It’s Women’s History Month and we want to shout out some of the women in our lives who have inspired us. While it is important to highlight women from history, it is often our own life histories that have the largest impact on our day-to-day lives. The women we’re featuring below are exemplars of style and beacons of light on very personal, everyday levels.
Aisha’s Mother – “My Mommy is the Best Mother of All Time”
The first person I want to recognize is my mommy. I know that everyone claims this, but my mommy is the best mother of all time. She has always been an inspiration to me and continues to inspire me every single day.
One of the main ways she has been an inspiration is by providing a blueprint for perseverance. When my father became a drug addict, my mother found herself raising three children on her own. In true mommy style, she not only raised us but also did a great job at it. Growing up she found a way to work two jobs and still be an extremely active parent. And she is still the number one supporter of my siblings and me; honestly, she is one of my best friends.
After I left for college and my sister left for the Navy, my mother decided to go back to school. Working two jobs, still, she started putting herself through school and moving toward a nursing degree. She has shown me that perseverance is key. Oftentimes when I feel down, she reminds me that bad times do not last forever – and she is right.
My mother’s style of doing things, of making a way out of seemingly no way, and of pushing that rock to get everyone out of a hard place is simply amazing. So often my mother stops to tell me how proud she is of me – but honestly, I owe everything I am, both literally and figuratively, to her. She brought me into this world and it is her determination and perseverance that have gotten me this far.
Aisha’s Sister – “Having a Little Sister to Play with was Pretty Awesome, Too!”
Most of my time during childhood was spent with my brother and sister. Because of this we are all very close. My sister, Jazmin, was born two years after me. Although I was initially my older brother’s partner in crime, having a little sister to play with was pretty awesome, too. Like all sisters who grow up sharing everything (toys, clothes, and a room) we also shared a pretty healthy mix of arguing and getting along. As we’ve grown older we have grown closer.
Jazmin joined the Navy on her 17th birthday. Because of this she ends up spending most of her time thousands of miles away from our family. This can feel rough at times because we miss her a lot, but when we talk on the phone or when she is stateside (and I get to visit her) we always have an amazing time. Sometimes it feels like Jazmin is my little-big sister because she seems to have her life so much more together than I do. She pushes me and our mother to take care of ourselves (even from oversees right now, Jazmin checks on me to make sure I am eating healthy – that is LOVE).
My sister is an inspiration to me because she exemplifies determination. She knew very early on what she wanted and she went for it. She wanted to join the Navy – and so she did. She wanted to make her life and our lives better – and so she has. Jazmin was determined to make an amazing life for herself and she has. One of the greatest pleasures of my life, thus far, has been being able to watch Jazmin grow up into the beautiful and smart woman that she is.
Simone’s Mother – “I Did Not Recognize My Mother’s Light Until She Passed Away”
First, I want to honor my mother who is my angel. Truthfully, I did not recognize my mother’s light until after she passed away in 2003. So much of it was blocked by her struggle against her insecurities. My mother’s solution, to undergo gastric-bypass surgery, eventually cost her her life; she died as a result of post-operative complications. Initially, after she passed, I did not see my mother as a strong woman because I thought she was always preoccupied with how others perceived her. She chose to have the operation because being called fat made her upset and also made her feel ugly. Sometimes she defended herself against the marks, and there were also moments where I could not tell that people’s remarks affected her. Reflecting on those moments, I realize that my mother did, in fact, love herself. No matter the pain (physical and mental) she was going through, she still laughed and smiled—oh, and took hundreds of pictures of herself (ha—if she had Facebook, we’d be competing with selfies!). I can still see her throwing her head back in laughter the day she had her left breast amputated.
