The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action


It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: Today’s Phoenix is Latisha

Latisha_LYFF_The Phoenix Rising Collective2[2014]

Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority. This week’s motivated and courageous Phoenix is Latisha:

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

I think the most important element to loving yourself first is having a deep understanding of who you are and the things that are most important to you, things that bring you happiness.  It takes time to unravel the real nature of yourself , since we learn and grow through trials and errors. For me, I am great friends with myself.  I love me.  I feel that I’m beautiful.  My beauty is enhanced by the love I have for life and helping others feel the same way.  I appreciate my uniqueness and know that no one else is like me.  I want to be the best I can be and improve each day.  I understand that I have greatness within and believe God made everyone special.  I embrace my love for life and am constantly working on the barriers that lie within; and as I do, it brings me closer to peace and love, and also understanding who I am. I know we can’t fully love anyone until we love ourselves.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

My spiritual well being is very important to me.  I love God, and I believe that with Him first in my life, all things are possible.  I include God in every decision and thought I make.  I keep prayer in everything I do.  Spiritually, I am connected with God and that keeps me at peace – even during tough times.

I love to read and have quiet time.  For example, I love reading biographies. True stories give me different perspectives on life and a larger lens to appreciate everyone’s struggle.

Exercise has always been a priority, too. I am up at 5am, in the comfort of my home, exercising every day.  It empowers me, and it keeps my mind and soul clear of clutter.  Exercise also gives me energy, keeps me healthy, and makes me appreciate the temple God has given us.  Clean and leaner eating is a must in my life.  I indulge in a few carbs every now and then for a treat, but I eat lots of vegetables, fruit, and protein to sustain my youthful and healthy lifestyle.  I’ve lost 20 pounds over the last year, and I feel great!

Lastly, I also love spending time with my family. We love to travel.  I am a beach bum and love being near the ocean. I think it’s the closest thing to heaven we will see while on earth.

Latisha_LYFF[the phoenix rising collective]Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led you to a deeper love for who you are?

Yes, I am hearing impaired.  I was born in the 1960s with a progressive hearing loss that damaged my nerve cells.  My mom died when I was six weeks old, leaving my dad and grandmother to raise me, and they also had hearing impairments.  My impairment went undiagnosed until I was 19 years old.  I remember that as a young child I took speech classes and constantly took hearing tests. I was told to sit in front of the classroom, but I was never told that I needed a hearing aid or had hearing loss.  I always thought I heard well.  The blessing is that when I was born I heard the beginning of language, and that formed my communication.

I remember never being able to hear the words in a song or what was said on a TV show.  I also recall that in  5th grade my grades began to plummet, and that carried on until I graduated from high school.  I did graduate, but I missed out on so much in school. However, I always had this tireless drive to succeed.  I stayed in talent shows or on stage performing; again, never realizing that I wasn’t hearing so much, yet still beating the odds.

After moving from Ohio (where I’m from) and living with my older sister in New Jersey.  She immediately recognized that I couldn’t hear well.  She had me tested.  During that one visit, the specialist explained to me how my life was from newborn to 19 years old. I was flabbergasted.  My heart sunk to the bottom of my feet.  I cried and grieved.  At that point, I understood that I’d never really heard words, but had mastered reading lips.  I was proud that I did that, but my goals and desires for my life went in another direction.  I began the selective process of what I could or couldn’t do because of my hearing impairment.  I had to learn to accept and embrace my disability.  As time went on, I read more about my hearing loss and decided I wouldn’t allow it to stop me from the plans God has for me. After bypassing the insecurities about my hearing loss, I proudly wore my hearing aids and began the self-empowerment journey.

I always had a desire to continue my education.  I completed 33 credits in the classroom with help from some great and phenomenal friends.  They would take the same courses with me to write my notes.  I am indebted to them for life.  I had a few best friends who always made my phone calls for me and did anything to move the barrier that stopped me from effectively communicating.  I stopped going to school after my buddies couldn’t go any longer.  After a few years, I had the most beautiful son.  I knew then I had to do more and better. I took the chance and registered with the University of Maryland’s Online Distance Education.  Although online education had been around for a while, I was still skeptical and took a census for opinions about its effectiveness versus the classroom. There were some naysayers, but plenty of my friends and family supported me and said DO IT!  I did.  It was the greatest challenge that I appreciate to the fullest.

