Show Em Whatcha Got

Recently I went to an annual gathering with some close friends from college.  We’ve been doing it since we were in school. We used to do secret Santa and potluck. We’d play games and tell stories. Over time our lives have evolved. Everyone is pushing thirty and growing families.  So last year we brought our significant others. We had a great time and the guys got better acquainted with one another. This year it was ladies only.

We ate food we couldn’t pronounce at a cute restaurant in the city.  Then we walked down the block to a little lounge. Now it was only 9:30 so no one was there but that was OK! We have always been that way. Never needed to fraternize in order to have fun. Just us girls, a comfortable place and maybe a couple of drinks and we would certainly have some laughs. Besides most of us have children now and have to do the mommy thing when we get home.

We sat in the lounge laughing with one another and seat dancing to the music. I glanced at my friend in a leopard mini-dress and envied the fact that her shower must be long enough to shave above the knee. With my crying little one, I have to make it quick. Sometimes shaving gets cut! I donned leather pants and a fur vest. The others were in cute and classy ensembles. We were all equally excited to see one another. There was only one issue…the music.

I don’t know if he was warming up but DJ Pandemic (or something like that) just couldn’t quite get it together. He would cut songs at the wrong time. He would let some songs play out too long. It just wasn’t going well for him. Then it happened!
DJ Terrible (or something like that) played “Love U Better” (2002) LL Cool J. Everyones head went back, hands went in the air, and eyes closed. It was like an r&b prayer.

“A toast to the queen, you’re back in my life
But this time I’m a do it right
Trust me from the bottom of my heart
Nothin’s gonna tear us apart, promise…”

That’s when I thought about the power of music and creativity. How can a song do that? How can music take you so far away?  Words are so powerful. Everyone was in the same reflective space. LL was singing our ghetto pledge of allegiance.

With one Old School at Noon hit on your local radio station, we get time travel.
“Flashlight” by Parliament and I’m in the basement dancing with my eccentric father.
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“The Power” by Snap and I’m back at St Benedict School of Dance onstage in Jamaica Queens. I’m back to dreaming of being a singer, then a lawyer, and then a physical therapist (I was an indecisive child.)
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Back to the sole responsibility of keeping my room clean. Back to a place in my heart I faintly remember where all you are expected to do is dream. If I hear “Weak” by SWV, I’m in my bedroom rewinding the cassette tape over and over on my karaoke machine. Careful not to rewind too far back because then you would hear the commercials from me taping the single from the radio. I’m in size 6 old navy jeans and a Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt and baby blue and white Nike uptowns with the strap undone.

I encourage you to “dig in the crates” and listen to the music that used to make your parents want to hide your Sony Walkman (yeah no iPods back then.) I encourage you to take a journey away from bills, car repairs, pressures, work, and the credit card debt you just accumulated from Christmas shopping. Go to that place…tilt your head back…raise your right hand…close your eyes or ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.

By SMN

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It wasn’t all bullsh*t!

When I was a child my Nana Bea would call me princess. princess My chariot was her white mini van and my ball was a shopping spree at Syms Clothing, lunch at Old Country Buffet, and a Tweety chain I picked out at a discount jewelry store. In my neighborhood there were no gowns, just Reebok, Kani, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Mecca, and Calvin Klein. If you had a Bear bubble jacket in the winter, you were “cool.” That’s what hood princesses wore . My maternal side would spoil me with name brands from QVC that I was too young to appreciate and I had a standing hair appointment every two weeks. I didn’t know what a luxury that was. There was a manicure specialist named Jackie who did my tiny 6-year- old nails while my hair would dry. My friends wanted to eat at my house.  They’d call home and ask for permission. I didn’t know what a  luxury that was. To have enough food to feed
your family and feed unexpected guests.