I am honoring my mother for her simplicity. She was in and out of the hospital and had to take care of several children after being laid off. The struggle with her insecurities complicated her life in some ways; however, she never lost sight of peace and happiness. During her panic attacks, she just wanted me to lie with her. And during her stays in the hospital, she just wanted my grandmother to comb her hair. She was aware of the love in and around her, and though “too late,” I think she realized that she did not have to risk her life to be accepted/loved by the people who would never love her anyway. My mother taught me that pain is complicated and will attempt to eat away your happiness. Her journey continues to inspire me to live my life simply, especially in a way that keeps her light shining.
Simone’s Sister – “Brittani is One of My Best Friends”
Ah, my little button-nose lover! (She is probably cracking up reading this right now.) My younger sister, Brittani is one of my best friends, and I am honoring her for her love and positivity. I can always count on her to make me laugh, or laugh at my crazy jokes! And just like my mother, she always throws her head back in laughter.
And speaking of mothers—Brittani is the mother of two beautiful children, Breaker (Baby Breaker) and Brielle (Chunka Munka!). When she became a mother, she was as nervous as any first-time mom would be. She was also very happy and in love with her new role, though some people judged her for becoming a mother at the age of 16. When she had Chunka Munka at 21, people continued to judge her; however, Brittani loves her life and sees her children as on time and a part of the Creator’s plan for her. Sometimes she does call me because she is upset at people and their hurtful remarks. However, before I can tell her that I am on my way with Vaseline, she bounces back. She moves from being upset to “Well, anyway. Grey’s is coming on tonight!” And what’s most beautiful, I think, is her unwavering love. She continues to love and do good things for others despite the pain some have attempted to cause her.
Brittani does not always think she is this positive and loving person, but I want her to know that when she texts me things like, “Good morning, my sista!” or posts Facebook statuses about how much she loves her family, I melt on the inside. She is such a beacon of love and light. I want her to know how resilient she is, and how her resilience inspires me to bounce back and keep moving. And I know watching Netflix through a wine hangover is not the same struggle as changing diapers on 3 hours of sleep, but all that strength and happiness in her, encourages me to live in love and positivity. Mother Earth loves you, Sissy Button Love.
So, who are you honoring for Women’s History Month? How has she inspired you? What does her life mean to you? What does her style of doing things teach you?
Below we’ve compiled 10 simple ways to honor and celebrate the women in your own life:
- Have tea/coffee or a meal together (or cook a meal for her) – A home-cooked meal or hot beverage always warms the soul; it’s also a very inexpensive way to show someone how much you appreciate them.
- Plan a craft or cooking day – If she’s artsy/crafty, this will be right up her alley; not only will she love spending time working with her hands, she’ll enjoy doing it with you.
- Write her a letter or a poem – This is almost a lost art, especially in the days of social media. A letter or poem will provide an opportunity for you to carve out down-time to write and to be thoughtful with your words while writing. She’ll definitely know that it’s from your heart.
- Go on a hike or walk in the park – It’s great exercise and nature has a way of opening the imagination, making it a perfect time to share what’s on your mind.
- Make sugar scrub or a piece of jewelry for her – Self-care should always be at the top of the list, so selecting her favorite scents for a sugar scrub or the perfect stones for a necklace will make the gift even more special to her.
- Tell her that you love her everyday – Time is precious; let people know how you really feel about them.
- Work out/do yoga together – Having an accountability workout partner can provide that boost of energy to keep going! Why not make that partner someone you consider a phenomenal woman?
- Do a wine and movie night – It’s another great way to relax; in fact, let her choose the wine and her favorite movie.
- Send her an inspirational book – We all need inspiration to maintain resilience – even the women we’re inspired by, so send her a book that has empowered you.
- Make her laugh often – It’s definitely the best medicine, and nothing is more special (and hilarious) than hearing someone you love laugh!
Let us know how you honor the women in your life. Share your own life stories in the comments section—we want to continue to honor Women’s History Month with the stories we don’t read about everyday.