I started in 2003 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business with a minor in International Law in August 2008. That was the liberating point where I knew I could keep going.  At the time, my job was restructuring and we had to attend a paralegal program and pass to keep our employment.  I passed with flying colors.  I received my paralegal certificate with honors in 2009.  Oh no, I didn’t stop there!  In 2010, I registered with Seton Hall University to receive my master’s degree in Strategic Communications. And guess what?  To its entirety the classes were mainly in the classroom.  I contacted Seton Hall’s Disability Support Services and was able to receive remote closed caption for each class.  Wow, was I so excited! The professors and my classmates were very helpful during the whole process.  I’m so thankful.  Today, after 24 years I’m still working at Seton Hall University.

I am also a travel agent for Paycation.  This is allowing me to build my network and reach higher goals. In addition, I would also like to teach.  I trust God knows my desires of the heart since “He plans to give us hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I’m so thankful for my family and friends that have supported and helped me overcome many obstacles.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love is about treating myself with special care and loving who I am.  It’s not selfish. It’s what God intends for us to do. I can only love others completely when I love me first.  I can care for others when I care for me.  I do things that make me happy and keep me at peace, as self-acceptance is loving me.  With that I am able to do things more freely and without concern about how others perceive me.  No matter what I experience as good or bad, with self-love I will be provided a good, healthy balance of emotional well being.  With self-love I accept others, and I accept kindness without expectation of anything else.   Self-love means to care and accept myself with everything I got!


Thank you, Latisha! You are definitely a Phoenix rising! Happy Friday.


If you’d like to share your self-love story with The Collective contact us here.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a weekly self-love series created by the Phoenix Rising Collective. Beautiful, diverse women 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.

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Celebrate the Phenomenal Women in Your Life: 10 Simple Ways to Do It!

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”

Aisha_Mother[Womens_History_Month]_the phoenix rising collective

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!”

Aisha_Sister[womens history]

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”

simones mother_womens history[the phoenix rising collective]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”

simone_brittani_womens history[the phoenix rising collective]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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Tell her that you love her everyday – Time is precious; let people know how you really feel about them.
  7. 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?
  8. Do a wine and movie night – It’s another great way to relax; in fact, let her choose the wine and her favorite movie.
  9. 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.
  10. 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:

SimonePic3Simone 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_BLOG[PHOTO]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.


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Operating in Your Gift and Creating Happiness


When I was growing up my father’s motto was, “READ! I don’t care what you read, as long as you read something.” I can’t recall the age, but I was sure to be wet behind the ears when I noticed a Playboy magazine in this basket of assorted reading material in our home. At first I was appalled because from what I was told, Playboy was the premiere ‘Scantily Clad Showcase’ magazine for men – basically a book full of naked women. My thought was, “Someone must’ve mistakenly left this magazine behind in our humble pious domicile. This couldn’t possibly belong to the Currie Family!” If you don’t know me, please know that my previous statement is part sarcasm and part naiveté. I remember asking my dad about the magazine and he said, “Have you ever read any of the articles in there? It’s pretty interesting reading.” As questionable as that statement sounded to me, what do you think I did? I tested his theory, maybe to prove him wrong or to simply see for myself if there was any merit to his statement. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I dived into this magazine and ecstatically found my dad to be right.  I did, however, consider words he repeatedly stated to me as I was developing into the woman I am today, “I brought you up to be independent and to think.” So, in my very womanist state of mind, I had problems with perusing Playboy. But, my dad WAS right. There are interesting articles in the magazine, from the interview with Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman and Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei to Reader’s Choice Best in Film 2011. That was the year Octavia Spencer won best supporting actress for The Help. Let me also note, I am fully aware that what’s interesting to one person may very well be ‘not’ interesting to someone else.

Zelda_Wynn_ValdesWith that being said, I move forward. From the time my dad asked the simple question, “Have you ever read any of the articles…” I started to read different magazines and explore their histories – for example Playboy. In my research I learned about the artist of this month:  Zelda Wynn Valdes, a fashion costume designer. She is the designer Hugh Hefner commissioned to create the first playboy bunny costumes which were debuted at the first Playboy Club in 1960. Now, I don’t know about you, but my first reaction was “Really, Zelda? How’d you get that gig?” There are many articles that respond to my question, but she states repeatedly that she was fortunate to have “God given talent” to create and design gowns for Ella Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, Gladys Knight, Jessye Norman and other renowned women. She continued in her quest for perfection in the fashion world until her death in September 2001. Though our talents differ in scope (I create hats and scarves on a small scale), I felt akin to this woman, especially since her passing was on the date of my birth (September 26).

