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OH HELL YES: Making Space For Life To Take Shape

shape your world

For the past few weeks, I’ve been binge-watching Girlfriends, one of my favourite sitcoms. I’m currently in the middle of season 5 – Joan and William are (inexplicably) in a relationship, Lynn has connected with her birth parents, Toni is pregnant and ducking divorce papers from her estranged husband Todd, and Maya just got a huge endorsement from Rev. Al Sharpton for her girl-you-can-do-it book, Oh Hell Yes.

It’s Maya’s story that currently resonates with me – our relationship statuses aren’t the same, but our prioritization of our children, our desire to do the work we’re passionate about, and our desperate fear of settling and being stuck in something that makes us miserable ARE the same. Funnily enough, these same traits resonated in a real book I read recently – Shonda Rhimes’ Year Of Yes, which details Rhimes’ journey through a year where she said yes to everything that scared her. After reading her book at the end of 2015, I decided I was going to make 2016 my year to say yes – or, oh HELL yes – and I was going to put themes of priority, passion work, and not settling in the forefront of my mind to create the life I want.

Walking into 2016, I realized that the only way I’d be able to live the life I wanted would be to make room for it. The work I want to do, the experiences I want to have, the goals I want to achieve – none of them will come to fruition if there isn’t space for them to thrive. I took a big leap by leaving my job and taking on a new role that gives me more time for my family, my writing, and my other projects. I dropped projects that were taking up time and not giving me equal ROI. I was approached with some opportunities that in the past, I would have hemmed and hawed over before likely declining them out of fear, but this time I didn’t waste time – I said yes, jumped in, and blossomed because of them. (Note: there’s a message here about innately knowing the difference between declining something because you know in your heart of hearts it isn’t for you, and declining because you’re scared, even though you know you’re capable – or at least curious about your capability. Sometimes fear masks itself as humility, but we know in the pit of our stomachs that we’re lying to ourselves. Might write more about that later.)

I’m determined to see some real progress in a variety of arenas this year, and I quickly realized that a) I had to stop talking about it and BE about it and b) nothing was going to grow if I didn’t clear the space for them to do so. Change is extremely difficult for me, so stepping out of my comfort zone has been an uncomfortable process. However, I believe so earnestly in the promise of the things I’m working towards that sacrificing my comfort is a necessary move.

Last year, my goal was simply to get through the day. Balancing my first year of being a working mom took a lot out of me, but set me up for this year – where I’m back to having goals, benchmarks, and renewed ideas of what success looks like to me. I have big plans, and now I have the space to execute them. This year, I’m not just saying yes. I’m saying, oh, HELL yes.

What is one thing you can let go of to make room for what you want or need in life?

BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT: Moving Past 2015

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Exhale.

It’s after midnight on December 31st, officially making it the last day of the year – and all I can think to do is exhale.

I didn’t even realize that holding my breath had become a habit until recently. While working on my vision board for 2016 and reviewing what 2015 was for me, I caught myself holding my breath. A lot. It didn’t take much for me to hypothesize that that was my psychosomatic response both in anticipation of what’s to come, and in reaction to what had already come to pass. I flinch and hold my breath when I think about what 2015 was. I hold my breath and pray when I think about what I hope 2016 will be.

I had some wins in 2015, but if I’m being honest about this past year, it was simply about keeping my head above water. This year I juggled the most balls I’ve ever juggled, so it’s no surprise to me that I didn’t feel like I progressed as far as I would have wanted – I was too busy standing in one spot, trying to keep all the balls in the air. I grew and I learned a lot, but didn’t move forward in a way that signifies a level of success for me – so while this year wasn’t terrible (asking myself “But did you (or anyone you love) die though?” helps keep things in perspective), it wasn’t one of my best.

I hold my breath when I’m nervous. Or when I’m panicky and overwhelmed. Or when I’m happy and excited (and sometimes subconsciously expecting something bad to happen next). I held my breath when I walked back into work for my first day after mat leave, and when I was about to film a segment for a TV show, and when I awaited news to see if I earned a fellowship position (that I didn’t get). I held my breath when Little Magician took her first steps, and when I stood up for myself in ways I never imagined I would have. There were good moments and great moments – but when I looked back at my resolutions for 2015 and saw that very few of them came to pass, I realized that I failed to breathe life into my year.

Moving into 2016, I plan to hold my breath less and breathe more. I want to inspire and be inspired, and those very words aren’t possible without the intimation of breathing. I want to keep growing, but also progress in life – so those balls I’m juggling? I have to graduate from standing in one spot and watching myself toss and catch them, to learning how to keep them in the air while looking and moving forward.

