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Monthly Archives: August 2011

STILL

Jaded vision of the past

My soul is in shock

No longer remembers the words,

The exact sentences

The exact look on your face when the words were said

What is left are the feelings that lingered from those moments

The habits that formed from those moments

The pain that remains has situated itself inside of me

Turning sour

Little girl sits in the dark

Crying

STILL crying

Ultimately dying

For some the pain leaves,

For me it morphed

Morphed into sweet words and helping hands

Open heart and the ability to understand ALL

But myself

Not realizing that I never really dealt with my own pain

I try to help others prevent from doing the same

Tears streamlined

Little girl embarking upon a journey of her own

Something is wrong

She’s aware but cannot articulate

STILL cannot make the pain go away

Writes about it.Talks about it.

The feelings overwhelm

Silently she suffers

Brightly she smiles

Secrets

Confusion

MUCH confusion

When will the truth taste the dawn?

She is a pawn

An experiment

Mommy won’t come to grips with reality

Can’t look in the mirror and seek the change it needs to be

Holding herself,

little girl cries

Little girl dies

Lost in lust and rhyme

Little girl was a bonafide dime

One could not envision the pain

Bloodline contaminated, blood is bleeding……STAINED

Spreading, 

Like HIV

Who in their right mind would think to love me?

That’s how it feels when you have to fight for it

When you have to bite for it

When you did not know you had rights for it

Not personal she tells her self

“They are the ones that really need the help”

Friends cannot rescue they can only listen

Increased pain

Drought of rain

NEVER will it

go      a    way

But now,

I have to face me

STILL that little girl in the mirror I see

WHY?

WHY won’t she go away?

WHY won’t the pain leave?

Why does it keep playing hide and go seek?

Times that I wanted to die,

Sitting in the empty bath tub,

I cried

I called HIS name

I sat still

I listened

I opened up my heart so that my life would not end

I called on a friend

God told me my purpose

To be a woman of the truth

To write, to see, to speak

All of this to make whole of me

Copyrighted by Ashley S.C. Walls 2007

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Poetry, Uncategorized

 

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Celebrating Achievements

When my niece graduated from 8th grade in the Spring of 2011, with much enthusiasm I wanted to know if she was excited about her upcoming graduation party. She was quick to say “no”. Of course I had to take a few minutes to lecture my niece about the impact of her graduation on not only herself, but her younger siblings (she’s the oldest of 3 girls and of all 6 of my nieces).
 
It may seem common place for children to graduate 8th grade, but more and more, I hear stories of students dropping out before they reach this milestone. Moreover, many students that complete 8th grade are vulnerable to life elements that lead to dropping out of high school. By celebrating her 8th grade graduation it is my hope that she will look forward to many more.
 
I want my niece to understand that the graduation itself was a stepping stone for the rest of her life and that what we were really celebrating was her future. The graduation party and the “fuss” that so annoyed her, was the only way to spotlight this achievement for her siblings, to give them something to strive toward. With her rank in the family, she was now the accessible trailblazer for the younger girls to follow.

Of course I threw in a bit of talk about how our ancestors were beat and died fighting for educational freedom and equality, but I knew that too much of that would surely go over her head.
 
So, I stayed focused on the celebratory aspect of her accomplishment. Think about what takes place at celebrations- food, loved ones, gifts (monetary, material, words of wisdom), laughter, etc. Celebrations are a chance for one to realize how connected we are to those that love and support us. Celebrations take away the feeling of isolation that lead our youth to gangs, drugs, and violence. Celebrations help outline the bigger picture and force the accomplished individual or group to embrace accountability.
 
I wanted my niece to know that people were invested in her next steps AND there to support her and serve as a resource.
 
She listened and said, “okay Aunite Ashley”, then went on to play with her friends. I prayed that she understood, or that it would all make sense sooner than later. I realize that I too probably expressed the same sentiment on my accomplishments as did my niece, until I saw my little sister (now 16.5) walk across the stage at her 8th grade graduation.
 
Its Heavy! The fact that we don’t always know how important what we are doing really is; When we don’t know that an action or a decision we make today will possibly change something. Change what? Who knows. We may think we know, but we don’t always know or the change is different from what we expected.

What is important to know is that we must celebrate the achievements of our young people in a way that they may not understand now, but will one day appreciate.

How do you celebrate the achievements of those that you cherish and/or yourself?

Below is an article about celebrating achievements. Enjoy!

http://life.familyeducation.com/organization/stress/56266.html

 

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Success Formula: Monique Nicole Caston

I’m never really on the lookout for Success Formula’s, they stand out in a way that you can’t help but notice.

Although I knew her in college, LinkedIn was the beginning of my relationship with Monique Nicole Caston. She starts groups on LinkedIn, joins others, and then takes over in a way that promotes community, communication, and common endeavors. Assured that networking via a social media platform such as LinkedIn will “contribute to my success”, Monique is on the accelerated path to the effective use of social media, and I am watching her footsteps closely.

