Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Charity Tuesday {How to Get Involved with a Charity Cause - Part 2}

Continued from last week...

4. Time. The quickest way to help is often simply by showing up. You will be surprised how far 30 minutes to an hour of your time can go. Volunteers who go the extra mile are not easily forgotten like Sonya Spann whom Jones credits for managing and coordinating FACE Africa’s annual gala and fundraiser held every March to commemorate World Water Day.

5. Money. You may not be making a lot of money now, but you can give financially in a way that is tangible. While you may have to wait a while longer for that luxury item that $500 you planned on spending on an Hermes belt or a pair of Christian Louboutin pumps may change the lives of thousands of people. Further, you can either give to a cause directly, or you can fund others who are involved by supporting them in their endeavor.

6. Publicity. Using social media as a tool to spread information about your favorite charity can be very helpful. Repost, retweet, and spread the word about your favorite charity. Your laptop is a powerful tool and you can create awareness about a cause and share a story from behind your desk simply by liking or reposting a link. One of the most compelling stories of the power of social media on spreading awareness was the KONY 2012 saga. By coordinating volunteers who wielded all avenues of social media, the organization, Invisible Children was able to get 3.7 million people to pledge their support for the arrest of Joseph Kony and members of the Lord’s Resistance Army with the help of a video that was shared extensively on several media outlets. 

Good deeds beget more good deeds so use these tools to get started on building a charitable lifestyle.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Women and Late Night Television

A reprint of my article published in Levo League. For the original publication, click here
With Jay Leno leaving the Tonight Show and Jimmy Fallon stepping in to fill his shoes, there was much speculation about who would replace Fallon in his slot on Late Night. After the round of late night musical chairs, NBC will bring in Seth Meyers to host Late Night while Fallon will move over to host The Tonight Show. 

According to Nielsen Co. ratings, women make up the majority of the audiences for most major late night shows leading inquiring minds to wonder why women are not hosting the shows. 

The failure of major networks to crown a queen of late night is not for a lack of candidates. Names that have been thrown around for the crown include Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Aisha Tyler, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Amy Sedaris, and Samantha Bee. However, despite these women possessing what many perceive to be the elements for late night success, it seems like we might even get a female president before we see a woman host a late night talk show on a major network since Joan Rivers got nixed from the spot years ago after a short stint deemed a failure by the network. Sadly, women are not the only losers in the game, minorities such as George Lopez, Wanda Sykes and Monique were also handed pink slips by their respective networks. 

Late night talk show hosts wield a revered place in popular culture. They bring to the table a passive-aggressive sort of charm and they not only define pop culture, but also become the epitomes of pop culture themselves.

At first glance, the required ingredients to dominate the late night spot seems to be a mix of approach, unique quirks and personal style of delivery. 

However, it has been argued that the bottom line to getting hired for a late night talk show slot is having a comedic bone and the contention then follows that having two X chromosomes does not make for the snarky grit required of late night talk show hosts.  

The typical television show host is the quirky white male, reminiscent of the class clown, a role that some argue doesn’t fit the female persona quite seamlessly. The late night talk show host is supposed to be the unapologetic potty mouth whose jokes might be cringe worthy on daytime television but lauded past 11:30PM. Thus, the slapstick humor, wise cracks and fun poking seem like skills guys hone on the playground and in the locker room as they prepare to navigate a world where they go for the verbal kill with their wit. The claim is that these are skills females do not perfect at slumber parties or at ballet recitals and are certainly not encouraged to hone. 

There is a difference when compared to daytime television where there is the need for more wholesome family friendly programming, where audience members might get cars and hidden treasures under their seats. Late night television does not bother with being politically correct or swaying audiences to sample new treats but is about the funny guy who is brash and witty at the same time and can get quick laughs in a matter of seconds.

Besides the argument that women lack the comedic skills to thrive, another claim is that the networks are delivering the personalities that audiences want. 

Late night talk shows often rely on one-liners that seemingly have no plot and get quick laughs from the audience, and it seems as though this genre of comedy may come more easily to men. Daytime talk shows that have been dominated by women like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and lately Queen Latifah and Bethenny Frankel rely on topical plots and in depth conversations with guests on the show. Audiences flock to these shows because the hosts have a persona that becomes a cult of sorts, just ask Oprah adherents. 

