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August, New Beginnings: Haiti Missions Trip Part I

Entry: August 2, 2016
We are officially in a new month. Aside from it being the best month out of the year, my birthday month (the 4th) 😊, it’s also the eighth month of the year. Eighth symbolizes new beginnings. And this month is just that. Yesterday, August 1st, I traveled for the first outside of the United States. Not for pleasure, but a missions trip. I am currently writing from Haiti. (Still seems so unreal that I’m actually here.). It was my intentions to write a post nightly, however, I didn’t get a chance to do so last night. Therefore, I’ve decided to do a recap for every two days. So this is part one…

Upon our arrival to Haiti yesterday afternoon, you could instantly see the difference when we traveled to our set place to stay. We landed in Port Au Prince, but stayed in Croix-Des-Bouquet. We had a van take us to our destination, we were met at the airport by a few men. One was a pastor and another works hard alongside him. He speaks English and is able to translate. 

On our way to camp, we drove on dusty bumpy roads. No traffic lights. On the busier streets, there were police officers directing traffic. It’s almost as if there are no rules when in comes to driving. You do what you can to get to your destination. Even if it means driving on the other side of the road, or even on the sidewalk. There were buses that Ebony (who has traveled here in missions before) compared to the dollar vans in NY. They are called the tap tap. As the busses passed, you could see how packed they were through the windows. The people were literally piled inside, just to get to where they needed to go. There were trucks that had the back open, filled with men. There were also motorcycles stopping and picking up people and were paid to ride them to their destination. This seems to be their form of transportation if they’re not in close proximity to their desired location or if they don’t have a vehicle. Unfortunately by looking out of the window, you could see that we were in a country that has struggles when it comes to poverty. As I sat and watched, and listened to stories by Pastor Pullings, (who is the missions department president of the first ecclesiastical jurisdiction of ENY, of the Church of God in Christ), I was able to get a glimpse of what they had to face in this area. 

On our drive to the compound, I thought about what I wanted to give, and what I wanted to gain. I knew that we were there for a specific purpose, and I wanted to be sure that I fulfilled that purpose. It’s a new experience for me, so I want to ensure that I give and get all that I can. How will I approach the people, what exactly will I do, will I be able to relate, etc. ? I just wanted this experience to be all that it could be. 
When we got to the compound, we settled in a little. Picked our room and put our stuff down. Our living conditions were petty good. We shared rooms, 2 to a room, but it was still good. Two bathrooms, kitchen, running hot water, and wifi access.  
 We then went to meet the girls in the orphanage. Not knowing who some of us were, the way they greeted us was so beautiful. All of the girls one by one came up to each of us with a kiss on the cheek. Although they were in grossed in their television show, they were so polite and spoke to each of us. While we were there the very first night, we took a look at what they were being served for dinner. We weren’t aware of what it was, but it was a big pot a woman had on the ground and she looked to be cleaning a piece of meat of some sort. It didn’t look appetizing to us, but this is what they’re used to eating. After seeing the girls, we went shopping. Not at the markets in town, but at a market that’s considered safe near the embassy. This shows the different areas and parts of Haiti. There’s such a difference, a separation. 
  

Later that evening, after shopping, cooking, and eating; we set up all of the items we brought for the girls in the orphanage and the clinic as well. We all brought at least one suitcase full of essentials, and when we laid it all out we were so happy to have been able to have so much to give. 

  

  

Day 2: 8/2/16 Journal entry..
Woke up with a feeling of excitement to see the looks on the girls faces when they receive what was brought for them. However, a little more reserved than I’d like to be so far. I’ve been thinking of ways to be effective over here. How can I/we leave a lasting impact. Giving is one thing, but connecting is another. We have to be able to show them how much we care, in such a short amount of time. 
I want to give my time and service more than anything. I also want to learn as much as I can. And do it all over again. To be the most effective, you have to be a giver. Not only material things. In this case, it’s needed. But also in time. Making that connection is key. Forgetting about yourself. 
God uses us right where we are. Only when we allow ourselves to be used…
Before going to the orphanage and giving the girls the items, we took a trip to the clinic. There were supplies for them as well. Mostly over the counter medicine. According to the stories, the over the counter medicine from America heals the ailments that most of the patients have. Because it’s medication they aren’t used to using. Going to the clinic, you could see a few areas where they needed. It was a nice set up. They needed more medication in their pharmacy and a little more precautionary items. (Cleaning supplies, gloves, etc.). Just looking around and seeing the facility was a blessing. I was happy to see and hear that they’re able to serve the community with the facility and supplies that they do have. What concerned some of us most, was the medicine that they had to offer in the pharmacy area of the clinic. It didn’t look like much. But it may be because they don’t use as much traditional medication in Haiti as we here in America use. They did however, have a dentist area. And area with beds where patients get checked, etc. 

