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I Traded Financial Stability for Mental Peace.

In 2014 I realized I no longer wanted any parts of Corporate America and the hustle and bustle of working a 9-5 where I had to wear a suit and tie regularly. I knew I enjoyed the perks of being able to travel when I wanted, earning a great salary, but I hated working to live. I will not make this about race, but I will say Corporate America is not always the friendliest if you look like I do.

It seemed no matter what I made there was always something coming up that I had to work to pay off, pay down and contribute to. I admit that was me. It was spending habits, social circles and coping (as Solange explains it in Cranes in the Sky).

Like so many years 2016 started with me discussing moving to Los Angeles and quitting a very good paying job, but I did not put a date on paper. In February of 2016 after a weekend trip to New Orleans I discovered that a longtime friend had passed away due to complications during a surgical procedure.

It was literally at his funeral that I became inspired. Seeing a church with standing room only for a 31 year old shook me as if I was in a bounce house with twenty 5 year olds. I walked to my car thinking that my friend who passed, figured it out. He was determined to enjoy life as it is supposed to be enjoyed. Despite his health issues he never stopped pursuing his goals and his dreams. It was that day I looked at my calendar, decided on a date and made a declaration that on this day I would not only leave my comfortable job with a company car, good salary and ridiculous bonus, I would take a leap of faith.

I had applied to jobs in Los Angeles for nearly two years with frequent interviews and no job offers. Every job wanted a candidate to start or to come in to interview the next day. So I decided to trade my financial stability and move to Los Angeles with no job. I tell this story, because despite moving here without a job, a car or a place to call my own I never felt better. There was a huge mental weight lifted off my shoulders and I spiritually I found myself in a place of peace I had not experienced in at least 18 years.

That move not only, blessed my spirit it made me a better at managing my finances, my time and protecting my peace. I have become more clear on who I am, who I do and do not fit with and I have been able to grow.

Though my bank account is not as large, I may not be able to go out as much (on my dollar); I may not be able to eat out as much I have everything I need. If I never knew before I know now what faith looks like and what stepping out on it yields.

Though I know this may not work for everyone, I encourage anyone reading this to find out what it is you need to do to get mental and spiritual peace and go after it.

#iamjoecarnell

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Hip Hop Comes out… Sort of

#OutinHipHop

Last week VH1 and the Love and Hip Hop brand delivered a round table discussion that was actually positive. No fighting, cursing word wheeling, slander filled conversations, but civil dialogue. They brought people of color together for a civilized conversation about a social, religious and cultural topic, Homosexuality in the Hip Hop Culture.
The show was navigated by journalist and ABC anchor and television personality, T.J. Holmes.
Holmes navigated the broad topic and was accompanied by noted hip hop artist DMC and Big Freedia. Among the panelists included Ray J, Fizz, and Emil Wilbekin, Pastor Delman Coates, Buttahman, Clay Cane, Chuck Creekmur , and Michael Arceneaux.
The show began discussing Miles (a participant in the show Love and Hip Hop LA) coming out process, internal conflict he faced, as well as what reality he may face from a very religious black family and being a up and coming hip hop artist.
Miles discussed not wanting to be shunned and or disowned by his family and disregarded by his church. Admittedly I had not watched much of Love and Hip-Hop LA this season, but Mile’s story resonated with me. Over the past 9 years, I began to accept my sexuality (all be it in stages) I’ve encountered so many men who are held captive by the love they fear they will lose by being who they simply are. Their taste in clothes doesn’t change, their mannerisms won’t change, their respect for their family won’t change and their love of God or their spiritual being wouldn’t change. However their family and some friends would surely reject them for not having the same attraction.
The show was a dartboard of topics, but T.J. Holmes did a great job of navigating things and keeping the show moving. Of the topics on the show, one of the most heated exchanges took place around religion and hip-hop’s effect on participants and listeners of hip hop. The panel discussed religion and its role in keeping people closeted. The irony was that hip hop artists who degrade women, glorify a gluttonous lifestyle, and degrade their brother’s and sisters could then have a moral compass was the elephant in the room.
The topic was very interesting as you could see the stage of religious leaders was definitely split. As Pastor Delman Coates, eloquently explained Jesus himself never mentions anything about same sex love, marriage or interactions. He put into context the mentioning of homosexuality in the bible and explained the church should be welcoming same gender loving members without commenting on their respective private life.

