Ok friends, as long as I have been living, there has been the conflict of Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. People fight and get heartless..and dare I say it annoying to have their way.
I speak for myself, not anyone else. This is a no pressure zone. I’m not preaching but speaking.
I say Merry Christmas because of the true meaning: Jesus Christ. The greatest gift given to humanity came as a humble baby. A King was born to fulfill prophesy. I use it as a witness. I smile and say it. I say it with all my heart with the light of Christ. I understand it is not said in the Bible but I still say it. Merry Christmas…Christ is in it.
I don’t get mad if people say Happy Holidays to me. I just say Merry Christmas back. If they ask why I say Merry Christmas, perfect witness opportunity.
I don’t make a big deal if people say either or neither. I say what I say KINDLY. I realize that I can’t make someone say Merry Christmas. I realize there are people who say Merry Christmas who are so mean it defeats the purpose. I just try to be positive and witness by saying Merry Christmas.
Did you know that June is National Caribbean American Heritage Month? Neither did I until now. This year marks the 14th celebration of National Caribbean American Heritage Month.
This idea came originated from Dr. Claire Nelson, Founder and President of the Institute of Caribbean Studies. This campaign caught the attention of Congress. In June 2005, the House of Representatives adopted H.Con. Res. 71 sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee recognizing the Caribbean people and their contribution to the United States. The resolution passed in the Senate and the Proclamation was issued by President George W. Bush on June 6, 2006.
My Caribbean Roots
I am the proud daughter of Haitian immigrants. Haiti Cherie!
The Rough Truth
To be honest, I was not about that Caribbean life growing up. I wanted to be as American as possible. I knew my parents spoke a different language. We had different food. We had different traditions. I wanted to eat McDonalds and American like food. I just wanted to be like my white friends who had the “right american” traditions. I stopped speaking Haitian Creole for a very long time. I had this mentality to be as “normal” as possible.
In my senior year in high school, for our Christmas concert, my choral director wanted us to sing this choral piece called “A Haitian Noel.” Really!?! Singing Haitian Creole!?! I tried to keep quiet about my cultural background quiet but when some students were mispronouncing words I just had to correct them.
“Wait, Bianca you know this language!?!”
“Uhhh..yes. My parents are Haitian.”
The truth is out!
Then my choir director asked me to ask my parents to help us and teach the class this song. My parents were shocked and elated when asked; they made a cassette tape of the lyrics for them (I know I’m old). I was even teaching the class too. What I thought made me odd made me special. We practiced so hard till it was perfected…for a high school chamber choir.
My dad’s work schedule made him miss my choral performances but he took the night off for this concert. I was SO nervous because we would be performing this in front of my parents. But we did it! My parents said they loved it and it meant the world to them to hear their culture represented. My dad actually has the song on his iPhone and still listens it today. I had the chance to thank my choir director for the opportunity to showcase my culture and light the spark.
The Trip of A Lifetime
Only God could have orchestrated my mission trip to Haiti.
In January 12, 2010, our family, along with the world, was in shock over the earthquake that destroyed and killed thousands. We were calling family wondering if everyone was ok. For the most part, everyone was ok but there was damage. My mom already left in March 2010 for a medical missions trip. But there was still a hurt for a country I had never been to.
I finished my sophomore year of college. I was planning on summer school and being home for summer for a little. My campus pastor told me about a last minute short-term mission trip to Haiti. It was paid for by SendMeNow Missions through the Georgia Baptist Convention. All I had to do was get my vaccinations and say yes. My parents had told me for most of my life it’s too dangerous for me to go and when I am older I can go. So I made a deal with God that if He wants me to go, I need to have my parents’ blessing and support. And they gave me their blessing and support.
I went with a great group of people to do vacation bible school and sports camps for the kids. Still friends with them to this day.
It was eye-opening seeing everything. My parents’ stories of Haiti hit me like a ton of bricks. The marketplace, school children walking miles to school, tap taps (their version of transit), dust, smoke, poverty, destruction from the earthquake, no sewer system, women carrying crops on their heads, churches with walls and tarp, and more.
It was then where I understood where my parents were coming from. They grew up with little but survived it. They came to the states with dreams and for their children to have access to everything from an education to clean water.
I had a renewed sense of pride to be a representation of a Haitian American.
I’m proud of my Haiti. No matter what the media or society believes, Haiti is a resilient group of people. We were the first black republic and first independent Caribbean country. Yup…Haiti Cherie!
I love my rice and beans, fried plantains, pate (Haitian patties), Diri ak djon don (black mushroom rice), soup joumou (squash soup eaten New Year’s Day), Legim (like a stir-fry of vegetables), Pikliz (like a spicy coleslaw), and many more.
