A Focus on Dignity and Non-Violence at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

On April 15th I was honored to lead a Dignity Day session as a HOPE Corp Volunteer through Operation HOPE (HOPE) at the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) in Atlanta.

What is amazing is how the majority of this class of ninth graders were initially completely turned off to the idea of having to listen to yet another speaker that day as they were just returning to their classroom from an assembly that focused on the theme of 100 days of Non-Violence…so they were shifty and closed off. But about 15 minutes into our conversation some of the girls who had crossed arms were soon raising their hands and answering questions.

I started off by talking about the concept of legacy and that that day we were laying the foundation and road map for them to create and eventually leave behind a strong, dignified legacy. I had them define the term legacy in their own words and then share some of their dreams, goals and aspirations. Then as our conversation deepened I shared with them the history of how HOPE was founded, the services and programs that HOPE offers, and I started to weave a story where life included them and their legacy.


I think helping them share the names of empowered and dignified women they see in their family, community, and elsewhere who had similar or worse lives growing up helped them to see that they too could be those same type of women- that they are these women but in-training and with the potential to do more and help more in the long run because they are being equipped with the tools at a young age; and our adversity isn’t an excuse to let life pass us by or a crutch to coast through life doing and expecting the bare minimum, but a reason and motivation to excel and succeed.

These young ladies were shocked to hear that the civil rights movement as it pertained to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Ambassador Andrew Young was sparked, motivated, and pushed along due to their wives Coretta Scott King and Jean Childs Young- two women who endured and overcame adversity and strife. Hearing this information made many of these girls sit up straight in their chairs and listen intently.

                        

When I spoke about not holding grudges, and that forgiving people is not to benefit the person they were forgiving but to help themselves heal, grow, and overcome- some girls shifted in their seats their seats, a few others rolled their eyes in disbelief; but then when I mentioned Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Iyanla Vandzant and their ability to forgive their abusers and using strife as a launching pad towards success- some of the girls started naming other people like Fantasia and Tyler Perry who was sexually and physically abused and how he also overcame and pushed himself to success.

We discussed the concept of family and that it isn’t just our immediate family we need to be concerned about but our neighborhoods, cities, state, our country, and our global family. Because I know that girls can be equally as cutthroat as boys, I made sure that we had a heart-to-heart chat about trash-talking and “clowning” people and how although initially it can be lighthearted and funny, it can also be crippling and tear apart our “extended” family.

We discussed being relevant not only in this country but globally, and that true wealth (spiritual, financial, etc) can only be maintained long term by leading a dignified life, not by living up to the negative stereotypes that are projected globally about Black females. We discussed self-empowerment and not waiting on the government or specific programs to help us, that we have to help ourselves. That we shouldn’t be waiting for someone else to pick up trash on our sidewalks- we should pick it up ourselves.

We shouldn’t be waiting for someone else to cover the graffiti on our walls and buildings- we should paint over it ourselves; we shouldn’t wait for someone else to beautify our streets and parks with trees and flowers- we should plant them ourselves. I explained that they should be volunteering in their community through church or some other organization taking pride in restoring, building, maintaining, and beautifying their neighborhoods.

We had a pretty good time. We laughed and talked about boys and expectations of being respected by males and all people when you carry yourself with respect and dignity. We discussed the language of money and being financially literate, and how this literacy will empower them. It was refreshing to see that many of them have savings accounts and that two of the students had traveled abroad- one to London and the other to the Bahamas. Two young passport carriers living in an underserved and underrepresented area of Atlanta- doesn’t that give you hope? It gives me hope and encourages me to continue my work in the community, and my work through Operation HOPE.

I hope more men and women find it in their hearts to invest one hour of their time at least once per month to volunteer in a church, in a class room, or in a youth center through Operation HOPE. One person can make a difference!

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
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>I’m More Than What You Think

>I'm more than the color of my skin, the length and texture of my hair, or how many different shades that I dye it; or my almond-shaped eyes, one hazel and one brown. I'm more than my ovaries or mammaries; more than my pearly whites, my long, thick thighs, or my body art. I'm more than my small feet or the size of my clothes.

I'm more than the college degrees displayed in my home, or the certificates and plaques of achievement, excellence, and appreciation. I'm more than the professional license I carry, the articles I've written, the blogs I post, or the books I read.