Here’s to the year that was and the year that will be. And if nothing else, I’ll remember to breathe.

HOT EVENT: Mirror Images: The Culture Of Digital Content Creation

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My eyes were opened when I read this literacy study, showing that girls were drawn to digital media while boys preferred print. I was even more intrigued when I read further and learned that Black girls read the most out of any other ethnic group captured in the study, comprised of 32,000 students at 130 schools in the UK. I was a girl who loved to read and write. I’m now a grown woman who primarily utilizes digital media for communication. Children today are growing up in the digital age, and I can’t help but wonder what the future (both near and distant) will hold for this medium. With those thoughts in mind, my next Mirror Images event was born.

On Sunday, September 27th, I’ll be hosting my 2nd Mirror Images event, called Mirror Images: The Culture Of Digital Content Creation. After last year’s awesome inaugural event, I knew I’d be back with another topic to delve into – and I’m really excited about this one.

After reading stats like the aforementioned girls in digital media, and breaking news about the rising rates of entrepreneurship among women, I was attracted to the idea of talking with women who have their hands in one or both of those areas – women who are digital content creators, who have expanded into entrepreneurship, and who have done the research to understand how women – particularly women of colour – are utilizing digital media in unique ways. As a blogger and freelance writer, I constantly engage in conversations about digital media online, but with Mirror Images, we’re taking the discussion live and direct!

I’ll be moderating a lively talk with the group, while representing the blogging/freelance writing side of digital content creation. My incredible panelists include:

Emily Mills: A mom, wife, full-time media professional, and creator of How She Hustles, a network for women. With solely a social media presence – no website or money spent on advertising – Emily has turned her online network into one that thrives offline, consistently selling out her How She Hustles live events.

Nehal El-Hadi: A writer, researcher, media producer, and doctoral candidate in Planning at the University of Toronto, where she’s studying how women of colour engage online through social media.

Sajae Elder: A graduate of Humber College’s Journalism School, Sajae is a digital content producer with a passion for hip hop, film, and cultural identity. Currently, she’s a freelance writer, social media manager, and segment producer of the wildly popular podcast, Gyalcast.

Rochelle Brown: One of Canada’s most popular vloggers, Rochelle is the mastermind behind Crazylightskingirl on YouTube. After vlogging for just one year, Rochelle’s following has surpassed 110,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 64,000 followers on Instagram.

Dope lineup, right? I thought so. My sponsors SoulAfrodisiac and RFlavour are also helping to make this entire event pop.

If you’ve ever wondered about one or more of the following, raise your hand:

How do you start out in digital content creation, and how do you find your niche in what seems like an oversaturated area?

What’s the trick behind turning an online audience into a live one? 

How can digital content creation become an entrepreneurial income stream? 

What is the best way to capture – and keep – an audience or online following?

What are the top social media applications, and how can you use them to share content or build business?

In what ways are women – and women of colour – utilizing digital media uniquely?

To get the answers to these questions and more, take that raised hand and click here to buy your ticket for Mirror Images!

There will be mix and mingling time. There will be an interactive talk with my panelists, moderated by yours truly. There will be a Q&A session for you to delve deeper into some of the themes and topics that arise. Come to connect offline, and leave with ways to improve online!

Here are the details:

When: Sunday, September 27th at 2-6pm

Where: The United Steelworkers Hall – 25 Cecil Street (near College and Spadina – free parking at rear, and wheelchair accessible)

How much? $15 earlybird tickets available at http://mirrorimages.ticketleap.com/digital/ (but not for long! Prices rising soon!)

Questions? Want to be a sponsor? Media inquiries? Get in touch with me.

My 1st Mirror Images event was a great success, and I’m looking forward to the same on September 27th – one month to go! I hope to see you there, where we can connect, learn, and grow together!

#WFC2015: The 2015 Women’s Freedom Conference Is Coming!

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Life has been hectic, but it’s generally been the kind of good hectic that keeps butterflies in my tummy and gives life the sort of exciting, out-of-control feeling that I thrive on at times.

A lot of wonderful new things are in the works, and one of those things is the 1st Women’s Freedom Conference, which I am SO proud to be a part of! If you’re a dope woman of colour, or know a dope woman of colour – keep reading.