About the Contributing Writers:
Simone Savannah is an English instructor and contributing writer for the Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English-Creative Writing and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Her poetry is based on personal experiences she can’t let go—imagined or otherwise. Simone also enjoys making green smoothies, attending Bikram Yoga classes, and laughing uncontrollably. Simone is teaming with Aisha (read about her below) to bring you a unique take on Life + Style.
Aisha Upton is a second-year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her research interests include Black women in service organizations and violence against Black women. She is passionate about many things including community service, lipstick, baking, thrifting, knitting, and being a proud owner of a Cockapoo, Napoleon. At the intersection of being a diligent student, a fashionista, and an activist – you will find Aisha, attempting to find a balance. Be sure to read Aisha + Simone’s unique take on Life + Style and the importance of letting who you are shine through when defining your personal style.
We are very excited about the new year because we’ve got a lot more inspiring articles, programs, and series in store for you. Our word, our theme for 2014 is BALANCE. Women are responsible for and juggle a multitude of things with our families, careers, communities, and of course, ourselves. So, the question becomes, “How do we create balance so that we are happy and healthy?”
Our goal is to tackle this topic with care so that we empower women to intentionally make balance a part of the daily routine. Our contributing writers will share their experiences on aspects of maintaining balance, as well as provide some insight on what to do when things are totally out of alignment and we need to come “back to the middle,” as India Arie so beautifully sings.
What is your word for 2014? What area of your life are you consciously making an effort to strengthen? What are you giving your full attention for positive self-growth? Patience? Focus? Health? Love? Happiness? Whatever your word is this year, make The PRC a space for getting the support, encouragement, and of course, inspiration, you need to keep moving forward throughout the journey.
Lastly, did you notice our new look? This is our way of starting fresh, thanking the awesome women who’ve participated in bringing our mission to life, and showing our supporters that The Phoenix Rising Collective represents real women doing extraordinary things!
Let’s continue being self-love in action. Happy 2014.
Today’s tip: Find your sacred space. Create a place for reflection, rejuvenation, and gratitude. This place should be just for you! It’s important to have moments that are designated for exploring who you are and sustaining your spirit.
Create a great weekend, Phoenix! Be self-love in action.
AFFIRMATION OF THE DAY: Physical Health
I love my body, and my body loves me.
Give your body and mind what it needs to be healthy today. Take care of you. Be well.
Let it marinate, Phoenix! Be self-love in action. Create the Wednesday YOU want to have, and start it with self-acceptance.
It’s Love Yourself First! Friday, and this is the last self-love story in our May Tribute to Mothers series. As you know, we extended an invitation to three mothers and they all accepted, so we asked them thoughtful questions about self-love, and they eloquently answered with wisdom! The last story in the tribute series comes from Yolanda.
Yolanda is the mother of Akil Houston, one of the contributing writers for the forthcoming book, Chasing My Father, Finding Myself: Journeys to Healing and Forgiveness. We extended the invitation to her because she is spiritually conscious, committed to helping women build healthy self-esteem, and full of inspiring words of wisdom and truth. Akil asked his mother these heartfelt questions, and here are her responses! Thank you, Mama Yolanda.
How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?
As I reflect on this question I am reminded of a piece of sage wisdom given to me by an elder: “Baby, if I don’t take care of me, I will not be able to take care of anyone else.” She provided this tidbit as she was preparing to take a road trip with her 18-year old niece. In order to take this road trip she had to find a caretaker for her husband who was terminally ill. She instilled in me the need to make sure that I lovingly took care of me, and to make myself a very high priority, as opposed to giving until I was worn out.
I have learned to embrace my passion for reading books or watching television shows that have absolutely no socially redeeming value, for example watching Scandal or reading romance novels. In the bigger picture of life, watching Scandal will not cure world hunger and reading romance novels will not bring world peace. However, what they will do is provide a bit of down time that brings me peace and feeds my soul. Now this doesn’t mean that I don’t read books or articles of substance, it just means that I need a break to recharge my battery.