I'm more than the people I know, the places I've been, and the things I've experienced; more than my ancestral ties, or where I was born and raised in the Golden State. I'm definitely more than the men that I date.

I'm much much more, because all of these things don't make me who I am; I can lose them at any moment. They can become a forgotten memory, or damaged and irreplaceable. But one thing that will never change, one thing that defines me and I'm most proud of is, that…I'm a child of God, and through Him I'm perfect even with my flaws!

Do you know yourself?

-Written by Natasha L. Foreman

Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
paradigmlife.blogspot.com

>Spiritual Connectedness: There are Many Ways We’re Called to Serve

>Daily I attempt to send via email and text Biblical scriptures, accompanied by a prayer and a reflection on both the passage and the prayer, in hopes that those I connect with spiritually will share with me the Word, pass on the message to others, and help spread love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, humility, tolerance, understanding, grace, care, and hope for a better today and tomorrow.

My friend Kenya began sending me scriptural text messages about two years ago, and from that seed she planted grew something so great and powerful that I felt the need to share with others. It is amazing how if I miss a day, friends and family quickly ask where their message for the day is, and if I’m okay. They look forward to reading the passages, reciting the prayers, deeply pondering on the reflection, and sharing their insight. 

It has been said that I should share these daily messages with others beyond the fifteen or so people I currently forward these words of inspiration to…so I have agreed to take the message beyond my comfort zone and share them in a blog named after the subject line in each daily email I send, “Natasha’s Daily Scripture, Prayer & Reflection”. 

The URL is simply http://breakingbreadwithnatasha.blogspot.com/

This isn’t a blog with me preaching, passing judgment, hooping and hollering, and acting holier than thou. It’s also not about converting, recruiting, or the like. No reference to any denomination, church, being or person (unless they are named in the Bible) will EVER be shared here. No one is allowed to advertise or promote anything at anytime. I’m simply sharing with the masses what I have been sharing with a few. Want an example? Great. Here’s today’s message:

Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it the issues springs life.
Proverbs 4:23

Pray
Father, thank You for giving me peace through any situation I might face. Thank You for the Word that turns any mess into a miracle; that lifts one up when we’re down, gives us hope when in doubt. I will praise so I can be raised. I Love You Father. In Jesus’ name Amen.

Reflection
When times gets rough we show our true self to the world. How do you respond during turmoil? Do you let it drag you down to your lowest depths or do you grab ahold of something and fight your way back to the top?

How are you in relationships? Are you putting God 1st or do you think of your perceived wants and needs first? If your heart is not warmed by and for God then you struggle to forgive, let go of past issues, move forward, and grow.

Today won’t you take that step towards faith that God as your protector has you?
Feel free to join me for daily inspiration as we pray together for each other, and for the rest of the world. http://breakingbreadwithnatasha.blogspot.com/

Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

>The Complexities of Relationships: Part Three

>So let us continue with part three of this relationship series, shall we?

ONE GAME WHERE THERE ARE NO WINNERS 

When men attempt to check my jealousy threshold by playing games using real or imagined women, it is an insult to me. So much energy is wasted in an attempt to see if I’m the jealous type, and in a twisted way to resolve that only through jealousy am I truly in love, when we could actually be spending that time growing closer and deeper in love. Why would you want to hurt another person? Why would you want them doubting your level of commitment and trustworthiness? Why would you want to play with someone’s mind and heart, when you don’t want someone doing that to you?

HOW I LIVE, AND WHAT I WANT AND NEED

I believe what my father taught me when I was a teenager. He said, “a man will not only tell you but he will show you the very first time you meet him the kind of man he is. I don’t know why you women think it takes three months, six months, nine months, or a year to discover the truth about men. We show and tell you on day one….” Even when a man is trying to be “slick” he will still reveal his true nature, that is God’s little joke on him for playing love games. It is up to the woman to truly see the man and not the image she wants him to be. God has equipped us with the tools of insight and intuition, yet we ignore them because we are overwhelmed and overruled by lust, loneliness, and a desire to love and be loved.

What do I want and need in a relationship? 

What I want and need sounds very simple, but have obviously been difficult ‘tasks’ for the men that have flowed in and out of my life. Understand that when I say “I want” from this point on it is including my needs. As I understand the difference between the two, I also understand that the things I need I now also want; so to simplify things I will say “I want”.  