While I believe that those of us who are “other” can and should find ways to burrow ourselves into the mainstream, I’m a huge advocate of creating your own space – space to exist, to shine, to share, to be. It’s no secret that marginalized people don’t have red carpets rolled out in their honour, with escorts at the ready to usher them to spaces where they are positively centered. With the Women’s Freedom Conference, intersectional women of colour are creating that space for other intersectional women of colour, to share their stories, their expertise, and their perspectives on life and liberation.

Our Leadership Team and Advisory Board are made up of incredible women like Feminista Jones, Reagan Gomez-Preston, Jamilah Lemieux, Linda Sarsour, and many others who represent the spectrum of women we hope to hear speak on October 25th.

Here’s a bit from our press release:

“On October 25, 2015, the Women’s Freedom Conference will center and amplify the unique voices and experiences of underrepresented women who have been disenfranchised beyond gender alone– women of color whose identities are intersectional and whose womanhood is shaped and defined along those intersections.

Last year, three close friends were having a conversation and one raised the idea of hosting an action that would bring together women of color from around the world together in one space. She asked the other two women if they would be interested in working to make it happen and they enthusiastically agreed. Initially conceived as a “freedom march” that would convene thousands of women in one American city, the women later decided that the platform would be more widely accessible to more people if it was a digital conference that could be accessed from anywhere in the world.”

My favourite thing about this conference is that it’s all digital – no need to travel across states and borders to attend. Find an internet connection, and you’re in there. As the International Marketing & Promotion Committee Leader, this is HUGE for me in encouraging women outside of the U.S. to attend and participate, and eliminates a lot of obstacles that women would face otherwise.

“The mission of the conference is to center Women of Color– our success, our concerns, our work, our activism, and our existence as vital contributors to making the world a better place. We want to make sure that women of color from around the world have a space to speak out and be heard, to teach others and to learn from each other, and to inform people of the work that they are doing in their respective communities.

Our goals include providing practical, real-world information from a diverse group of women, many of whom are actively working to improve the lives of women of color around the world. We want to make this information available to as many people as possible and we believe that utilizing modern technology is the best way to do so. Participants will engage in conversations, seminars, and direct actions focused on the empowerment of women of color by building solidarity and promoting sisterhood.”

Our Call for Submissions is now LIVE! If you are a woman of colour who has something to say or to share with the world, here is your chance.  Please review our submission details, and throw your brilliant hat in the ring!

Perhaps you don’t want to speak, but you want to attend virtually – stay tuned for more info as we get ready to launch the Women’s Freedom Conference on October 25th from 9am-9pm EST! Watch by yourself or organize a “watch party” with some friends, and take in all the amazing things we’ll have to offer! There may be opportunities to attend official watch parties in your city or town (Toronto, I’ve gotchu), so feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to know if someone is hosting in your area, or if you’re interested in doing so yourself!

So, what am I looking for?

I hope you’re as excited for the Women’s Freedom Conference as I am! More good things are on the way!

FULL OF YOURSELF: The Audacity of Self-Confidence

 

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“You can’t wake up looking for the recession.” – Jenifer Lewis

While doing some research, I came across an episode of Black Actress featuring the incomparable Jenifer Lewis. As soon as I heard that quote, I internalized it in a way that told me something I needed to hear that day: “Bee – stop looking at the things you lack. Stop claiming your deficits and ignoring your gifts.” It’s easy to fall into a self-confidence recession, and sometimes I have to ensure that I don’t fall into that hole.

There’s an air of audacity around self-confidence in women. From birth, it’s drilled into us that it’s more noble to minimize compliments and to not toot our own horns. We’re taught that it’s preferable to be more sugar than spice. We try to embody “everything nice” until we see that the jig is up – “everything nice” usually serves others at our expense, and that realization sometimes comes too late. To buck those trends – to accept compliments, to celebrate ourselves, to stop worrying about being nice and start busying ourselves with being authentic –  breaks the mold of what “good girls” do, thereby fragmenting the view of what a “lady” is.

You’re more malleable when you aren’t self-aware. You’re easier to predict and control when you aren’t self-assured. People know what to expect of you and how much space you’ll take up when your words and actions show that the answer is “not much.” I realized I didn’t want to be malleable, predictable, or controllable. I wanted more than the basics and more than the small space I allowed myself, and the key to that is through self-confidence.

There’s levels to this, though. For me, self-confidence is rooted in the fact that there ain’t nobody else out there like me. No one with my skills, laugh, height, skin tone, hair texture, voice. No one with my past. No one awaiting the gifts that are coming specifically for me in the future. There’s no one who possesses all these things the way I do – and for that fact alone, how can I not revel in the fact that I’m a 1 of 1?

