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

Speaking From a Point of Realness

SHANEShane

Age: 21
Occupation: English Major at University of Maryland- College Park
Hometown: Bronx, New York

What originally drew you to writing?

I was originally drawn to writing in my fifth grade writing class. Our assignment was to write a poem about something that meant a lot to us. I wrote a poem about my fairy fish that had recently passed away. At the time, my poem was of the bubble-gum nature—I was only ten years old. Something sparked in me, however, to continue writing poems and expressing myself. I originally started off believing that the best poems were ones that rhymed, however I have the opposite mindset today. My poems never rhyme anymore only because I feel that rhyme schemes, if not done properly, can sound childlike and not well thought out. I think the best poems are ones that resemble prose because they speak from a point of realness.

Why do you love writing?

I like to write because it allows me to express my thoughts. I was always an over-thinker, and I needed a way to organize myself mentally. When it feels like no one is listening, I know that my page and pen are. I can write and read poetry for hours. I am the kind of person who searches quotes on the internet to give concrete words to my feelings and emotions. The rhythm of poetry is one that cannot be compared to anything else and it is just so enjoyable for me.

Who are some of your favorite authors and what are your favorite pieces by them?

I really enjoyed reading Richard Siken’s Crush because his poems are generally short and realistic. He speaks in an honest fashion so that the reader can relate and feel the words on the page by connecting them to personal memories. I really enjoy reading his poem “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out” because it really touches common ideas or emotions that people/everyone feels on a daily basis. One of my favorite poems ever is “Killing Time” by Simon Armitage. It contains so many double meanings to words to represent the Columbine shooting. He writes about the shooting in terms of flowers and nature to give a beautiful image of the innocent lives lost on that day. It is one of the most creative and well thought out poems that I have ever read.

Can I have a sample of some of your work?

Seems

Each month that passed freshman year made us more inseparable;
unlike anyone I’d ever met, you were like me and I
was meeting myself for the first time

For everything, and we did do everything or talk about how we
wanted
to eventually try. Our thought patterns identical, you would
finish my thoughts so I knew I was on track with the day’s
conversations
at the end of the day to sum up our days, making my day

So it’s weird that today I am not with you. I’m in another state
and you’re somewhere in Copenhagen  finding yourself and
losing your path and losing our memories, replacing
them with adventures with new friends and more
significant moments that don’t include me

Or maybe, I’m over-thinking it the way that we both used to
back in high school; I’m probably just failing to understand what
moving on is fully, and the notion of change never being good.
I’m surely having trouble, but I will get it soon enough.

I appreciated that e-mail you sent to me last month telling
me that you missed being my friend. At least I know I’m
somewhere you can still remember.

***

The Impalpable Sustenance

Flipping pages of a book browned with age and wear
learned fingers trace the words of the story
Literature is life when we define it in the realm of
words and we communicate
with conversation and the blossom of poetry is
when our eyes project the words from the page
written from the faded memories that we never could let go of
we keep covered in dust buried in the back of our closets
behind dead trinkets in pieces and ballerina boxes no longer
playing twinkles
in case we remember them one day
recall what meant something to you
write it and remember it
and that piece of paper with the uneven edges
crushed behind your old red notebook with the silver wiring
with the black inked title in bold letters
you made a statement
crisp words that drip disdain
you write from the photos
crammed with the things that mean the most
your beating heart pumping streams flowing
on the remnants

***

Art

For the summer-month days that end without
any production taking place;
the tickling moments that
crawl away like the useless red ants
of the June time grass
that come upon us and sting our skin
as we sit Indian style, legs tanned, smooth and
crossed talking to each other.

We laugh about things that
never occur during the wintertime
and pair it with saliva-glazed, teeth-shown
smiles only evoked by the sun
and the happiness can only be
explained by the strong, bonny shoulders
pointed toward the blue pool above
the air, the nonchalant wind
brushes our bleached hair perfectly
behind us
and it flows like seas suspended
eye level in front of us
our eyes share one twinkle
we’re alive.

When word of loss
is upon us, I search for the
touch of the sun’s heat on my skin,
look for tan marks of the previous day’s clothes,
and the fingers of the cool wind flowing in my
golden hair and I want to feel you beside me, I want to know you’ve experienced the same summer
but the space is empty.

Want to see more of Shane? Check out her instagram @shane_no

The Most Important Relationship…

For many of us, ever since we were little girls we’ve fantasized about love: planning our wedding dress, getting Barbie ready for her date with Ken, reading magazines about the do’s and don’ts of dating. Even our favorite Disney heroine has to find her Prince Charming. For women, it seems like the pinnacle of life is to find that significant other…

But what we don’t learn about is how to fall in love with ourselves. It seems to be an assumption that we all just have it together, that we’re born with confidence, self-respect and love. But that can’t be farther from the truth, we have to be taught it and practice it. Today, women are constantly in the middle of a whirlwind of opinions:

What makes a woman beautiful? What makes a woman sexy?

How does a lady act? What is a turn off?

How to get a significant other? How to make your significant other stay?

The list goes on and on…But no one seems to be asking the important questions:

What makes you happy? Do you find yourself beautiful? How would you define yourself?

Do you even like who you are?

So many of us are concerned with fitting into society’s preconceived (and often narrow) categories of what it means to be a woman and a spouse in the hopes of being accepted, that we forget to assess our own needs and desires. Being in a relationship does not prove anything. Being single does not mean you’re lonely and being in a relationship doesn’t always make you happy. Before you can give love to anyone in any kind of relationship, you need to have love to give.

It begins with you; once you recognize and own the power and regalness you were blessed with, no one can take it from you. Acknowledge and accept your flaws, they are what make you unique. Don’t compare yourself to others or try to meet others’ expectations, there are too many to satisfy. At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters concerning you is yours. Don’t depend on others for love, because if they go, so does their validation. Self-love is a journey that is never complete; some days you’ll feel like a queen and others…you might not. But despite the ups and downs of life, know that the most important relationship you have to maintain, is the one with yourself.

Loc’d Love!

BRINEAbrinea5

Age: 20

Occupation: Student at Morgan State University; Plans on being a wedding planner

Hometown: Bowie, MD

Why did you decide to lock your hair?

I didn’t have a life changing reason like most people do; I wanted to lock my hair

Before Transitioning...

Before Transitioning…

since the 9th grade when I got my hair done in kinky twists. I thought “I would look so nice with dreads!” and just stuck to it. Once I went natural, my hair felt like it was easier to manage and not as coarse. After I got into my natural transition, I did start to view me locking my hair as a journey. Locking my hair is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The whole “press and curl” look has never been for me. Never will be.

A lot of people have opinions about loc’d hair, any myths about locs you want to talk about?

One myth people assume (including me) is that you

Natural...

Natural…

can’t wash your hair during the locking process. FALSE. I washed my hair from the moment I began my locks. Granted, depending on your hair texture you should wait a little longer but you can definitely wash your hair while your hair transitions. Another thing I hate people saying to me is “your hair is too nice for locs” or before I locked my hair “awww why do you want to lock your hair it’s so nice and thick”…that really gets under my skin. People with locs do not have ugly or unattractive hair. It really irks me how people associate locs with being bad..which is why I try not to use to the term “dreads” or “dreadlocks,” because the word “dread” associates it with being bad. Another myth is that people with locs are assumed to be dirty. Most people with locs,especially African Americans, have a personal reason behind why they did it and others have them because of their Rastafarian lifestyle.

Locs!

Locs!

What are your favorite products/ ways to take care of your hair?

Since I mainly go to the shop to get my hair retwisted, I don’t have a specific product that I use for my hair. But for oils, my favorite one to put in my hair is coconut oil. I oil my hair about every other day to keep my locs and scalp from getting too dry.

Any tips for other girls going through the locking process?

Just be patient and make sure locking your hair is something you really want to do. If you’re serious about it, the process will become a journey.

brinea6Want to get in touch with Brinea?

Twitter: Thoughtsof_bee

Instagram: Beeheem

Subscribe to my natural hair vlog called vlogsofbee on youtube!

Light v. Dark

For many people of color, skin tone can be a tense topic. Different ethnicities have different norms, but in general due to the overwhelming influence of European colonialism, lighter skin tones are preferred. In Japan its not out of the norm to see individuals walking around with umbrellas on sunny days to prevent their skin from tanning. In India, skin lightening creams are the #1 selling beauty product. And in America, especially in the black community, skin tone has been a divisive issue for centuries.

First some background: During slavery, lighter skinned African Americans were often treated better than darker skinned blacks; they were more likely to work in the house and interact with white slaveowners. This was because light skinned slaves were often the offspring of their slaveowners and seen as more “similar” to white people. This division between lighter skinned and darker skinned slaves was maintained with the intention to ‘breed out’ the African in slaves and assimilate them into white society.

After the abolition of slavery and into the more recent years of American history, the division between light skinned and dark skinned blacks remained. If they were light enough, many blacks “passed” and tried their best to be seen as white and blend into white society so they could have a better standard of living. Meanwhile, darker skinned blacks who could not escape Jim Crow had no choice in how they were perceived and treated by society. Even still today, you’ll often see these tags: #teamlightskin, #teambrownskin or #teamdarkskin. Across many social networks men and women alike voice their preference.

Though I am all for loving the skin you’re in, picking sides in this “light skin v. dark skin”

debate isn’t doing anyone any favors. Both sides are face problems. Lighter skinned blacks are sometimes criticized for “not being black enough.” And on the other hand, darker skinned blacks have said they felt that they don’t fit into America’s idea of beauty. In claiming a certain #team you may feel like you’re supporting yourself and others who look like you; but you’re also furthering the division that was created and perpetuated throughout history. Personally, that’s why I claim “Black is Beautiful.” Because at the end of the day…

 

…We’re All Black.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Hey F.Y.M. Project Readers! First of all, I want to say THANK YOU for all of the support during the first month of the blog! I had no expectations and was overwhelmed with all the positive responses and words of encouragement. I want to remind you guys to like us on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/thefymproject?ref=hl and follow us on Instagram @fymproject.

And don’t be afraid to share and comment on the articles! I appreciate feedback  🙂

via @fymproject's Instagram Page

As we move into a new month, I’m excited to introduce a new topic on the blog! October’s theme on the Free Your Mind Project will be Beauty! We’ll be talking about our favorite beauty tips, products and interviewing an amazing freelance makeup artist!

Now, in the same way that women everywhere are plagued by body standards, there are plenty of opinions about what is beautiful. But you know the one thing that *everyone* says is the most attractive quality?

Confidence.

Loving yourself, appreciating all you have to offer and not apologizing for your imperfections. That’s what true beauty is and it isn’t something that comes in a bottle. Just like there is no standard on the type of body you have, there are no rules on what makes you beautiful. Whether you’re a makeup junkie or prefer the natural look, everyone has their thing that makes them feel amazing.

Between the product advertisements, cosmetic surgery and articles everywhere claiming so and so is the most beautiful woman in the world, we have become obsessed with beauty. Its hard to find where we stand in all the craziness. Well, as cheesy as it sounds take a moment and really think about the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Everyone has a different opinion. The more you compare yourself to other’s views of beauty, the less you recognize the beauty in yourself. Keep in mind that the only person whose opinion matters is the one you see when you stand in front of a mirror. ❤

Slim-Figured Girls Love Fitness Too!

GRACE

Age: 20

Occupation: Earning Bachelor of Science in Behavioral & Community Health; Pursuing image (1)Career as an Occupational Therapist

Hometown: London, UK

 

Q: Describe your body metamorphosis. How have you grown to love your body more now as compared to before?

A: I’ve pretty much been skinny all my life. Some people would say that I was lucky to have a slim figure because it was the “ideal” body type. While I would receive some compliments here and there, looking back, I definitely had body image issues. On one hand, I had people saying “you could be a model.” On the other hand, people thought I was too skinny and would encourage me to eat more. I was in middle school when my body images issues really began to develop. Not only was I skinny, but I wasn’t “maturing” as fast as other girls. I started to secretly hate what I’d see when I looked in a mirror.

Then one day, I stared at my reflection and had a life changing conversation with myself. I asked myself, “What are you doing? Why do you care so much about what other people say or think?” As much as it sounds like I took this all from a feel-good, cliche-filled movie, that really was the moment my life changed. I stopped listening to what others were saying and started thinking and feeling for myself. That was almost a decade ago. Here I am at 20 and I love what I see when I look at myself. I’m not perfect, but then again, who has the correct definition for perfection?

Just like when I was younger, people are still either telling me that I have the perfect figure or that I should eat a little more to put on more weight. On top of that, a couple months ago, I began my fitness journey which now includes a lot of weight-lifting. Some question why I want to gain muscle mass while others congratulate and compliment my progress. Everyone has an opinion! The difference now is that I don’t laugh when people say things and try to hide a feeling of self-consciousness or self-hate. I just…laugh. Haha! Why? People will always have a compliment, a critique, an opinion on the choices I make. At the end of the day, though, this is MY body and I have to live in it. All that matters is what I’m thinking and feeling.

 

Q: What are your favorite ways to stay healthy?

A: I LOVE FOOD! Since beginning my fitness journey, food has played one of the most important roles. Although, in the past, I wasn’t what you would call a fast food junkie, I didn’t pay that much attention to what I was putting in my body. Fried foods, sugar, and salt were ever present in my daily diet. Thanks to my high metabolism, I’ve managed to never go above 120 lbs. However, health goes far beyond one’s physical appearance. Now that I’m a “clean” eater, I not only look, but FEEL my best. I eat lots of protein, fruits and vegetables and am working on increasing my water intake. I love eating and have been incorporating a lot of new, clean recipes in my diet. It’s definitely my favorite way to stay healthy.

I also have grown to love weight-lifting. When I first started to work out, I did a lot of cardio. The pounds started melting off, but I wasn’t building much muscle. Now that I’m weight-lifting, I see much more muscle growth and I’m loving every second of it! I love pushing myself and seeing the physical progress I’m making. It’s amazing to see what the human body is capable of doing with a little motivation and some heavy weights!

photoQ: What inspired you to get/stay healthy?

A: I used to be one of those people who always said, “I should start working out” or “I need to go to the gym.” A couple of months ago, I created an Instagram account. I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon fitness pages, but before long, I was hooked! (Some of Grace’s favorite Instagram pages are @ashleyfreeman, @sammybfit & @kee_ma_la_shmexy) I saw all these women documenting their fitness journeys through pictures and videos. Their transformations are amazing. While some are professional figure or bikini competitors, most of those I follow on Instagram are regular people just like me. I’ve always wanted to put on a little weight, build muscle, and whip my diet into shape. I just continued to tell myself, “I’ll start tomorrow.” Enough was enough! After seeing the progress other women were making, I decided it was time to put my words into action.

I started going to the gym regularly and slowly making changes to my diet. Fast forward a couple months and i’m looking more lean, seeing some muscle growth, and feeling my absolute best. Things aren’t perfect, though. I have lazy days when I don’t work out and “cheat” meals where I indulge in foods that no longer have a regular place in my diet. That doesn’t get me down. Once skipped workout or one cheat meal won’t make me unhealthy just like one workout or healthy meal won’t make me healthy. After all, life is about balance right?

More importantly, after beginning my fitness/health journey, what motivated me to KEEP this lifestyle are the changes I see and feel. My body surprises me every time I go to the gym and lift weights. Physically, I’m gaining muscle mass little by little and am moving steadily towards my targeted physique. Mentally and emotionally, I’m a happier person. My confidence level has boosted and I am enjoying life in ways I’d never imagined. It’s true what they say: be good to your body and it will be good to you.

Q: What advice would you give to other girls trying to get healthy?image

A: First and foremost, SET REALISTIC GOALS! Whether you want to change your diet, drop a few pounds, or build muscle, don’t set goals that require overnight miracles. These are LIFESTYLE changes and there isn’t a magic pill or one day miracle that will get you immediate results. Start off small and make little changes. Also, give yourself the credit you deserve! Don’t be hard on yourself because you dropped 2 lbs instead of 20. Don’t start calling yourself a failure because you indulged in the Brownie Obsession dessert at TGI Friday’s (oh my goodness…it’s so delicious!). You’re still down 2 pounds and you definitely deserve to treat yourself to some chocolatey goodness here and there. Always remember that SMALL PROGRESS IS STILL PROGRESS!

Secondly, don’t compare yourself to others. People make different choices. Everyone’s health journey will differ. When you look at yourself, don’t focus so much on where you want to end up. Continually remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Set goals, stay focused and keep going!

Last but not least, remember that being healthy isn’t a destination, but a lifestyle. Take it day by day. Don’t get so wrapped up in things that you forget to enjoy life. you’ve only got one life to live so make it worthwhile!

 

Want to see more of Grace?

Check out her instagram page @gymspired_grace!

 

Every Body is Different!

Every woman, regardless of her size, age or ethnicity, has dealt with body image. Positive or negative, women especially, are held to some very strict standards on how our bodies should look. Every day we are bombarded with opinions on what looks the best. Stop and think, as you go through your daily routine: your drive to work, surfing the internet, skimming a magazine in a waiting room, half-watching the commercials during your favorite show; how many images do we see of models? actors? celebrities? How many bodies do we see and how often do we think to ourselves: “I wish I had her…” or “If only I looked like…” After getting out of the shower and standing in front of the mirror, how many of us have poked at our “problem areas” or criticized some part of our body?

Trust me, I’ve been there. Body standards have been a plague upon women since, it seems, the beginning of time and body dissatisfaction is a natural result. Constantly comparing ourselves to other women and the images pushed through the media, how are we ever to be satisfied? But that’s the thing, if we are constantly looking at others, we can never truly come to appreciate the beauty that is in ourselves.

This month, the theme of the F.Y.M. Project, is Body Appreciation! Recognizing all body types and emphasizing the importance of HEALTH. The beauty of diversity is that we are not all the same! Everyone is built differently, so how can we all fit one standard? Forget what you see in magazines and music videos, stop and admire yourself. Instead of focusing on getting a body like your favorite celebrity or dropping or gaining so many pounds, focus on being healthy and the best YOU.