   
   

We then went over to the orphanage to set up the items and look around the orphanage. We used their dinning area to set up every item on the tab,e for display for the girls. We wanted them to be able to see and choose what it was that they wanted. After setting up, we took a look around the grounds of the orphanage, for the first time. We were able to see their rooms, etc. There are seventeen girls living in the orphanage at this time. There are four girls to each room. Two bunk beds. The rooms are s little small, but they fit the two bunk beds, along with dressers for the girls. There were about two in each room. But as we passed, we noticed that some of their beds were falling apart. They needed new mattresses. One of the needs that the caretaker expressed, was that they needed was sheets. Again, the facility was nice. And we’re so proud of the work that has been done so far, but there’s still more work that needs to be done. The the interaction began..

Nightly journal entry:

After visiting the orphanage today, I’m in awe of the way we were able to connect with the girls. Although they didn’t speak English, the connection was almost instant. They immediately gravitated towards us, the minute we initiated it. All it took was one small gesture. As we sat and waited, I had to initiate interaction with them. That was the reason we were there. So I sat and asked about the coloring sheet they were coloring, and it took off from there. We talked the best we could to each other, but the connection was so strong despite the language barrier. We laughed, we sang, and dance. Took pictures. And took more pictures. These girls absolutely loved taking pictures. I asked them to read, but it was an English book, so they wanted me to read it. As I read, they repeated every English word after me. We fooled around with snapchat. And they absolutely loved the filters. At that point, there were about three girls who clung to me. Their names were Daphnaika, Melissa, and Lisa. There were a few others that came and joined a little while after. After reading, some of the girls sang and danced. One song was, I love you I love you my love. They danced as they sang that song. Then they started to do the whip nae nae. Which was absolutely cute. We colored together. We sang When Jesus Says Yes. And we just genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. 

 After our lunch break, we came back to distribute all of the material for the girls. They’d already been peeking in while we set up, so we knew they were excited about it. As each girl came in and received the bags and they pointed to certain things they wanted, you could see the appreciation in their eyes and in their faces. Many of them smiled as they looked and received. There was one, Melissa, who had the biggest smile on her face. She danced around as she looked at all of her new clothes and just continued smiling. There was another, one who didn’t interact with me as often as others, came to me and taped me. I turned around, and she pointed to her shoes and gave me a big smile. Another girl looked through her bag, looked in my direction and gave me two thumbs up. That was their thank you. They were so excited to get new things. And you could tell they were grateful for it. It was an amazing feeling. Not only for them to receive things they needed, but also to interact with other people. To be able to socialize with others outside of those they see on a daily basis. Amazed by this new experience. The start of a new beginning. There’s more. 

Black Lives Matter – You Have A Voice

It’s been a little over a week since the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and I haven’t addressed it personally on the platform that I was given. Upon my initial reaction, it was difficult for me to write anything. I sat with a blank page trying to allow my thoughts and emotions to hit the page and come across my screen. Maybe a day or two later, very few thoughts became words… 

The emotions that I’ve experienced in a matter of two days have left me completely baffled. My heart literally hurts because of what has transpired. In a matter of two days. In a matter of hours. So many thoughts, so many emotions. So much, that it’s even difficult to write. A little difficult to comprehend that we still live in a society like this. A society where white police officers can shoot a man down when they haven’t even reached for a weapon. A society where a white police officer can literally shoot a man six times, SIX, on the ground at close proximity. A society where a white police officer can shoot a man down for complying to what he was told to do. In the presence of his girlfriend and a child in the backseat. It just isn’t right. But somehow we find ourselves in the same place over and over again. 

I’m not the most articulate writer, but it’s my duty to speak on things that ultimately affect my community. Alton Sterling, Plilando Castile, and the countless names that proceeded them could have very well been my brother. My dad. My uncles. Nephews. Cousins. I’m angry, heartbroken, and so many other emotions. My heart aches for these families, for my community, for our families. 

I don’t by any means have all of the solutions, but we can’t sit idle while this happens. It took me a while to watch the video footage of these murders as they surfaced. I’ve heard people say they’re not surprised. But every time it happens, I’m still shocked. I’m still saddened by it. And it just keeps cutting deeper and deeper. 

The day after these events, I saw flashing lights as I left work and walked to the train and I immediately felt angry. We shouldn’t have to feel this way about people go should be helping and protecting.

After seeing the videos, after anger rose up; what are we going to do? What can we do to erupt change? How can we fight for our rights in positive effective ways. Without violence, without innocent blood being shed. Without invoking the same pain we feel on the families of others. 

I haven’t been able to post anything on social media. I couldn’t without a solution to this madness. I didn’t want to just talk about it. I’m not blind to the situation, nor have I been completely silent. I’ve had many conversations with family and friends. However, it’s time to take action. We can’t sit idle and just continue to express our concerns and feelings without moving. We need to gather together, United, to take a stand. We need to educate our youth. Keep them abreast of the times, but helping to avoid them from being in these scenarios. Although it can happen at anytime, to anyone, the conversation must be had. 

There have been plenty of marches and meetings held on light of these situations. One I intended to go to, but wasn’t able to. However, my church held an event last night. An event where people from anywhere can come join together and share their opinions. There was an opportunity to voice your feelings, ideas, suggestions, solution. A judgement free space. It was amazing to hear the thoughts of others. Some feelings we all may have felt. There were so many positive ideas and opinions that came across that microphone. People from the community as well as those who are I’m office. Below are a few of the concerns and solutions of any are interested in knowing what they can do next. There may be some you may or may not agree with, but these are the voices of our communities. 

  • Educate our youth. Warning them of what to do and what not to do. Creating a curriculum so that our young black children can know their rights. 
  • More African Americans running for office. 
  • These events are things that have been happening for years. Through the pipeline. But it is something that has been excused for many years. We need elected officials who are willing to change the law. 
  • Go to borough hall. Going to your local assembly meetings. Get to know who’s working for us. The people who can go to bat for us. 
  • Being aware of our image. What is the perception that we are sending. Are we creating a negative image to the cops? Are we afraid of one another, which in turn puts the police officers in a place of fear?
  • Creating affordable or free programs for our youth. For our black community. We must find ways to educate our youth and keep them engaged. In order to keep them out of certain situations. 
  • Where there’s no plan the people perish. 
  • A village. Kids are now raising themselves. We lost community somewhere. That’s where we lost community policing. We need to get back to the community (village) raising our youth. Helping them and showing them the way. 

These are just a few. How will you go about erupting change in society. Thing about some of these things, process it, feel it, and let’s get to work! Change has to come, and it has to start with us. 

Above All Else, Take Care Of You

Often times we revisit familiar places in life. Places we don’t always wish to go back to. Places of stagnation or feeling stuck. A place where we feel little to no progression. I’ve expressed these feelings countless times with you all. And although no one is perfect, it’s not always easy to admit the same feelings once again. But you have to be honest with yourself. 

Over these past few months, I’ve experienced feelings of drought. Places where I’ve felt as if I was lacking. I felt stuck, overwhelmed, and as if the peace I once experienced had escaped me. And it was difficult for me to produce as effectively as I would’ve liked. And as I began to take steps towards taking care of Krystle as a whole person, I realized that this was something I needed to write about. Which I realized was another reason why I hadn’t been able to produce as a journalist. (When I have trouble writing articles, I realize that it’s because there’s something else that needs to be shared. Something deeper I need to take time to tap into.)

I’ve begun to realize that I haven’t spent much time to make sure Krystle was in a good place. Emotionally, spiritually, time, Etc. I’ve been doing so much running. Trying to take care of all of the things I felt were of great importance. But realizing that nothing was actually being done effectively. Because I had a list of what I thought were my greatest priorities, I didn’t know where to start. I’d plan, make lists, but I wasn’t executing in the most effective way. It took me some time to finally see for myself why that was. 

As I mentioned in a post months ago, I’d made the decision to seek out a therapist for counseling. Which was the first step of taking care of Krystle. With all of the stigmas attached to counseling, I decided to do it anyway. I wanted to talk some things out, dig deep, and put some of the loose pieces of the puzzle, that is my life, together. I searched, and was able to find a therapist that fit what I was looking for. As we began to dig deep within our sessions and I began to talk about certain things, it became clear. I discussed all that I wanted to do, all that I wanted to be a priority, and also things and people I put first. I began to see a little clearer; I began to see that I had to do more to start taking care of me. And I now see how it has effected every area of my life. 

The lack of consistent care for Krystle, has effected literally every area in my life. The stress I’ve been experiencing, my failure to effectively take care of my priorities as a leader, my difficulty and lack of patience with work and people, the drought and standstill; is all a result of not properly taking care of myself. Although Ive seen the signs beforehand, I began to see it from a different angle. I realized that I couldn’t continue to live in a space with little to no peace. It’s uncomfortable, and not at all beneficial to myself or the lives of others. So I began to take action. 

Aside of starting therapy, I began to cut back on things. I’ve taken a step back in a few areas to give myself time to get in the right headspace. I realized that I used to constantly put myself on the back burner, and felt bad if I wanted to make myself a priority. It’s amazing to put others before yourself, but putting yourself first is so very important. One can never succeed in other areas if they haven’t taken care of themselves. It’s literally impossible. If you’re not in a certain headspace, your execution will never be fully effective. It’ll lack, because somewhere inside, you’re lacking. If you’re not whole, you can’t always help others to become whole. There’s a saying, the blind can’t lead the blind. If you haven’t taken care of yourself you can’t see properly. Your vision isn’t 20/20. And there’s no way you can be effective. 

After thinking about this deeply, I no longer felt as bad as I did cutting back in certain areas. It’s unhealthy to try to do everything around you and leave yourself to the side. Again, in order to be successful and effective, you must take care of yourself first. Don’t feel bad, or feel like you’re being selfish for not doing all that you would normally do. If it’s taking away from you, or leaving you to lack, or causing stress; take a step back for a little while. Allow yourself to recover, and get back in it. When you’re in the right headspace. Above all else, take care of you. 

-xo Miss Jones

  

The Ultimate Women’s Empowerment Event – The Other Festival 

Now is most definitely the time of year for festivals. The festivals that you would usually hear of only consist of musical artists and bands. However, there’s a festival this weekend (Saturday, June 11th) in TriBeCa NYC that is like no other! Hence the name, The Other Festival. 

The Other Festival is all about “connecting, building, and supporting  entrepreneurial spirits in the face of an ever changing world.We are the best, the strongest, the boldest of our generation. We are a squad of renegade businesswomen in the form of artists, musicians, chefs, photographers, entrepreneurs, activists, inventors, storytellers, designers, and we are here to make things happen.” – The Other Festival 

This event is brought to you by Women Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE), which is a social enterprise that works to provide emerging women leaders with the tools to succeed in their careers. WIE is founded by Dee Paku-Spalding, who is a social entrepreneur born in the UK and raised in London. A former Hollywood studio exec, Paku has now begun a career in brand marketing and promotions. 

The Other Festival showcases the makers and creators of this generation, the women who are redefining how to do business, setting their own rules, putting new systems in place, pushing their own agendas. Inventors, storytellers, founders, artists who can’t be boxed in.

This festival will showcase a group of elite women; their background and their career work. Through this, many females will have the opportunity to glean from their journey. It’s about embracing the other, but also embracing you. Embracing who you are, what you offer, and your journey towards success. There will be workshops, discussions, along with a concert. A full day of sharing and gleaning. 
Speakers include: 

  • Naomi Campbell (Model)
  • Rosario Dawson (Actress, Activist, Entreprenuer)
  • Reshma Saujani (Founder, Girls Who Code)
  • Lindsey Stirling (Musician, Vlogger)
  • Melissa Ben Ishay (Founder, Baked by Melissa)
  • Beverly Bond (Founder, Black Girls Rock) 

And many more!

Musical Guests Include:

  • Justine Skye 
  • Brooke Candy 
  • Vashtie Kala
  • Grace Weber

And more!

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to sulk in all that you can from these very powerful women in business. Women who have owned who they are and will be able to share and showcase their journey, their sound, and their careers. This is a festival you want to be sure to attend! 

LovelyMissJones is all about sharing ones experience to benefit the lives of someone else, so you know we will be on the scene! And we want to see you there! Purchase your tickets today by visiting theotherfestival.eventbrite.com. 
  

  

The Insight in The Fallback

Over the past weeks or so, I’ve experienced a great fall back. Between everything I’d been going through family wise and personally, it caused me to take a break. Part of the break I needed and another part I feel I allowed myself to take more time than needed. As I began to bounce back in certain areas, I realized the insecurities that were attached to my fallback. Insecurities that I’m sure others have experienced. So I knew it was necessary for me to share my experience with you all. 

Being in a position where you’re required to be in the forefront and complete tasks that others will immediately recognize can sometimes cause nervousness or a little shyness about the work you’re going to produce. However, there can be times that insecurity comes in. Whether on the job or in any type of leadership position, we may take a backseat because we feel as if everyone is coming to the frontline and overshadowing what we’ve set out to do. Whether this is true or not, one may still begin to feel this way. Particularly those who struggle with accepting their place in the frontline. Sometimes it makes you feel as if you’re less than, or you’ll make an excuse using the statement, “I’m not really needed. I can step back.” However, I had to learn that it’s not always meant for you to step back. If God placed you somewhere, please believe it was strategic. God always does things strategically. He placed you where you are for a reason. He’s given you what He’s given you for that specific place. We must always be ready. We have to learn not to shy away because of what’s in front of us. They’ll be no fight, no struggle if we do what God has called us to do. If we stay in tune with the instructions He’s given us, things will be well. 

We can’t allow anyone or any situation to make us feel insecure or less than who you truly are. Know and be proud of what you bring to the table. No matter what others may have to offer, know that you have something valuable to offer. 

