#ZoeSZN

It’s ZOE SEASON!!!!!!!

*Zoe gang or no gang*

To my fellow misunderstood Haitian Americans who grew up being prayed over instead of having someone to talk to and those fighting mental health issues there is no time like the present to speak upon your experiences. To change the cycle we must start with ourselves, and so I’d like to share my story.

To many May is proclaimed as Haitian Heritage month, in the same breathe the month of May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. As a proud Haitian-American woman I understand what the month of May means to my people and the struggles that those before us have traveled in order to get to where we are today. But are we neglecting to acknowledge and discuss the struggles our communities are currently facing in an effort to keep our past present.

Mental health is such a taboo topic in the Haitian community I find it somewhat funny as well as coincidental that our heritage month lays in the same nest as mental health month. In this month we boast with pride and show out wherever about who we are, where we came from and where we are going while turning a blind eye to an issue that has been well hidden in our community because well there are people praying for you.

Junior high was a time. I was all about love and friendship and just togetherness but that soon all changed when I got to high school. Diving into the ocean known as Brockton High was a new, overwhelming type of experience. My friends from junior high were all in different buildings which lead to us not seeing each other often forcing us to blend and mesh into new friend groups. Now, take a young girl who is struggling with body positivity, suffers from anxiety/panic attacks and migraines and throw her into a pool of roughly 4,000 students…what do you get…a hot damn mess. I was an actual mess although no one could ever tell because boy could I keep up appearances. Making my mom proud, keeping my family happy, making sure I didn’t disappoint my church…etc. etc. Mentally and emotionally i was dwindling little by little. My panic attacks got worse and followed me well into college. Physically I was starving even though I was eating…developed an eating disorder that many people never knew I had until this post and which somewhat plagues me still today. I hated my body and my body equally hated me and I was somewhat okay with it because I didn’t know how to deal. I had days in college when I could barely get out of bed. Days when I felt numb and incapable of eating anything. I couldn’t tell my my mom for fear of her reaction well over reaction but I knew eventually she’d catch on to my terrible eating habits. I was slowly but surely taking myself out. So I sought out help…I had confided in a friend that often times I’d wonder what would my world be like without me in it…it was a passing thought that rode into my thoughts often when I felt like my walls were crashing. She told me not to think like that and to think about the effect that something like that would have on my family and friends. In the end, she’d pray for me. That was really the last conversation we ever had on the topic.

Now I’m not knocking prayer at all because without it where would I really be but we live in a culture where the first reaction about being told something off putting is to pray and only pray. Are we having open conversations about the things that our plaguing our young peoples minds? Following up with them when they confide in us about their thoughts? Are we checking on their mindsets? Well-being? Environment? As I wrote this I searched for statistics about mental health in Haitian communities and low and behold my search only brought up mental health relating to the earthquake in 2010. Speaking on mental health in our community is so taboo that it is heavily under researched. You can barely find articles that place the words mental health and Haiti together in one sentence. We need to do better.

There are more of us out there in our communities struggling. They are ashamed, scared, and worried about what will happen if they bring their fore thoughts out into the open. Conversations are necessary. Follow up is necessary. Help is necessary. Love is necessary. Understanding is necessary. Prayer with follow up is necessary.

To all my friends, whether you are Haitian or not that struggle with a mental health issue please seek comfort…seek help. There will be dark days. Days when waking up is a pain and you ask yourself why…The hardest thing to remember on those days is that you are not alone. There are people here for you waiting to talk to you. Please, please, please talk to someone. There are others just like you and others relating to you waiting to help.

You are not alone.

You are valued.

You are worth it.

L’Union fait la force

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Lessons in 525,600 Minutes Part 2

Part 2 is here!

Sorry for the long over due wait but I think I’m getting the hang of things so bare with me please and thank you lol.

The prompt was as follows:

1. Was 2016 a good, bad or in between year for you?

2. What is the biggest thing you feel as though you’ve overcome in 2016?

3. What is one lesson 2016 taught you?

4. What is one vision you have for yourself in 2017?

5. What word of advice would you give people for the new year?

Thanks for tuning in as always 🙂

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Kharlita

  1. I cannot say that 2016 has been  a good or bad year for me.. I would say that it was a roller coaster year. I had some highs and I had some lows but the coaster never stayed at a steady pace. Which I guess we can saw an ” in between year”. I feel like good and bad things happen in between timing all the time. If you’re doing really good it is not surprise that bad comes knocking at the door because everything can’t and wont always be good. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the in between because 2016 showed that I do not like being on the bad side. Therefore, I will always strive for better which leads to good.  Some good things that happened for me this year is that I got the internship at the Governors office I applied for, I made deans list for the semester and I was able to travel with friends. The bad that happened is that I didn’t do to well in my academics my second half of the year and my relationship with my mother wasn’t as strong which affected my life immensely.
  2. I overcame adversity within in my community, family and even personal life.
  3. 2016 Taught me that in our world you are responsible for your life and none else around you can make the life you want.
  4. One vision that I have for myself is to be done with my undergraduate degree and to be spiritually FREE.
  5. Some word of advise for the year of 2017 would be to do “what works for you” ! Other people plans, dreams, thoughts , perspectives and opinions do not always work for our better. Only you know whats best for you so go ahead and do it :)!

