Sunday, April 22, 2012

Think Like A Man

3 years ago I read a book that changed my life for the better and I have been following the author of that book ever since.  I heard a lot of buzz surrounding this "male tell all" book which was supposed to guide women to successfully secure a man back in March of 2009.  When I opened, "Think Like A Lady, Act Like A Man", I was floored. The first page I read said, "This book is dedicated to all women." "My hope is to empower you with a wide-open look into the minds of men.", and I thought Damn!  This book wasn't dedicated to Steve Harvey's children or to his momma or anyone else for that matter.  It's just a book dedicated to the women of the world.  Not only did I feel excited just to purchase it.  I felt empowered to own it!  By the end of chapter one I had my highlighter in hand and I was using this book as the guide that it was meant to be.  I recommended it to my friends and if someone couldn't get there hands on it I lent them my copy. The stubbornness and lack of maturity I still had at the time is was why I think I never really fully followed Steve's advice.  In hindsight, I realize that had I followed his advice I'm sure I wouldn't still be single. The blessing that came from the book was that my awareness in regard to relationships was tremendously heightened, hence The Booty Call (B.C.) Chronicles was born.  I began to realize what a crock the generation of "Friends with Benefits" was.  This idea that not being in love, and not being together in committed relationships was ok.  I used my facebook page to slowly put my thoughts out into the world and in less than a year this blog was born.  It was a very proud moment for me when La La Vazquez-Anthony announced that the book was being turned into a movie.  Think Like A Man, hit theaters on April 20th and the day was marked on my calendar as if it was someones birthday!

The excitement I felt was deep down in my gut!  You see, although Steve Harvey is empowering women by explaining the mindset of men.  He is also helping women to understand how much power we truly have when it comes to love, relationships, intimacy and commitment.  Disappointment was not going to be on any menu that Steve Harvey was serving up.  I sat in my theater seat waiting patiently for all of the coming attractions to finish-up.  I thought about the all-star cast including, Kevin Hart, Taraji Henson, Gabrielle Union, La La, and Megan Good just to name a few.  The late night showing before mine was completely sold-out and I thought, "This is going to be a movement!".  See when I read the book years ago I remember thinking, "Steve Harvey is going to save the world from a multitude of STD's with his theory on the cookie."  The "cookie", is the metaphorical vagina and Steve's belief is that the cookie needs to stay in the cookie jar until any new candidate passes at minimum a 90-day probationary period. This is a philosophy that could literally save the world that we have come to live in.  I believe that after about 5-weeks a woman will truly begin to see a man's true-self revealed and vice versa.  The problem that couples typically encounter is that by this point if sex is involved it's usually a little more difficult to just walk away.  Imagine this scenario, you sleep with a guy the 1st day you meet him.  You begin dating him casually after the encounter and realize that you hate him.  He's everything you thought he wasn't and now you find yourself in a very compromising position and you still want to call yourself a lady.  I think for both males and females it's always difficult to say, "Hey, this isn't really working out for me".  No one wants to be responsible for hurting anyone else's feelings.  The movie, delved right into the book and the scenario plays out between 6 couples (one is a married man who's wife is never shown but the example of marriage is clear).

By there being 6 different relationships in the movie there is sure to be something that someone can relate to.  The light and funny approach the movie takes on makes it easy to relate to even for those that have never read the book or for men that might be reluctant about going out to see it.  There was so much that I was able to relate to personally.  I walked away with a message that I needed for my own situation.  I spent so much time thinking that I was undeserving of this particular person when all the while he was really the one that was undeserving of me.  I would give my account of each couple in the movie and what my thoughts are but because I want you to go out and see it for yourselves I won't.  What's positive about this movement is that Steve Harvey's message is so heartfelt.  It's not a money making attempt to make women feel like we allow ourselves to be played by men. Steve wants to see change and a return to chivalry.  Men and women have so much to offer one another.  When standards are set high (acting like a lady) a man can quickly establish a plan for his woman.  When a woman shows a man that her respect isn't given and that it has to be earned we change up a game that has gotten disrespectfully out of control. In a world like the one we live in today Steve Harvey will have a hard time competing with rappers like Lil Wayne that are still discussing how easy it is to f*%$ her and leave her alone.  It's nice to have a man remind women that real men really do have plans for real women.  From how they buy their cars, to their homes to how they select the woman that they will ultimately take the next step with.  Go, go, go now and see this film.  It's a little long so have popcorn and a very relaxed open state of mind going in.  For the relationships that you can't relate to the movie may seem to drag a bit but I promise that you will laugh your heart out!  We all know how good laughter is for the soul!  Enjoy and let me know what message you leave the theater with :-)