So the obvious truth is Hefner, like so many others, noticed her talent. Every article I have read attests to this and repeatedly says the same thing. For this reason I felt no need to rewrite what’s already been said about Zelda Wynn Valdes. However, my most immediate thought when reading about this woman was, “When you have talent that you cultivate, it begins to work for you. All you have to do is BECOME YOUR TALENT.” This is assuming you know what your talent is or know what you like to do. Zelda knew from a young age what sparked her interest, and it helped that she had a grandmother and uncle in the business from whom she could watch and learn.


How does balance play out in this scenario? I believe our gifts can be the balance we need to create happiness. And happiness is connected to one’s equilibrium, right? I’m not interested in being miserable, downtrodden, and simply surviving for the sake of repeating a very routine, monotonous life. I need more. I want to be HAPPY. Joyful, in fact. I want to do what I love and love what I do! Think about it. I can do the basics that will provide me the necessities to survive (i.e. work, eat, sleep). I can also shape my existence so that my basics are more than just routine activities that usher me into the next day. In other words, I can operate in my gift as a teacher and as an artist. This, in essence, IS my work; and if my work is my God-given talent that I cultivate regularly, then shouldn’t I be happy?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from personal experience, it is when you figure out what you’re good at and develop that skill/talent/gift, you start operating on another plane. You are fulfilled by what moves you. And I suspect that if what you’re good at is similar to what you absolutely love, then you’ve probably hit the mark!

In the final analysis, being balanced is operating in what you’re passionate about and hopefully what you would like to get paid doing (whether payment is financial or otherwise). What a way to live!

So here’s to Zelda Wynn Valdes for operating in her gift. If I had an opportunity to sit with her at this moment and ask her how she defines ‘balance’ I have no idea what she would say. It very well may be different from what I am offering, but I do believe that part of the joy in living, even in all of one’s hard work and sleepless nights, is offering a bit of gratitude, knowing you are good at something in this world.

And what a pleasure it is that this gift or talent has been given to you, of all people! Most of all, you get to shape it, flip it, and do what you will with it to create the absolute balance you yearn.


About the Contributing Writer:

traci_currie_profile[photo]Traci Currie is the Art + Creativity contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet.  Read her latest posts here.

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Affirmation of the Day: Financial Prosperity

AFFIRMATION OF THE DAY: Financial Prosperity

A consistent and steady stream of income flows to me in expected and unexpected ways, and satisfies my needs and wants. I am open to and grateful for financial prosperity.

Breathe. Happy Friday.



Happy 2014 from The PRC: What’s Your Word for the Year?

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.


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Self-Love Tip for the Holidays: Release All Expectation

I let go and the universe lovingly takes care of me. -Ayanna M. Jordan

During this time of the year many of us start putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and the ones we love. Getting stuck on what we THINK our holidays should look like will rob us of the beautiful, meaningful moments that ARE happening.

Let’s give ourselves and our family and friends a break by letting go of “would have, should have, and could have.” Instead, recognize and concentrate on what IS bringing joy, and put more energy into that. Take a deep breath and release all expectation. Enjoy the season.

Happy Holidays! Be Self-Love in Action.

tumblr_m3fli10BFl1qbi118o1_500Photo: Sun Kissed – Sabriya Simon Photography


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Self-Love Tip of the Day: Set Intentional Goals for Your Life

SELF-LOVE TIP OF THE DAY: Set Intentional Goals for Your Life

Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction…the new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals. -Melody Beattie

How are you preparing for 2014? Have you written your goals for the new year? What about creating a vision board? Writing and visualizing what you want is an important part of intentional living – healthy steps toward creating the happiness you desire! Make time for positive practices that help manifest the experiences you deserve to have.


EXTRA TIP: Plan a Vision Board Brunch. Invite your closest sister-friend(s), one or two, over for a good meal. Pull out the old magazines and get creative! Share your thoughts about what you want for 2014 and commit to supporting one another throughout the year.

Happy Tuesday. Be self-love in action!

