Ask A Popped Brotha: An Intro

Welcome to the introductory post for the Ask a Popped Brotha series of the Popped Black Woman Blog. I’m excited to introduce you all to a man that I look up to a great deal who happens to be my husband and the father of my 1 year old daughter, Mr. Aaron Miles aka Brotha Aaron. We’ve been talking for a while about a way to share his financial advice with the world since he has lots of great advice to share. We figured this would be a great start. Without further ado, I’ll let him introduce himself.

Popped Black Woman Blog: Could you introduce yourself?

Brotha Aaron: My name is Aaron Miles and I majored in Finance and Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I’m focused on two asset classes, which are real estate and private equity. I love studying and investing!

Brotha Aaron with former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley circa April 2009 at a UIC function

Brotha Aaron with former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley circa April 2009 at a UIC function

PBWB: That’s great! Now, can you give a little info about your background and how you became interested in finance and entrepreneurship?

BA: It started when I was little growing up. I started a lawn care business when I was a 9 years old. I felt a rush and thrill with the thought of being able to empower myself by being a business owner. I remember one snowy day when I made $100 at the age of ten. I was sold! I am extremely passionate about entrepreneurship and its importance in our economy. Every product and service we do on a daily basis started out as a simple idea or dream. That is simple human ingenuity at it finest.

PBWB: Really inspiring! So why do you think financial literacy is important, especially for black women?

BA: To be frank, financial literacy is the new civil rights movement. We live in an ever-increasing class-based society in which economics is equally as divisive as race. It is important for black women to have knowledge of financial literacy. It is no different than your health, spirituality, and relationship. Often times is correlates to all of the above. Sometimes when I am at church, I wonder how many people pray for more money, but I challenge people to ask God or whoever you believe in to [help you] become better stewards [of your money].

PBWB: Amen Brotha Aaron. What do you believe is the economic state of the majority of black Americans today? How can we make it better?

BA: Sad. Our demographics consumed over 507 billion dollars in 2014. However, we are probably recipients of less than 3% of that consumption. We need to transition from a consumer-based society to producers/owners. The honest truth is I think we are worse off than we were 40 years. We have taken a step back in fundamental value in terms of home ownership and living debt free. We have positioned ourselves to live above our means, [while] renting and driving expensive cars. Not to mention [we are] saddled with student loans. It is a recipe for destruction. We need to start with financial literacy being a requirement in every classroom specifically in the black community. We need to stop chasing the Joneses and stop financing it with loans. We need to start eating mash instead [of] filet mignot and start paying with cash. It is the only way…

Brotha Aaron tearing it up at our wedding in Jan 2013

Brotha Aaron tearing it up at our wedding in Jan 2013

PBWB: This is really good stuff. Leave us with some of your favorite financial gurus so that our readers can do a little research on their own.

BA: Dave Ramsey, Robert Kyoski, Susan Orman, Jim Cramer, Larry Kudlow

Thanks so much for coming on board to spit some knowledge to the PBWB community. If any of you have general financial questions for Brotha Aaron, please email those questions to poppedblackwomanblog@gmail.com. Stay tuned for more positively optimistic and powerful info from Brotha Aaron each week 😉

Updates! Updates! Updates!

Well guys and gals, I am proud to say that it has only been a few weeks since I started my 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge and I am knocking items off that list like Joe Frazier. As you may remember from Living on Purpose: 101 Things in 1001 Days (#61-101!!!), numbers 93-95 were as follows:

93. Redesign my blog
94. Reach 500 views in one month on my blog
95. Start a new interview series on my blog

You can see that the blog has a whole new look and I bet you are feeling it a whole lot better than the old, bland one because I know I am. There may be more changes down the road, but I’m going to feel this new look out for a bit. I am also grateful to let you guys know that the Popped Black Woman Blog has had over 500 views for the month of January! This is the first whole month that the blog has been up and running and I am so excited! I hope to continue to produce content that you all care about so that the views can keep increasing each month. If you have any suggestions for content such as book reviews, interesting stories/ideas, etc, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at poppedblackwomanblog@gmail.com.