Much Luv
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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Secrets Behind Substance Abuse

There will come a day when water will be the only beverage in my wine glass :-)

On February 11, 2012, the world lost a song bird and an icon that changed the world with her voice. Whitney Houston, was pronounced dead at her Beverly Hills hotel suite. The circumstances surrounding her death seemed to lie within the pages of a toxicology report. I finally got the opportunity to sit down and read the entire report last weekend. I found it quite disturbing and it was honestly a little uncomfortable to read. The coroner that examined the scene was able to provide a very illustrated account of what he saw in the suite on the afternoon of her death. As a reader, I felt almost as if I was prying into this woman's private affairs. A total invasion of the secrets that she would have never shared with the world. What caught my eye the most was the amount of "unknown" substances listed on the report such as, the crystal and powdery substances discovered. There was also open alcohol and a ton of cigarette butts. As I continued reading I began thinking, "Oh my, what things we do in private as individuals living with free will." Whitney Houston was undoubtedly a substance abuser. There was no question about that. Whether her mother and father wanted more for their child, whether her daughter wanted more for her mother, this woman was a substance abuser. As I delved further into the report, I delved further into my own issues with alcohol abuse. It's such a close topic to home that it dawned on me immediately that I haven't spoken of it much here. I've struggled with alcohol abuse for a little over 20 years now and I'm thankful that with each day that comes to pass I move a little closer to recovery. My Grandmother, a woman that adored while she was still in this world was a recovering alcoholic. My Mother was in the closet with her alcoholism. Hiding alcohol under the kitchen sink or in the freezer it was very strange. Occasionally, she would binge drink at a party and come home loud with her make-up running down her face. Alcoholism isn't only hereditary, it is also learned behavior and it passes easily through the generations. I am an alcoholic.
I need you to erase any stereotypes or hang-ups you have about what an alcoholic looks like. I do not drink alcohol on a daily basis (although if I let my cravings supersede my logic I would). I have never taken a drink of alcohol while I was pregnant with any of my children. I am an alcoholic. I am not a fool. Now if you're wondering what makes me classify myself as, "An alcoholic", let me begin to offer my explanation. The DSM-IV substance dependency code for my illness is 303.90. Addictions is defined in the dictionary as, "The continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse consequences". Some consequences were more adverse than others trust me. There is something very comforting about drinking alcohol. My drink of choice at the moment is white wine, Pinot Grigio is my favorite. I lose myself in my drink. I can release all the tension going on in my life right there in my first glass. Anyone that suffers from an addiction like mine will experience symptoms of withdrawal anytime the substance is reduced or discontinued from the body. My most obvious symptoms when I try to discontinue or decrease my alcohol intake are noticeable anxiety and irritability. From time to time I suffer from headaches and nausea as well. Pretty deep stuff huh? I am not in control when it comes to alcohol not in any situation. I can exclude myself confidently from the population of social drinkers even though there are times that I willingly curb my drinking. My alcohol consumption exceeds that of a social drinker by far and in one sitting I can easily down anywhere from 5-7 glasses of wine, beer, or even mixed cocktails. My consumption exceeds a social drinker's because I have no limitations. At this level it's easy to slip further and further into self-embarrassment. Talking loudly, laughing harder and dancing idiotically are all things that come with easy for me when I am drinking alcohol. When I'm "On one", as I like to call it there is an on-going battle between my unconscious and my conscious. Each one fighting to gain control over the other. Irresponsibility, is easy in this state and as embarrassed as I am to say it I have gotten behind the wheel of my car on numerous occasions. Each time I swear it will never happen again. I am a responsible sober person. I am by no means a responsible drinker.
These are the things that make me an alcoholic. My ego would much rather me tell you that I drink occasionally or every once in a blue but that would be a lie. My ego has a difficult time understanding with all of my intelligence, how I could be so stupid. The one thing in life that I have failed at miserably is not having control of my drinking. I didn't realize until I read Whitney's coroner's report how badly my addiction consumes me. Although I don't drink everyday, the addiction is still a part of my everyday life. Everyday that I don't have a drink is a battle overcome for me. While Whitney Houston's death rocked the world people were posting the comments and condolences on all of the social networks. (*smiling*) God is always right on time folks. The Heavenly Father will never forsake you. Never doubt that he will catch you right before you're about to fall. One of my fellow blogger's Madame Noire shared a link to a video on YouTube, posted by Talk Show Host Wendy Williams. The video was 7-8 minutes in duration and I happened to be watching it around 6am. I watched the video with my mouth open about 3 times before it really sunk in. It was so heartfelt and Wendy's grief was so visible that you could feel her sadness for the loss of Whitney. Wendy identified herself as a "crackhead" in the video and she shared a time when she was "hitting a crackpipe". She explained that this was something that her and Whitney had in common although they were never friends in this lifetime. Wendy said that she wanted to see Whitney overcome her addiction in this lifetime. She also hoped that one day her and Whitney would have shared a stage to help others suffering from the addition. She felt as if in the end their common addition would actually bring them closer together and mend the interview gone sour between the two years prior in 2003.