These are the exact words I heard from God as I sat in my Sunday morning service last week. He literally just dropped it in my spirit and I began to write. This particular part blessed me the most. This is what He said to me, word for word. “Use the gift that I’ve given you. Use the gift that you desired me to give you. Believe in what I’ve given you. Believe in the power behind the gift. Allow your fear to dissipate, so that I can get the glory. So that my people can get what I have for them. There’s breakthrough and blessings that will come through what I have placed inside of you. Stop making excuses and standing still, when it was I that have begun that good work inside of you.”

 

It was ironic that my daily message from Saved In The City read, “God wants to use you right where you are. No more excuses. It’s time to step up and be who He’s called you to be. John 15:16” 
Often times we make up excuses because of the insecurities that rise up within us. But it’s time to rise up and lush the insecurities and the fear to the side. Knowing that God is the one that has placed these gifts inside of you and will lead and guide you every step of the way. 
Allow this season to be a season of work and continuos preparation. A period of isolation (to an extent) as well as work. Isolation to the point that you’re able to prepare yourself without the opinions of others, and without what others may bring on you. Get to a place where you hear from the source and execute accordingly. 

As I go through my journey and I’m continually learning, it’s my duty and obligation to pass it along with others. And as my journey continues to unfold, sharing my experiences will never stop. My hope is that someone will be blessed by these words, and receive that extra boost that’s needed to continue to work regardless of what comes up against them. 

-xo Miss Jones

The Crippling Effects Of Fear

These past few weeks, I’ve had incredible writers block. It was a struggle to produce simple articles. Articles that would normally take me an hour or less. It was difficult to think of topics, and difficult to complete anything. I thought it was simply writers block, but I recently noticed that it has a lot to do with fear. 

I can be honest and say, I’m not satisfied with my life. I feel like there’s so much more, and I haven’t been able to tap into it. My career, writing, business, family, relationships, church; all of the things that are important to me, are not in the place that I’d hope it would be in. Although, all things happen within the right timeframe, one still has a responsibility to do something in order to make things happen. There has to be some type of action or movement in order for there to be success. 

I’ve been able to admit my fears in the past, along with overcoming stories. However, I now realize, the fear that I’m currently facing is a little different. It’s on a different level. I realized that I’ve subconsciously been afraid to go beyond what I’ve been currently doing. Not satisfied with it, but afraid of more (in a sense). I sense there’s more, but there’s still fear of failure.
Afraid that I don’t have enough money, afraid of the opinions, afraid that maybe my thoughts are a little too big. Maybe it’s not realistic. Afraid that it’ll all come crashing down. But in all actuality, what do I really have to lose. This is the perfect time in my life to take a risk. Although things may have fallen apart in the past, what do I really have to lose now? 

After a conversation with a friend, I really had to sit and ask myself that question. If I’m not in the place that I know I should be in, what is there for me to lose. I can’t be so concerned with why I wouldn’t be able to get to where I should be, more than the possibility of never getting there. My fear literally had me in a dark place. Writers block for a writer who loves what they do, is a place you don’t want to visit. You’re literally stuck. And it’s the same for any passion or dream. Fear literally cripples you. It keeps you in a place where you’re not sure which way to turn. I absolutely love what I do, but I became stuck because there’s so many ways that I want to expand from this blog. I struggle with how I can reach more people, how I can fully monetize from it, and how I can ultimately build my business and complete my book. And that’s where all of the fears I mentioned comes into place. But over the course of the past few days (The ending of last week) when I began writing this post, I realized that I needed to pull myself from that place. Fear comes from ourselves, our own thoughts. Therefore, making the choice to shift, comes from within. We can’t allow our fears to overpower the possibility of us reaching the level of success we were destined to reach. 

I want to end this post with a story that I heard Sunday morning during the sermon. The preacher told a story about a woman who was given a gift to write. God gave her the idea for the book, but her focus was on other things (being busy, why she couldn’t do it at the moment, time, money, etc) rather than what she knew God had placed inside of her. She never did it, and someone else wrote the exact same book she had been given. She later decided to write the book, but it didn’t have the same effect that it could’ve had had she written the book when God called her to do so. She missed her moment. I don’t want to miss the moment focusing on everything besides the goal. And I don’t want you to miss your moment focusing on everything besides the goal. We have to take the risk and jump head first into fulfilling our dreams. Others are depending on it. If we don’t do it, someone else will. Don’t miss your moment. Don’t remain stuck. Don’t allow your fear to cripple you. If you’ve been given a gift, it’s usually bigger than you could’ve imagined. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, that’s how God works. If He’s given it to you, He’ll provide the resources that’ll help make it happen. But you have to trust Him and the gifts and abilities that He has placed inside of you! Be encouraged, don’t stop putting in work. Keep your eyes on the goal! 