I work damn hard, too. If someone compliments something I’ve done, I’d be a gotdamn fool to act like my merits are minuscule. And trust me – I’ve been that gotdamn fool. I’ve said “Oh, that was just a thing I did,” or “Gosh, it’s nothing big” when I’ve actually wanted to heartily say “Thank you!” and bask in the fact that yes, I did that.

I love me. I didn’t always – I didn’t hate myself, but I was indifferent – but I do more and more as the years pass. I love me enough to bounce back when someone else doesn’t. Or when I’ve failed and had to remind myself I’m worth the effort to try again. I love me enough to say “I want more” and follow up with “You deserve it. Go get it.” I love me, so it makes bouncing back from “I’m not feeling me” to “I’m dope as a muhfucka” a bit easier.

When did we start to believe that any step into self-confidence equated to arrogance? When did we start to believe that it was more important to make others comfortable than to take up our rightful space in the world? When did we decide to wait for someone else to confirm the things we already saw in ourselves? When did it begin to matter that other people sometimes don’t like the fact that you like yourself?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: low self-esteem is an epidemic of massive proportions. Playing yourself small under the guise of “being humble,” denying yourself the opportunity to be enriched by others, not celebrating the things that make you you – I don’t know about y’all, but acting like this starves me. I like feeling full, and when someone tells me it’s bad to be full of myself, I remember another necessary quote from Nikki Giovanni:

and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu
so she replied: show me someone not full of herself
    and i’ll show you a hungry person
Fight the recession. Be full.

JEANNINE, PT. 2: Sharing A Story Of Mental Illness

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In today’s post, we continue with part 2 of Jeannine’s story of living with mental illness. Jeannine recently disclosed her diagnosis with bipolar 2 disorder, and today we’ll get a bit deeper into her story. If you missed part 1, check it out here!

Mental Illness Misconceptions

The biggest misconception people have about mental illness is that we are ‘crazy’ and dangerous. I hate when people talk about how they met someone who was just so rude and angry about something that she/he “must be bipolar.” That is a huge pet peeve of mine because everyone gets angry and that certainly does not define the disorder. Or when I tell people about my disorder they try to comfort me by telling me about the one time they were “depressed” over a breakup or something similar. I am always like OMGosh that is sadness, not depression. There is a lot of ignorance surrounding the disorder because of the images that are portrayed of people with mental illness. You rarely hear the good. It is often that they killed someone or did a mass murder or were gunned down by police. It frustrates me because there are so many people who have a mental illness or bipolar who are managing and living their lives without any violence. There are good aspects to my illness during hypomania. I become very creative and productive. I can complete a weeks’ worth of tasks in a day. I need little sleep and feel super refreshed and energized. I love being hypomanic because of my ability to just be on the ball and stress free.  A lot of people are unaware of the hypomanic or manic aspects of bipolar disorder.

Coping Strategies

I am registered for a Dialectical Behavioural Therapy or DBT program and have been on the waitlist for over a year now. My treatment is still a work in progress and I really wish I had more information or a better plan here, but the truth is I really don’t. I take it one day at a time and try really hard to monitor my moods, symptoms and their manifestations. I also have limits on my bank accounts, no credit cards, and live directly on cash. It helps to avoid overspending, which is a symptom of hypomania. My diagnosis is still new to me and I am working on developing better treatment plans for myself. I self medicate a lot and that is something I really want to work on.

About Jeannine’s Support System

My support system consists of my dog, a few friends, my ex, and my counsellors.

jeannine misty

My biggest savior in my whole treatment is my dog Misty. She is my saving grace and I say it all the time, she saves my life every single day. My dog keeps me grounded and reminds me to enjoy the little things in life. I go for walks and get to be in nature, which helps me so much. I can relieve stress by just petting her and hugging her. I cry to her and confide in her. I know it sounds strange because she is only a dog, but the love we have for each other and our connection is what I need on a daily basis. She is the best part of my life and I want to take this opportunity to say that emotional support animals (ESA) should be recognized in Canada and not just the US. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have her.

[My friends] show more understanding and tolerance than before because of [bipolar 2 disorder] and they allow me to express myself more.  I have very few friends, one in particular, who I feel completely comfortable talking to about my illness because she doesn’t judge.  She knows how to listen and understands how difficult it is for me to talk about it. She has the necessary empathy to give me her undivided attention and I love her so much for that.  Thanks baby girl – you know who you are! My family doesn’t really know enough about it to say anything. It is definitely not something that we talk about — at all!