The owner of Caston Resumes, an avid networker, and a professional agent of community development, Monique intentionally creates spaces and opportunities for social improvement. Currently living in the D.C. metropolitan area, Monique has observed a flaw with the young professional networking scene: often the young people aren’t in the right position professionally to take the networking to the next level. Alternatively, LinkedIn has allowed Monique to make connections across the globe including invites for board membership in different cities.

Her definition of community service is “individually working with residents, businesses, and organizations to get everybody on one accord regarding the needs of their community.” Monique collaborates with residents and community-based organizations to generate ideas on how to improve and increase community- building capacity. With a focus on empowerment, Monique’s message to community members is: You CAN do it yourself.

Early on Monique realized the importance of engaging community interest. Regularly she returns to her elementary school to motivate students and encourage them during their academic obstacles.  Monique’s community outreach tactics in urban areas are guerilla style, and include connecting with your alderman or local political representative and meeting community residents in places they frequently visit such as, corner stores, parks, etc. Talking to residents and making sure they understand proposed changes and outcomes of policies are critical to Monique’s social change tactics.

Monique’s future goals include helping organizations and individuals streamline strategies while ensuring that they do not reinvent the wheel. With a background in social work and architecture, Monique uses asset maps to explain opportunities to those that are seeking to enhance their neighborhood.

A wearer of many hats, I asked Monique does she put herself healthily first. Monique said “it can be difficult, but…… I have a need to want to do things for others….Although it satisfies their immediate needs, by sometimes putting others first I am fulfilling my needs, which is essentially putting myself first.”

When faced with challenges, Monique finds a way to rework difficult situations so that they work in her favor. But Monique is also a challenger, and often forces professors, politicians, and naysayers to reconsider their actions and motivations for change.

One change that Monique accepts for the greater good, is letting go of unnecessary stress. This can include letting go of stale relationships because they are “too exhausting”. Monique is mindful that when you let go of relationships, you may have to reorganize certain aspects of your life, but it can be done.

A woman more than willing to share her resources, Monique is committed to networking her way to success while utilizing the relationships needed to change communities.

Monique Nicole Caston’s Success Formula= Leveraging resources + Frequent engagement on LinkedIn/social media + Holding local political leaders accountable

More on Monique Nicole Caston 

Community Asset

Everyone should get to know their local political leaders and make sure that you have a voice in your community.

Thoughts on starting a new organization

Everybody does not need to start one; Should find ways to partner and assist with what is already going on to further enhance your community.

Memorable story

“At 18 I went to my local alderman and told him that I did not like the direction the community was headed and that although young, I still had a voice.” 

Her ideal Job

To work with/for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

SMART goals

In 3.5 years I would like to own a multi-use facility in the South Shore community (Chicago) that embodies multiculturalism, retail, healthy food supplied by local producers, and provides space for performers and authors.

Contact Info

www.castonresumes.weebly.com
caston.resumes@gmail.com
www.moniquenicolecaston.com
moniquenicolecaston@gmail.com

 

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Community Asset: Young Nonprofit Professionals Network- Chicago

Nonprofit orgs are a dime a dozen. With this being the case, how does one go about standing out in this field of tax-exemption and community causes? 

One way is to network. Although this word is now used with less intent as its original context, the Young Nonprofit Professional Network (YNPN) holds true to its networking purpose. This entry focuses particularly on the Chicago chapter of YNPN. 

Mission: The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Chicago (YNPN Chicago) strengthens the nonprofit community by providing accessible professional development, resources, and networking opportunities for young professionals involved in the Chicago-area nonprofit sector. 

How is the mission accomplished: YNPN offers a variety of cost efficient hands-on opportunities for young professionals seeking to solidify themselves as a player in the nonprofit industry. YNPN also host social and service activities including: volunteer day and speed networking. 

Numerous workshops, leadership trainings, volunteer slots, weekly newsletters, and a blog site (in which I was published), are some of the platforms created by YNPN. 

The benefits of the FREE membership are:

  • Be the first to know about our Events, including professional development workshops, social events, volunteer outings, and our Annual Celebration.
  • Search our online Member Directory to network with more than 3,500 nonprofit professionals in the Chicago area.
  • Search for and post jobs in our online Career Center
  • Talk to other members in the online Discussion Center
  • Subscriptions to useful e-mails, such as our monthly e-newsletter, weekly jobs e-mail, and daily digest of Discussion Center posts.

This is just one of the many opportunities that one can find when looking to stand out in the nonprofit arena. 

What are some other community assets or resources for nonprofit professionals seeking exposure and networking opportunities?

 

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Prison…I’m So Over It

image from blog.alrdesign

How is it possible that correctional facilities are one of the fastest growing industries in the United States???

This bothers me to no end for several different reasons, particularly because the industry is projected to grow 7.5% by 2016 (Huffington Post)  In 2007, Reuters reported that “The United States, which has the most prisoners of any country in the world, last year recorded the largest increase in the number of people in prisons and jails since 2000…” With over 2 million US prisoners, the incarceration numbers are steadily rising.

I have heard that prison rates are predicted based on students 3rd grade test scores. Not sure if this is still true and because I am not looking for this to be an academic paper or a news post, I am not going to do much research. What I am going to do is express how sad it makes me to realize that no matter what, people, an ABUNDANCE of people, WILL go to jail over the next 4 years. Its been predicted and plans, big money plans, have been made to ensure that people who partake in illegal activity are caught, charged, legally processed, and put in jail so that investors get their money’s worth. 

Unlike the other growing industries listed in the Huffington Post report (biotechnology, internet publishing and broadcasting, and video games), the prison industry debilitates society, deteriorates households, and perpetuates a variety of unhealthy personal behaviors.

Probably preaching to the choir in this post, I NEED to know what to do. How do we change this? How do we help people understand that criminal activity is NOT THE ONLY WAY OF LIFE? Why are we so off track that prison is a viable option for so many of our young people?

Prison is a reality, it’s too many stories that tell of it. We have shows such as “Beyond Bars” and “Lock Up” that depict the prison life style including rape, “the yard”, gang conflicts, and nasty food…I FEAR this lifestyle, while so many of our young people are just waiting for their jail time to begin.

Years ago, I would have naïvely thought that criminals or people involved in criminal activity, were mostly drug addicts, or they grew up in terrible households….this is not necessarily the case for your average prisoner. Although trials and tribulations are back stories for those locked up, often greed and mental illness lead to criminal activity. Unfortunately, in the United States, instead of holistically treating illness and growing our mental health industry, we grow the prison industry. Why is this ACCEPTABLE?

Why are we not growing our mental health facilities and paying our therapists and psychologists more? Why don’t we improve community services that provide mental health services and offer after school options for youth and young adults? As a nation we are cutting budgets that improve, while increasing budgets for systems that hinder.

Yes choir, I know you hear me. I am thinking about exploring this issue in the context of my new degree….What do you think? I would love to figure out how I can use my Urban Planning concentration to help over throw the prison industry…

Below is a link to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=121

 

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Supporting Others In Their Time of Hope

Often involved in projects or events that are better carried out with the support of others, I have grown to appreciate and “need” my friends, family, and their extended loved ones. Having acknowledged this for a while, the idea of support systems has been further reinforced during the past 6 months of my life.While at my most recent performance as a featured poet, the crowd was filled with people who believe in my talent, and those who had never (or rarely) heard me perform. Just thinking about the people who took time out of their busy schedules, and spent gas money to get all the way to The Cafe, evokes tears. Walking into the venue and seeing the faces of those who did not RSVP was an added joy; having only received a few RSVP’s, it meant a lot to know that my priorities were on the radar of those that I felt were distant.Text messages of those that could not be in attendance, or a simple “good luck tonight”, made a world of difference in my confidence and pursuit of this artistic endeavor. But support from loved ones is needed in more than the arts.

About a month ago I was discussing a plan of action for one of my friends who is pursuing singing with her manager (who is also a close friend). At a point in the conversation I asked the manager, “what are your goals?” She immediately started describing the goals she has for our singing friend. I had to stop her and say “no, I’m talking about you.” She quickly shared with me a few of her aspirations and shortly after, we continued to discuss our singing friend. Recently, the manager informed me that she had begun to pursue her goals again simply because my questions jogged her passions. Support comes in many shapes and forms. Sometimes it is “I support what you are doing” and at others it is “I support who you are”.

I believe that encouragement, inquiries, forwarded emails, a quick tweet or Facebook post, text message, recommendation or referral, almost ANYTHING that lets someone know “I know who you are and what you are trying to do, and I support that”, IS support.

I am sure busy schedules can sometimes get in the way of displaying support, but I have found a few ways that help ensure I show support to those I am close to, or just simply believe in.

1- Use automated systems. For example, my friend was recently in a singing competition. Throughout the week, I wanted to make sure there were a bunch of tweets encouraging people to learn more about her and to attend her performance. I used socialoomph to schedule my tweets so that each day no matter how busy I was, I still achieved my goals of support.

2- Mark the calendar. I trust that my memory will fail me when I need it most. So I make it a habit to send myself calendar reminders to do what may seem small to me, but what I know is grand to someone else. My calendar reminder may read “call X to see about interview” on the day of a friends interview.

3- Share resources. If I am on Craigslist and I come across something beneficial for someone else I know, I immediately send that person an email with the link. I would hope others are able to do the same for me.

These are just a few ways that I show support for others. What are some tactics you have used to show support or that have helped you feel supported?

Below is a link to a short article that discusses the importance of being supportive to others. http://www.selfhelpgrowing.com/being-supportive.htm

Also, here are various links to my recent performance. There is only one performance, but you can listen on your preferred source.

http://www.chaoticarts.org/thecafe/mp4podcasts/the_cafe_mp4_podcasts.xml (podcast/xml link)

http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-cafe-mp4-podcasts/id360469323 (itunes)

http://www.chaoticarts.org/thecafe/the-cafe-material-listing.htm (click recorded features on this link to The Cafe)

 
 

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iCandy- A Blake Martin Production

On July 30th, I had the pleasure of being an invited journalist for the Blake Martin production- iCandy. Although I had heeeaaaarrrrrd about Blake Martin Productions Company, I had yet to witness one…….Let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Each of Blake’s fashion shows has a format that audiences and performers have come to know and love. After selecting the songs and theme(s) for a particular show, the production opens with a filmed or live scene that provides background on the upcoming fashion. Following the opening sequence, models strut their stuff and show off the works of up and coming designers. The action of the show bounces between acting scenes, dynamic dance routines, and thematic fashion pieces.

"Rain"

Located on the IIT campus on 34th and Federal, the auditorium was full of supporters of not only Blake Martin,
but the featured cast and designers. Demilobo from WGCI was an engaging host throughout the evening, keeping the audience laughing and maintaining great energy throughout the 2 plus hour show.

The opening scene was that of a barber shop. The sequence held my attention, but the lack of coordination amongst the dancers wardrobe in this scene was distracting. Although the moves were nothing less than HOT, I would have loved to see a little bit more theme in the uniform, especially during the top of the show. To my liking, this did not continue throughout the show; Subsequent scenes showed the dancers unified in wardrobe and allowed the dance moves to stand out that much more!

The music did not disappoint the least bit. During every scene (dance, acting, and fashion) I wanted to dance on the sidelines with the performers, or be sure to go home and YouTube the tracks that were unfamiliar to me.

There were a variety of segments throughout the show, including “Saved by the Bell” filled with denim and white t-shirts and new school kids versus old school kids “Glitz and Glam”(after 5 scene) was my favorite fashion sequence while “Rain” and “Dominatrix” were SOOOOOO VERY SEXY, I wanted to learn the dance moves and purchase some of the outfits! Visuals included- a bed on stage, whips, umbrellas, and boxers…..

Overall, I believe that the fashion aspects of the show had lots of potential, but that for the most part it felt more like an entertainment show with fashion included. I am convinced that Blake Martin can produce a show where fashion comes across equally as important as dance, music, and theme, but a few more elements are necessary to bring that to life. For example, dynamic make up and stand out accessories, would have easily taken the fashion portions of the show from a 5 to 8 on a ten scale.

I most appreciated Blake’s choice to have the designers talk about their product, their history with fashion, and the direction of their clothing line. It was great to get to know and like (for the most part) young, fresh fashion faces. I also liked that the models were all shapes, colors, and sizes, showing that there is a platform for people in the entertainment industry, no matter, weight, height, or other physical feautres.

During the show, the World Performance Team, graced the stage. A drill team for children 12 and under, the World Performance Team almost stole the show (I’ll explain the almost later). These young boys were professional, entertaining, and did not miss a beat in their drill steps. I think this was a great addition to the diversity and creativity of icandy.

Sooooooo, the show stoppers of the evening were Tony and Blake Martin himself. Tony was one of the fiercest models I have EVER seen, and I was shocked to learn that it was his first modeling and design
performance of any kind.  Blake Martin made his debut in the “Vogue” scene, showing the audience why he IS the entertainment guru in which he is publicized. Honestly, Blakes energy took the dancers from a
9 to an 11, making the end of the show a high end home run! Blake Martin is a world class choreographer!

The evenings featured designers were:

Star studded

Josh Banks

Socialite

Majelo

Dominique T

Bo-Ideal

Tony

Danielle

Blake Martin

Blake Martin productions are self-funded by ticket sales, which helps determines the amount of models required for each show, the number of scenes, and even how many spotlights will be available. For each show Blake casts over 40 models more than needed to account for turnover. “Working in a production is very strenuous on your time. But they (models/ dancers) are not necessarily prepared for the time commitment and the intensity
of my rehearsals, etc. Some producers are very lenient, I am not that way.”

The work ethic was obvious, as the performers were professional, confident in their actions, and “brough it” to
every scene. I would recommend a Blake Martin production to others interested in finding out more about this rising star. The ticket sales were reasonable, the location was convenient, and the energy of the crowd and performers were positive and supportive.

Definitely a good way to spend a few hours of your weekend.

 
 

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