In that regard, Chelsea Handler seems to be getting the job done as her appeal and sense of humor is similar to that of the boys, resting on one-liners and the same wise cracking jokes that male hosts deliver. Thus, Handler shows that women can thrive on a late night slot debunking the idea that a female cannot rock the late night spot just like Steve Harvey is thriving on daytime television in a role that has been dominated previously by women. 

However, the biggest game changer that will catapult women to the frontlines [and is often overlooked] is what goes on behind the scenes. 

Late night talk show hosts are just one part of the well-oiled late night machine whose role is to deliver the punch lines that teams behind the scenes spend grueling hours fitting together. At the end of the day there is a need that the joke when delivered sounds like it is coming from the mouth of the writer. So, when male writers dominate, the tendency is to write jokes for other males to deliver and the battle to see a woman delivering these jokes may not be successful until there is a change in the gender of the writers behind the scenes. Women still struggle to get the jobs behind the scenes and the fact that Amber Ruffin just became the first ever black female writer for a late night talk show gives a glimpse of the magnitude of the challenge.

So, since women have proven that they have the comedic skills, personalities with mass appeal, and excellent writing skills why are they still not hosting the shows and why the glass ceiling? Seriously, networks have to be more honest about why they are building the late night circuit as another old boys’ association because really finding the right host should be about someone with the proper work ethic who is the right fit for the show and can hold the audience’s attention irrespective of gender.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Charity Tuesday {How to Get Involved with a Charity -Part 1}

In a Google search for the word charity, over 300 million responses were retrieved in 32 seconds. Unquestionably, charity and philanthropy are an important element of American culture and have defined several important moments in the history of this country. American history is replete with great examples of charitable endeavors such as the founding of the American Red Cross by Clara Barton that was instrumental in providing much needed assistance to American troops during the Spanish-American War to modern day efforts by philanthropists like Oprah Winfrey, Bill and Melinda Gates and Ted Turner who have used their wealth and influence to enhance lives across the globe. 

However, charity does not have to involve great wealth or influence. Anyone can give because we all have something that someone elsewhere needs and it is never too late to build a life that is designed around being charitable. Like other habits or behaviors, charity can be learned by constantly looking beyond ourselves to meet the needs of other. So you might be thinking, I don’t have an account the size of Warren Buffet’s and I have not won the lottery recently. For those of you that are short on funds or are novices to the culture of charity, here are a few suggestions that can help you jumpstart a rewarding lifestyle of philanthropy. 

1. Passion. The most important thing to consider when seeking to get involved with a charity or a charitable cause is to find out what makes you tick. It is easier to make a worthwhile contribution to a cause when you have a level of passion that is unmatched. Passion is what fills up buses and fuels picketers who leave their jobs, families, and comfort of a warm and cozy bed to make the drive of several hundred miles in some cases to Washington D.C. to campaign on the lawns of the mall. Finding what you are passionate about answers the questions of what kind of charitable efforts to get involved in. 

2. First thing first. So you have the passion, now what’s next? Do your research on the organization you choose especially if you are getting involved remotely. Do not be afraid to ask for annual reports or audit documents that show where the money is going, how much the staff is being paid and how much actually goes to funding the actual cause. If you are going to donate your time or other resources to a charitable cause make sure the organization you are serving operates in an ethical manner both from the place of operation and in the field where they carry out their work. Do they use sweatshops, are their workers underpaid, do they overlook abuse, are they comfortable with gender inequality? In essence, be a socially responsible philanthropist. 

