect what I love the most. I’m a female warrior with no fear of insult or failed expectation. I fight for what makes my soul stir and gives me peace that no man can control.

So, why doesn’t the greatness I feel in my heart, mind, and soul match my self-love and self-talk? 

Unlearning the misguided lessons of self-love

Humility teaches us to stay grounded and never brag. Self-respect leads us to behave in honor and dignity. Integrity encourages us to have strong moral principles. But why is self-love untaught or considered contrite and arrogant?

Why am I taught to love others but not to love myself? Why am I left to believe that what I see in the mirror cannot reflect what I feel inside? Why don’t we tell our little girls they are beautiful even if their looks don’t match what the media defines as beauty? Why can’t we stop comparing ourselves to other women and trust that there is enough acceptance for everyone? Why aren’t we taught to battle against the negative thoughts in our mind that leads us to hate ourselves?

Today I accept a new truth. For it is not arrogant to love oneself; it is magnificent. It is feeling the cool waters of the Nile River on my face. It is standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and watching the world beneath me. It is all things good, kind, and wonderful. It is accepting that my looks don’t define my self-worth, and my accomplishments don’t determine my status in life.

I’m good just the way I am.

So, I pledge to love myself today and every day. I promise to live like the warrior nestled in my soul, the queen twirling in my mind, and the writer wielding greatness in my heart.  From this day forward, my self-love and self-talk will start with happiness and end with joy. I will live, love, and linger in my extraordinary self. I will bask in the greatness and beauty of God’s imagination. I will give back to the world more than it expects, and I will love myself while working to inspire others to do the same. Today is a BIG day!

We Will Vote!

Check out my latest poem, We Will Vote! I wrote this while I stood in line for over five hours to vote during the first day of early voting in Louisiana. There were hundreds of people standing with me. It was inspiring and well-worth the wait. #makeaplantovote #wewillvote

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we heard you

U.S. Representative John Lewis we heard you

Reverend Dr. William Barber we heard you

First Lady Michelle Obama we heard you

Your voices sung like wind chimes on a still and lonely night

Chattered like the hate that rose against us

Stuttered like hymns hovering above the cotton fields

Your forceful words swung like tattered rope around a lynching tree

Tarnished leaves with blood and tears

Unscathed ground tested by hate and fear

You called us out of idealistic virtue

Where fairness thrived and no color dwelled over man like God

Where rights were assured, and voting was revered as an act of civility and pride

You rocked us from our comfy places to our rightful position

Your words carried us to the warring ground

Stirring us to stand guard over what is sacred to a blessed life

We heard the echo of your crying souls

Banished for its impassioned quest to seal our fate of liberty

We heed the call to move forward and stand firm

We replicate your solid demand to know who we are and why we fight without fault or fear

Martin, we heard you say, “Give us the ballot”

For in the belly of the ballot box are the gems of democracy this land stands for

We believed your conviction and live to make your dream our rallying cry

John, we heard your call to act

And now our commitment is to “get out there and push and pull until we redeem the soul of America”

Your words exemplified your greatness and a stern eye of righteousness

You were a force to be reckoned with

Reverend Barber, we heard your demands

A push for unity from a true Conductor of Peace

“Forward together” we march. “Not one step back!”

Your words embody our fight to fill the coffers of those in need

Despite what the wealthy claim is there’s

It is why we move in unison, hand-in-hand towards equality and justice

Michelle, we heard you sing proud and loud

Words now imprinted on our minds, “Vote like our lives depend on it!”

You spoke to a generation of youth

Pushing for the seeds of justice to be our proudest possession

Teaching grace to angels with warring souls who needed you most

And now we stand, side-by-side, soul-by-soul waiting for our turn to strike a fatal blow to what threatens to make our freedoms no more

We heard you and we accept this challenge

We embrace the dream you set forth into the wind, the purpose of your mission and the thunder behind your words

You stood for us; we stand strong with you

We will vote like the day has no promise of a dawning sun

Like the rights of all men have slung stars into the sky and created the bond that holds our universe together

We will vote because those who died in the blistering cotton fields could not

We will vote because our patient soldiers for peace marched, sat and endured jail to see us through

We will vote like our lives are tied to every ballot, even when our rights are being auctioned to the lowest bidder

We will vote because your words are burning in our soul and drumming songs of victory awakening the better angel in us all

We heard you. NOW, WE WILL VOTE!

By Michelle D. Jackson

I am protected.

I am protected.

Secured.

Armored.

Guarded.

God does not leave me alone or lonely.