This topic could have been an entire show by itself. Pastor Jamall Bryant on via Skype providing counseling and prayer for the afflicted gays while Pastor Delman Coates lauded the church to welcome everyone and to love the individuals regardless of sexuality. He touched on not nitpicking sins.

The show progressed so much and discussed stories and impacts of words like “faggot” or “fag” so much that several of the artists on stage stood up to announce they wouldn’t use it having witnessed the conversation of how those words effected so many.
Perhaps the most poignant moment aside from Pastor Delman Coates was the point Emil Wilbekin made. The former Vibe Magazine editor in chief, stated that straight men and hip hop in particular will wear clothes designed and styled by a gay man, but mock, disrespect, and ridicule a gay man. Again the irony in the conversation was abounding. A community that feels like “non-black” artists exploit hip hop, yet they will exploit the styles created by gay men.
I’ve often wondered how the individuals (rappers / hip-hop artists) who by in large don’t contribute positive images of young African-American youth in their artistry can then get so spiritual and religious to condemn someone else. Surely there are worse things than being gay, unless of course you’re black and then you could have sold drugs in your neighborhood that led to countless deaths, arrests, and subsequent spiraling activities that leave many African Americans stuck.
We have to begin to evaluate how we’ve defined a group of people who aren’t bad just based on their sexuality (LGBT Community). They aren’t demonic and they aren’t evil. We instead need to have a higher level of consciousness that makes us evaluate individuals based on their works and their words. I’ve seen more young men and women influenced by artistry that doesn’t represent reality and instead crafts an invisible cage around their mind. Let’s start to look past sexual preferences and start to just make good quality music. Something to make us feel good, make is move, and hopefully motivate us.
Check out the link below to #OutinHipHop

#OutinHipHop

Ringing of the Bell

Last night my Uncle Carnell lost his battle with cancer. About a year ago he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. 

Despite an ominous diagnosis he was optimistic. His first few treatments of radiation and chemo were extremely harsh. 

My mother being a resourceful and determined person she is found new doctors for my uncle. Thanks to her he was able to receive great care from the doctors from Methodist Hospital. 

At the time my Uncle was receiving treatment I was able to take him to and from treatment. We were able to bond like we hadn’t before and I’m extremely fortunate for that. I also was able to see what determination looked like. Whether it was raining or cold my uncle got up and went to treatment. When he didn’t feel so good and maybe he felt a little down he got up and he went to treatment. As a result, my uncle responded to the treatment a lot better.

I learned something so valuable about support systems during his first round of treatment. Our family took turns taking him to treatment. We visited with him. The kind staff at Methodist were supportive and very Friday therapy dogs came to visit. We were also able to fellowship with the therapy dogs care takers and they prayed for my uncle. 

Sadly the cancer spread and the treatment coupled with the cancer overtook him.

As I write this I can’t say that I’m not sad, because I don’t think I’ve stopped crying since I started writing this entry. The tears aren’t all of sadness, but tears of good memories. I remember growing up and even as an adult my uncle was never afraid to tel me he loved me or that he was proud of me. However I hope he heard my words that I was proud of him and that I loved him for sticking with his treatment. For continuing to be a brother to my mother despite his struggle. For continuing to be a uncle to my sister and for always honoring my grandmother, his actual step mother, as his mother.

I wrote about flowers before this, but I reiterate to anyone able to or who took the time to read this, give the ones you love their flowers while they are still here.

I acknowledge that cancer may have won the physical battle, but it never won the spiritual battle with my uncle. My lasting memory won’t be of a hospital bed he lay in, but of him ringing the bell when he finished his first round of treatments. 

RIP to my Uncle Carnell