How well fed were they?

“Slaves were well fed.”

Words spoken by Bill O’Reilly of FOX News in response to Michelle Obama’s speech about life at the White House before the Democratic National Convention. Now, shall we proceed? First of all, in the course of our nation’s dark[no pun intended] past, people of African descent were enslaved by whites to help establish and sustain an agricultural economy. The same people also were largely responsible for building our infrastructure, cities, roadways, farm machinery, as well as tending to the needs of the white slaveowners’ families. They cooked, harvested crops, did laundry, served meals, and catered to the needs of their enslavers. In fact, some of these needs were met involuntarily. That is to say that both men and women were sexually abused-beaten and raped into submission. Often resulting in pregnancies, these types of scenarios contributed to the mosaic of skin tones evidenced in the black community today. Many were killed, sold and traded as though they were non-human….on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, the whites in America were enjoying the privilege and benefits of economic properity earned on the backs of other humans. They had to convince themselves and every other white person that these people, held in bondage, were property, animal-like, inhuman, less intelligent, and deserved the treatments given to them.

White privilege was not inherent, but learned, it was supported by policies and practices that reinforced their views …to justify their wrongdoings. Worst of all, these slave owners and other proponents of slavery considered themselves good Christians and God-fearing people. Certainly, God did not command or uphold this ideology according to biblical scriptures I have read.

Though I am appalled at the atrocious practices employed solely to keep labor free of cost, and sustain a  people, who became to be the ‘dominant’ culture, I also can imagine the inner-turmoil and conflicts felt by many of the whites at that time, but ‘well fed’? Relative to what or compared to whom? The audacity in a blatant attempt to minimize the magnitude of the point of the First Lady’s sentiments.  It was yet another attempt to gloss over our history and self placate by justifying any and all aspects that pertained to the institution of slavery. It was dismissive yet again, and added to the validity of those who today cry out that “Black Lives Matter”.

Food? Ever wonder how the traditional culinary dishes so loved by many, including whites, came to be? While black women were cooking and preparing meals in the kitchens on plantations, the foods they received to feed themselves and their families consisted of the scraps-leftovers and unwanted meat cuts, vegetables, and so forth. White owners were eating the prime cuts of meat, slaves were allowed to eat the bones with very little meat. Hence, neckbones, chitterlings, pig’s feet, cornbread and the like became known as ‘soul food’. Yes, they ate, but not very nutritious in comparison to whites, and this diet is a very important factor in the health concerns of blacks today. They made lemonade out of the lemons they were given.

No matter the intent of O’Reilly’s statement, the impact was reminiscient of the mindset instilled in white Americans to continue the practice.  Though slavery has been abolished, the mindset still lives in implicit biases held by otherwise ‘liberal-minded’ people. When one tells of their personal or shared experiences that feel, look and sound disrespectful, believe them. After all, unless you live those experiences on a daily basis, it is only respectful that we listen, hear them, reflect upon the words, self-examine, and believe the sincerity from which stories are told. If we visit a foreign land and aren’t aware of certain realities, customs, traditions, and values, including past experiences, we must approach all interactions with caution. This is to avoid being disrespectful or rude or insulting. When insulted, what do we, the human response is that we either fight back or submit…fight or flight. So, when someone decides to give you the benefit of the doubt, feel honored and carefully reframe your approach. African Americans are as American as everyone else, but the black experience is still a mystery to the dominant culture.

The issues between blacks and police highlight this and the historical reference having such long lived negative connotations, officers are justified by possessing fears when entering black communities and engaging African Americans. It is not blacks who have disrespected police, but the opposite. By all rights, because of the negatively charged histories of police-related violence and mistreatment of black people in America, one could argue that blacks are completely justified by a latent desire to shoot every officer with whom they engage. That statement is not a rationale or excuse to encourage this type of anarchy. However, seen as wrongful, most will contain their agressions against the people who represent the oppressors who bring so much pain to their lives.

Your fears don’t arise because of actual presence of danger or violence, but it is fear due to the inner voices that tell you that these people have been mistreated for so long, and they may take their anger out on you.

Your fears arise out of your own sense of guilt and responsibility for not just deeds but bad thoughts you’ve ever entertained regarding blacks, any time you’ve spoken the “n” word, and the ways that you are consciously aware are/were wrongful, unjust, or just plain cruel.

The conscience of black people are clear in reference to the past, and we know that we cannot change the past. Your consciences are muddied by the past, your knowledge of the past, your behaviors yesterday and today, too. The wisest way to cope, clear your conscience and proceed in allegiance with your professional role and your personal responsibility, is to begin today and everyday forward by questioning all you say, do and feel as it pertains to this group, who have done you no harm. Practice mindfulness, empathy, and compassion as you navigate your careers and your personal lives as flawed people. We hope that law enforcement will simply aim for and pursue justice, protect and serve ALL people with initial presumption of innocence and keep the peace.

So, the question that began this rant was about how well fed were the slaves before, during and after the erection of the White House and so many other structures built by the blood, sweat and tearfully labored breaths of enslaved and freed blacks. If you don’t know, now is the best time to perform research to uncover the nuanced facts that havebeen omitted or glossed over in traditional textbooks. If you can find your way to uncover major facts about the Greeks, Mayans, and other ancient peoples, then certainly there’s so much more to be discovered about people of African descent, in and outside of this country. When you do, spread the word, share the facts, tell the stories, the real stories, and teach it to your children.Feed us all from the book of knowledge, kindness, justice, empathy and compassion. Lest we not forget respect! That is the beginning of real positive change.


How to Focus When You’re Constantly Distracted

naturally dreamHow do you hack your focus and actively engage your productivity muscle when we are bombarded with information from every outlet and bodily orifice in the face of so many immediate tasks? Well, with SoMe[Social Media] and the internet of things, it has become almost impossible to focus on one task at a time. There always seems to be a distraction of some kind that takes us off track and off task.

We are all craving for information, ideas and engagement with others- peers, colleagues, family, children, etc…. Family, career or personal responsibilities will never receive your full attention, because in an instant, there is another distraction. The doorbell rings, the baby cries, your boss needs that expense report like yesterday, and overwhelmed describes emotions felt- system overload… not enough hours in a day for all we are called to do.

So, how to we become more single-minded, organized and motivated to complete tasks, especially when we’re not in the mood? Undivided attention!

Attention implies singularity and being in the moment. If you’re paying attention to lots of things—that’s not truly paying attention. It’s an understatement that focusing on one thing at a time can be difficult. But it’s the key to succeeding at work and in life. It’s hard to do anything, let alone do it well, if you can’t concentrate on it.

The good thing about focus is that it’s a learnable skill. It takes practice and it takes experimenting with different methods, but you actually can improve your ability to do it. And you can do it without downloading any apps or studying up on hacks.

You can start teaching yourself by checking out these four really simple approaches.

1. Do One Thing at a Time


What’s Stopping You: Technology

A study done by Larry Rosen, PhD, at California State University looked at how long students could pay attention to a specific task. The average length of time they could concentrate on what they were studying? Three minutes. The culprit? Technology. Every time something bings, beeps, or flashes, you’re no longer 100% focused on what you were doing.


The Fix: Turn Off Your Notifications

The next time you sit down to focus, turn off your notifications for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, email, Dropbox— every last one. Your likes, tags, comments, and messages will all still be there when you’re ready.

Try it, even for a day or just a few hours. Turn off anything that breaks your attention, including your Wi-Fi if possible. And then (hopefully) you’ll notice that the world didn’t stop when the notifications did. But you did happen to get a lot more accomplished.

2. Group Similar Tasks

What’s Stopping You: Your Job Involves a Variety of Tasks

You wear a lot of hats at work. That’s the norm now, but it can take 15 minutes or more to regain the same intense focus or flow as before the interruption that robbed you of that attention.

So, every time you switch tasks, your brain needs at least that amount of time to get back into the work. If you switch tasks just four times in a morning, that’s an hour of total focus you’ve lost.

The Fix: Batching Your Work

“Batching” builds off the idea of only working on one type of task at a time. Rather that jumping from one project to another, you do all related tasks in a set amount of time. By “batching” the work you have to accomplish, you don’t have to constantly shift gears.


3. Focus on the Present

desk dream

What’s Stopping You: Daydreaming

Paying attention to the work at hand, instead of daydreaming about what will come of that work, is always a challenge. Too often, we get sucked into imagining that what we’re working on will go viral or make us millions. While it’s a nice thought, it’s also not getting you any closer to making it a reality.

The Fix: The Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro method is the notion that short, but laser-focused, bursts of attention lead to much greater productivity. It’s simple—you set a timer for 25 minutes, you turn off or silence all other distractions, and you work on a single task. When the time’s up, you can take a short break (for daydreaming) before moving onto another task.

The more attention I pay to what I’m working on, the faster (and better) it gets done. Instead of thinking about all the items on your list and getting stressed or simply getting lost in thought, try to think about just the one at hand.

4. Give Yourself a Break

tree dream

What’s Stopping You: You Think You’re a Robot

Too many productivity tips don’t take this into account: We need to sleep, eat, and move our bodies. As humans, our attention spans need variety, and we can’t always control our thoughts or motivations. No matter how motivated or focused you are, you can’t stay that way forever.


The Fix: Act Like a Human

It might seem counterproductive, but I’m much more likely to get my work done quickly (and well), if I take breaks away from my desk. Whether you’re taking nature walks, doing five minutes of stretching, or sitting on the porch and drinking coffee (instead of slurping it while compulsively working), all of those breaks contribute to being able to focus better.

That’s it. No special programs, secret life hacks, or expensive apps. You simply need to give your brain a task, space, and rest—it will reward you for it by gifting you with productivity. Focus, focus, focus! If there are more hacks in your own personal repertoire, please share. We can always use the feedback.[At least, I can definitely benefit from better focus.] What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, focus!

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