The Other Side

Same Word, New Meaning

Words are containers. They hold meaning. Within them is the substance of what they are. They speak for themselves. Can we take a word that has held hundreds of years of hate and give it new meaning?

The N-word has a deep and complex history, seemingly originating as simply a descriptive word for black people and even a category for laborers. Yet, no one can deny that our first thoughts about the word tend to remind us of slavery, racism, and segregation.

While many black people despise the word because of its deplorable history and the degradation of their ancestors, many black people today have reclaimed and redefined the word, using it freely. The latter group believes they can take it back, own it, and use it as sort of a term of endearment.

Is it truly possible to change a word’s meaning? Is it an injustice to those who fought against it yesterday if people today make it their own? Perhaps a word can have new meaning, but it doesn’t take away from what it once was. With all the new rules on who can use it versus who can’t, and what it means in different contexts, it may be more empowering to leave the word in the past and use other words, like kings and queens, for the future.

The Other Side

For the Culture

Music, fashion, art, sports, food – all of pop culture has been influenced by the soulful styles of black culture. What happens when cultural appreciation crosses the line into cultural appropriation?

It’s one thing to get down with a little R&B and Hip-Hop; it’s another thing to run with it as if someone else created it or to white-wash it and discredit its origins.

Other races even find ways to darken their skin and get implants and injections to achieve a physical appearance that is the natural, God-given beauty of black people.

Often times, black culture is appropriated rather than appreciated. Non people of color sometimes take credit for things that came from black culture, while the creators themselves are often overlooked, not getting the credit they deserve.

We should appreciate cultures that are different from our own. That’s how we connect with and embrace one another’s differences. We can even implement styles and traditions from other cultures into our own, while still recognizing its origins.

Culture isn’t owned like a monopoly; it’s shared.

The Other Side

Black America

What is it like to be Black in America? Everyone has a slightly different experience, but I bet if you ask around, many will tell you about how they’ve experienced racism in one form or another. Perhaps, an uncomfortable police stop, being followed in a store, or an awkward conversation with a non-POC, at minimum.

Some people argue that black people always play the race card and that we all can never move forward if we hang on to the past. The reality is racism can still be found often, and we won’t move forward if we don’t learn from the past.

There’s a whole generation of people who experienced or allowed segregation. Those memories don’t just fade away because the nation is no longer legally segregated. The trauma and sentiments are passed on through generations if not dealt with. They continue to show up in ways that most people overlook. Just take a look at your circle of friends. Do they all look like you?

Racism may not look like what it used to, but there’s a reason there are still so many “firsts” in Black America. For such a long time, black people were prohibited from so many things. The race started, but while most of America ran, Black America was held at the starting line. Once Black America was finally allowed to run, there were still many obstacles along the path.

But Black America won’t be denied or discouraged. Black people will continue to overcome the odds and run to the finish. Run well.

The Other Side

New Year, New Me

We’re a month into the new year. It’s about the time of year when people start falling off of their New Year’s resolutions. They’re either not as consistent as they committed to be, or they’ve stopped altogether; only to get to the end of the year and make the same resolutions next year.

Many people say “new year, new me,” without thinking about the notion that each of us are the same person from year to year, but we develop and grow in who we are. Everything that encompasses who we are and our purpose is already inside of us. It’s just a matter of discovering it and becoming it.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain

When we understand our purpose, we can say yes to things connected to our destiny, and no to those things that won’t bring true fulfillment. In a way, that’s what resolutions are all about – focusing on the things that matter, minimizing distractions, and cutting the fluff.

Shifting our perspective from “new year, new me,” to understanding who we are and developing what’s already inside of us will give us the insight on how to approach each new year with the right mindset to be successful on our journey.

The Other Side

Black-Eyed Peas & Stewed Tomatoes

The new year is full of traditions – from eating a meal of black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes to setting New Year’s resolutions. But what good are traditions that are done out of habit without any real meaning behind them? We all know one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions to lose weight by exercising and eating healthy only lasts for so long before people fall off the wagon.

Humans are creatures of habit. Often times, we do certain things because that’s traditionally what we’re supposed to do, but does it really have any meaning to us?

When we think outside the box, go against the grain, even have a little rebelliousness, we can go beyond traditions and practice something that will be meaningful to each of us on a personal level.

One thing that I have thought about in this new year is not another year of unmet resolutions, but what is my personal statement and what is my message. My personal statement is who I am. My message is the impact I hope to have on others. If I approach the year this way, I think that all of my goals and the steps I take to reach them will fall within my personal statement and timeless message.

How do you approach the new year? Do you make the typical resolutions or plan your year with vision boards? How can a different approach with a personal statement and message be more meaningful to you?

The Other Side

A New Day

It happens every 365 (sometimes 366) days. We have arrived at a new day, a new month, a new year. People welcome the new year with traditional celebrations and make resolutions to kick off the start of something new. What makes this new year any different than all the others that have come before in our lifetime?

The dictionary defines “new” as: 1. of recent origin, production, purchase, etc.; having but lately come or been brought into being; 2. of a kind now existing or appearing for the first time. In a sense, a year is nothing new, but this year is new as it is something we’ve never seen before. 2024 is appearing for the first time.