3. Skill. Once the charity you are interested in receives the green light, the next step is an inventory of your skills. If you are an expert in the kitchen, consider using your skills to help in a soup kitchen. Saran Kaba Jones, founder of FACE Africa, a non-profit that provides clean water in Liberia, notes that individuals with specific skills and expertise in areas such as accounting, communications, grant proposal writing amongst others are invaluable to organizations such as hers that are young start ups with limited funding to hire talent. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Loveless on Valentine's Day

Few things in the world beat fresh floral arrangements and I have been able to indulge in actually stopping and smelling the roses more actively in the last couple of days because I've seen them at every turn. Initially, I was lost until I had my Aha! Moment. It's almost that day, the one day called Valentine's Day. I've never really considered it to be a big deal, but for some people, it is indeed a big deal and there's no use convincing them otherwise. Days before Valentine's Day approaches, some people either start to fall physically ill or check out mentally because they do not have a special person in their life to share the day with. A special day to show love or celebrate love seems to me like the biggest hoax ever cooked up. Why do we need a day to show love to the people in our lives? Reading through some of my social media feed, it seems like some people are actually losing sleep and super unhappy about today. If that's you, read on...

In March last year, I went to Jamaica with two of my sisters and a few friends for a couple of days. While there, I bought a bottle of rum for my brother as a souvenir. Upon my return, I mailed the rum to his address in Chicago and waited a few days for him to call me and announce that he had received the bottle. Two weeks later over a phone call, I finally asked if he had received the package and he said he had not. I mailed the package via Priority Mail and at this point the delivery was way overdue. Nothing had been returned back to my address and the concierge in his building did not have the package and it certainly was not in his mailbox either. I then asked him to recite his address to make sure I had the correct address and then I discovered my mistake. Now, the numerical portion of his address was '5650' but I thought it was '5600' so I mailed it to the latter. Well, turns out the 5600 building has an apartment number identical to his and the package got delivered to that address. At this point, it was almost three weeks since the package had been delivered.

My brother then decided he would go to the 5600 building to make some inquiries. He got there and after some conversation with the concierge he was directed to the apartment that was the same number as his. He knocks on the apartment door and crazy lady answers. He told her he thought a package might have been wrongly delivered to her. Crazy lady said she had the package and had kept it. Now, why would anyone keep a strange looking package that clearly belonged to someone else in their apartment for three weeks? I thought the proper thing was to return it back to the post office or leave it in the mailbox with a note for the post master. My brother and I were shocked and amused by crazy lady and laughed our heads off at her antics. I'm not sure why I thought about this story, but it brings me to an important question. Which would you rather be? Crazy or 'loveless' on Valentine's Day? To feel unloved today is quite a shame because no one really is unloved. Try dying today and you'll be amazed at the love. People will speak all sorts of niceties about the person you were, even though they may not all be true (but I digress). Even the homeless man is missed when he dies. If this does not cheer you up, then hopefully knowing you are loved by The Harriet Project might do the trick. So, for what it is worth, Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happy Love Week!

It's love week and I'm sure you've been swarmed by seas of reds and pinks in all shades. I found the above animation of a Brooklyn couple share the endearing story of their love and loss on a blog I visit quite often. I hope that all looking for love someday find the love that's the best fit. Happy Love Week! {Animated by Story Corps}

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Charity Tuesday {End It Movement}

Modern Day Slavery and human trafficking are much larger issues than the mainstream press has given any attention to in the past decade. It is astounding that in our present day, humans, mostly women and children are being trafficked across local and international borders and sold in a manner that some have argued rivals the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I highlighted an organization last week that was doing its part to rescue slaves that have been caught in this unfortunate market. I can be much of an optimist in some situations, however, I am weary of slogans and attempts at ending or eradicating ills of any sort. I do not believe such feats are possible because honestly they are not. What I believe we can do is educate people on the ills that plague our world from enslavement to hunger and diseases and hope that every human who is aware will play a role in rescuing [a] person from whatever prison walls they are trapped behind. If one person is rescued, that is one less slave, one less hungry child...I believe you get the idea. Thus, today, I am featuring an organization I am familiar with, Generation 268, that is affiliated with Passion City Church in the city of Atlanta. Generation 268 began a powerful movement, "End It Movement" that seeks to rescue enslaved individuals. On February 27, 2014, the End It Movement hopes to spur individuals across the globe to join in an awareness drive on the issue. To find out more information on how to join the movement please click here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

5 Instagram Accounts You Should Follow

1. Refinery29
Refinery 29 is your one stop location for tips on fashion, beauty, travel, entertainment, shopping and hot spots in some major cities. Their instagram account is one of my favorites because of the high quality photographs that are always so colorful and nicely styled. I've been following their account for months now and doubt that I've seen a picture that hasn't made me take a second look. 