There are also times when I just need to be around small children who are able to smile and laugh as if this is the greatest gift anyone could ever give.
When deeply stressed, I will retreat to my altar space to have a good conversation with my Yeye Oshun only asking that she listen, allowing me to reach a place of clarity.
What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc.)
My spiritual practice demonstrates the greatest show of self-care. While sitting in my altar space is quietly refreshing, I know that I can access that spiritual essence from wherever I may find myself.
Alternative healing practices such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, and massage have come to be the most effective methods of healing for me. Now, that does not mean that I won’t use westernized medicine if needed, it just means that alternative medicines have been the provider of the greatest healing for me. It was alternative healing practices that discovered the root of my chronic ear infections, laryngitis, and swelling as opposed to the numerous medications provided by my western physician that only masked my food sensitivities and allergies. My basic and most enjoyable form of exercise was dance. I danced for over twenty years taking classes, performing, and teaching until I had a serious fall at work and suffered a back and knee injury.
I now find that there is no form of exercise that gives me as much pleasure as dance.
Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led you to a deeper love for who you are?
When I met my son’s father, we were both in college. He was a junior and I, a freshman; it was instant love. He was so handsome, self-sufficient, and intelligent. We had talked a great deal about what our lives would be like once we graduated and were married. He was going to be an educator and I had plans to become a school social worker. At that point, I felt as though I loved him more than life itself. We always used protection so I was not worried about becoming pregnant; however, at one point the protection did not work. I had been sick with a seemingly endless ear infection and strep throat and was on antibiotics for several weeks. Little did I know, the antibiotics and my form of birth control did not mix. Upon finding out that I was pregnant, he informed both me, and our parents that there was no way he could marry me or provide for our child. Graduation and attending grad school were his highest priorities. Once he achieved his goals, he would then be in a better position to take care of a child.
I was devastated and wondered how this man, whom I loved so much, who I would have given my last everything, could say this to me. At that point, everything changed; I had to make it for my son and me. Knowing that I always had the support of my family, knowing that I could go home at any time, and knowing that I could ask for help and not have to be constantly reminded of how much my family had sacrificed for me, made the task of raising a child doable.
Being a single mom did not allow me to take the time to view issues as obstacles or challenges, I just had to make sure that my son was taken care of. I also realized that putting my son’s father’s needs above mine was the greatest mistake that I had ever made. I came to realize that by loving him more than I was willing to love me, I had not set any expectations for his behavior, allowing him to do whatever he wanted while making excuses for his lack of responsibility. It was through that lesson, that I came to realize that self-love was not selfish, and that I was and needed to be important to me. If I was not aware of my value, no one else would ever be aware of my value.
What have you learned about yourself from being a mother? How has it helped your personal development?
I have learned the importance of having patience, humility, and the ability to laugh at myself. As a parent, just when you believe that your child would never do anything to embarrass you, they do something to challenge your parenting. Sometimes your child will say something that makes you want to laugh, but you know as a parent that sometimes that laugh is really about something that you have told him/her, interpreting what you have said in a manner that you never intended.
Things that I thought were so important to being a great parent, really had very little to do with true parenting. Loving with expectations for behavior, setting limits, and being consistent were some of the greatest gifts I have received as a parent. The ability to multitask and listen beyond the spoken words have all been great assets to and for my personal development.
What have you learned from self-love?
I have learned that self-love is the greatest gift I can give to myself while showing others how I expect to be treated. It is looking beyond the pimple on my chin, the graying hair, the last ten pounds that I need to lose, or the self-sabotaging criticism that can destroy a person quicker than anything.
It’s about trusting in myself, being able to forgive me and not carrying those things I will never be able to change. It’s making sure that I love me and can have no less than one big heartfelt laugh a day. But most of all, it is about never lying to myself. It is about finding that inner peace, and appreciating the beauty of the simple things that life has to offer. It is also knowing that I am connected to spirit and how spirit is connected to me.