I know you all are wondering why I haven’t mentioned number 95 yet. I am so pleased to announce that I have two interview series in the works, but the first one I am starting with is the Ask a Popped Brotha series, which features financial advice (and maybe other advice as well, you’ll have to wait and see…) from my very own smart and sexy husband, fondly known as Brotha Aaron around the way. Stay tuned for his introductory post to the series and send your financial questions for him to my email as well.

The Chocolate Hubby Taking a Cool Dip on a Hot Day

The Chocolate Hubby Taking a Cool Dip on a Hot Day

There’s a lot going on in the Popped Black Woman Blog Community and I’m so excited about our journey together. Remember to like us on Facebook and as always stay positively optimistic and powerful 😉

On “Light Girls” and Using Positive Thinking When Fighting Systemic Injustices

This post was inspired by a lot of the controversy surrounding the Light Girls documentary that premiered on the OWN network January 19th. I still haven’t seen the actual documentary (I know :-\), but I’ve read a few articles and blog posts about it. I saw the film’s predecessor Dark Girls and was really moved by it.

#teamAllSkinIsBeautifulSkin

#teamAllSkinIsBeautifulSkin

There was criticism surrounding Light Girls before the documentary even aired on OWN. There were people who believed that light-skinned women of color didn’t deserve to have their stories told because of light skin privilege or privilege towards blacks with “whiter” features over darker skinned blacks. However, after the documentary actually aired, judging simply from the articles and blog posts I’ve read, it seems like the criticism ranged from the documentary not addressing the key issue of white supremacy to it reinforcing stereotypes about dark-skinned black women. I believe that these may be valid points (I say ‘may’ only because I haven’t seen the film myself). The aspect that I want to focus on specifically is influenced by a blog post that I encountered called “Light Girls, When Documentaries Get It Wrong” by Jessica Ann Mitchell that stated “colorism cannot be changed through positive thinking.” The author seems to go on to say that positive affirmations and other positive thinking tactics reduce the very real and important issue of colorism when referencing portions of the documentary where positive thinking/self-help ideas were brought up.

Firstly, I wholeheartedly agree that systemic racism, sexism, and colorism exist in America and we must fight against it. When statistics show that dark-skinned African Americans are less likely to be hired for jobs than light-skinned African Americans even when they have better qualifications, we have a HUGE problem and this problem must be addressed. The problem I have is stating that positive thinking/self-help has no role in addressing the problem of colorism or other injustices faced by people of color. I believe that positive thinking must go hand-in-hand with (never in place of) peacefully fighting against systemic injustice because it is self-confidence that will get that person up and out of the door for the job interview in question whether he/she is light-skinned or dark-skinned. With the weight of racism and sexism, I believe it is that much harder for black women of all shades to be confident in their abilities and autonomy.

While I agree that positive thinking won’t solve the problems of colorism or racism, I do believe that positive thinking is key to taking back our power to reach our fullest potential. This issue goes beyond any individual experience but of course I have to bring up my own.

When I think about my past of growing up with an alcoholic father that was a great provider, but wasn’t so great at making me feel valued as a young woman, I believe that my lack of self-esteem held me back from stepping out and taking advantage of the many opportunities available to me. There was one particular time when I had a job interview with Jewel-Osco at their Itasca, IL headquarters during college for a management-in-training position at my local store when I felt tension with the white female job interviewer. I felt like she looked at me like I was nothing and with so much disinterest that I wondered why I was even called for an interview in the first place. This tension could have been because of my race or because of my skimpy resume; I will never know since there was nothing blatantly racist stated. However, I do know that I botched the interview before it even started because I didn’t believe that I had a real chance. I didn’t believe in myself and if I didn’t believe in myself, how could I sell my skills and experience enough to get a recruiter to believe in me? How could I stand a chance fighting external and internal forces working to keep me behind?

I believe without a doubt that low self-esteem held me back from achieving and doing some amazing things. Does this mean that racism or sexism couldn’t have been at play as well? Does any personal experience I have invalidate hard core statistics suggesting colorism is a legit issue? Of course not. However, I believe that while we ensure that systemic injustices are confronted and addressed, we must also address ways that we hold ourselves back because we feel defeated before the  game starts.