Want more on goal-setting and making positive change? Read this article from Simone and Aisha, our Life + Style contributors.


What About Your Friends? How to Develop Healthy, Positive Friendships

healthy_friendships[blackwomen]By now we’ve all probably heard the idea that our friends are a reflection of who we are. Whether we’ve heard how “birds of a feather flock together” or TLC’s old hit “What About Your Friends” – we’ve learned that friends come in many different varieties.

We’ve also learned that while some people are invaluable to our lives, others just aren’t good friends.

Navigating the highways and byways of friendship can be difficult, so we want to discuss how having healthy friendships play a role in maintaining a happy lifestyle.

“Are they gonna be low down?” –  Some people just aren’t good friends.

If a person is negative, how is that a reflection of you? Can friendships that don’t last still be positive?

We’ve all been there, so let’s first discuss what not-so-positive friendships look like and how we can grow when in them and/or leave them. We believe that you have a choice of whether to stay in a friendship just like any other relationship. Of course making that type of decision requires a lot of self-evaluation. Any time you notice that something isn’t right in your friendship, you might consider looking inside yourself to find pieces of the problem. And once you identify the problem, give yourself permission to grow. Be a better friend and a better you.

AISHA_BLOG[PHOTO]Aisha’s Story: When I first moved to Pittsburgh, I quickly became friends with the woman who lived below me in my apartment building. We hung out almost every day and things went pretty well until she started acting weird. She was always a more pessimistic person, and at first her negativity seemed quirky, until it started to wear on me. It started off small. Then she began making negative comments about the people in my graduate program and how they made her feel inferior, and it continued to grow as she began binge drinking most nights of the week. Sadly, I kept hoping she was just going through a phase. I invited her to San Diego with me for spring break and she showed out! This girl was outright rude to my sister (who we were staying with) and me the whole time. She told me at one point that most of the new friends she was making were racists. By that point of the trip I was exhausted. Luckily, she decided to leave one morning; she had her flight moved up and also had a town car take her to the airport. When I got back to Pittsburgh she didn’t want to speak to me, and I was OK with that. That trip helped to end things swiftly. I’m glad I got out of that situation when I did. It was surely going downhill.

SimonePic3Simone’s Story: The last time I saw Francheska in person, she had short brown hair and a sad face. I wondered what made her think she had to be so sad all the time, because when she was happy she told me how much she enjoyed smiling. But, I knew what made Francheska sad; she thought that the man she was seeing owed her love. She had given him so much and he hadn’t noticed.

I know these things, not because Francheska told me, but because I experienced them, too. The idea that we attract what we are is a true statement. When you notice something in someone else it is because it may be a familiar pattern/experience in your own life. Our relationships are reflections of ourselves. However, I didn’t realize this connection while Francheska and I were best friends. I thought I was there only to help her, not myself as well. At times, I felt overwhelmed with her problems. She would call me at six o’clock in the morning, and though I did not hesitate to answer her calls, her sadness became a part of my life. I became sad when I talked to her. When we were together, I would frown so that we looked the same. When carrying her became too much, I talked to my Godmother and told her that I needed a break from Francheska because I hated the negativity—how it bounced between us and settled into me. My Godmother told me that it was probably best that I keep my distance for a while. However, each time I took a break from Francheska, she would find me and I’d be listening to her again. I had no idea that I was listening to myself.

Yes, you attract what you are. The same time Francheska and I were best friends, I was also seeing a man who I thought owed me love. I would become angry if he did not return my calls, because I returned his calls. I didn’t talk to Francheska about it too much, but the sadness was there and it came out when she opened her mouth; she was telling me that I was sad, too.

It wasn’t until this past summer that I realized the lesson that my former best friend was there to teach me: “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”  Francheska showed me my own internal struggles and also taught me that I can choose to be happy.

I am very thankful for her.  I am also very glad that I realized I deserve to surround myself with happy, positive energy. I did not sit down and tell Francheska that our friendship needed to end or that something needed to change. She sort of went her own direction, and she occasionally drifts back into my life. It is when I recognize her sadness on the other end of the telephone that I acknowledge that I need more moments with myself. However, when I hang up the phone, I leave the sadness with her and remember the power I have to choose happiness.

“Will they stand their ground?” Positive Friendships

Just what is a good friend? How do you know when someone is a good friend?