I wish I had a better support system, but you can’t force someone to support you.  I do wish that I had a place to talk openly about what I feel and what I go through daily. It would be nice to know other people who struggle the way I do, but are successful in their management of their illness.

When Well-Meaning Words Hurt

I don’t like when people say that they know someone who has this disorder and tell me about a bunch of horrible things the person has done, only to say “Are you sure you have bipolar?” as if the disorder is only associated with bad things. There are times when I am hypomanic and I wish I would stay up there. Since I have become a little more open I have heard a plethora of advice, such as “Maybe if you didn’t give in to your disorder…” or “Just tell yourself to get up!” Oh, and my favourite is “I think you use your disorder as an excuse, and maybe if you didn’t label yourself then you wouldn’t feel the way you do.” The worst thing I think I have ever heard and still hear a lot is to keep my disorder a secret because I will be labeled. I absolutely despise when people say that. I feel like there is truth to what they are saying and that is all the more reason to talk about it and let people know. If we don’t start the conversation, how can we ever expect things to change?

Jeannine’s Inspirations

There are a few people who inspire me. Jenifer Lewis, the actor, because she is amazing at her craft. I had no idea she was bipolar and when I found out it just amazed me because of the numerous roles she has been in. She is an amazingly versatile actor. My biggest inspiration though is Melody Moezzi, she is the author of Bipolar Life. I love her book because I found it so funny and real. Melody is a Middle Eastern American who is an attorney, author, public speaker, and advocate for bipolar sufferers. I love how she has battled and overcome so much. She had a lot of adversity because like the Black community, the Middle Eastern community does not really acknowledge mental illness. There is a very dismissive attitude amongst both cultures. Her fearlessness inspires me often. She gives me a lot of hope and is a constant reminder that I can heal from this.

What Jeannine Has Learned About Herself

I have learned that I am a tough woman and can overcome anything. I have been through a lot and am still here telling my story.

Final Question: For people you know who may be finding out about your mental illness for the first time via this blog post, what do you most want them to understand?

That I am still Jeannine, the same person that they have always known.

I’m so honoured to be the conduit for Jeannine’s story, and can’t tell her enough how proud of her I am. If you’d like to reach out to her, please shoot me an email and I will forward to her. 

Continuing the conversation, I’ll be hosting an important event on February 7th at The Royal Cinema: the premiere of The Blind Stigma, a documentary focusing on mental illness in the Black community. Please check out the documentary trailer, an interview with the filmmaker Stacy-Ann Buchanan, and grab your tickets here! Let’s keep this going and keep lifting each other up in love and support. 

JEANNINE, PT. 1: Sharing A Story Of Mental Illness

It’s kind of serendipitous how things work out sometimes.

Today marks Bell Let’s Talk Day – a day spearheaded by Bell Canada to shine a light on the discussion of mental illness in our society. I didn’t plan for this post to be published today, but it makes all the sense in the world that it is.

Today’s post features part 1 of the story of Jeannine, a university friend of mine who reached out recently with an unexpected request. It’s my honour to fulfill that request and to give her the space to share something she’s kept hidden for too long. So, without further ado, meet Jeannine.

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3 Things About Jeannine

I used to take skiing lessons and still can’t ski. I do mixed martial arts and box. I have 13 nieces and nephews for a total of 21 members of what I consider to be my ‘immediate’ family.

The Big Reveal

I have bipolar 2 disorder and a hint of borderline personality disorder (BPD).  I was formally diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder in November 2011 and have not yet had a formal diagnosis for BPD. If I could sum up my mental illness in one word it would be ‘sucky/crappy’. It is definitely the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life and it consumes a huge part of my life.

What Bipolar 2 Disorder Looks & Feels Like For Jeannine

Bipolar 2 disorder looks like chaos to me and feels lonely. I often refer to my illness as my shame because for me it still is shameful. It’s as if I judge and stigmatize myself. Anyway, it is very hard for me to make decisions – especially those that affect my entire life – such as career choice or relationships. Even [deciding] what I want to eat becomes difficult. My thoughts race a lot making it difficult to form a clear thought process. When I am depressed this is especially prominent. My mind can go off on a tangent of insults, put downs, a synopsis of all my disappointments, and remind me of every bad thing anyone has ever said to me. I was once told by a counselor that I have a negative box. I open it up when I am depressed and go through all of the problems I have ever encountered in life. A counselor told me this prior to my diagnosis and I have never forgot because that is exactly what it feels like. In those moments I hate myself and think that no one in the world cares about me or will notice if I am gone. I am in a dark place and for some reason I feel horribly safe there.