  

Vow to Empower: Interview with Author Shanikqa Canty

Shanikqa Canty is the author of a book entitled, Their Vow. She has now committed her life to empower others. Shanikqa intends to empower others through her writing and public speaking. It is always a pleasure to meet people who are motivated and determined to reach others through their gifts. And this is no different. Shanikqa has been a supporter of Lovely Miss Jones for quite some time, and shares similar goals of empowering others through writing and through experience. Below you’ll get to know a little more about this blossoming author, along with what you can expect in the near future. 

Miss Jones: Tell us a little about yourself?

Shanikqa Canty: My name is Shanikqa N.Canty, I am 24 years old and I currently reside in Brooklyn, New York (In the Crown Heights Section). I am a Best Selling Author, Writer and a Promoter Of Empowerment. I have a passion for empowering and connecting authentically with those I come in contact with. 

MJ: Was becoming an author something that you’ve always desired to be, or was it something that just happened?

SC: Becoming an author was something that honestly just happened (LOL). Like seriously, I didn’t even expect this to happen. And not just an Author, a Best Selling Author. God is just amazing! 

MJ: How long have you been writing?

SC: I used to write when I was younger, in the 3rd and 4th grade, and I stopped; but in the Fall of 2014 the creativity of writing came back to me.

MJ: What experiences led to where you currently are today?

SC: Letting my past struggles empower me to create a life that I desire. I truly believe that each and everyone of us holds the power to create what we want. I let my testimony become my empowerment.

MJ: What were some of your biggest struggles during this journey?

SC: Some of my biggest struggles during this journey was keeping myself motivated and not letting fear and rule overtake me. But I’m grateful that I am on this journey of being more grounded in my Faith, that helps me overcome.

MJ: What were some of your biggest highlights or positive movements during this journey?

SC: My biggest highlights would have to be, connecting with some awesome and amazing Kingdom minded Men and Women. Just being able to fellowship and have a real support system. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. 

MJ: Who are some of your biggest influences, and why?

SC: Some of my biggest influences are: of course my mother because she supports me no matter what I pursue in life and just loves me as I am. My Spiritual Father Apostle Steven Newton, My Spiritual Mother Pastor Christian Newton, My Kingdom Sisters and Brothers, also Dr Myles Munroe & Steven Furtick (through their videos and books). Each and everyone of these individuals inspire me to be a GREATER woman that GOD has called me to be. 

MJ: What was the process while writing this book? 

SC: Writing “Their Vow” was fun and a little scary because I thought “Who wants to read a fiction book promoting celibacy”? But the feedback has been awesome.

MJ: How were you able to overcome those things that came up against you?

SC: Just remaining focused and keeping my eye on the prize. 

MJ: What/who kept you motivated? 

SC: Myself, and allowing the Holy Spirit to just move right through me. 

MJ: How long have you been working on this project?

SC: Honestly I finished the book in 2 days, by typing it on my iPhone while at work. The words just flew right through me. 

MJ: Tell us a little about your book?

SC: It’s the story of two individuals who decide that it’s better to keep Their Vow and not let the temptations of the world rule them anymore. 

MJ: What else are you currently working on?

SC: At the moment just focusing on getting myself out there more, and my line of Tele-classes I’m about to launch. 

MJ: What are a few of your biggest accomplishments?

SC: Just being able to share my gifts with the world. 

MJ: What can we look forward to in the future?

SC: Live in person “Empowerment Sessions”, more books, videos and an empowerment product line. 

MJ: What encouraging words would you like to leave with us?

SC: Your Testimony Is Your Empowerment, Because You’re Empowered By Your Struggles. 

Wise words from a wise woman. Not only is Shanikqa a bestselling author (her book can be purchased on Amazon.com), but she is also launching ‘A Movement Of Empowerment’ that will be held every second and fourth Wednesday via conference call. Check out the flyer below. Also, stay up to date by following all of Shanikqa Canty’s social media networks: Facebook.com/BeEmpoweredWithShanikqac and Instagram/Periscope @iamshanikqac. 
 

 
   
   

There’s Power in Being Unapologetically Black and Beautiful 

As you all know, my pieces are all for the most part inspirational. I started this blog with the intent of sharing my experiences and sharing who I am in order to create positive change. These past few months, I’ve realized that I haven’t done that fully. As a black woman, I haven’t touched on certain topics and/or issues that deserve being touched on. As as black woman, it is my duty to discuss things that pertain to me and people who are just like me. I can be honest and say, I’ve struggled with posting or highlighting things that may be seen as controversial. However, over the past few months, I knew that I needed to step outside of that box. It isn’t that I’m just learning to embrace being black. Not at all. I love being black and I absolutely embrace my culture. I may have conversations about different issues that effect the black community, but I haven’t fully utilized the platform that I have to do so. Being unapologetically black, despite the backlash that may come along with it, is powerful. And it’s time to tap into that. 