God does not leave me unequipped or ill-prepared.

God protects me because I am His most precious possession.

The enemy must defeat Him FIRST before he can touch me.

I am protected.

Secured.

Armored.

Guarded.

I AM GOD’S CHILD.

By Michelle D. Jackson

The Reset: A Poem of Restoration during the COVID Crisis by Michelle D. Jackson

God promised us many things.

A life of glory and merciful meaning.

Purpose, love, and righteousness.

Peace, grace, and selflessness.

He granted us abundance that far reached what we could embody. He blessed us with the power to rise above sickness, hurt, and melancholy.

He gave us his most precious thing, His love transcended in an earthly being.

He loved us so much He left to the world a priceless deed, the life of his son, His only seed.

And now, in the wake of what we can not control, God performs the most sacred role.

He does just what He said He would, He renews, restores, and protects the poor, humbled, and spiritually good.

Through the uncertainty of a sickness we struggle to cure, God resets the world, creating a new, blessed universe, holy and pure.

Our sinking earth ravaged by ego and greed, now has a fighting chance to succeed.

Starting with what He loves most, God fights to unify the family with His heavenly host.

Then seeking to end what is destroying our earth, He uses a virus to remind us of our godly worth.

Replenishing the sanctity of things we can not comprehend, God empowers our fears to bring us back to where He intend.

He reduces pollution while we debate climate change, using His strength to break us out of illogical mental chains.

Seeing to the elderly, who created the path for which we follow, God promotes them to a heavenly home, while our pride fall to an earthly bravado.

Those who die, die strong with fearless faith, as a reminder to the living that death brings God’s ultimate grace.

He has put in motion, The Reset.

A time of prayer, redemption, confession, and reflection.

A time to reconnect, reassess, and redress.

A time to rekindle, remember, and reminisce.

A time to learn to love again with complete fearlessness. A love that doesn’t require touch or feel or tenderness.

But one that consumes the heart and reverberates from six-feet apart.

What may appear final, is far from the end. Only God controls how this world will ascend.

No sickness, no greed, no leader-less land, will destroy what is safely secured in God’s hand.

So stay-in, stay strong, believe what God says is real, but never give up on His power to heal.

Embrace The Reset. You know in your heart it’s time to start again. To put what is important first and make God’s love and kindness transcend.

By Michelle D. Jackson

Poetry Showcase: You in Us by Cambrin Daniel

We are excited to add another poem by writer Cambrin Daniel to our Poetry Showcase.

We are looking for original poetry by new poets and spoken word artists who are passionate, thought provoking and honest. To showcase your work and register to win cash to help launch your writing career, send your poetry or spoken word video to events@prsolutionsllc.org.

Well Done

A Message from an Overachiever with a Restless Heart for God

So often my friends and colleagues ask me, “Do you sleep?” This question is understandable because I can sometimes appear to be constantly working on a new project instead of enjoying my life. Therefore, I always pause before answering because I don’t know if the person is applauding my effort to accomplish my goals, questioning my ability to find peace and contentment in this life or if I look tired and weary from my work. Either way, the question ultimately leads me to think about Christ and his time on earth.

In only 33 years, Christ healed the sick and fed the poor. He counseled people in need and taught those who sought knowledge and understanding. He worked miracles that changed lives and fought for what was right. He loved people who didn’t love him back and he sacrificed his life for our sins. In 33 years on earth, Christ accomplished more than I or anyone could ever accomplish.

So, do I sleep? Yes. Comfortably. Because the things God has asked me to do with my time on earth is worth the sacrifice. It’s worth the long days writing, running my business and nonprofit, and taking care of my family. It’s worth the hard times when I’m unsure of myself but refusing to quit. Don’t misunderstand my work ethic or the work ethic of people in your life like me. I have an amazing life that I want to live like Christ. I’m just focused on one thing, and one thing only – hearing God say to me, “Well Done!” Then I will rest with him in peace for eternity.

Michelle Jackson is an entrepreneur and nonprofit leader and author of fictional novels The Heart of a Man and From Darkness to Night. To learn more about her work, visit http://www.authormichelledjackson.com.

NOW

We are excited to announce the launch of 1stmorningthoughts.com Poetry Showcase. Designed to highlight the work of indie writers who are inspiring the world around them, the showcase will periodically post work that speaks to the heart, mind and soul of poetry enthusiasts. Our first poem is called NOW by writer Cambrin Daniel from Birmingham, AL.

To submit your work, email events@prsolutionsllc.org.

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