It doesn’t make sense, but in those moments I want to remain in my depression alone because letting anyone in is dangerous. I become full of shame and embarrassment with an overwhelming warmth of loneliness.  I use the word ‘warmth’ because it is warm and comfy being alone in those terrible moments. To let someone I know see me like that would change everything they know about me and how they perceive me. I never let anyone see me there – no one. I have been told by my closest friends that I hide my illness very well and I think I do. Actually, I know I do. I have worked very hard to hide my shame, but it doesn’t take long for a roommate or someone who lives with me to notice that something is wrong or that I am “different”. I’ve had a roommate diagnose me with bipolar before I really knew what it was, let alone been diagnosed. This disorder affects my judgement, decision making, my relationships, my mood, concentration, and sometimes my social interactions. It is a hard thing to deal with and I often question my mental state when doing anything, especially with people that I know.

Jeannine’s Journey To Diagnosis

I knew that something was different about me and that is why I started to see my doctor and counselors. I wanted to be “fixed” and expected it to happen. I thought that I would go to the counselor and they would be able to connect the dots, unleash my demons, and send me on my way – boy, was I wrong. I had always been a bright student and did well in school, but when I got to high school I just stopped caring. I stopped trying and going to class and was completely withdrawn. By the time I got to Western (the University of Western Ontario) I had enough with this disengagement and started to see a counselor. I kept going back to these counselors and was so hungry for an answer and didn’t stop until I found one. I went to many doctors and services in hopes to get some help and support in my search for an answer. I was also aware that I had mental illness in my family and knew that there was a possibility that I had one. I had always been a sensitive person, but it got so extreme that I needed help. I thought that everyone hated and judged me, especially when I arrived at Western. I felt like a fish out of water and needed to get grounded, so when I found about the free service I took advantage of it.

All About Treatment

Treatment is still very much a work in progress. I have a hard time coming up with a concrete plan that works, but have been doing a lot of trial and error. Right now, treatment looks like medications, which are Wellbutrin and Abilify. I also see a couple counselors and have a psychiatrist. I have learned some coping skills, such as grounding exercises, breathing techniques, and medication. I am also aware of regular sleep, a good diet, and exercise, but do not follow these guidelines the way I should.

I struggle with every aspect of my treatment. I never used to take my medication because I thought it was a band-aid solution. I wanted to be cured and not treated – that was my goal. Last year I was receiving no treatment except for counselling and got a huge wake up call. I learned where my illness can take me and I don’t want to ever go back there, so I started taking my medication regularly.

Jeannine’s story continues in tomorrow’s post – learn more about her treatment plan, the most important person in her support circle, her inspirations, and more. Also, you’ll learn more about The Blind Stigma, a documentary discussing mental illness in the Black Canadian community. Today, follow the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on Facebook and Twitter to support the initiative.

WISH/CREATE: Why I Created #MirrorImages Ft. Black Canadian Women In Media

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There’s nothing more liberating – and frightening – than deciding to create instead of wait.

Let me explain.

I tend to get myself into trouble (good trouble) when I open my mouth or mind and say “I wish…” I’m usually wishing to see something, do something, have something, or visit somewhere. And I’m usually waiting for someone else to do the leg work in order to grant me my wish.

Lately, I’ve taken a bit more of a proactive approach to making my wishes come true in two big ways.

One day, I openly lamented the scantiness of parenting blogs run by non-White moms and dads in Canada. The next day, I stayed up til 5am buying domains, picking themes, setting up emails and social media accounts, and writing posts for The Brown Suga Mama.

One day, I read a piece about natural hair in the eyes of Canadian media from one woman’s perspective, and openly wished to attend an event featuring Black Canadian women in the industry. Two hours later, Mirror Images: Conversations On Diversity & Representation In Media was born.

The presence of Black women in media has been a major talking point of late. Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, black-ish, Suits, and Sleepy Hollow frequently come up in discussion, opposing the images of Black women offered via reality show vehicles. Here in Canada, the recent Globe and Mail gaffe mixing up Traci Melchor and Tracy Moore led to discussions on the cross-race effect, or other-race bias. Arisa Cox’s earlier-mentioned piece on being ordered to straighten her natural hair (and her decision to quit instead) was the final catalyst to the creation of Mirror Images. These points and more inspired me to forge a space to have an authentic conversation about the issues around diversity and representation in media, particularly from the perspective of Black Canadian women.