As my thoughts continued on this topic, and I planned this post, I was reading this months issue of ESSENCE Magazine. In Vanessa De Luca’s (Editor In Chief) article, she wrote “there’s power in being unapologetically black and beautiful.” And I knew immediately that this would be the title of this article. When we can all come together and stand as black people, embracing who we are and our culture; we desire to do our best to help create the change that we wish to see.

One thing I was reminded of as I prepared lesson plans for my students to perform in the black history showcase, was how important research and education is. I am introducing writing to them for this particular project. Last year,I was able to introduce high school students to black history through literature. And this is something I’d like to do with my first graders. As a writer myself, it’s important that I do my research on great writers who have made great impact on the lives of others and created some type of change in our society. One who has brought various topics and issues to the forefront. It’s also imperative that writers research what’s going on in today’s society. The same goes for the black community. It’s important that we research and educate ourselves on those who have paved the way for positive change within black communities. There are many who provoked great change, and made a huge difference. And it’s up to us to learn about them, and continue on in their footsteps. It is our duty to continue to contribute to the changes that need to be made in society today. The only way that we can do so, is being aware and raising awareness of the issues that we and our community face. Once we become knowledgeable about our surroundings, we can do what we can to help make a difference. 

It’s important that we embrace who we are as a people, and as a culture. We must be proud to be black. To realize the strength of our people and how far we’ve come, no matter what has come up against us. When we embrace it, see our beauty, and just be us, unapologetically; there’s no way we’re comfortable when we see social injustices. How can we be comfortable or sit in silence about the lives of people like, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and others. How can we not bring to light situations that plague our communities and our people; such as, what’s currently going on in Flint, Michigan. It just shouldn’t sit right with us. Which should cause us to pay more attention to what’s going on, concerning our communities, in society today. We must also educate ourselves on these topics and things of the past. 

The most important thing to understand is that we are better together! Powerful things can happen when we link up with one another. If we all embraced who we are, unapologetically, so many amazing things can take place. Things that we’ve been able to witness overtime. The more unity, the more change we will begin to see. 
There’s so much greatness within our people. We’re intelligent, strong, creative, thinkers, inventors, artists. We’re gifted. Therefore, we can use our gifts with the platforms that our gifts made room for to help bring about the change that we so desperately need in our communities. Not only our communities, but in society as a whole. And it won’t end here! 

The Blessing In The Blessing Jar

As I realized, in the middle of this month, that I still hadn’t emptied my blessing jar from 2015; I sat and began to look at every single piece of paper that had significant moments in my life. Although I’d known, there was a feeling that began to overwhelm me. Recording and keeping this jar is so important and beneficial to your growth as an individual. It not only causes you to sit for a moment and be thankful as you’re writing them down. But when it comes time to read those moments, it helps you to remember those very moments.  

It’s important that we record moments that we’re most proud of; our accomplishments, achievements, special moments, moments of joy, etc. There are several reasons why we need to write out important moments in our lives. We’re our biggest critics, and we don’t always feel like we’re doing enough. I’ve experienced this, as I’m sure many of you have. We feel like there’s so much more for us to do, and we don’t even realize that what we are currently doing is very significant. As we set time aside at the end of each day and really reflect, then write on little slips of paper these very moments we realize how much we are actually doing. It shows us what we are capable of, and it also increases our faith. It also shows us what and who we’ve placed ourselves around, and how it’s helped change our lives. Seeing our accomplishments on paper shows us how we are able to make a difference, and the steps that we’re making to make an impact. 

After doing this for a complete year, when you go back and read every piece of paper, it puts you back into those moments. Sometimes going through an entire year, we can forget some positive things. I can admit, sometimes the negative moments come and almost makes you forget some of your biggest moments. Those moments where you’ve made some of the most progress. There are times we stress over completing big tasks or projects, that we forget the small moments that led us to where we are today. This has been a personal experience of mine. We go from one thing to the next, forgetting to recognize and celebrate significant moments in our lives. There are also times when we need to reassure ourselves that we can go to the next level. 

From my personal experiences, reading every single slip in my blessing jar; I saw plenty of small and big moments. Ranging from coworkers coming to church with me, to connections I made. Meeting exciting people to attending several events. Reaching goals to overcoming my fears. Being transparent. Random, purposeful, meaningful relationships. To experiences moments that didn’t follow through. But instead of feeling bad about them, I saw how I was able to learn and grow, and what else God had in store for me. From my very first “speaking engagement”, being a facilitator at the NYC Collaborative Studies school with the Future Project. Seeing where I messed up. Most importantly, I was able to see the seeds that were planted, the watering is now taking place, and I can sense the blossom that will soon take place. 