The brain child of a few wanderlusts, travel noire invites followers to submit pictures of locations they've been to and tries to encourage people of color to ditch the high priced items in their wardrobes and pay for experiences instead. 

The coveteur is your go to source for nice glossies of high fashion. Visual stimulation at its very best. 

4. Yale
Although Yale University did not accept me into its law school, I still love their instagram account that captures the beautiful architecture of the campus. 

I ran into Ms. Howey in a coffee shop in Mansfield and noticed she was doing the most beautiful lettering I had seen in a while. I stopped by her table, we had a converstion and now she fills my instagram feed with amazing messages of hope, grace, and love. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What to Do While Unemployed

A reprint from my article originally published in Levo League
A few months after graduate school I was unemployed and unable to find a job. Initially, I enjoyed having free time on my hands to catch up on some books, watch some television and basically have no deadlines to meet or meetings to plan or attend. However, after about three weeks of free time, including planning my 25th birthday, I began to feel the nagging pull of having no structure. I was no longer scouting for restaurants or shopping for party favors or trying to decide on a theme for my birthday. I was now 25, in my parent’s home and unemployed. Luckily, I had worked all throughout graduate school and had saved a good deal of money. Thus, I wasn’t worried about money, but knew I would eventually have to find a source of income.
Being unemployed is one of those interesting phases in life that provides an opportunity to learn about ourselves and about others. About ourselves because we are hardly preoccupied and there is ample time for a lot of introspection. About others because we are able to observe the perception some have of those who are unemployed, which can run the gamut from seeing the unemployed as lazy, complacent, or sometimes as individuals with little foresight or ambition. However, there are a good number of people who will show some empathy while you experience this challenge.
In reality though, unemployment can happen to anyone. George W. Bush became unemployed after he left the White House in 2009 and who knows what emotions he brooded over as he left the job he had held with so many rights and privileges for eight years?
Undoubtedly, being unemployed can be daunting, but having some reprieve from a job that demands so much of our time can be an experience to be treasured if we face the challenge with some perspective.

What to Do While Unemployed

Calm down and have some perspective

While being unemployed can be unnerving, take a moment to have some productive introspection. I would suggest making a list of things to be thankful for; housing, reliable transportation, good health, dependable and understanding friends, family, and even pets. Having perspective is certainly good. Understand that being unemployed is only temporary, regardless of how long the phase of being unemployed lasts for. Be reminded that seasons change and winter is not eternal.

Take care of your mental health

While facing the challenge of being unemployed, do not neglect your mental health. Listen to your body and make sure you pay attention to your mind. You surely might get into a funk while you wait for that job interview, so pay attention to your emotions. Is it a temporary brooding that lasts for a few minutes or have you fallen into a deep abyss and feel hopeless? Regardless of the duration of feeling in a funk, find someone to talk to and, if you can afford it, seek professional help. Also, be aware that life does not stop happening while you wait to find a job. Friends will get employed, take fancy vacations, buy new cars and celebrate milestones. It might be hard to not get blue or feel left out and this is why it is important to care for your mind and if need be, unplug from social media and focus on your needs and caring for yourself.

Have a support system

Remember that no man is an island. Surround yourself with people who are genuinely interested in your success and happiness. These people could be from your family or friends. Also, it could be just one person you can depend on that will hold you accountable and make sure you job search daily, arrange meetings, follow up on leads and mostly importantly are will provide a listening ear when you need to vent. Don’t approach the challenge of trying to find employment alone. You will need some support and do not refuse meaningful help when it is offered.

Plan, plan, and then plan some more

Approach everyday with a plan. Searching for a job can be a full time job. Invest in a notebook book or several notebooks that will serve as planners and journals. Have a weekly plan that includes a list of employers you are interested in contacting, names of people you meet, a quick summary of the outcome of the meetings, and a follow up strategy. If a notebook seems old fashioned, create an Excel spreadsheet, but visit your notebook or spreadsheet daily, make revisions to the plan, and journal your thoughts at the end of every day. Having a plan not only helps you stay organized, but it will help in answering questions about your search because you have had the time to organize your thoughts and formulate a plan. You will more likely be taken seriously than if you don’t have a plan and instead face each day without much thought or a concrete strategy.