I find that the majority of conversations I engage in around race and media come from an American lens. Having those kinds of discussions here in Canada seems rare, but is not something we should be shying from. As I’ve said before, Canada’s PR team is GOLDEN – we often snuggle under our cozy blanket of multiculturalism, but far too often we pull that blanket over our heads and refuse to discuss the nuances of that multiculturalism in various contexts. I’m hoping that Mirror Images will help us to pull that blanket down and bring light to a variety of issues from a Canadian perspective – this is a conversation that EVERYONE needs to be a part of.

I have an incredible panel line up:

Tatiana King: Radio Personality, G 98.7FM’s “The African Groove Show”
Arisa Cox: Freelance Journalist & Host of Big Brother Canada
Kim Johnson: Producer, CityNews
Nneka Elliott: Reporter/Anchor/Co-host, CP24 Breakfast
Ingrie Williams: Stylist & Editor of HOLR Magazine
Namugenyi Kiwanuka: Columnist & Videographer

These women are all representing various arms of Canadian media, and will all bring rich perspectives and experiences to the table. With these women, I hope to foster an important discussion and allow room for new connections to be made. If you’re in the media industry, aim to be, create content, or consume media, this event is for you. Mirror Images sponsors Harlem Restaurant, R Flavour, Soulafrodisiac, and Caribbean Vibrations TV all believe in the vision of the event, and the support has been amazing. Like I said at the start of this post, creating the things you wish for is liberating yet frightening – but genuine support helps to alleviate some of those jitters.

I’m hoping you’ll be able to show support as well – if you’re in the Toronto area, please join us for Mirror Images: Conversations On Diversity & Representation In Media on Sunday, October 26th from 1:30-5pm at Harlem Restaurant (67 Richmond Street East)! Tickets are $10 and available here on Brown Paper Tickets.

Mara Brock Akil’s acceptance speech at the 2013 Black Girls Rock award show has stuck with me since I first heard it. She stated “My work is driven by my belief that the human spirit needs validation,” and continued to let us know, “Even if no one else sees you, I see you.” With Mirror Images, I want us to be seen, to be heard, to be validated, and to be respected. That’s what I wish for.

TRAVELLING GAL: Journeying To Face Fear [+ Hot Event Giveaway]

Bee-Chimamanda quote
I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Over the last year and a bit, I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. Not necessarily the kind of travelling that finds me packing bags and booking flights and arriving to stretch my limbs on the soils of new lands, but the kind of travel Chimamanda spoke about. I’ve made a concerted effort to face a number of my fears, and I’m proud that say that that journey has afforded me the ability to return home and find myself – a new and improved version – there.

One of the biggest fears I’ve had to overcome has been my fear of public speaking, and within that, my fear of voicing my opinion. Though I went to a performing arts school in my childhood, I rarely felt comfortable with the spotlight on me. I preferred to express my art in quieter ways, so writing and visual art became my close confidants. As I’ve mentioned time and time again on this blog and in other spheres, I’ve always loved writing – but I think writing became a crutch for me to express myself when I felt my spoken words were lacking. When it came to vocalizing my opinion on a topic, I found that extremely difficult as well. I was afraid of sounding stupid, of having people disagree with me, or of having people simply not understand what I was trying to say. The frustrating thing was that I wanted to be a performer. I wanted to embrace the spotlight. I wanted to engage in debate and be confident in my stance – I just…couldn’t. These fears lasted well past childhood and have followed me into my adult life.

A couple of years ago, I decided to pack up my mental/emotional baggage and take a trip that would force me to confront my fears head on. That journey was called the “Just Do It Like Nike World Tour” and the premise was simple. To go from place to place, I’d have to get there by doing the things that scared the sh*t out of me. That was the only way. And so I did. Public speaking opportunities? I took ’em. Chances to respond clearly when someone asked me my opinion on a topic? I embraced ’em. I made myself promise not to shy away from anything that scared me, and listen – I have grown.

rnb3SOLDOUT
This coming Saturday, I continue the JDILNWT as I co-host The R&B: Relationships & Bullsh*t Show Live at Trio Lounge with my homie Lincoln Anthony Blades. This is the 3rd installment of our conversation party about, well, relationships and bullsh*t, and it’s been a big part of my personal journey. Standing up in front of a room of hundreds of people, cohesively managing a crowd, hosting an event, and sharing my thoughts on everything from sexual taboos to monogamy and cheating? Bee of Days Past must be in a parallel universe, watching this unfold as she chews her lip out of stress – but 2014 Bee is doing it. This time, we’ll be discussing the question “Are People In Toronto Still Interested In Serious Relationships & Marriage, Or Do We All Just Want Casual Sex?!” and guess what – as I typed this very post, I got word from Lincoln that the show is SOLD OUT. If you’re one of the lucky folk who grabbed their ticket early, I can’t wait to see you out – and just know that I appreciate your role in this journey of mine.
mysticeffect