As I read these slips of paper, I smiled, I was able to think back, and even teared up. The very first day of 2015, I tried mussels for the first time. I wrote that this signified the start of doing things I’ve never done before. That set the tone for the year. I stepped into things I’d never experienced before, or thought I’d ever have the courage to do. A blessing jar sets the tone for your year. It causes you to focus on growth and determination. In a fresh, new way. 

This is my third year doing this experiment. This experience. And it’s helped me to have more gratitude. It’s helped me to be thankful for every experience and moment in my life. It’s helped me to look at things differently. It’s also helped me to look at myself differently, well the way I was meant to see myself. If you haven’t, I encourage you to join this journey. This journey to a more gratified life. It will help you in more ways than one! 
  

2015 Recap: Growth, Promise, Freedom

As we approach an end of a year, and the beginning of a new year, I contemplated what my end of the year post would be. I had many thoughts, different ideas I wrote in my notes, but I couldn’t formulate an actual article. As I sat to work on another post, I sat and waited for my thoughts to hit the screen, but I began to have writer’s block. Nothing, besides a title had been written. This afternoon, as I began to complete the post I was originally supposed to publish tonight, I was led to open a new document and get started on this one. As I began to write the title, those three words spilled onto the page; growth, promise, and freedom. I hadn’t received a particular theme or place I wanted to come from with this post. Last year, I broke it down into two different posts, and it came to me early. This year was different. And as I now begin to think, I like that it happened this way. It wasn’t planned, it just happened. Many times we wait in anticipation for a sign or for something to come our way, but when we just make a choice to just do, things begin to happen. This not only depicts the way things happened this year in a sense, it’s also confirmation for this year to come. 

So because these words so happen to have come to me, I believe this is where my thoughts for the year will come from. This year has been a year of complete growth. As the previous years have been as well. I’ve experienced some things this year, I never would have imagined. I’ve felt my weakest this year. I almost felt like I experienced some of my lowest points. Many of my insecurities came rushing back. I’ve had many feelings of inadequacy. But I’ve also been able to show myself my strength. I refused to be held down. I made a decision, after one of my biggest setbacks, that I would seek out counseling from a therapist. I haven’t found one as of yet, but often times, we (especially the black community) feel as if seeking help in that manner is a form of weakness. I did at one point, but these situations I’ve experienced this year taught me that it’s a sign of strength. I strongly believe that it’s commendable when a person realizes that they need help in a particular area. We can’t always do things on our own, and it’s okay to admit that. It’s unfortunate that I’ve placed myself in situations that I probably shouldn’t have. But I’ve been able to bounce back. Even in my struggles and insecurities, my weaknesses and low moments; I knew that God had a plan for me. And that plan was bigger than me. It went beyond just my name or brand being whispered. It meant more than a blessing for myself, more than personal growth. It’s for the benefit of others. I can’t stop knowing the countless people I’m meant to reach. I can’t stop knowing there’s a young girl that needs me to share my story. To share my journey. Now that’s growth. When you realize your purpose is bigger than you. When you realize your purpose goes beyond being recognized. When you realize your purpose will serve others. When you forget about you and just do it, that’s when you continue to grow. 

This year has also been a year of promise. Again regarding 2015, as well as the year to come. As this year began, I knew there was more than just my writing that needed to displayed. I knew my voice had to be heard in some way, aside of through my writing. I was contacted to help someone out with an up and coming talk show. Now, everyone know based of my previous posts how shy I was. However, I took this as an opportunity. Not only am I being of service to someone else, it’s giving me a jumpstart on what I know I will eventually have to do. This was a promise fulfilled. There have been a few other opportunities this year that I believe will be manifested in 2016. My biggest goal reached, and promise fulfilled this year was actually having the scholarship benefit event. It was my goal to be able to help someone who has gone through the very same thing I’ve gone through. College finances were one. Therefore, the idea to give away a scholarship was one. I knew I had to do it. But since this summer, things just wouldn’t come together. Without seeing how it would, I decided to just do it. And it came together. We were able to pull it off. 

The word freedom is very significant to me. I was caged in so many ways. I was stuck behind my own fear. I was stuck behind my own insecurities. I was stuck behind the opinions of others. This year, more than any, I was able to break free from most of these things. It’s most definitely a growing and learning process, but I’m experiencing true freedom. Freedom that causes me to just do, regardless of what’s in place. 

Overall, despite the low moments, it’s been a great year. A year of growth, promise, and freedom. Regardless of the things we experience, it’s important that we shed light on the positive sides. Step outside of your comfort zone, and allow yourself to grow beyond the things that you can see. Walk in your purpose and promise. And free yourself from your own negative thoughts and opinions of others. Then you can flourish and be who you were called to be; that blessing you were meant to be to others. Wishing you all a happy and successful new year!