Donate your time

Giving can be empowering. Find an organization with a cause you are interested in and find a way to give back. It could be a few hours a day or it could be a daily commitment. Volunteering while unemployed is empowering because it can provide some structure. It gives you a place to go at certain times during the week. Thus, the feeling of powerlessness is somewhat tamed because there is a task at hand to be done. I would suggest volunteering not because it benefits you, but because it serves the organization. Do it without the expectation of a reward and allow yourself to be surprised by what yields you gain. Not only will you have some structure and a sense of accomplishment, but it will also provide something to put on your resume for employers who might be wary of gaps in your employment history. I volunteered at an elementary school library close to my parent’s home while I was unemployed. All I did was shelve books (I love children’s books), check books out, and help prepare for the spring book fair. However, it was rewarding watching the little children come in daily and I gained so much decorating inspiration from the unique classroom arrangements.

Go start!

Sometimes, the best things in life happen when we build our own doors rather than wait for others to invite us to walk through the doors they carefully crafted. Being unemployed can be a great opportunity to become an entrepreneur, providing not only employment for yourself in the interim, but creating something that could flourish and someday provide employment for others. Explore ideas and do not be afraid to start something. Worse case scenario, it fails and who knows, it just might succeed and prove to be the opportunity you have been waiting for all the while.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

File Under: Pathological Liar

My Dad and I had barely driven for a minute when my phone beeped indicating I had a new email. I pulled out my phone from my pocket and read the message. My Dallas bound flight from Atlanta had been cancelled. It was Tuesday and the weather was rather crisp despite warnings of an impending 'snow storm.' We turned around and headed back home to see if I could rebook my flight and still leave that evening. The lady I spoke to in the customer service department was uncertain that the evening flight would leave and gave me the option of calling at my convenience to rebook my flight. An hour after I hung up the phone, it started. The fluffy white stuff that would paralyze the city of Atlanta and result in harrowing 18-hour plus commutes came down and this time it stuck, all two inches of it came down hard and unforgiving. When I called to book my flight a few days later, I had to wait on the phone for over an hour and endure really poor customer service until I was finally scheduled to leave the city of Atlanta for Dallas on Friday.

This time, it was my Mom and I who headed out. She had a different flight to catch and I was Dallas bound. We left two hours early but then we got caught in bad traffic around the connector in the city known as Spaghetti Junction. I got to my gate at 11:19am, missing the gate closing by two minutes, after being held up by TSA. The next flight out of Atlanta for Dallas was scheduled to depart at 5:30pm. I called a friend of mine who lived nearby and she came and picked me up and treated me to lunch at Ruby Tuesday. She insisted on Ruby Tuesday because she swore they had some chocolate chip cookies that were irresistible. These cookies had to be baked for twenty five minutes and she placed the order after the check came. I was almost certain I might miss my flight again this time.

Finally the cookies came and we were on our way to the airport. When I got to the security line, one of my sisters called. I took the call and moved casually along the line because for the most part there were no travelers in sight. Finally when I got to the scanner, I nudged the phone between my ear and shoulder as I began taking off my boots, and then I looked behind me and there he was. He was very well dressed and also really good looking. I apologized to him and since there was no one else behind him, I told him he could go ahead of me so I wouldn't delay him. The young man whom I believe was in his early thirties told me to take my time and not worry about it. Not wanting to waste any more of his time, I told my sister I would call her back and hung up and struck up a conversation with the young man as we both waited our turn for the body scanner.

"So where are you headed?" I inquired.

"I'm going to Dallas." He replied.

"Oh cool, I'm going to Dallas as well."

"What airline are you flying?"


"I'm flying Spirit and you know I have stories for days."

"I don't mess with Spirit, I've had my fair share of bad experiences." He replied.

I ended my conversation with him as I was beckoned to come forward by the TSA agent. This time, I was lucky and managed to escape without being frisked or having my hair patted down. As I gathered my belongings, I noticed the young man was doing the same, so I thanked him again for being patient and wished him a safe trip and headed for the escalator going down to the train platform.