All women struggle with self-image and self-worth. Yet, black women also have the added battles of racism and colorism. As we fight the long, continual battle for equal treatment of all people, why not also work on building ourselves up and encouraging ourselves to make bold moves to achieve little successes until that big success is won?

Share any thoughts you have in the comments or on our Facebook page. I love a friendly debate! Be sure to “like” the Popped Black Woman Blog Facebook page!

Encourage Yourself

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been on my personal development ish like I should. I definitely can feel the difference in my outlook and thoughts. Lately, I’ve been losing focus on the big picture and only focusing on the day-to-day instead. I need to get that P.O.P.ed (positively optimistic and powerful) momentum going again.

Has anyone heard the song “Encourage Yourself” by Donald Lawrence? I know everybody that ever occasionally listens to Gospel has. It’s about using God’s Word to encourage yourself. When I was younger, whenever I was feeling down or going through something difficult, I would find somebody to call to encourage me. Whether it was having my older cousin pray for me or venting to a friend, I looked outward for that encouragement. Yet, many of us know that as you get older, your circle gets smaller and smaller. And there are certain things that you may not even wish to discuss with others because quite simply, you’re not a little girl or teenager anymore and you now have “grown folk business” of your own. Plus, as you enter certain stages of your life, you realize that you can’t run to other people for advice or encouragement because they may not understand or may not know the best way to encourage you.

This topic of encouraging yourself motivated me to write this post and share a few things that may help you all encourage yourself when you’re going through something whether it’s big or small. Below are 3 things that I find useful when I need to encourage myself.

1) Think of 3-5 things that I’m grateful for.

Yeah, it sounds hokey, but it really works for me. When I find myself complaining that I don’t have this or that, I stop and think about all of the blessings that I do have. I think about having shelter and food, a healthy child, and a partner to share life with. The thing about stopping to count your blessings is that you often can’t stop at just 3-5 things. The list is never-ending.

2) Read something encouraging

If you’re a Christian or Muslim, you may find encouragement from the Bible or Quran. Anyone may find encouragement from reading a personal development article or book. Anything that helps you focus on where you want to go instead of where you are could help. I like to frequent blackenterprise.com or read books from my Pinterest board appropriately titled, “Boss Books.” Even a biography that shows someone else’s “failures” and “successes” could help. I’ve had Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson on my to-read list for awhile.

3) Listen to a positive podcast

I only recently got into podcasts within the last 6 months or so. It was actually my husband who suggested it to pick my mood up while driving to and from work. I tried out a few, but I struck gold when I stumbled on Black Entrepreneur Blueprint! This podcast has encouraged me more than words can describe. This podcast and a cup of coffee gave me momentum to make it through the work day. It features interviews from prominent black entrepreneaurs. All of the interviews were informative and encouraging, but I especially enjoyed listening to black women discuss their journeys into entrepreneurship. I needed this at a time when I felt like I had no purpose and I was only a tiny cog in a big, spinning wheel. I believe this was a major force in my determination to return home to care for my daughter, get my financial house in order, and start my own business. For anyone that knows the rat race isn’t for them, give this podcast a listen!

And a special bonus…

4) Laugh! IMG_1618

Everybody says laughter is the best medicine (I don’t know if they considered medical marijuana in the mix) and I have to agree. Sometimes everybody needs to stop taking themselves so seriously and have a good laugh. I like to lurk on Twitter for some good laughs when I need a little pick-me-up since I love a silly meme, gif, or vine every now and then. Plus, it just seems like the world’s best everyday comedians are on Twitter. Here’s one of my favorite vines. You’re welcome.

How do you all keep yourself encouraged when you feel more pooped than p.o.p.ed? Share in the comments or on Facebook.