Never fear – I’m part of another amazing event coming up in Toronto on May 4th at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club, and you could win a ticket! Last year, I took a HUGE leap by co-hosting Stacy-Ann Buchanan’s fashion and art show called The Mystic Effect, and this year I’ll be back in the role of Social Media Correspondent! The Mystic Effect intertwines fashion with music, poetry, dance, and film, and this year will be incredible. If you aren’t able to attend, make sure you’re following me on Twitter and Instagram at @BeeSince83 and follow the hashtag #themysticeffect for all the show details! However – if you’re in Toronto and want to attend, I’ve got the hook-up:

 To win a ticket to The Mystic Effect on May 4th (doors open at 4pm, show starts at 5pm), simply tell me about one fear you’ve overcome. Comment below, tweet me, comment on my Facebook, or email me – any way you wish! I’ll pick one winner on Tuesday, April 29th!

Good luck to all entering the ticket giveaway, and good luck to any and everyone who is working on challenging their fears. May we all travel along that journey and come back home to find ourselves, stronger, better, and more fearless!

FEARING THE GOOD: Getting Over The Disbelief Of Our Blessings

Via bravegirlsclub.com

Via bravegirlsclub.com

What’s your general reaction when good things start happening? Happiness or fear?

If you’re anything like me, it’s easier to trust the process when bad things happen in life vs. when good things happen. We come to expect the negatives in life and we look at the positives with skepticism, protecting ourselves in advance from unseen disappointment. It starts from childhood. In efforts to peel back that layer of naivete that makes us sitting ducks for the harsh realities of life, parents teach us that we’ll often tango with trials and tribulations – and we get used to it. We grow and expect it. We court the bad of life, giving in to the inevitable fact that the bad will always be a part of our existence.

This training is necessary. So many things in life have plans to either kill or strengthen you. Sometimes they shatter you and force you to rebuild yourself, but we’re constantly reminded to trust the process.

Trusting the process means acknowledging that bad things happen to good people. That life isn’t fair. That struggle and strife are meant to serve us a purpose, even if we can’t see that purpose upfront. We accept so much of the negative that sometimes the only positive we can embrace is the fact that we survive through it.

Surviving is vital, but what happens when we see an opportunity to thrive? Much of the time – if you’re anything like me – we don’t automatically trust that process. We’re reminded that all that glitters ain’t gold – but even when we’re handed gold, we’re reminded that things are often too good to be true. We inherently learn to be wary of goodness – and if you’re anything like me, the first thing that happens after a blessing is wondering when the winds will shift again, bringing us back to the struggles that we’re familiar with.

Lately, good things have been happening for me. I’m looking at life and seeing that some of the blessings, the things I’ve worked for, sacrificed for, and struggled towards are now coming to fruition. Sadly, my first instinct is to be afraid. Good things can feel like a trick, or a temporary sunny reprieve from the darkness I’ve become accustomed to. Good things are met with hesitation, and have to prove themselves to me before I’ll tentatively accept them into my life. I don’t want to be played for a fool – and the surest way to be fooled is to be deceived by shiny things that promised you happiness and satisfaction.

However, the surest way to block your blessings is to act like you don’t deserve them. If you believe that being blessed is foreign to your DNA or isn’t part of your birthright, you’ll be proven right. I realized this weekend that one of the saddest things I’ve ever done was being distrustful of the blessings that have come my way. How sad is it that it’s so hard to believe that we’re worthy of good? How sad is it to fear the recognition of good, lest we find bad around the next corner? How sad is it that the acceptance of the bad in life has taken up so much space that we have no room to accept the good? I don’t plan on embracing that pitiful paradigm for much longer.

I’ve seen some formidable lows in life, and I know that I could always end up there again. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that if/when things change, I can survive. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that they are part of my DNA and my birthright. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that as much as I’m made up of dark complexities, I’m also made up of stardust and success.

All this to say: start believing and trusting the process when good things happen. Celebrate the good things in life. Expect them. Know that they have a place in your world. Realize that luck is capricious and you aren’t merely “lucky’ when good things happen – you are worthy of them.

Now, go forth and embrace the good. It’s real, and it’s yours.

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