How do we make the newness of this year different from all the others? Rather than making empty resolutions just because we’re supposed to at the start of a new year, how do we live each day with a fresh sense of what it means for the day to be new?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine of daily life – go to work, cook dinner, clean the house, watch the kids, time for the weekend, back to Monday. So how do we see the monotony as a new opportunity?

We must change our perspective. Every day is a new day with new mercies. Every day, even if we’re doing the same thing, is an opportunity to do better. Every day is a chance to enjoy life and make memories. A new day brings new joy and new hope. It’s a new day.

The Other Side

Do Unto Others

Have you ever thought about the things you wished people would do for you? For instance, do you feel like people rarely check up on you? Or that you don’t often get invited out with others? Maybe you’re always doing for others, but don’t feel like others do for you when you’re in need. Or maybe it’s something even deeper, like wishing you had someone in your life who could help guide you through its various stages and be there for you through the highs and lows.

One thing I’ve learned is to be to someone else what I wanted people to be for me. It can be disappointing when our expectations of people go unmet, but when we understand that we cannot make people see our needs and we decide to see the needs in others, our focus changes. We stop looking at what people are not doing for us, and focus on what we can do for others.

This is a selfless way to live. It isn’t easy to do because we all have a core longing to be seen, heard, and loved. When we pour into others the way we desire to be poured into, there’s a sense of fulfillment that’s greater than self.

It’s the “Golden Rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It doesn’t say to do unto others IF they do unto you. It’s reciprocity without conditions.

Be to others what you feel you have lacked from others. Break the cycle. Fill the void. Be the light.

The Other Side

The Gift

Christmas is literally just days away. Some people knocked out their Christmas list months ago. Everything is neatly wrapped and under the tree. Others will have to navigate the crowds to get those last minute gifts. On Christmas Day, kids will wake up early to open their presents, while parents find joy in their children’s happiness. Families and friends will exchange gifts throughout the day.

As we share gifts with one another, let’s remember the greatest gift – the gift of love. Love came to the world to bring hope to the hopeless. Love brings peace in any storm, and joy even when life doesn’t go the way we want it to. Love is bigger than an emotion; it’s the way we treat others. It’s the truth inside of us that guides us in the way we live.

Love is found in the birds’ song as the sun rises each morning, and in the sky’s colors as the sun sets each evening. It’s found in spending time with an older relative, and making new memories with younger ones. Love is found in sharing a meal and a warm place to stay with someone in need, and in being there for a child who may not have a family of their own.

Love is unlimited. It knows no bounds. It can be found in laughter and tears. It transcends cultures and reaches around the world. It is truly the greatest gift, and the only gift that will last. Love remains always.

How do you give love during the holiday season?

The Other Side

Holiday Grief

They say the first year after losing a loved one is the hardest because it’s when you experience all the firsts without them. The holiday season can be especially tough, as a season that is supposed to be filled with joy can be overshadowed by grief. While others are carrying on with fun and happiness, those who are healing through grief can feel unheard and unseen.

I know this all too well. My mom went to Heaven in 2006 about a week after Thanksgiving. To have Christmas not even a month later was very difficult. I felt like everyone else was celebrating the holiday, and I was just there, numb to it all. It was just another day that I had to endure and hoped to get through.

I have friends and family that are experiencing this now. The thing that I would want them to know is to give yourself grace. Allow yourself the space to heal. Give yourself permission to say no, but also leave enough space open for people to hold you up through this season.

As families gather together this holiday season, if someone in your family is dealing with holiday grief, show up for them in special ways. Don’t expect them to reach out and don’t take things personal. Find ways to bring them hope.

Grief is hard enough as it is. It’s a journey that we all must face at some point as a result of love. But it’s not a journey that anyone must face alone. And it is a journey where you will come out on the other side with a peace that goes beyond understanding and a joy that cannot be contained.

Painting: C. Gilbert

The Other Side

The Family Table

The holidays are here, which means time with family. My family is unique. My grandparents owned land which they gave to their kids, which means my neighbors are my relatives. My cousins and I grew up next door to each other, staying at Granny’s house after school until our parents got home from work. We spent holidays jam-packed in Granny and Grandpa’s house, eating food and exchanging gifts.

Over the decades, the family dynamics have changed. My cousins and I have gone from being the little kids running around getting presents from all the aunts and uncles to being the adults who now have to bring a dish and have our own little kids running around. Granny and Grandpa now watch us from Heaven.

As I get older and the family changes, what I’m beginning to understand is the power of leaving a legacy. My grandparents instilled many great values in their children – faith, family, education, hard work, and serving others – that must continue to be passed from generation to generation.

It’s not about the gifts; it’s about the legacy that is being built. It’s the thoughts of benevolence and positive feelings when your family name is mentioned in the community. It’s the bond of togetherness that can never be broken, despite the ups and downs that families face.

The greatest accomplishment of any individual is not a career, notoriety, fame, or an amount of money; it’s their family. The Proverb says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” (Proverbs 13:22) A true inheritance is not money, possessions, or things. A true inheritance is found in the prayers of our ancestors when we live our lives well.

As we sit around the family table this holiday season, think about the legacy that has been left by those who have gone before us, and think about what legacy we are leaving for those who will come after us.