Only Two Choices

It is never easy to go against the grain of the people around you. Some of the biggest decisions I’ve made in my mere 26 years of life were done in opposition to my closest family members and friends. When I decided to start going to church with a friend from high school, a family member told me church people are crazy hypocrites, which is true, but I think this applies to all people, not just church people. When I decided to cut all of the perm out of my hair at 18, I was told that it was a horrible mistake to cut off all of my “long, pretty hair.” Even though I slipped up and got a relaxer the year after that, I immediately regretted it and have never regretted my decision to be natural since that second big chop. But more than anything, every new mother knows that once you have a baby, everybody else becomes an expert on what you should and shouldn’t be doing. People who don’t have kids (and aren’t medical professionals by any means) will tell you how to breastfeed or the exact time you should potty-train your child. And Lord forbid the topic comes up of whether you should keep working outside the home or choose to be a stay-at-home mom. You will not want for opinions because they will come like flies come to fruit. IMG_1602

There was a time when I used to resent these didn’t-ask-your-opinion opinions and allow them to upset me. I used to question how people that seem to oppose everything I decide to do say that they love me and not support me. But now, I’m grateful for the opposition because it makes me a stronger person and forces me to really analyze my own decisions in a good way. People have always feared and distrusted what they don’t understand or what is different from them. I’ve realized that I have two options when people oppose something I’m trying to do. I can

Let those opinions control me and paralyze me from doing what I feel is the right thing to do

or

Use those criticisms to make me even more determined to prove people wrong later.

The choice is always ours. We can take the easy, but miserable road of people-pleasing and staying stuck in the box people will keep trying to put us in or we can take the sometimes lonely and difficult road that will make us people that we are proud to be, but most importantly, it will make us people we are meant to be. I choose to listen to those criticisms, nod my head, and focus on what my head, heart, and spirit tell me to do, tapping into all that positivity, optimism, and power that I have within me. What do you choose to do?

You Have More POP-ed Magic Than You Think You Do

I never considered myself to be very bold or courageous growing up. I avoided confrontations to the best of my ability. Even that one “fight” I had in 6th grade wasn’t even really a fight. I hit someone for something they said (probably about my mamma), they hit me back, and I just looked at them like, “So what happens now?”

I was always self-conscious and eager to please. I never saw myself as brave. Yet, when I think about it, I definitely had my badass moments…

It was my freshman year of college at a predominantly white and Evangelical liberal arts college in a wealthy suburb of Chicago. My shy and timid black self stood at the front of my public speaking class and gave a shaky speech on the need and benefits of affirmative action to society.

Me in my Afro glory, freshman year of college

Me in my Afro glory, freshman year of college

I was the only black student in the class and my white teacher was an adjunct professor that had his share of ignorant-in-an-attempt to be funny comments. One of those comments was calling me “Foxy Brown” when I entered the class with my Afro.

As I rambled through my speech, barely glancing up from my sloppy index cards because the faces in front of me were blank, bored, or skeptical, I felt anything but brave. Yet, when I look back on it, I could have talked about anything else, why would I talk about how great affirmative action is (something I only partly agreed with myself)? Underneath my shyness and attempts to go under the radar, I had a desire to shake things up and turn over tables, I knew that it was an unpopular subject on campus at the time due to more African American students being enrolled that year than in many years prior (and the multicultural scholarship made available to most of those students). I didn’t choose that topic because I was really passionate about it; I wanted to piss people off!

So maybe I was brave then. Maybe we all have way more courage, power, and strength than we think we have. We are always our own biggest critics. It is now 7 years later that I embrace my desire to play devil’s advocate and turn over tables, if only in people’s minds. We always have power within us, even if we only tap into a little bit. Let’s walk in that power and shake some things up.

Me a couple months ago, "I don't give a..."

Me a couple months ago, “I don’t give a…”

Choose to be positively optimistic and powerful today and even on days when you don’t feel like you have it in you.

Living on Purpose: 101 Things in 1001 Days (#61-101!!!)

