Far More Precious: Passion, Purpose and Perseverance

MARLINE IMG_4184

Occupation/Title: Licensed Social Worker; Founder of Far More Precious
Age: 29
Hometown: South Orange, NJ

Personal Background, please introduce yourself. Of course your job title, education etc, but also your hobbies, your passions, the things that make you YOU.

I am Haitian-American who was born and raised in New Jersey. Most of my schooling was private school until I moved to the Poconos, PA to attend public school. Shortly after, I knew I was going to attend the #1 school ever PENN STATE UNIVERSITY (biased, I know). I received my Bachelors Degree in Psychology and soon after received my Masters Degree in Social Work from Rutgers University. I am currently working in a psychiatric unit as a Social Worker doing discharge planning, individual and group counseling with the mentally ill.

Aside from my job, my passion is to cultivate an atmosphere of sisterhood and empowering women from many different walks of life. I truly enjoy connecting women with women.

When I am not working on my passion, you will find me traveling, cooking, reading, outdoor activities, rooftop eatings, Sunday brunches and hosting women’s events.

State the name and mission of your organization.

My organization is called Far More Precious organization. It is a non-profit organization based in Northern New Jersey. Our mission is to help adolescents and young adult women to overcome barriers in their past while thriving towards their purpose. We host quarterly workshops and enrichment programs for women.

FMP  updated logo

How did you get to where you are today?

Growing up, I have always had a passion for counseling and working with women with a broken past. Part of me entered into this field because of my broken past of child sexual abuse. I realized that my past pain propelled me towards my passion and my God-given purpose. Most of my educational and work experience has been in non-profit sectors and also working with high risked children, youths and adults. I am thankful for the opportunities I was granted to work with survivors of trauma in various settings.

Do you feel you’ve made a difference? What changes have you seen/made and what do you hope to see in the future?

Yes, I truly believe that God has used me as a vessel to make a difference. It is always encouraging to hear women tell me how I have helped to empower them. In the near future, I would hope to open my own private practice that is a safe place for women to be vulnerable with their hurts, pain, passion and successes.

board membersHow have you changed since starting your work?

I have changed tremendously over the years. With my faith in God, I realize that my passion to continue my work as a non-profit leader and Psychiatric Social Worker comes from Him alone. I have also learned to have balance. Every opportunity presented my way does not need a yes from me. I am learning to say no and enjoy periods of rest.

You’ve told us the mission for your organization, but what does your work do for you personally?

When I see a young girl receiving an academic scholarship from our organization it makes me realize that it is worth it all. There are days where I am just crying tears of joy to know that we are making an impact. My passion keeps me fulfilled daily. It’s a burning passion in my heart to serve other women, especially young adults.

What advice do you have for women wanting to start their own organization or non-profit?

If you are looking to start a non-profit organization or business, I would suggest you start with RESEARCH!. Every state has different guidelines. It is also important to ask yourself “are there any other organizations doing the same thing I am looking to achieve?” This question is beneficial when you are looking into receiving funding and grants for your organization. Also, have a team to hold you accountable. Running a non-profit looks pretty on the outside, but there is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into it, such as maintaining your tax-exempt status. Make sure you keep record of everything and have your organization documents in a safe place.

What is a message that you believe every woman should hear?

One day you will be thankful for the thing that once brought you pain, for it will bring forth your passion. Someone out here needs to hear your story to empower them. Your voice is needed.

 

Ways to connect with Marline!IMG_4273

Website: www.farmoreprecious.org

Facebook: FarMorePreciousOrg & Marline Francois

Instagram: FarMorePreciousOrg & MarlineFrancois

Twitter: FarMorePreci0us & MarlineFrancois

: info@farmoreprecious.org

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Proving Them All Wrong

DAVIAN davian3

Age: 21
Occupation: 1st Grade Teacher at Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School
Hometown: Washington, DC/Oxon Hill, MD

 

Life as a Black man in the U.S. has been a definite struggle but I would never change any part of who I am, even if it means that my life would be “easier.” Growing up in SouthEast DC, one of the poorest predominantly Black cities in the U.S. and moving to Prince George’s County, Maryland, one of the most affluent majority-Black counties in the country has come with it’s fair share of trials and tribulations. I love who I am. Where I come from. What I represent. But to some, who I am, where I come from, and what I represent does not sit well with them and they feel threatened by my mere existence. Stereotypes, judgements, perceptions. I would be a fool not acknowledge that Black men are targets for destruction in today’s society and the truth is being a black, Christian“gay” male doesn’t many things any easier for me. The intersection of these identities has presented a plethora of very unique and challenging experiences throughout my life. But I can’t help who I am or how other people judge me..and honestly, I couldn’t give a shit.