The video closed with Wendy challenging her viewers to confront anyone they knew personally struggling with any type of substance and/or alcohol abuse. She said, "The best thing you can do for that person is call 'em out". Then she said, "Keep calling 'em out", because with any type of addiction it's much more difficult to keep it a secret once you've been called out on it. There was an impact that hit me with the intensity of how she made the statement. I could recognize alcoholism in others yet not in myself. Here's where God comes in. I was called out by one of my family members on my alcohol abuse a few days after Whitney Houston's death was announced. At the time of her death my own personal issues with alcohol never dawned on me. I was sad when Whitney died because I was a fan. Not because I thought to myself, "If I keep drinking I can die". I was sad for her daughter and her mother and the people that were closest to her in her life. I watched her funeral services on television and it was soaked in prayer and spirituality. Pastor Winans took me to church and I never even had to leave my living room. What I immediately realized was how disconnected I was from God. I was dealing with a ton of personal issues at the time and I had never really taken the time out to speak with God and to say, "I Trust you Father God". I just worried myself sick with how I would make a way to get my family out of the rut that we were in. The funeral brought me peace. There is something about the journey home that brings me peace. Living on Earth is difficult and when someone goes home there is a feeling of them being set free. This was how I felt watching the services. I was thirsty for God and I needed to make and immediate reconnection. That following Wednesday I was on my knees praying for forgiveness. The Ash Wednesday Service was to signify the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. I decided to give up alcohol in recognition of what my family member was right about all along. I was no longer prepared to make excuses for my drinking and it was time to stop.
Before Lent I was very standoffish with my family member. I remember at one point I even said, "Do I look like an alcoholic to you?" My defensive demeanor was the sad reality to me that I did have a problem. You can lie to others but you can never lie to yourself. There is a tremendous vulnerability to addiction in adolescence. I started drinking in the 6th grade. I was 12 years-old. When I pinpointed the age that my alcohol abuse began I realized that I was definitely in some real danger. By becoming addicted to alcohol so early on I am the type of alcoholic that uses alcohol as a coping mechanism for almost everything. For example, the death of a loved one, a really bad day at work, bills that I'm unable to pay and then binge drinking at social events in an attempt to let it all go. Young, intelligent, pretty, and addicted to alcohol...ouch! This definitely wasn't on my "What do you want to be when you grow-up", list in kindergarten. By the time that I was 15 years-old my alcohol intake was more than any responsible adult would drink. Who teaches a child how to cope with the stressors of life? In the absence of family members some children turn to substances and I was one of those children. My Grandmother (the only mother I've ever known) played a major role in my upbringing. Mostly by showing me her heart and caring for me unconditionally. She believed in the importance of my education and she contributed heavily to my tuition expenses. I was an extension of her heart. In that sense, I was her child. Coping with her death at the age of 14 was virtually impossible for me. I used alcohol to lean on. As alcohol seemed to always bring me comfort, it also took me to a place where I could lose myself. Dropping out of high school was inevitable for me with my addiction. My alcohol abuse led me to resort to emotion-motivated reasoning which was the major cause in many of the bad choices I made as a teenager. I missed a lot of life but in time I will recover.
I opened my Bible the other morning to, John 15 and I continued reading through John 17. The reading penetrated my spirit and I recommend that you read the entire verse. Here is the verse I'll leave you with. John 16:33: "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows". "But take heart, because I have overcome the world." We owe it to the Lord to go out and produce lasting fruit. To connect with the world we live in and to make it a better place with our contribution . You can overcome any adversity the world puts on your back through the Source.
***Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to finding a solution. Alcohol is poisonous in more ways than just over-consumption. It destroys families and it ruins friendships when it is abused. I hope this post makes it to the one that God intended for it to reach. I Love you all.
God Bless You All & thank you for allowing me to always set myself free here on these pages.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