So we’ve come to the end of the road…but it’s only the beginning! I’m done working on my list of 101 things that I want to conquer in the next 1001 days, roughly by the end of October 2017, and I’m ready to start checking things off! I must say that this final part of the list left me with moments of being completely stuck and having to take a break to get some fresh ideas. This happened somewhere around #’s 61-80. But, after searching Pinterest for inspiration, I was able to use other people’s 101 things to get my own creative juices flowing again. I’m thankful that I found Design Darling for a great deal of inspiration as I got down to my last 10 or so items on my list. Without further ado, here are numbers 61-101:

101 Things in 1001 Days #’s 61-101

61. Make a vlog entry and put it on YouTube
Youtube

This will be a stretch for me since I’ve always been more of a writer than a talker, but it’s worth a shot! Not sure what the topic will be yet! Image source: Oejitv, “Logo YouTube,” Copyright October 11, 2014 CC-BY-SA-4.0

62. Have a real spa service done at a real spa (i.e. body wrap, facial, massage, anything!)
Spa_interiors

Doesn’t this look amazing??? Image source: Avilash behera, “Spa Interior,” Copyright June 30, 2011 CC-BY-SA-3.0

63. Reach one hundred followers on this blog

Currently, at 21 followers. I hope to make content worthy of 100 amazing people like you tuning in for each post. Let me know any ideas to make the blog better and/or how to attract more followers. I’m a newbie! Check out my contact info in the “About” section.

64. Find out how to read at a baby/toddler story time at the library
65. Do a real push up
66. See a live boxing match
67. Take a CPR refresher course
68. Make a cheesecake
69. Research the foster parent licensing process and pray with family over starting the process
70. Make a pair of earrings
71. Come up with a consistent Bible study plan and stick to it
72. Start/join a book club
73. Join a Toastmaster’s group
74. Attend a networking event or empowerment conference
75. Learn to step (a Chicago line dance for those that don’t know)

Semi-random pic, but he looks like he knows how to step. Pic taken at 70th & Jeffrey in Chicago by yours truly.

Semi-random pic, but he looks like he knows how to step. Pic taken at 70th & Jeffrey in Chicago by yours truly.

76. Go to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN
5308655687_b2b54a7b9c_b

So much history here. Thank God for those that came before me so that I can be where I am today. Image source: Carl Wycoff, “National Civil Rights Museum – The Lorraine Motel – Room 306 – Memphis TN-28,” Copyright December 26, 2010 CC-BY-2.0

77. Watch a TED talk/other personal development video once a week for at least 3 months
78. Take little L to a children’s museum
79.  Create a cookbook with recipes from family members and friends
80. Research meditation and give it a try
81. Spit some poetry at an open mic event like I’m in “Love Jones”
82. Seriously research starting a food pantry at New Exodus Baptist Church
83. Clean out my “junk” room
84. Go at least a month without surfing the web on my phone before going to bed
85. Go one entire month without eating any fast food or dining in at any restaurants
86. Read 5 African/African American history books written by people of African descent
87. Clean out my gmail and yahoo email accounts and unsubscribe from junk mail that floods my inboxes
88. Upgrade my phone
89. Take a photography class
90. Feel cultured and special at Jazzin’ at the Shedd

Caribbean_Reef_tank_at_Shedd_Aquarium,_2009-11-15

This is an event at the downtown Shedd Aquarium in Chicago that takes place after museum hours where you hang with friends, have drinks, and check out exhibits without the usual museum crowd present. I worked at the event once for a non-profit I interned with, but I’d love to attend as a guest. Image source: Sage Ross, “The central Caribbean Reef exhibit at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois,” Copyright November 15, 2009 CC-BY-SA-3.0, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, 1.0 Generic

And now, we’ve come to the final 10 things on my 101 in 1001 list. Are you ready???

91. Go to a concert with my mom
92. Take my husband to an NFL game
93. Redesign my blog
94. Reach 500 views in one month on my blog
95. Start a new interview series on my blog
96. Attend a blogging conference
97. Take a self-defence class
98. Buy 1 original piece of art
99. Have a date night where hubby where we do something we’ve never done before as a couple (not dinner and a movie, concert, the usual)
100. Buy a needed item from an African American-owned business
101. Donate 50 cents for every task completed and $1 for every task not completed to the American Cancer Society 

IMG_0475

My father died from lung cancer in 2008. Why not make this a way to contribute to research for the cure for all forms of cancer? I better start saving now. (Side note: why am I wearing a shower cap in the pool…smh)

I will have the full list as a page on the blog in case you all want to see it without going through several posts. As usual, let me know what you all think in the comments! And keep me accountable if you don’t hear an update on the completion of this list for too long! I’m P.O.P.ed and out… 😉