 

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Theresa Sophia

  1. 2016 was a so so year for me, it was great in that I really started to become who I am and really got my feet wet creatively, however when you begin to step into who you are and take risks the Universe has a funny way of throwing all this negative at you making it so tempting to retreat back to your old simple life. And boy did the Universe test me. I haven’t really shared this with people, but quitting my job was encouraged by a scam artist that tricked me out of a lot of money. Things got weird, I got depressed. It was great to be doing what I had always wanted to do, but there was a lot around me at the same time that was bringing me down. And I did not see these things the way I see them now so it hurt more because of how I viewed the situation. Now I know better. Now I see the blessings even when I don’t see the blessings nah mean.
  2. I overcame for the most part my fear to be great, but at the same time I do struggle with it. It’s like a day to day thing.
  3. To not trust people so easily.
  4. I wanna to play a major music festival like AfroPunk or Essence, I also want to do talks across the country for my documentary, and more installments of my creative retreat called The Cave, more passport stamps too.
  5. Keep going.
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Gemima
  1. 2016 was an “in between” year for me. It definitely had its highs and lows.
  2.  The biggest thing I overcame in 2016 was fear. I learned to trust God more with my anxieties in order to be more at peace.
  3. One lesson 2016 taught me was that no one is exempt from experiencing the wiles of life. That the roadblocks in life do not discriminate.
  4. In 2017, I see myself being the woman I always wanted to be. I believe that 2016 molded and shaped my roadmap. It allowed me to see what was hindering my growth and what I had to do in order to remove these barriers

 

My word of advice I’d give people for the New Year is to not let your emotions get in the way of what you know you are capable of accomplishing in life. That you need to starve your feelings and feed your intellect. Feelings such as fear in my case were often misleading and capable of curtailing my future.

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Jada

  1. Overall, 2016 was a year of growth. There were a lot of points that weren’t great for me but they were all points where I’ve subsequently learned something and grown from it. There were of course good moments as well but when I look back I remember the L’s more than anything but I wouldn’t change the year. It was a necessary part of my development as a woman and as a person.
  2. As cliché as it is, heartbreak and disappointment. I had a lot of that in 2016 but I believe I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can deal with it better overall. I’m a very all or nothing kind of person and so when things like that happen to me, it really takes a lot out of me and it usually takes me a while to fully recover.
  3. 2016 taught me that actions truly do speak louder than words. And if people show you who they are please please believe them. A lot of my pain on 2016 could have been avoided had I heeded that warning.
  4.  More growth. More Glo up. Just embracing myself. I did a lot of discovery in 2016 so now I’m 2017 I’m ready to embrace all these new parts of me that I’ve discovered and build on them. Make them stronger. Get better in every area that I can.
  5. Stay focused. We always start off so strong but tend to waver and drift off after a few months or struggles hit. Make a plan of where you wanna go so you can remind yourself and get back on track should you stray. Know where you’re trying to be so that you can congratulate yourself when you get there as well.

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Jessica

  1. It was 50/50 I overcame a lot of obstacles that came my way but with God on my side I can say that I won the battle. I shed alot of tears for my black kings, to see how in this country animals are treated better than our black men. Just a sad year and to see who the president elect is SMH… But by the grace of God I watched my son grow from a baby into a smart handsome toddler, and I believe that God finally sent me a good man.
  2. Fear. i learned not to be afraid to be ME, I learned to love myself unconditionally and that I am awesome no matter what others may say about me, or feel about me. I went back to church after having a baby out of wedlock, the church turned their backs on me but I overcame that battle because I am after God not anyone else in that building.
  3. Nobody loves the way I do and that is okay because I will not change who I am for anyone.
  4. Continue to be a great mother to my son, awesome friend to my girlies, amazing woman to my man. Finally find a grad school program that i like and apply and hopefully get accepted by the fall. And just continue to learn myself and be the queen that i was born to be.
  5. DO YOU, LIVE, TRAVEL, LOVE, LAUGH, and not worry about a damn thing.

 

 

Lessons in 525,600 Minutes Pt. 1

 

Arise Queens took a long hiatus in 2016 due to lack of motivation and vision on my part. I felt like I was losing my passion for writing and on the lowest keys lowest of keys stopped believing in myself. Although I had support an people pushing me, I just had to find a way to re-believe in my craft and my talent. Sooooo I’m back!