Shortly after I got on the train I noticed the young man get on as well. We made eye contact and he looked away as though he had never seen me before and I thought his behavior seemed rather strange. Thereafter, the train arrived at the D Terminal, where the same young man was apparently headed for as I was. As soon as the train came to a halt and the doors opened he bolted out and ran to get on the escalator. Again, I thought his behavior was rather odd and I began to feel sorry for him surmising that he was about to miss his flight and was panicking as a result. As I went up the escalator to my gate, I called my sister to resume our conversation. My gate was D9 and as I made my way to my gate, I passed the Delta gates where oddly enough, there was no boarding activity taking place. So, where was he running to? I walked from the D14 gate and finally arrived at D9 where boarding for my flight was in progress to find the young man standing in line to board the same Spirit Airline flight heading for Dallas that I was soon to be on.

Dear God in the heavens! Why did he lie to me?! Did he think he was too good looking or too nicely dressed for Spirit Airlines? Sure the flight cost all of $48.00 but shouldn't he have been proud that he was a savvy shopper and didn't pay more? What a devious soul! I got on the flight and didn't see him as I was seated on the eighth row and he was nestled somewhere in the back of the plane.

Normally, I sleep on flights, but I couldn't sleep this time. I sent my family members, which included my Dad, Mom, all my siblings and their spouses an account of what had just happened. I was really excited and wasn't about to let this guy off easily. So, once the plane landed, I got off quickly since I was seated close to the exit. Once I was outside the aircraft I waited for him to exit the plane and I believe he saw me once he deplaned but he kept on walking away. The walk from the gate to Baggage Claim is through a "tunnel" of sorts and there are no escape routes. I was right behind him and although he stole some glances over his shoulder he continued to advance steadily. Finally, I pulled out my phone called my Mom and put on the loudest, high-pitched Nigerian voice I could muster. At this point, I guess the shame was too much for him and the nearest exit was the ladies restroom. Now use your imagination and guess what he did. I am not making any of this stuff up. People are people and boy, what a piece of work that young man was!

Charity Tuesday {Somaly Mam Foundation}

I became aware of the Somaly Mam Foundation after reading the book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," by New York Times author Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn. The book which stayed on the New York Times bestseller's list for many weeks chronicled the experiences of women across several countries and myriad issues confronting them running the gamut from maternal and fetal mortality challenges to sexual trafficking. The bottom line with most challenges women face is poverty. Poverty leads to may other grim issues, including physical and sexual abuse and is often the root cause of a lack of education. The result of deep seethed poverty is that women are often divested of any bargaining power they might have, further worsening their plight and the Somaly Mam Foundation featured below has embarked on a mission of strengthening women by addressing sexual trafficking. 

The Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of sex slavery and the empowerment of its survivors, led by the vision and life's work of Cambodian survivor and activist Somaly Mam. Founded in 2007, the organization's multilateral approach helps victims to escape their plight, empowers survivors with economic independence and as part of the solution, and engages governments, corporations, and individuals in the fight.
We work closely with partners in Southeast Asia, where the trafficking of women and children is widespread and where, for nearly two decades, Somaly and her team has rescued women and children from exploitation and abuse and assisted them on a journey to health, hope, and economic independence. Thanks to SMF, the outreach team and shelters have international support, and our Voices For Change survivor-leaders work as advocates, activists, and catalysts of next-generation change.
On a deeper level, we see the impact of this work in subtle shifts in cultural norms, in a proud network of entrepreneurial female survivors starting businesses and social enterprises, in open conversations on human trafficking in mass media, in strategic government and police partnerships, and in a growing trust in the rule of law, which is critical to combating corruption and protecting the victims. All of these are steps down a road to end sex slavery for good. (The information about the Somaly Mam Foundation was taken from the "Mission" section of the Somaly Mam Foundation webpage).

Disclaimer: The Harriet Project does not endorse the charities that are featured on Charity Tuesday. Before making a donation or getting involved in any capacity, please research the charities featured to make sure they are actually involved in the work they claim to be doing.