When The Call Comes In

It was the evening of March 20, 2012, when the call came in. The steps that led to the coming of this call were all absorbed in a very innate tugging at my heart that I knew was coming directly from the Source, from God. The strange number in my cell phone didn't ring any particular bells in my head at that moment and the San Francisco area code didn't register. Without hesitation, I said, "Hello?". The mellow voice on the other end of the line said, "Hello, can I speak with Barbara Crooks please?" "This is Barbara". I didn't have enough time to even wonder if this was a telemarketer or what this phone call could even remotely be about because Ms. Renee Franzwa, the Program Director over at ProWorld quickly introduced herself and stated her claim. She didn't want me to buy anything. She wasn't trying to collect on a past due bill. Renee Franzwa's call would finally end my search to work as a volunteer in Africa. When I started my inquiries months ago, I didn't have a specific location that I wanted to go to. Didn't know if I would end up in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia or what? I just knew that I could no longer ignore the inner voice inside of myself telling me that I needed to be there. I didn't know if I would work with babies in orphanages or with women for their own empowerment or if I would just protest against genocide. I just knew at the core of my soul I needed to make my way there before the lights on my own life dim.

Talk about taken aback!!! Whew! Everything that I said I wanted was not only in this phone call; it was organized, and sorted out down to the exact location in South Africa where I would be heading. As Renee continued speaking to me, I had my laptop open and I was in complete awe of the beautiful place that God had chosen for me to volunteer. He chose me and the feeling in that was simply inexplicable. I mean c'mon folks we do know that he predetermines all of this stuff early on when he is mapping out the direction of our journey. Do we manifest our own destiny here on earth? Yes, I believe that we do yet at the same time I also believe all of the guidance comes from him. At nearly 35 years-old, I can honestly say that I've always felt a special connection with the Source yet I can't honestly say that I ever felt like a vessel for the Source. God lives in all of us and we are a direct extension of him in the physical sense; to say that I ever really understood that whole concept? "No", I can't say that, because I didn't. To act on God's behalf, to touch others and leave an impact in a stranger's life for no other reason than for the love of God, humanity and the world that I live in offers a feeling of peace. This was a daunting moment for me because it meant your girl BC was really about to put my money where my mouth is or so to speak.

As our phone call continued, Renee advised me that I would be sponsored by ProWorld to go on a working Visa to Cape Town, South Africa. In Cape Town, I would stay with a family there that is familiar with America Volunteers and have housed them before. She told me that my assignment would be to work with my program leader and assist with a literacy program for children. She said that with my background she felt that it would be a great fit for me. I would also be assigned with the task of motivating children not to participate in on-going gang activity within the town. She advised me of the dangers and I felt as if my entire life was coming to an unbelievable screeching halt in 0.5 seconds. Nerves began to succumb me momentarily, but the overall feeling was immense joy. The feeling of knowing that this was something that I felt compelled in my heart to do. ProWorld couldn't have made it any simpler than they did. My 35-years here all made sense in that very moment. It all made sense. It felt as if someone had taken into account the years of nurturing and care-giving that I have provided to my own children and now I could take that same Love to a village. I remember watching world news with my Grandmother as a child and seeing the suffering that Apartheid caused in South Africa. Black people in South Africa were deprived of their citizenship during those years and treated in comparison to animals. Racism continues to run through the veins of many there as it still does here in America. What my memory holds dearest is the images that I have of Nelson Mandela. Anti-Apartheid leaders like him were imprisoned for fighting for the opposition of inequality. That has always touched my heart in ways that made me feel connected to something that wasn't even happening directly in my own country. Racism has always bothered me. Peacemakers have always stirred my spirit. I am a child of the world that has never seen color.