I want a man who trusts me, is trustworthy, faithful, honest, keeps no secrets and tells me no lies; he is considerate, caring and kind, humble, honorable, and places God first in his life, his family second, and his career third. I want a man who has my back emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. A man who is a leader that lovingly leads by example- not one who is moved and motivated about being “the man” or “the boss”. A man who is respected, not feared or simply tolerated.

I want a man who wants to be my husband, faithful and true to me and only me. I don’t want to be your mistress, ‘friend with benefits’ or ‘side chick’. I’m also not interested in the long-term dating and seemingly longer engagement (I’m not 24 anymore). I want a man who wants to be a full-time, nurturing and supportive father, dad, and daddy to our children. 

I will not be with a person who is controlling emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially, sexually, physically, or on any other level. The man who will have 100% of me will never talk down to me, negatively call me out of my name, say cruel things to me, punish me by withholding his love, attention, or affection. The look in his eyes will never show signs of violent tendencies towards me or our loved ones. When he looks at me his eyes will show love even behind feelings of pain or anger. 
 
I want a man who can take care of his responsibilities, someone who does not make excuses for failures but gets back up on his feet and tries again without question or hesitation. I want a man who focuses his energy on uplifting me rather than tearing me down and dissecting my strengths, weaknesses and quirks. One who is not so focused on proving he is smarter, disproving my level of intelligence, or trying to make me feel bad because I am smart. I’m not in the world trying to highlight my intelligence. It speaks for itself. I don’t need to toot my own horn, God speaks through me- my intelligence is His flowing through me. 

I would rather agree to disagree with a person, than waste precious time trying to convince them that my way is the right way, or why theirs isn’t. The person who won’t agree to a ‘tie’ has issues with insecurity and control. In my mind the truth is always revealed so eventually one of us will be proven wrong, but it doesn’t have to be today through my will or yours.

I want a man who when we’re together he makes me feel like I’m the only woman in the room, the building, the world…he makes me feel special and loved…and he can achieve this even when we are apart. As a dear friend said to me a year or two ago, “for every woman he’s eyeballing, there are four men checking you out”. So if a man is more interested in trying to see if he can catch the attention of another woman while he is with me, he better wise up to the fact that God has several other men in line waiting to take his spot and do a better job. I want my man to feel like a king and I want him to treat me like his queen.   

I want a man who does not perpetuate double-standards and male chauvinistic tendencies; as I live an autonomous life so does he. I want a man, not a boy in a man’s body. I’m not into raising a man-child nor should he want to hold the hand of a damsel in distress who can’t do anything without someone else. I’m strong not weak, but don’t get me wrong I know when and how to ask for help when I need it. I was raised to think beyond the typical, traditional roles set for women. I don’t think I know it all or can do it all, but I know I can pick up a phone and ask around. 

I don’t want to be a man, I wear pants but I’m not trying to wear his. I do however want respect. We bleed the same way, put our pants on the same way, and we both have feelings and can be hurt. I want a man who respects me and understands that he has a one-of-a-kind woman, so I should never be clumped in and categorized with the last, the first (or any in between) that he had, because I’m uniquely different and should be treated accordingly.

We don’t like feeling like a number at our doctor’s, dentist’s, or lawyer’s office, so why would anyone think a person wants to feel like a number in a relationship? “”Ah yes, this is boyfriend number 5” how awful does that sound? Not as bad as the internal conversation that takes place where boyfriend number 5 is treated just like 4,3,2,1… were. 

LOOK IN THE MIRROR

We must learn from our past. In my past men complained that my career and family were more important than they were. I received complaints about my phone taking precedence over a decent conversation, because I had a tendency of keeping my phone in hand or close by all day every day. I would go on a date and would interrupt our conversation to take a call, respond to a text message or email, not realizing how utterly rude that is. Basically, I was saying, “you’re not important enough to invest my undivided time into”; not even during dinner or the movies.

I was told that I didn’t make time for a relationship, that they didn’t appreciate being “scheduled in”. I also heard that I didn’t “let a man be a man” and that I was “too independent”. Now only a complete fool would listen to these complaints and be convinced that these people are wrong. I had to look at myself in the mirror. 

Tomorrow I will share what I saw when I took a long look in the mirror. I look forward to your feedback concerning all three parts of this series so far. Part four will be just as engaging!  

Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.