Starting off 2017 I wanted to start the year with reflections and aspirations.

This post is going to be ongoing through the month  of January. 4 women showcased every few days because well I have a lot of wonderful, strong women in my life. I asked a number of women who I have learned various lessons from in 2016 to answer the following prompt…

1. Was 2016 a good, bad or in between year for you?

2. What is the biggest thing you feel as though you’ve overcome in 2016?

3. What is one lesson 2016 taught you?

4. What is one vision you have for yourself in 2017?

5. What word of advice would you give people for the new year?

2016 bought a lot of boomerangs my way but it also bought a lot of joy to my heart by God’s grace. These women’s stories are beautiful and I hope that you can take something away from their reflections and aspirations.

Thank you for tuning in!

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Ruinide

1. 2017 was an in between year for me, it had its ups and downs. Although there were many obstacles that came my way, there were many victorious moments as well. I like to think that ever challenge is a opportunity to learn and grown, and that is what 2017 was for me.

 2. The biggest blessing that I think I received in 2016 is the overcome of a battle that a family member of mine was facing for years. This battle affected my entire family, and I was constantly praying for that family member and my family.

3. One lesson that 2016 taught me was how to love, love yourself and love others. I learned more about how God loves me and how to reflect that love to others. I learned about relationships whether that is with God, family, friends, a significant other or your neighbor.

4. A vision that I have for myself in 2017 is to continue to grow. I want to be the best me that I can be. Also, I believe that you have to be a reflection of what you want and I want the best!

 5. My advice for the new year is, focus on you, work on you, take care of you, love you! “You hypocrite, first take the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:5 – NLT). In other words, you have to help yourself in order to be able to help others.

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Angelie

2016…Don’t really know where to start but I know I started off the year with high hopes. I guess I was hoping that everything would fall into place. Not that everything wasn’t already going well but I knew some departments in my life needed some work. But altogether I would say 2016 was an in between year for me, some good and some bad. The biggest thing I felt as though I’ve overcome during 2016 is my past hurt. I’ve learned to let go, forgive, and embrace what was to come. 2016 taught to me to put myself first and to love myself flaws and all. My vision for 2017 is to continue to do what makes me happy and to be more positive.  Life is short so i just want to enjoy it as much as possible. I just want to travel more, laugh more, and love more. My word of advice that I would give people for the new year is that you got to do this for you. Live for you and honor you. And never lose sight of that. Also no matter the situation never let your emotions overpower your intelligence. 2017 will be a better year for us all, blessings are coming. 🙂
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Tracy

  1. 2016 was a 50/50 year for me I experienced some great moments but also some very sad moments. On the happier side of 2016 I experienced graduations and engagements of my loved ones and on the down side of 2016 young lives were lost this year and it pained me to see my friends and family heartbroken and in constant despair. Without saying, this was also the year I realized how much hate is still very alive and has not been overcome in this world and that had to me one of the rudest awakenings of 2016. 

2. What is the biggest thing you feel as though you’ve overcome in 2016?  In 2016 I over came a few fears, letting fears or uncertainty come in the way of my purpose, and I overcame being so mean to myself. I am terribly hard on myself when I don’t meet deadlines or don’t figure out a master plan for the next year. This year I managed to give myself a break, I managed to stop and smell the roses but most of all I learned to stop being a control freak and allow God to be God, to truly trust Him, and that has ultimately brought me closer to God 

3. What is one lesson 2016 taught you? 2016 taught me the value of coming up for air, stopping and smelling the roses, and truly valuing every moment because you don’t get them back. I also learned the importance of letting peace lead you. I truly believe peace if God’s way of saying yes or no to your idea. I’ve learned that if I don’t have peace when I make a decision it’s not God’s plan for me. 

4. What is one vision you have for yourself in 2017? That I walk into my purpose, my true purpose, and that I really give myself a chance to be myself. To embrace all that I am and use it to my advantage. Because once you embrace yourself and all your imperfections and I’m not just talking about the superficial, like your physical looks and things of that nature, but I’m talking about your talents, your grades, your skills…all the reasons you’ve gave yourself not to go after your dreams. I want to embrace all that because then I’ll be fearless and that’s my vision for myself for 2017, to be fearless. Only when I become fearless will I be able to walk into my purpose.

5. What word of advice would you give people for the new year? Be nice to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a chance. Love yourself. Embrace your mistakes and failures. But most of all TRY. What I mean by that is that we always have a billion reasons why we can’t do something we really love, why we won’t get a job we love, why we can’t move where we want to move…How do we know that? You don’t! NO MORE EXCUSES. Just TRY. If it’s not successful, that’s fine. Try something else… knock on as many doors as you have to knock on until one opens, because one will. But please, PLEASE don’t live with “what ifs”. Be an active participant in having and living your best life. 