With all of these thoughts running deep through my head I told Renee that I needed to sleep on what she was presenting. I promised that within 24-hours I would provide her with my final response. I heard the slightest disappointment in her voice yet I heard a mustard seed of hope. When we disconnected I was in complete and total shock. I mean I knew that I was going and there was no confusion in that yet I was forced to quickly calculate the details. What would I tell my children? How would I present this to my family & friends? I googled, and googled, and then I googled some more. I thought of everything from mosquitos to what I would eat while I was there. Renee had advised me during our call that I would be provided with unlimited bottled water, which trust me if you knew me that would sound like ice cream with whipped cream and cherries on top lol. I chuckled lightly to myself at the way God works. Just the day before on March 19th, I fully committed to a vegan lifestyle. I chuckled, because I thought to myself, "God really knows what he's doing huh". Had I not become a vegan my stay in South Africa might have been very difficult especially seeing how spoiled we are here in the States when it comes to food. What an amazing God I serve. Your steps will be ordered in such a calculated manner that you can literally go back and retrace them to create a timeline. I could go on and on about how I've known since childhood that my journey would take me to South Africa but we would be here for a very long time.

The question I want to pose to you before I close is this, "When the call comes in, what will you do?" How will you answer when God comes to ask for your assistance? How important is it to you to give your all in this world? How important is it to you to contribute selflessly? How important is it to you to leave your mark? To me it means everything and I promise that I will leave this world with no regrets because I will be the extension of God that he needs for me to be in the most unselfish way that I know how to be. Will the road ahead be easy? "No", I'm almost sure that I'm fully unprepared for how difficult it will actually be. All I know is that with a cup overfilled with faith in my hand I'm ready to grab a bottle of Skin-So-Soft and head to South Africa (I'm most worried about mosquitoes & gangs lol). This is the next phase of the journey for BC. It will be my pleasure to keep all of my readers updated and informed on how this all plays out. I will journal everything from obtaining my Visa to getting all of my vaccinations to leave the United States. This is it folks I'm on my way and I could never have done this without all of this inspiration that I receive right here from all of you. Thank you for supporting a girl's dream to write and leave her story with the world. I love you all! I also encourage all of you to extend your hand to the world in any way that you see fit. A donation, a walk-a-thon, a blood-drive, volunteering at your child's school and the list goes on and on. I promise you that in turn it will help you to fully embrace the experience of life. Leave your footprints on the sands of time.

May God Continue to Bless & Keep you All

Much Luv

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Monday, April 2, 2012

A Stand for Trayvon Martin

The 10 year-old Black boy in this picture is my son Jessiah Lucien. In 7-years he could easily be Trayvon Martin. By the Grace of God I hope he never has to be. Jessiah has his back against a blanket that reads the Serenity Prayer in it's entirety. #RIPTrayvon, there is not a mother of a Black son in this country that will ever sleep the same at night again until we as a nation bring your killer to justice. Your murder forces the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr's words to ring with fire in all of our ears. I have been forced to open my history books and to re-read the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Not because this is an issue of slavery but because there has been a violation of Civil Rights here within a country that has never fully embraced the world equality after the abolishment of slavery. Yes, the history books are needed for my mind to go back to a time when I didn't even exist as I try to grapple why ignorance wasn't abolished in 1865 with slavery. My mind also has to grapple why a young man has been murdered and why his killer is free. My Country is said to be an oasis of freedom and justice yet there seems to be somewhat of an imbalance as to how it's all devied up. It's easy to sit down it's much more difficult to stand. I've always preferred to stand. The legal system in America is failing. When there is no STANDARD as to how we handle any particular event i.e. murder, we have failed. God help this Country *sighs*.