You’re never told your Prince isn’t going to fight dragons or “save” you from anything. Relationships require effort and gumption from both parties!
You’re going to win each other. You’re both royal in your own right. You have to be honest with yourself and be willing to admit your flaws so they don’t devour you. You’re as vulnerable to your demons as a ditz is to a poison apple.  My favorite Disney princess was Ariel. Long red hair. A body Jennifer Hudson would kill for so she can keep making money off her weight lossariel commercials. A mermaid with a talking Jamaican crab as an advisor. I didn’t understand how she could be late all the time when she swam so fast. Id always be on time. No car, no traffic, no stopping for gasoline? Perfect! I could relate to Ariel. She was a dreamer who just wanted something different from her norm. She’s never been on land. I’ve never seen blue or clear water. The only waters I know are long island beaches and chlorinated pools. She dreamt of love. I’ve always been fascinated with love.  The only emotion left inexplicable and undefined. I sought it out and have found it and claim it with raw passion and loyalty. She traded in her fins, her friends, and her father for it! She won a mans heart without speaking (I realize now that being mute worked tremendously in her favor.) Ariel bridged the gap for me. The gap between the fairy tales I watched over and over on VHS and real life in Jamaica Queens. Those stories and movies aren’t all bullsh*t.

The bottom line was sacrifice, not allowing fear to hold you at ransom, not allowing your enemies to underestimate you, respecting your parents but choosing to be emancipated from the mistakes they made that they are convinced you’ll repeat. Being a princess wasn’t about a diamond studded crown or my Yankee fitted. It’s about GUTS and the clarity of self to recognize your royal position no matter what your socio-economic status is. You’re royal even of your man has to let down his cornrows and YOU have to climb a tower to get to his heart. The throne is within. So dust off your old
FUBU sweat suit and tell the non believers ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.fubu

-Shaun Nickens

Tell Me How You Really Feel! :-o (Praying for Sagacity)

We all have moments when someone infuriates us.  These are character building moments.  There are people in this world who are optimistic and positive.  These people see the best in others.  As we all know everything in existence has an opposite or a pole.  So of course there will always be someone who thinks you are a loser, a delinquent, a rebel, or a “mess.”  Most of the time, they feel that way because they don’t understand you.  You base your actions on standards, morals or beliefs that they cannot relate to.  My response to that is very simple.  The Creator made us all different for a good reason.  We have different genres of music that we are attracted to.  Libraries and book stores have endless amounts of subject matter.  Even God doesn’t try to affect your free will.  It’s a gift.  We all have to use our discernment to be able to direct our lives in the way we want it to go.  It takes a strong personality, a twinge of patience and humility, and lastly it takes fortitude.  Some of the closest people to me have hurt me the most.  Those are the people you wish knew you the best.  Those are the people who can get under your skin because you hold them in the highest esteem.  However, those people will never be able to live your life for you.  As much as you may love them, only your actions are relevant to your destiny.  Love doesn’t reside in your mind.  Love resides in your heart.  There are practical people who can only live in terms of what they can see.  Then there are enlightened faith carrying people who believe beyond logistics.

Never compare your situation to someone elses.  Stop going through your old classmates Facebook pictures and tweets.  Social media is like reality tv.  People can edit and show you what they want to show you.  They will never share the bad times.  That couple that has been married for 20 years with the matching outfits and the Escalade has gone through some tumultuous circumstances.  It’s always in poor taste to post troubled times.  You will give yourself a personality disorder comparing yourself to others.  Its destructive.  Live your own life.  I’m pretty sure Cinderella wasn’t jealous of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.  No matter how much hair you purchase from the beauty supply store, you are not Rapunzel.  No man will ever climb up your locs and rescue you from a tower.  Whatever turmoil has you captive in your life, you have to free yourself from before you will find any of the happiness you seek.

I remember childhood sayings like “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”  and “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  Those were cute but they were crap.  They don’t transfer in your adult life.  People don’t think before they speak and you may get hurt from time to time.  Just make a pact with yourself to do your best always.  Your best is enough.  Prepare for excellence and tell the haters, “Shut ya Mouth And Call Me Ugly.”  😉

By: Shaun M Nickens