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Amanda

  1. 2016 was a great year for me. This post is actually a really good way to reflect on all the great things that occurred this year. I’m bout to break down the year, because any time I leave my bed is a big deal, lol. 

January: Attended a Youth Summit and spend some time with some old friends, whom I hadn’t seen in years! 

April: I was invited to preach at a church by an old church friend for their youth week and I got to spend some time with old friends from college for Marathon Monday.

May: Got to witness four graduations (3 in person and 1 online) in Michigan, Alabama, Boston, and Tennessee.

June: Attended a relationship seminar that was really insightful

July: Okay here we go. 5 year anniversary, Wedding Day, Moved into new apartment, Honeymoon, 24th Birthday, Husband’s 25th Birthday! Yup, busy month.

September: Finally bit the bullet and registered for one of the classes I had to retake before attempting to apply for grad school AND attended one of my favorite cousins’ destination wedding in DR! 

October: Was invited to speak on a radio show because of a tweet 😭

November: Adulted and attended a holiday party hosted by a friend – whaaaaa?, had a game night with Twitter friends, got to hang out with my best friends for the first time in forever after my wedding, Thanksgiving with friends in Alabama

December: Witnessed my aunt (in law) graduate with her Masters in Baltimore, aced my class, AND finished all of Grey’s Anatomy after 3 months and 16 days 😭

Maintained the job I acquired in 2015, I lost weight and toned up (during that first half of the year, lawlz), I stayed healthy, was able to pay the bills (thank God), made some new friends, and watched a lot of movies. I’d say that’s pretty good stuff.

2. The biggest thing I’ve had to overcome this year was my high expectations, especially with this wedding planning. I had to realize that things just don’t turn out perfectly, or the way you want them to – which, for me, are the exact same thing. I also had to learn to deal with the anxiety that comes with thinking you aren’t good enough, especially in coming back to school two and a half years post grad. Luckily, I was able to overcome all my obstacles with God’s help, and my husband’s.

3. What is one lesson 2016 taught you?

  • There is always someone looking up to you, whether you know it or not
  • Not everyone who says they’re your friend is your friend, no matter how long you’ve known them. 
  • There are always people in need of support, and you might be the one person to help them

That was three, but whatever. 

4. What is one vision you have for yourself in 2017? 

Maybe apply to grad school (if I finish the classes I have to retake). Build my secret Instagram page. Travel with bae. Be content with who I am, what I can do, what I’ve accomplished, and what I have. Building my relationship with Christ. Hair growth. Finally, maybe not looking like a teenager…just for one day. 

Again, more than one. I can never choose one 😔

5. What word of advice would you give people for the new year?

Man…I don’t even know. Just be the best you that you can be. I suck at advice. Take everything I might’ve said above that could be taken as advice and run with it 😭

#PassItOn

“I am not this hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within” -Rumi D

PassItOn

As African American women, we’ve been characterized by our characteristics .They blame our personalities on our skin/gender and not because of where we are from or what we have gone through. Let’s break the stereotypes and show the world that we are so much more then labels.

 

To take part in this movement:

 

  1. Post a photo or quote via Instagram, Facebook, WordPress or other respective areas of social media

 

  1. In your message or comments let us know:

 

Which stereotype is apparent in your life? (Ex. Black women are loud, all black women can dance…etc) and

 

How do you challenge the stereotype?

 

  1. Add #passitonchallenge #breakthesterotype and #thefitnesscrush and/or
    #arisequeens for a possible feature via social media

 

  1. Tag 10 friends to do the same

 

It’s time to come together and give a voice to our fellow queens. Let’s go viral!

Know. Your. Worth

Ladies repeat after me…”I am a queen. I am priceless. I am worth the chase.”

Sometimes life gets tough and we lose who we are for the sake of people.

We tend to forget our true worth in the heat of the moment.

Things get in the way…emotions, life, love, actions, etc.

I am here to tell you one thing. Remember your worth. Do not settle.

Never let anyone tell you who you are.

You are a gift from God.

You are as precious as gold.

You are and always will be worth the chase.

Don’t live your life for people, live your life for God and yourself.

Surround yourself with like minded queens.

Empower yourself and others daily.

Never, ever, ever forget that you my love are beautiful.

Sometimes it gets hard and you forget just how special you are.

I had two very incredible women in my life remind me that my crown was slipping because I had my head held far too low.

I am more than what you think. I am more than what you want. I have been chosen to accomplish great things and I need to never lose sight of that.

In a world full of people trying to constantly dictate and change you always remember that you are a queen in all aspects.

One of the hardest and most rewarding things in life is learning to love yourself.

So baby girl always keep your head up and never let that crown slip Queen.

 

The Making of Queen.

Every morning more than a million woman of color around the world, strap up their boots and get to work in a world that wants nothing more for them to fail…

How do you keep going in a world that wasn’t made for you to succeed?

What’s makes a strong black woman?

A question that has been asked over and over again through time…

How do black woman hold their own…how are you always so strong…?

How did Harriet Tubman make it through the underground railroad all those nights?

How did Rosa Parks stand her ground even when she knew no one would be beside her?

Why isn’t Michelle Obama fading in the background like past first ladies?

Well let’s just say God had a bigger plan for us than having us fall into the shadows of our male counterparts…

Bigger plans than us making less money than white women working the same job as us…

Bigger plans than us being seen as only the physical attributes we were blessed with…

Women are rumored to be made of sugar, spice and everything nice…

Now let me tell you what black women are made of…

Into cocoa infused soil the Lord placed the rib of man but he did not stop there…

From the most tender sugar cane, he removed a few drops of its sweet juice to give us the resilience to stand strong as well as an enticing aroma people smell when they walk by us.

To make sure that our skin was forever supple and able to absorb the hopes that would be bestowed upon us a touch of shea butter was dropped into our mixture

And so that we remained the sweetest thing to grace our partners lives a drop of honey was given to us

And so that we would be revered as the queens we are gold was embedded into our very being.

You may think he stopped there…well he didn’t because he knew these things alone would not be enough to combat what the world would throw at us…

In this creation he thought about all we would go through and in us all instilled attributes of the women that would be our past, present and futures.

With that he dropped in some intelligence to keep us on our toes and quick witted.

A touch of family values so that we would never forget those that helped build us up from birth to adulthood

A splash of style so that we would capture the eyes of all those that would ever attempt to make us conform

A drop of laughter and happiness because he knew we wouldn’t make it if we couldn’t laugh out loud with those that made us the happiest.

A handful of ambition so that we would always be able to look towards the future and see better for ourselves.

A trickle of creativity so that we could always find a way when none seemed to be present…

A dribble of grace and fierceness because he knew that with these two in tow no one would question us

And to top it all off a whole lot of faith so that we would never forget who brought us to those very moments in life where we thought we wouldn’t make it but overcame anyways.

And with this recipe many extraordinary black women were made….

The women of our past who taught us how to wield the power to speak the truth like Sojourner Truth.

To exert ingenuity to tell a powerful story and lead just like Zora Neale Hurston

To have the determination to never give up and shoot for you dreams just like Madame CJ Walker

To have the refinement and self-assurance in order to paint a vivid picture with words such as Maya Angelou

The women of our present exerting the strength, confidence, perseverance and devotion of our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sister and cousins.

Who taught us very important lessons on growing up black and a female in America.

And the women of our future who will look up to us in order for them to learn how to love, embrace and grow into their beautiful black minds and skin.

Not only was the black woman formed from this recipe but a sisterhood emerged with it also.

We are all connected to each other through different attitudes, mindsets, characteristics, people, times, and experiences.

With these things we aid each other in our growth to be the best unbreakable black woman we can be.

There will be days when it feels like the world is throwing every single bullet they can at you.

There will be days where the sun won’t be as bright and it feels like all of your walls are tumbling down.

Just remember how far you’ve come… what you were created with…and the sisterhood that is forever around to support you.

You are queen…stand up and take your throne.

 

 

What’s behind that 32?

Have you ever taken the time to smile at yourself and tried to analyze your smile? Well I have… I used to deeply wonder, what is actually behind that 32 placed so delicately behind those lips? Smiles come in all shapes and sizes and we all have stories behind them. My smile and I have been through so much and there was a point in time when I wished I could change, hide and cover up my smile.Behind my 32 was something that I was ashamed of, something that brought me more pain than it did joy. Behind my smile was insecurity, hurt, sadness, etc. I was made fun of for having what was deemed “small, full lips”. I had a nice smile but for as long as I can remember I was never a fan of smiling. I always did that half-ass, no teeth, I feel uncomfortable with this scenario smile. To top it all off I got braces in high school so that caused me to either smile a whole lot less or cover my mouth while I smiled or laughed. After I got the braces off, hiding my smile behind my hand kind of became a habit. A habit that I never realized was hindering me from leaving a positive lasting mark on people. It wasn’t until college that I started to slowly embrace my smile because a few people helped me understand the power a smile could have on others. My freshman year I met a few wonderful women that changed my perspective. I watched these women smile at everything, no matter what they were going through. I also saw how much their smiles impacted the moods of those around them. I could have been in the worst mood, someone would smile at me and I would immediately feel different. This happened in vice versa also, on the rare occasion that I wouldn’t hide my smile I could see how much simply smiling at people could change their mood. It was in those days that I learned the power behind my smile. Now you can’t stop me from smiling. I have stopped analyzing my smile and just started to fully smile just to smile. My smile is powerful, my smile is beautiful, my smile is love, my smile is mine.