Love Yourself First! Friday is a weekly self-love series created by the Phoenix Rising Collective. Beautiful, diverse women of color tell their stories of triumph, share their personal affirmations, and declare their love for their own lives! The series is meant to inspire and empower women to fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self-esteem. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.
New Year’s resolutions, almost everyone has made one. But the beginning of the year doesn’t have to be the only time to make changes or set goals. It’s important to think outside of the New Year’s box about resolution making. We all have various strategies for making changes. See a change that needs to take place in your life? Hop on it, no matter what month it is.
Working toward achieving a goal should be a daily practice. We’ve all felt overwhelmed when it comes to completing tasks and achieving goals. Breaking down your goals into daily pieces can also help prevent becoming overwhelmed by them and can give you the space to ease into lifestyle changes.
A to-do list can be a useful tool for achieving daily goals:
- Write down what you need to accomplish and do not remove it from the list until it is done!
- Hold yourself accountable for every item and reward yourself for completing it.
- If for some reason a to-do item cannot be accomplished, make it the very first item for the following day.
- Write a message at the top of your list that will encourage your completion of each task.
Our favorite encouragement quotes?
These messages serve as constant reminders that you do, in fact, ‘got this’ and that your power comes from the work you do. So, get out your notepad and werk!
Making a to-do list isn’t the only way to set and achieve your goals. When we have goals that cannot be accomplished in one day, we look to other tools for growth and development, such as a vision board.
A vision board is a great way to visualize your purpose and long term goals:
- Break out your favorite magazines.
- Cut and paste pictures that reflect your journey onto a large poster board.
- Hang up your vision board in a place that you visit every day so that you constantly see your plan for development.
- Track your progress.
There are tons of ways to visualize your goals and life path. We recognize that creating to-do lists and vision boards, can also be overwhelming. Where do you start? And what happens when you can’t get anything done? How do you lose the stress and get back on track? Answer: We can’t tell you, because you know YOU best. As PhD students, researchers, and instructors, we are constantly on the go. We forget to eat, sleep (which is totally optional in graduate school), and sometimes we forget our to-do lists at home. And then there are moments where we get sidetracked taking self-portraits and posting them (and photos of Ice-T and Napoleon – our cat and dog) to Instagram. These things can make achieving our goals overwhelming, so constantly checking in with ourselves is what gives us room to breathe and get back on track.Make time to check in with yourself and affirm your spirit. Create a time for reflection. Before (or after) you break out your favorite M.A.C lipstick and lip liner, really take time to reflect on who you are as well as your desires and needs. This “me time” may help you realize the changes you need to make and how you may choose to go about making them. Additionally, create a space for reflection. Try decorating a table with your favorite pictures (of yourself and loved ones), affirmations, and letters. Visit this space every day. It could serve as a starting point for your day, and a reminder that you are powerful and loved by the most important people in this world.
We believe that setting goals and affirming one’s spirit are necessary for growth and development. As we approached the New Year, our own self-reflections and our friends constantly reminded us that changes needed to be made. We knew that last year’s goals needed revising and that a new year meant we had to throw out old lipsticks and invite something new into our lives. So, today, as you work on completing tasks and taking care of you, we also encourage you to ask yourself, “Turn down for what?” Perhaps who we mean to quote is Maya Angelou when she says, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
About the Contributing Writers:
Simone Savannah is an English instructor and contributing writer for the Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English-Creative Writing and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Her poetry is based on personal experiences she can’t let go—imagined or otherwise. Simone also enjoys making green smoothies, attending Bikram Yoga classes, and laughing uncontrollably.
Aisha Upton is a first year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her research interests: Black women in service organizations and violence against Black women. She is passionate about many things including community service, lipstick, baking, thrifting, knitting, and being a proud owner of a Cockapoo, Napoleon. At the intersection of being a diligent student, a fashionista, and an activist – you will find Aisha, attempting to find a balance.