I love my flavorful spices. I am allergic to bland food. I have been too blessed and spoiled.
And God still dwells in the Haitian people. Christian Haitians have such a light and love for the Word. If you think you will “save” them, you will be blessed by them. And no, not all Haitian people practice voodoo…just sayin.
Caribbean Contribution to America
Just to name a few Caribbean people and their value to the American experience…
Jean Baptiste du Sable (Haiti), the “Founder of Chicago”
Sidney Poitier (Bahama descent), first African-American actor recipient of an Oscar for Best Actor
James Weldon Johnson (Bahama descent), Author of the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing)
Oscar de La Renta (Dominican Republic), fashion designer
Malcolm X (mother from Grenada)
Harry Belafonte (Jamaica/Martinique), civil rights activist and singer
Colin Powell (Jamaica), first black U.S. Secretary of State
John Russwurm (Jamaica), first black editor of a U.S. newspaper and one of the first three blacks to graduate from a U.S. college
Alexander Hamilton (St. Kitts & Nevis), first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury
Dr. William Thornton (Virgin Islands), physician and architect who designed the U.S. Capitol
And the list goes on…
The Pride Is Real
No matter what Caribbean country a person is from, WE MATTER! We are part of the construction and greatness of America.
We are beautiful, smart, resourceful, and diverse. I love meeting and relating with my other Caribbean brothers and sisters. We have similar stories, struggles, stereotypes, concerns, and passions.
In the great words of God, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14).
Imagine not knowing your freedom was a reality while the rest of the world knew?And then are told, “You are free.”
This is why we celebrate the Black Emancipation Day called Juneteenth.
I heard of Juneteenth but I really wanted to research what this day was about. Juneteenth is a holiday held on June 19th symbolizing the end of slavery in the United States. Two and a half years ago, the Emancipation Proclamation was made by President Lincoln to abolish slavery. Though this proclamation meant the end of an era of oppression, it was not yet enforced in all the states.
On June 19, 1865, after an Executive Order, Major General Gordon Granger and union soldiers went to Galveston, TX with news to the last of the enslaved that the war was over and they were free. This major enforcement is what makes the holiday what it is. Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas by state legislator Al Edwards in January 1, 1850. Edwards is still seeking to create Juneteenth as a national holiday. 45 out of the 50 states recognize/observe this holiday.
Today, Juneteenth is about celebrating and educating others about our history, our freedom, our accomplishments as a people, and where we have to go.
It’s important as a community to uplift and educate how far we have come. The same delay for freedom is still true today. As a people, there is still strife, struggle, and delay to be represented and at the table in the mist of injustices. There is still delayed freedom in the economy, in the legal system, education, in the environment, and beyond. But we can still celebrate our progress. I know friends who are doctors, lawyers, accountants, businessmen/women, etc who are making a difference in their communities and the world. We still fight for our seat but if our ancestors could survive the oppression of slavery, we can surely keep fighting the system.
That’s why it’s important to have Juneteenth and Black History Month: to know we can make an impact.
For me, learning about this holiday gives me more pride about the resilience of our ancestors. As an African American, I know someone had to struggle for me to have the freedoms I have. I am an educated black woman. Yup…let that sink in. This holiday makes me realize the privilege and opportunities I have. I will always be proud and unashamed to celebrate my history. The older I get, the more knowledge I learn about where I come from.
To end, in the great words of James Brown, “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”
In this time in history, whether you watch the news or on social media, society tends to dehumanize and discount people who are different than the norm. And some people have reached a point of tolerance of this injustice. “It does not apply to me so it does not matter.” Sometimes there are people who make excuses for another’s actions when it is just pure evil.
In these moments of injustice, remember who you are. Do not be ashamed of who you are.
As an African American woman, I am aware of the marginalization, humiliation, and exploitation of people who look like me. I can’t pretend to be denial of the suffering in my community and other minority communities.
To some, I am a threat or something that should be tamed or silenced. I have heard it all.
I’m too emotional.
I’m not submissive enough.
I’m too vocal.
I’m too much.
I’m too black or not black enough.
Now this is what the Lord says—the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel—“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.-Isaiah 43:1
You are REDEEMED!The meaning of redeem is defined as being released from a debt or free from what distresses and harms someone. Meaning you are free from the heartache of man’s opinions of you…AMEN TO THAT! You are free from persecution in Jesus’ name. When you are in Christ, you are free…and free indeed.
In the grand scheme of things, if God redeems, then no one’s opinions matter. When Washington or society devalues, God values. In God’s divine will, you are somebody. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
There will be people who don’t like you for whatever reason they think in their small mind. But God has a plan and a purpose. If you are still alive and breathing, you are still God’s.