PhotoGrid_1385390261660Aisha: I’m really close with my family. My mom, sister, and brother are all like close friends. When I think of a best friend, I think of people outside of my family who provide me with the same kind of support and love that my family does.

With that said, I met my best friend Asheley in my 8th grade health class. I sat down next to her and asked if she wanted to be friends. She kindly told me, “you’re weird,” to which I agreed, and we’ve been best friends ever since. Asheley and I have only ever had one argument (because she thought I didn’t call her early enough in the morning on her 16th birthday). I think that we have managed to make our friendship last so long because we really have a deep understanding and respect for each other as individuals with different personalities.

Asheley has always accepted me just as I am. Once a group of our friends was giving me a hard time for using a “big word” and she jumped to my defense saying, “That’s just how Isha talks! She thinks in big words!” Over the last 12 years Asheley has become a part of my family. We laugh and cry together. She pushes me to be a better person and is always there to bring me back down to earth if I stray too far.  I’ve watched her grow from the girl who I split 10 dollars of junk food from the corner store with into a strong single-mother who loves her son fiercely and works every day to make their life better.

Aside from Asheley, I have a lot of other sister-friends who make my life better just by them being in it:

starlandISupport System. Simone and Starla are my support system through our group chats. If I need advice on men, fashion, food, or just want to share pictures of our pets, they are there.

Inspiration. Belinda and Cherrell, I adore greatly. They can make anything happen (they basically make all of their dreams come true) and emanate good energy that is contagious!

Strong Connection. Chrysten, Taylor, and Tera are my long-distance sister-friends. Since we’ve all left college we live far away but have worked on keeping in contact actively.

Positive Reinforcement. Lastly, the fabulous women I’ve made friends with in my graduate cohort, Liz and Hillary, have really gotten me through the last year and a half. I don’t think I could have survived this transition into a PhD program without them. We pull all-night study sessions, text, and e-mail each other all day long, and we also talk one another off numerous academic cliffs.

I love all of my friends, and maintaining friendships is at the top of my priority list.


brittani_simoneSimone: I tell people all the time that my younger sister, Brittani, is my soul mate. We have such a strong connection—something I can’t explain here. It makes me so happy that I can call her my sister and best friend. Although she is only twenty-one, she is so wise and tells me what I need to hear. I just love my little button-bear-cupcake-sweet! We talk to each other about everything. And when I say everything, I mean there are things I’ve told her that she can’t repeat to God.

In addition to Brittani, I have so many people in my life that make it wonderful:

Good Advice.  My group chats with Starla and Aisha help me through the day. We are always laughing and giving one another advice about school, men, and wine.

Spiritual Network. Kenton and Goyland are my friends in prayer. I met these two when I moved to Kansas, and though this was just last year, I can’t imagine my life without our late night runs to Sonic and our prayer/talk/laugh sessions before Scandal.

Happiness. Lanisha is always so happy and never hesitates to share her happiness with me.

Commonalities. Funmi is my Scorpio sister! Our iMessages are basically screenshots of our daily horoscopes and a back and forth of “Girl, this is sooooo true!”

Love. Yewande, my Coffee Pot, is a big-hearted fashionista who keeps me laughing with statements like, “Simone! I look like death warmed over. You can’t see me like this!”


 So, what makes a positive friendship?

  1. Being supportive: Support your friends no matter the cause. Okay, we’re going to limit the cause when it comes to twerking and dancing on tables. But, be sure you are supporting the dreams and goals that keep your friends happy and healthy!
  2. Honesty: If something is bothering you, tell your friend. This includes anything that has to do with the friendship, as well as things that you are dealing with emotionally.
  3. Respect: Well, you all know what this looks like. Treat your friends how you want to be treated.
  4. Constructive Criticism: Friendships help you grow. Don’t be afraid to offer advice. We are all working on creating ourselves, and we know that we need advice and suggestions from friends in addition to the conversations we have with ourselves. Additionally, our friends can teach us something about ourselves, so be open to hearing what they have to say.
  5. Openness: This includes honesty as well as the willingness to share and try new things. Have fun with your friends! What’s the point of having someone as a friend if you can’t share or do crazy things with each other?!


What does a positive friendship look like to you? Let us know!


aisha_uptonAisha 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.

SimonePic3Simone 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.