davian4Recently, it “seems” as though more and more black males have been the victim of senseless acts of violence, racism, and discrimination but this isn’t necessarily true. It isn’t that it’s happening more often, but more often it is coming to the light of public acknowledgement. It is sad to say that this is nothing new and to some it’s the norm. But why is this the case? You would think that after slavery was abolished nearly 150 years ago, the Civil Rights Movement 50 years ago, and the election of this country’s FIRST Black president 6 years ago, that we would see progress. Indeed, some progress has been made but it has been very, very miniscule. The truth is…shit hasn’t changed.

Hearing stories like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Jonathan Ferrell, Eric Garner (the list goes on and on…and on) truly disgust me. Why am I still more likely to get pulled over? Why am I still more likely to get arrested? Why am I still more likely to serve more time in jail? Why am I still more likely to be shot and killed by an officer (a white officer)? It seems like no one can give me a true/valid answer. Nowadays, Cops are not shooting to wound or apprehend. They are shooting to KILL! Their force is excessive. Why? Because they are threatened. But why are they threatened? Because Black men are stereotypically labeled as aggressive, negligent, killing

machines. Black men are constantly demonized and criminalized. We are not provided the same opportunities as other men and when we are,Davian2 we have to fight for the leftovers.

Even after attending the University of Maryland, College Park, a mixing bowl of students of different races, ethnicities, nationalities, abilities, sexual orientations, backgrounds, lifestyles, etc. I could not forget that it is still a predominantly white institution. I truly enjoyed my experience there and the people I have met but I will never forget the subtle signs of racism, the stares when I was the only Black male in my engineering courses, the white female students who crossed the street when they saw me coming, the group of drunk white guys who didn’t think I heard them call me a nigga or a fag on the Quad. It could have been so easy for me to look down on white people as a group for the poor actions some of them have made but that wouldn’t make any sense. Just how all Black men should not be ridiculed for the poor actions that other Black have men have made (rape, murder, abuse, theft, etc.)

Last October, I joined the 2014 Teach For America DC Corps and I am currently a 1st grade teacher at Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School in SouthEast, DC. Of a staff of almost 50, I’m one of three males of color. In a field where white females are the majority and less than 2% of teachers in the U.S. are Black men, I feel even more marginalized. Black male over-representation in the U.S. prison system and under-representation in the U.S. school system has always been a painful nerve in the back of my head. But that makes my job so much more important for not only me but for my students. It’s important for my students (who are majority Black) to know that black men can be teachers. We are not all aggressive. We are not all gangbangers. We are not all drug dealers. We are not all NFL/NBA players. They all have a “choice” in what they want to be when they grow up but it will not be easy. They have to fight back. They have to advocate for themselves. But in a very proactive, productive, and non-violent way because if they choose the opposite, we will only be acting as the fools they predicted us to behave as.

davian1I know people didn’t expect me to make it this far. To make it past my teen years. To graduate from high school as Salutatorian. To attend a predominantly white university on a full ride and graduate on time. To start my master’s program in education at Johns Hopkins University. But that’s fine. I’m not going to stop until I get my PhD and become another black man who they address as “doctor”.

 

Want to reach out to Davian? Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @davey_divito or Email him at davianmorgan1@gmail.com

Changing the Perception, Starts with Changing Ourselves

WARREN
Duke 1

Age: 21
Occupation: Real Estate Agent
Education: Earned his Bachelor’s in Sociology from UMD- College Park and is currently getting his Masters in Supply Chain Management at UMUC
Hometown: Upper Marlboro, MD

 

Lately there has been a lot of press about African American males, specifically young African American males, due to the recent deaths of Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, and Eric Garner from police brutality and excessive force. I am usually not the one to speak on situations that affect the public but being an African American male in today’s society, I feel this is a topic I must express my opinion about. I am not speaking to take sides with anyone because although I am an African American male, I do have a background with working for federal agencies and do get to see the perspective coming from a police officer’s view.

My peers don’t realize the severity of some of the things we do every day, which we think are normal but are wrong, and since no one has told most of us it’s wrong, we continue doing it. Some of these things include cursing out loud in public, sagging our pants, or even caring more about cars, clothes, and jewelry as opposed to getting a good education. I’m not perfect but I do understand that there is a time and a place for everything. I’ve been told that no matter how hard you try to hide, there will always be someone that is watching you and judging you based upon your actions, whether you are with your friends or family.

Duke2Social media and lifestyles, which I believe go hand and hand, are the other areas we must  consider in a time like this. Social media is something that is becoming more and more popular in today’s society. Many of us let social media determine our lifestyle or even use social media to reflect a lifestyle that we really don’t live. I recently heard this statement from a prior conversation and believe it’s true, which is social media is the only time African Americans can come together and keep up with the most recent current events while still being able to express our opinions. It’s very rare you see a young African American male pick up the local newspaper to read about what’s going on around the world such as politics or business. In high school, my 10th grade history teacher use to stand by the stack of local newspapers in front of the school and would watch how almost every male who picked up the newspaper, skip straight to the sports section and throw the rest of the paper away. Its little things like this that reflect our lifestyle to the public because in this case if sports are all you feel you need to know about, then others will be forced to believe that as well. Displaying that we don’t care about education, business, and politics, will give people a reason to judge us and not include us in decisions regarding these topics which have the potential to change our lives more than sports do.

Needless to say, I do not believe killing another person is right, whether that it is black on black crime, white on black crime, or white on white crime, but what I do believe is that we can’t change society until we first learn how to change ourselves. In the future, I plan on changing the perspective of how African American males are perceived in today’s society. Graduating from the University of Maryland in 3 1⁄2 years, going to graduate school, starting my own marketing company (MWA Marketing LLC), and purchasing my first residential investment property are all just a few things I have done at a fairly young age. Some may see this as “being ahead of the game” while I see this as being behind, because there is so much more I feel I need to catch up on. But with a mindset like this, I believe this is just the beginning of something great that God has in store for me and my culture.

 

We are still accepting submissions for this month! If you or anyone you know might be interested in the theme and contributing, feel free to email me at raven.best5@gmail.com!!

For Karyn Washington, and For Myself

Karyn washington

This past week on facebook, my timeline was flooded with news about the death of Karyn Washington, the blogger behind For Brown Girls. As I clicked on the different links reading about how this one soul touched so many, my heart sunk as I learned about her depression after the death of her mother and how she ended her life at 22, a milestone that I’ll be reaching in 2 months. Letting her story really sink in, what saddened me was that such a beautiful person was lost so early…and I wondered how many other women could relate to her story. How many of us beautiful, brown girls have lost something so dear, or felt so low that we’ve contemplated the worst? And as much as it scares me to admit it, I am one of those girls.

Growing up, I always struggled with self-confidence. A black girl going to a predominantly white private school, I battled with so many different complexes: I wasn’t “white” enough for my white friends and wasn’t “black” enough for my black ones, All the boys I was interested in never liked me back, I wasn’t filthy rich but my family was by no means poor. I wasn’t a straight A student, but I didn’t need extra help either. I was ugly, average and invisible as far as I could tell; not special in any discernable way. My presence didn’t seem to make a difference. I had mentally degraded myself to the point where I had no concept of self love or value. Sophomore year of high school was my lowest point, I was playing at normality while on the inside screaming to be noticed. While battling anxiety and depression, I denied those feelings, scolding myself because I had no reason to feel the way I did. I had two parents and a stable, middle class upbringing, I had friends, I had privilege…what the hell was I crying about? So on top of my depression was self-hate for feeling depressed. I felt like I was losing my mind.

I had convinced myself that this would be the easiest way. I had planned what I was going to do…had even started planning when would be “a good time.” But one night sitting on the couch with my mom, paying more attention to the swirl of thoughts in my head rather than the movie we were supposed to be watching, on an impulse I whispered “I need help.” Of course caught off guard, my mom turned to me and asked what I had said. It took me a few minutes to gather up the courage to say it aloud again. But I looked her in the eye and told her I had thought about killing myself. Some might say it was bravery or strength, reaching out to her. But in that moment, I would call it desperation more than anything.

I was exhausted. Not all mental illness is visible, especially when you’re trying your hardest to suppress it. I had friends, I went to school everyday, I was “functioning.” But it was a front. Everyday was a battle to keep this facade together. No one was supposed to know about my depression because I wasn’t so supposed to feel that way. I didn’t have the right. But the best thing I did was finally own it. Acknowledge it but not surrender to it. My mom immediately found a therapist for me to go to. And she encouraged me to start a journal. And I started talking to the people closest to me about it. And the more I wrote and spoke, the more reflective I became. About my feelings, my triggers and my insecurities; I had to realize the things about myself that I should accept and embrace and take control of the things that I could change.

And the first thing that I had to accept, was that there was no overnight fix. It was constant work, through the rest of high school and into college, I still battled with bouts of depression. And 6 years later as I’m finishing my last year of college, I can’t say that the battle is done. There are still days or even weeks at a time where my mood sinks and I feel like I’m reverting back to the “old me.” But the key difference between the Me then and the Me now, is that those feelings don’t scare me anymore. They’ll come, but then they’ll go. Depression does not have to be permanent. And today I can say that I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been: physically, mentally and spiritually because I reached out and asked for help.

In January, the theme for the blog was Emotional Health and in my piece “The Myth of the Strong Black Woman,” I wrote about how many black women are socialized to equate emotionality with weakness. Feelings of anxiety and depression are not problems that black people are supposed to face. But we do. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you have or who you’re supposed to be, you are perfectly validated in your feelings, both the positive and negative ones. I know this month is dedicated to Black Musicians, but I wanted to make a post dedicated to Karyn Washington. Herself and her loved ones are all in my thoughts and prayers and I can only hope to reach as many people as she did. After reading her story and sharing my own, I hope that anyone who sees either of them realizes that they are not wrong, they are not crazy, and they are not alone. That reaching out can be the best thing you could ever do for yourself and that there is a future that can be very, very bright.

Going Against the Status Quo

ChenaChena 1

Age: 20
Occupation: Intern at Outerloop Management
Hometown: Beltsville, MD

Describe your love of music:

I’m very reserved, I think so much and deeply about things and I’m an indoor cat, not an outdoor one. Music has always been how I express how i feel and has been

there for me when no one else has.

When did you learn to play guitar?

I picked up the guitar at 14. I used to want to be a singer and felt that I’ll be more interesting if I played an instrument. So one morning I woke up and decided to learn guitar, so I went to the library and got books about it that same day. I always respected people who knew how to play an instrument well because they worked hard at it. To me, you aren’t very talented in music if you can’t understand it in the most organic way or you haven’t taken any time to make it for yourself…without the help of a computer, effects, etc.

Can you tell me about your internships in the music

Chena with Killswitch

Chena with Killswitch Engage

business?

It’s important to get in touch with the right people if you are into music. I had a friend who interned at the Fillmore and she recommended I get in touch with the manager’s assistant. It’s fun, especially if you go to a lot of shows like I do. They can be a money pit. But if you are on the inside, your contributions are compensated with a free entry. Currently I’m at Outerloop Management, where we manage pretty successful metal/rock bands such as Periphery, Darkest Hour, Dying Fetus, Crown the Empire, WCAR. Both internships have to do with marketing 70% of the time and the rest is administrative stuff, making sure the bands have what they need to get on the road and keeping track of expenses. Requirements for jobs like that is to just be passionate about music and be willing to learn. Also a business background/knowledge is great.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

My favorite music is metal, fusion jazz, finger style acoustic and classic rock. Some of my favorite artists are Into

Chena with Chuck Billy

Chena with Chuck Billy

Eternity, Carach Angren, Guthrie Gowan, Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, Anathema, Carcass, Alter Bridge and Killswitch Engage. My favorite artist of all time would be Stevie Ray Vaughan because I credit him for teaching me how to play guitar just by listening and mimicking what he did. Currently, I can’t get enough of the incredible Andy James.

Advice for other girls wanting to get into music?

Don’t worry about trying to fit in, go out there and explore with an open mind about all types of music. Not the type society says black people are supposed to like. Especially for us ethnic girls, don’t let anyone tell you whats “ok” for you to do. Going against the status quo is powerful, and having your own opinions is empowering. It’s surprising to people that I’m a black girl who’s passionate about heavy music and shreds on guitar. I’ve made friends with very important people in the community because being different is interesting. So go pick up and instrument that’s for “the boys” and become really good at it.

Chena with Jeff Loomis

Chena with Jeff Loomis

Where do you want to be in the future?

Well I love playing guitar because it makes me happy, so whatever I am doing in life (even if its a normal person job) I still want to be playing in a band and be involved with the metal/fusion jazz community. In a perfect world, I would have gone to Berklee or Musicians Institute, but my parents are African…no way that could work out. But I still want to work towards my rock star dreams and hope I can do that full time some day.

 

Want to see more of Chena? Follow her on instagram @chena_roxx or email her at chena716@gmail.com