I struggled to be confident in my own skin. I did feel attacked whether I was black, a woman, a daughter of immigrants, or am from Haitian descendants. I wrestled with blending in and being normal because the last thing I wanted to be was be myself. But as I grew, I realized that I am who God made me to be.
I cannot change the color of my skin, the fact I was born a woman, or my Haitian roots. What I can change is how I value my differences rather than erase them. Once I loved me, my value and confidence grew.
Instead of being too emotional, I am passionate.
Instead of being not submissive enough, I respect and honor people who respect and honor me.
Instead of being too vocal, I vocalize my stance to empower and challenge injustice.
Instead of being too much, I am just enough Bianca for me.
Instead of being too black or not black enough, I am Bianca, fearfully and wonderfully made.
So instead of listening to outside noises, value yourself. Value your worth in this world. No one will do it for you. Don’t wait for someone to give you your worth because you will give the world too much power over who you are.
Look at yourself in the mirror (that is a command..do it). List all the wonderful inside and outside qualities you have. You are God-designed and God-purposed for the here and now. There is no one like you. So be you.
The Cross is powerful. It breaks the chains of sin and gives power to all people who believe. It restores. It redeems. It wins every time.
But lately, some people pledge their allegiance and entire being on other things: the flag, the national anthem, a political party, or a person who is not Jesus.
I am not saying not to be thankful for the blessings of life and living in America but America is not heaven. None of the temporary titles will serve an eternal purpose. Admission to heaven does not require a color, party, or denomination.
I’m not saying that you can’t be passionate about the things of this world. There are things that I am passionate about too. But what I am saying is don’t let the troubles of this world cloud the eternal things.
There is no human, institution, or solution able to solve the troubles of the world. So don’t get so worked up about the current news that it drives you crazy. God is the one who will restore humanity at the appointed time.
So the bickering and “taking extreme measures” to show allegiance to a temporary political view, person, or issue is futile in the grand scheme of things.
This life is fleeting. All these things will pass away but the Lord’s Word and Will reigns.
I know what you may be thinking: And what may that be, Bianca?
The silver lining is I see who people really are.
I feel like prior to this era, people’s prejudice would show it’s ugly head every now and then. I had faith in people. I thought the best in people especially Christians.
But once the current president ran, I started to see where people stood and people’s tolerances. I really started to see who people really were.
Maya Angelou says “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”Usually people’s first reactions is really how they feel.
When the current president would say or do something unbecoming, the people that I thought would be outraged would make excuses or be silent.
What? I thought you were better than that.
Then, I would see how people really thought through their social media. The racist propaganda against Obama and promotion of the current president’s rhetoric. The mean-hearted comments. The videos displaying hate. The articles of angry rhetoric and division. The “us” against “them” attitude.
I’m not saying everyone should think the same. We can have disagreements but it should not turn into name-calling and empty, divisive rhetoric.
Now, I am guarded when I encounter people. I watch people’s actions much more than the words they say.
What you talk and how you walk matters to me.
A backtrack from what you say originally speaks louder to me.
Yes, no one is perfect. But sometimes the evidence can be overwhelming.
I love and befriend from a distance. I try to take the high road towards ignorance. I post God’s Word because it cannot be disputed. I try to live as an ambassador for Christ in a lost and dying world.
I will not be perfect but I try to be who I say I am. To live what I preach.
A picture is worth a thousand words. And this picture hits home all too well.
I did not watch the match but I saw the exchange of a professional female athlete and official in a video.
Then seeing this…another unfair and racist depiction of an African American female.
To be a passionate, confident black woman is hard.
We have been portrayed as ratchet, mean, hood, angry, out of line, or savage when we show the slightest bit of assertiveness in a situation of conflict.
No, I’m not going to be violent but I want to be heard.
Personally, I have had to hold my tongue too many times out of fear that I would come off as “the angry, black woman” that makes everyone uncomfortable. That’s just my experience.
Being upset or angry is a natural human emotion…but only for some.
You can only keep your cool for so long. You can only hold your emotions for so long.
Anger does not mean violence. Being assertive should not mean that you are a b@#^&. Being black and a woman does not mean I am not allowed to feel.
As an African American, we have had to endure in silence for too long.
So what if we are passionate. If a white person can be angry, passionate, and upset, why can’t black people? We have emotions too.
But the stigma has to stop.
This cartoon is offensive. Serena is a passionate, talented, assertive #blackgirlmagic who was assertive but not a baby with a tantrum. She still displayed sportsmanship to Osaka and kept it moving. But, the system needs to change. She was just bringing light to injustices in the sports world.