~What you will read next is the rawness of the emotions that I have held onto for more than a month~

Before I continue I would just like to take this opportunity to ask the Lord that I serve to please continue to shine his Grace on Trayvon's parents. Their Strength has come directly from the Source because it has been undying. God Bless the Country that I call my home. In 2012, a Black teenager is killed because racial profiling still exists in my country and with the rate of technology this blows my mind. We are a Smart Nation that does really dumb things. 36 days ago a mother and father had to hear the words that no parent ever wants to hear while we are still amongst the living (Sass, God Bless you because this brings my heart to you). They learned the fate of their child that simply went to the store to the local store to by candy & a drink. A familiar action that children of all races do routinely and repetitively. I have been silent for 36 days because this pill wasn't easy to swallow. God will wake a nation up when it falls asleep. How is it that Martin Luther King Jr. stood in Washington, D.C. in 1963 to deliver his, "I Have a Dream" speech and this is where we are today? Shame on us because we are the nation that makes the Heavens cry with our ignorance. Race in this country is equivalent to unruly tension. This was not the dream MLK envisioned for us. The dream he spoke of clearly stated, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". Racism is ugly. Racism causes people to do ugly things. Racism has broken the heart of my Brown skin many of times. Stereotyping is a form of racism no matter how calm the manner. We have failed on the footsteps of the stone that our country stands on...Freedom. We have failed. We have all failed. There are still homeowners/tenants in the South that use the word "nigger" as if it was as common as the word soap. As much as I would like to stay neutral and in the "safe-zone" on this post I'm going to follow the tugging of my heart and stand tall for Trayvon Martin. I am not going to sugarcoat that there is not racism within all groups of people be that White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and others but that is not my focus here. A 17 year-old Black teenager has been murdered because he was wearing a hoodie and fit the "profile", of what his civilian killer associated with a criminal. We will not sweep this one under the rug. We will not let 6-months go by and retreat back into our homes. This killing was a wake-up call.

I believe God sacrificed Trayvon for several reasons mainly to wake us up and to spare many. Our sons may have a chance because of the inexplicable tragedy the Martin family just had to endure. Lack of justice in a Florida Law Enforcement Agency brings to light failure. Unity is a word that we can embrace as individuals and we can love one another in God's image. That's an image that bypasses color or creed. As we seek justice and answers we look to the Government, which backs the United States Constitution built on "By the People For the People. We are not looking for an intervention that will take years. We are looking for an intervention to happen speedily. The People say we need justice now. We are looking to cash in on the Civil Rights our ancestors fought so hard to see us experience.

Here are the stone cold facts. George Zimmerman, discriminated against Trayvon Martin the minute he spotted him and determined that he didn't "belong" in the neighborhood that he was watching. This was a direct violation of Trayvon's Civil Rights. George Zimmerman, treated Trayvon Martin unfairly before he ever killed him which once again was a violation of his Civil Rights. Self-Defense should not be something a person in this country can claim when they go looking for a confrontation with a person that has given no reasonable cause. Self-Defense should never be considered a possibility when a child ends up dead at the hands of an adult man. Gun toting for civilians that haven't passed extensive psychological examinations should be prohibited. Social injustice makes me cringe and I have said that on many occasions here. If my country doesn't take action quickly I will begin to wonder what justice means? I will eventually have to teach my young son what justice will mean for him. If justice stands for "just behavior" then 36 days ago George Zimmerman would have been settling into his new jail cell where he would remain for at minimum the next 25 years of his life.

~My deepest sympathy, condolences and prayers to Trayvon Martin's family & friends. I see nothing more than a very handsome young man that had the right to live a full and safe life. You will have all of our support in making sure that George Zimmerman does not slip through the infringement we sometimes see in our law system.

To those of you still living in a Black and White America I pray these events are enough to snap you out of your own blissful ignorance. Color splashes throughout America and we are a Beautiful nation because of it. We have so much to offer as creative, talented, beautiful butterflies of God. Put racism to rest by beginning with yourself and then spreading the message to your friends. It is not ok to judge anyone by their race, creed, ethnicity etc. It's not ok to call people names. It's not ok to follow anyone because you "think" they may be up to something and especially when you're justifying your thought process based on a person's skin color or their age. We are the World & that should be the only thing you take to bed with you at night. Sweet thoughts of the positive contributions that you can make to the world you live in.

God Bless You All!

Much Luv

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