I called out to some beautiful women to ask them these three questions…

  1. Have you ever had problems or doubts about your smile growing up?
  2. If you did, how would you say you overcame your struggles?
  3. How does smiling like fully smiling make you feel?

And here’s what I got…

Ashley T

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“Growing up I hated my smile. I was missing teeth, or they were growing in the wrong direction so I was self-conscious about myself till about high school. I overcame that struggle with age, experience and witnessing my loved ones make it through their struggles. It’s hard to put words to it, but when hard times arrive, not only does a smile bring hope and calmness to others, when find myself fully smiling, it reminds me of how beautiful life is and why it’s worth living.”

Romona T

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“I don’t think I ever had problems growing up concerning my smile. I always heard the compliment, “you have a pretty smile” or “you have really pretty/gorgeous/straight/white teeth” so I think that boosted my esteem. However, during my senior year of high school, I submitted myself for the “best Smile” Superlative and I was sure I was going to win. I did not however, and the girl who did, I personally (and a few of my friends) did not think her smile was “better” than mine. It took me a while to get over that, but then I understood (maybe) she won because she was popular. It made me realize that my smile must also match my personality. I need to be friendlier and outgoing to everyone that I meet. Fully smiling makes me feel happier. I used to smile so much that when my face was just neutral, people would ask me what is wrong. I now have come to a place where I don’t smile anymore to cover up the fact that I am not okay on the inside, but instead because I am truly happy.”

Jennifer F

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“Ha! Did I? Yes lol! I laugh now because I think back like “WTF Jen”? I can remember as far back to kindergarten (I kid you not, I have pictures) of me forcing my awkward closed mouth smile! That smile would follow me up until JR high school. When I was younger maybe around 3 or 4, my mom had taken myself along with my siblings to the park. We were all swinging, well my older siblings were swinging lol I’m sure my mom was just pushing me lol but anyway I guess my swing was going crooked and my mom continued to push me, I eventually rammed into one of the poles holding up the swings. After that my teeth were wrecked. I instantly felt like a brand new woman after I got my braces placed on my teeth. I kid you not! I hated taking pictures before getting them. I don’t have many pictures of me growing up because of it. I didn’t get both my top and bottoms placed on at the same time, but I had my bottoms first and I remember busting out a teethy smile for my 7th grade year book picture. As odd as it may sound, I was super happy to get braces and loved showing them off hahaha! I knew they would be a game changer and boy were they! I love smiling now! Only when I need to though lol. I guess you can say I suffer from RBF so I am always being told to smile. But whenever I do smile, I do get compliments on how beautiful my smile is. I also try to smile to brighten other people’s day’s even if I’m not having the greatest of days myself.”

Nikisha J

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“Yeah, I mean growing up I had really low self-esteem and grew up being so chocolate and my teeth were so white so I felt like smiling just made my chocolate skin stand out more especially at night when kids my age would joke around about my eyes and teeth are the only things they saw at night. So I smiled less to hide my teeth but now I can’t smile enough because God made me this way and I love every inch of melanin be blessed me with. I think smiling is the one thing that can bring u and others joy. So why not smile as much as you can that’s my motto now. On the inside smiling makes me feel good, Like I’m bringing up someone’s day.”

Sophie Om

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“When I was younger and my teeth were growing my front teeth were wayyyyyy bigger than the rest and I used to be called “buck toothed beaver” so I didn’t smile much. As I got older as well, watching my weight fluctuate, I had the tendency to smile less if my face was on the chunkier side. I have since gotten over it, however it took time and comfort with myself. Also helped having the encouragement of the persons whose opinion matters the most to you. Fully smiling makes me feel beautiful.”

Lucia C

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“I’ve always had crooked teeth & struggles with my appearance in that way, but ehh I never really did get over it I just kind of dealt with it daily. Fully smiling makes me feel truly happy, like it’s a portal to sharing my happiness with the world”

Shaneice P

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“I never really had troubles with my smile, people have always told me I’ve had a beautiful smile and really straight teeth– so I wouldn’t 100% say doubt. It promoted my self-consciousness —causing me to smile less, because I feel like for them to know that they must really be taking keen notice and judging my smile or teeth based of some standard. I rarely smile in pictures. I went through my entire phone and this is one of the few photos I was able to find actually smiling. And supposedly this is my faking for the selfie smile. Honestly I’m not sure, smiling makes me feel as though I’m fulfilling some social expectation, I’m generally a very reserved person so I don’t smile a lot. For some reason I feel this was a hard question.”

Melissa P

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“When I was really young smiling was something I had to learn how to do and be comfortable with just because I never thought that it was a good look on me. Or rather I wasn’t comfortable in it but I actually overcame it by becoming very comfortable in making people laugh with my ugly faces anyone who knows me knows nothing is ever normal about the faces I make. But now as I got older and built more confidence my smile shines bright like a diamond, I personally think I have a beautiful smile.”

Fillette L

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“Yes I used to because I had braces from like 4th-8th grade the brutal years when people made fun of you for every little thing. I didn’t fully smile showing all my teeth and when I laughed I would cover my mouth. But now I’m lit!!! I smile all the time, I actual just started to like smiling without showing my teeth, for the longest I felt if I didn’t the I looked odd or ugly (but while having braces I felt it was better than showing all that metal lol) but now with or without teeth I smile I still cover my mouth when I laugh but that’s out if habit not insecurity. I love and accept my smile.”

Francovna L

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“Growing up I was constantly teased about my weight. I would avoid smiling fully because it would enhance the size of my cheeks in pictures. Overtime I learned to love myself and find the beauty in my round face. Now I never take pictures without showing off my happy cheeks. As a private person I have always kept my struggles to myself and close persons. When I would go to work or school I would smile to everyone’s face even when I was an emotional wreck inside. Today I still smile when I undergo tribulation s but I choose to focus on the good in my life diminishing the degree of the hardship I am going through. Fully smiling makes me feel young.As a child you are carefee you are always present and therefore able to absorb every moment in its true essence. When I find myself in a state of an uncontrollable smile it’s one of the few times in life my body and mind are presently focused on what I’m smiling about.”

Tracy P

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“Yes of course! I’m sure you notice I have a gap and as a kid of course you get picked on about it so at a certain point I had stopped smiling all together and to be honest it turned into an insecurity well into old age. I’ve had people tell me I’d look so much more beautiful without it [my gap]. Which of course is hurtful and I don’t really think I’ve gotten over it or really comfortable with it because I still have my moments, BUT I’ve learned that if someone thinks I’m less than beautiful because of it, that’s their problem. Not mine. NEVER mine. They don’t have to look at me lol or can stay mad as they look at me. The people that love me think I’m beautiful with it so I never have to sit in that insecurity which has helped me ALOT. As I got older though people often complimented me on my smile or told me I have such a warm smile and that always blesses me. So now every time I smile, genuine or not, I know that it makes a difference, it helps someone feel warm, I truly believe my smile is contagious because I cheese so hard, so I always keep that in mind and smile at as many people as I can…it’s my superpower….to spread love, kindness, and warmth into the world.”

Thank you to all the women who took part in this post and for being open and vulnerable. There’s just something about being genuine with yourself that changes the way you feel and carry yourself. It makes you comfortable being you. A smile is a gift worth giving so continue to smile as bright as the sun queens.

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”

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Change Me Not…

I am who I am

From the stride in my walk, to the sound of my talk

I am who I am

From the thoughts in my brain to the decisions in my life

I am who I am

Despite your acceptance, and judgment

I make my choices based on the content of my life

You may stand by me with shoulders broad like a mountain

Eyes like the color of sand with dreads that sit on your shoulder o so perfectly

But when you attempt to alter the way I am we have a serious situation

Changing me to fit your liking is not an option

To know me is to love me to love me is to respect me

If you don’t know me before you pursuit me than who are you truly loving

Love me for the beautiful dark skin I have

The slanted eyes you must look deep into to see my soul

The lips that pout ever so gently

The thick curls that stem from the roots of my head

The hips and thighs that sway and work so well together

But also love me for the knowledge that escapes me lips

The strong willingness that emits from a passion deep within

The caring that sets me apart from others

The wisdom I have achieved from years of mistakes and lessons

Love me without needing to change a single thing in me

Love me ultimately for who I am.

 

because at the end of the day I am who i am

An Open Letter From Queen Tracy

We all have our moments of discouragement, sadness and despair and we hate to admit it but these feelings sometimes overpower our thoughts of hope. Here’s a letter from Queen Tracy to encourage prayer, hope, perseverance and keeping your dreams alive!

An Open Letter to those hurting, doubtful, and discouraged:
Senior year in high school my [African American] guidance counselor told me my GPA was good enough for a black girl. Exact words. UCF accepts me 3 months before graduation telling me they will be awaiting my arrival [two weeks] after graduation in which I will have 6 weeks to prove, academically, that I belong there. 4 out of the 6 weeks I had the flu in which I couldn’t get the vaccine because by the time I realized I had the flu and not a cold (as I was treating it) it was too late and would not help–First time I’ve ever had the flu actually, just my luck–however, I proved myself. From that summer forward I would never have another summer off. Over the course of 4 years and 5 months me and my best friend suffered through the worst roommates, almost lost our lives in an accident in which our car swung off the highway gliding across the grass in between the highway stopping milliseconds in front of the railings (that could’ve catapulted us over) the car stopped once she screamed the name of Jesus😩🙌🏽, eventually that car was totaled (not by me, no shade mom👀), I lost a scholarship, then two semesters later got another one because God saw fit, I failed: Chem 1 twice Chem 2 three times College Algebra once Trig once Physics 1 once and probably more I can’t remember right now 😩😂😂 (Jesus take the wheel😳) my graduation was pushed back. My last summer semester (the one semester I really thought I was going to graduate) I woke up and went to sleep crying almost everyday because I hadn’t renewed my lease (thinking I was going to graduate that semester) and couldn’t find anywhere to stay for Fall semester. But let me tell you about somebody named Jesus, who sits high and looks low. He allowed me to finish my last semester in the comfort of my own home and finally graduate December 18, 2015 at 9:00am I shared all this because about 6 months ago I shared a post about how people only post the good on Facebook–just the highs, never the lows–so every time people get on Facebook they think that everyone is living a fantastic life, except for them. So that day I vowed that when I graduated (if I graduated😳😂) I wouldn’t just post how emotional, happy, proud, and ecstatic I was on this day but just exactly how hard it’s been, how rocky the journey has been, how much I’ve cried, how many times I told my mother I honestly and genuinely want to quit and just come home, and to just let others know they are not alone. Be encouraged. Your season will come! God promised. DO. NOT. QUIT. We are all struggling and fighting for something! Life is hard! Your dreams are YOUR dreams and NO ONE will go harder for your dreams than you will. Don’t give up on anything you are passionate about, it is your gift and your reason for living! Let no one tell you that you can’t or you’re not good enough and when you’ve felt like you’ve given it your all, give it a little bit more. It’s going to all work out for your good. God opens doors that NO MAN can close. It’s okay to cry and be worn out but don’t stay there, get up, get out and fight for that life you’ve dreamed of. For me, this diploma doesn’t mean I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science all it means to me is that I’m a survivor, I didn’t quit, I finished the race, and I ain’t no punk. That’s why many of you will never know how much your prayers, hugs, and calls have meant throughout these tough 4 years but I am so grateful, to God be the Glory. I am a living, breathing, kicking testimony of Psalm 91. 🙏🏾🎓‪#‎UCFGrad‬ ‪#‎BringItOn2016‬

S Tracy Pierre's photo.

2016, The Year Of _______

Happy New Year Kings and Queens!

2015 was a year of growth for me as an individual. It was a year of self acceptance and understanding. It was a year of discovery and exploration. I have come a very, very long way. Now I won’t say that 2015 was sunshine and rainbows because that it surely was not. I smiled a lot but I also cried A LOT this past year. I was holding back not only from myself but my loved ones and could never understand why..well I knew why but I never wanted to admit it. I was lagging in certain aspects of life but none more than my spiritual journey and I was scared to admit it. I figured that if I just ignored the obvious then things would just – I don’t even know. But let me tell you my God works! Every time he spoke to me I felt it in the form of never ending tears and each time I’d revert back to my ways, but my God is persistent! He has placed some incredible people in my life to help me see what I needed. And in heartbreak at the loss of a dear friend (R.I.P King Dro) I just knew mannnn… I cried more tears the night of his funeral than all year, but deep down inside I knew. Life is not promised today and many of us take this simple fact for granted. We are put through so many trials and when we  overcome we go about our merry way as if we overcame by ourselves. The Lord has gotten me this far and all I could ever say was a simple “Thanks big man.” I’m relearning to get on my knees and praise his name for all the wonders he has done for me and will do for me. I’m relearning to praise him in my hardships because I will overcome. I’m relearning to praise him at all times. I’m relearning to let him do his work and to let him create in me a clean heart.  I’m relearning to let go completely and let God. I am learning to lean on the people he put in my life when I seem to be losing my way. Therefore 2016 will be the year of Prosperity. I don’t mean simply in monetary sense I want to prosper in my walk with Christ. I want my relationship to prosper and grow. I want my friendships to prosper and grow. I want my health to prosper. I want my love for myself and the way I was designed to prosper. I want Arise Queens to grow. I want those around me to prosper. None of this will be possible without God or support. If you see me slipping don’t hesitate to hit me up because I can never not use prayer. I’m not going to just hop right back on the horse and be gungho for spirituality, it’s going to be a battle that I will eventually win but help never hurt anybody and it certainly won’t hurt me.

I see a lot of achievement and accomplishments in 2016, it’s been spoken into existence. God has humbled my soul and given me an amazing support system from my family to an amazing bae to the extraordinary friends that bring me laughter in my low moments and tears in our proud moments. If there’s one thing I relearned in 2015 it’s to put God first and foremost in all your endeavors. So in 2016 stop focusing on your problem and focus on him and let him handle it. Put him first, spread love, enjoy life and arise.

God is within her. She will not fail. – Psalms 46:5