We, as African American women, want to be heard and we will tell it like it is. Like it or not, we are strong and resilient. We are tough but soft. We are smart and driven. We are about that hustle. So no need to call us angry or hood. We are about taking ownership of our lives and our stories.
We are more than the angry black woman. We are so much more.
Mental health is real and it does not discriminate.
My Own Struggles
In my own life, I have dealt with depression and anxiety. Before, I always thought that Christians are supposed to be happy. God is in our life so everything is fine. Even when things get bad, Christians don’t fall into that pit of despair. Mental health is for crazy, unkept, people who are in strait jackets in mental institutions.
In my prior thinking, this was my thought process as a teen and young adult even though I was depressed and did not want to admit it.
Depression is not the same XYZ formula. It comes in different ways in different forms.
I lived putting up a happy, Christian, church-face mask to the world. I was happy on the outside but depressed and crumbling on the inside. I buried my burdens and insecurities deep within and dug myself into a pit of despair. I felt worthless and alone. Even though I could dig my way out, I would go back to digging deeper and deeper in despair.
As a teen, after church, I would try to sleep the day away. Not much of an appetite. I lost weight. I would pretend everything was ok. But I would not admit that I was depressed.
There were boiling points in my life where my depression was seen and I had to face myself. Whether I was confronted by my family, friends, or mentors, my struggles were revealed and I could not hide it. I was found out.
Pray it away…just pray about it and you will be fine.
Well I would do that but then I would still feel depressed. I was still in my pit. I was still hiding from people. I would fake it till I made it. Just pretend everything was fine…(but I wasn’t).
Like I said, I did not want to seem “crazy” cause Christians weren’t supposed to be that way. Wrong thought process…
How I Do Function
Yes, I still pray but I pray differently. I pray for relief and comfort, some reassurance from God. I still read the Bible for counsel, relief, and comfort. I still seek Godly counsel and fellowship with other believers.
I had to learn to talk about my problems. Talking it out helps. Easier said than done but still it helps. I have received counsel from my pastor. During law school, I did see a counselor to talk out my stresses and insecurities. I would try to talk it out with my family (not easy but I get brave enough to talk to them).
List positive affirmations to myself.When I post scripture or encouragements on social media or when I blog, it’s therapy for me. I remind myself: Bianca, you are not perfect and you don’t need to be. You are not a disappointment. There are good things in your life. Count the blessings you have. I know they exist in your life. Don’t forget that.
Sometimes I have had to remove myself from situations or people because that can cause stress. In my sophomore year of college, I had a major meltdown because I was overly stressed, depressed, and just failing. As a result, I took a semester off, went to a junior college, and lived at home until my junior year. I had to take a step back and clear my mind. I was not in a healthy place spiritually, emotionally, or academically.
Some sort of medical help may be necessary. I had a chemical imbalance so I needed to take something to balance me. Nothing to be ashamed of. I function like a human.
An outlet can be therapy. I started painting to help me. It is a wonderful escape to be active and make something beautiful in the process.
I am in no way saying this is easy. I do not have it figured out. I have to fight to love myself and value myself enough to face each day. I know I have tools and resources to keep going but sometimes I am not fine.
It’s ok to seek help. It’s ok to feel bad. But try to find an outlet. You are not alone in this world. Know that it’s ok to seek help…even Christians too.
I believe Jesus knows that we hurt and He hurts for us. I believe Jesus has gifted individuals with the ability to counsel and encourage in life situations. Jesus is the ultimate Counselor but He calls people to be His hands and feet. God created medicine for a reason and some people need it. God made resources for a reason.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.-1 Corinthians 10:13
There is a way to endure with Jesus. There have been dark moments where all I had was myself and I could have hurt myself, but there was a still small voice telling me to hold on. When I could not sleep, I felt someone wrap their arms around me. When in my despair, I felt angels surrounding me. Something was in the room but I did not know what. Nothing scary but I know it’s God.
Sometimes I function and survive because I am holding on the hem of Jesus’s garment. Even if it is a thread, I know I can never go wrong with turning to Jesus.
My Go-To Psalm is Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Hold on to Jesus. He won’t let you go. Even in the darkness moments, He is there. You may not feel like He is but He is. Even if you don’t love Jesus or believe in Jesus, He is still watching over you. He still wants you.
There is no perfect solution. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all human. As Christians, we are still human. We all fall short. God is the Ultimate Counselor and Sustainer. And God created ways to be at peace. I still struggle my insecurities but fight each day the best I can. It’s ok to not be ok. Remember this: