Category Archives: Distinguished Inspiration
On Monday, March 26th in Hart Plaza there was a crowd of hoodie-clad individuals of all races, creed and sizes with skittles and iced tea in hand for the Trayvon Martin Justice rally. This case has caused a wavelength of anger across the nation because an unarmed African-American teenage boy was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a caucasian self-appointed neighborhood watchman who targeted him because he looked suspicious in a hoodie. As this case unfolds and Zimmerman’s friends are speaking out on his behalf of the account, while the media is going to work on tarnishing Martin’s character, both sides of the story will never be heard. So in response, various cities have organized “hoodie marches” for Trayvon Martin and Detroit came together not only for Martin but to address the issues we face at home with babies being gunned down in their homes and the recent abductions of children and women.
Live music moves me. Almost to a point of tears. When the waterworks flow then that means I’ve transcended beyond just hearing a song or a lyric but I’ve transitioned into conjoining God’s audible gift with my soul. I allow it to infuse my innermost parts and sooth everything that was burned in the raging fire of life’s woes. But to conjoin a message beyond the music moves me to a greater depth and changes my outlook in that moment of my life. Oprah calls moments like these “Aha!” moments. I don’t define them but they are rare and I am truly grateful when I am around to experience them.
I had an experience like this at the L’Renee Benefit Concert that was held this past Friday at The Charles H. Wright Museum. As if the opening acts of L.G., Elle, Gwenation and the wonderfully orchestrated (and professional, I might add) acts of L’Renee and company weren’t enough, the message she left us with at the end of the show was the bow on the gift of being “present” for the evening.
As L’Renee came out adorned in a white dress singing one of my favorite Michael Jackson hits, “I Can’t Help It”, there was a video playing onstage in the background which she later identified to us as a short film entitled “The Red Balloon” (originally Le Ballon Rouge, shot in Paris and written & directed by Albert Lamorisse, 1956). There was little-to-no dialogue in the film and it mainly portrayed a young boy being followed by one simple red balloon. Once he saw that it wasn’t going to let him be, he became passionate about the balloon and took it everywhere with him. He and the red balloon were inseparable until a group of jealous kids chased him down and stomped the balloon flat. But the film ends with balloons flying from all over Paris and overtaking the little boy until they lift him high and sail him over the entire city.
L’Renee tells the audience that her Red Balloon is music and that no matter what naysayers try to do to take it from her, she won’t stop thinking about her passion and knows that it will eventually sail her higher than anyone trying to stomp out her dreams. Then she posed a question to us- “what is your red balloon?” And that’s when the love swallowed me whole and I had to make a decision to face my fear and practice self-integrity regarding my own red balloon.
What have I allowed folks to stomp out of my life because they were jealous or because I felt unworthy? What balloon aka life mission am I trying to avoid but it continues to follow me around everyday, not ready to leave me or give up hope that I just may grasp onto it? I was taken aback because I did not expect to be overwhelmed with such life-changing emotion in my seat in the middle section of the second row. But at that moment, I knew my position in that seat went far beyond being a Distinguished Detroit spectator for the site, but it was a divine appointment to make significant changes in my life to align with the will of the Universe.
At the end of her creative plea of self-love, L’Renee asked for us to share with her what our “red balloons” were on sheets of paper and promised she would place them in a wishing well and think about each and every person who submitted. Then the show was over. But the message still lingers and prompted this post.
The message of doing what you were created to do is needed. We live in a microwave, cookie-cutter society that wants everything fast and identical. Originality and ingenuity is frowned upon while commercialism is mass-produced to meet the capitalist market values. But it is time to take back our own identities and be of service to others by staying in our lanes. When you spend more time working on building up yourself, you have less time to tear down others. When you do what you feel in your heart is right as opposed to doing what everyone else wants you to do, that is giving. You are of service when you act out your will and of disservice when you act out someone else’s or mimic what isn’t meant to be yours. And if they stomp out your balloon, keep your heart set on a flock of new ones to sail you to greater heights that you never imagined you could go!
Be the love you were made from. Be of service to yourself and people. Be original. Be Distinguished.
P.S.- My Red Balloon is writing and music!
P.S.S.- If you want to share what you Red Balloon is and join L’Renee’s Mailing List click here
Technically, I’m not “Imported from Detroit”, I’m imported from Oklahoma. The product of parents who met in the military, got married and had a baby…or something like that. Dad is from Georgia. Mom, fortunately, spent her formative years in Detroit. So, when they decided to go their separate ways, we eventually ended up in Detroit by way of Georgia and Alabama. I loved my summer’s in the south, but Detroit made me the woman I am today!
Through its culture, community, resources and people, Detroit taught me many life lessons in ways you wouldn’t expect or realize unless you’re from here. Listed below are just a few.
*To any out-of-towners reading this blog, I’m about to talk about a bunch of stuff that no longer exists! I suggest you YouTube and Google all of it!*
Belief in Yourself
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a dancin’ machine (watch her get down, watch her get down) and that came in large part from a little ditty called The New Dance Show. Everyday at 6pm, our family TV was on Channel 62 watching RJ Watkins, Pam, LaWanda, Ms. Energy and ‘nem getting down to the sounds of DJ Jesse the Body! I could not wait until I got old enough to go to The Brotherhood Club in my “move somethin” dress and do the latest dances in the flyest outfits the late 80s and early 90s had to offer. There were no shy dancers on that show. No wallflowers running away from the cameras. Why? Because in their minds, they were the hottest dancers in Detroit and nothing anyone said could tell them otherwise. They were confident. They knew they were the whip! We could learn from that today. If you KNOW that you have a gift, who cares what someone has to say about it? Continue to cultivate your gift and give it away as much as you can!
Entrepreneurship and Supporting Your Local Business
Believe it or not, The New Dance Show was also one of my first introductions to entrepreneurship. Between the commercials for strip clubs (*sigh*), there were advertisements for Singleton’s Cleaners (“Your clothes aren’t clean until they’re Singleton’s clean!”), Henry the Hatter, Miley and Miley Shrimp Shack, Babes –n- Braids, City Slicker Shoes and so many other Detroit staples that provided quality service and took pride in their community. Guess what else? They were all Black-owned businesses. These weren’t large, multi-billion dollar corporations, just local business people with a vision. They were small businesses and understood the importance of humility and slow but steady growth. They took pride in producing a quality product. They valued their customers and it showed. If they were doing it back then, why can’t we today? With internet, smart phones and twice the access to resources that they had then, there is no reason that we all can’t have a side hustle (that could turn into a full time gig). We just have to remember to embody the same traits that had us going back to those great businesses we knew back then.
There is no room for fear when you’re in this city. Not because someone’s gonna rob you, but because fear will hold you back from taking in all Detroit has to offer! Detroiters are go-getters who don’t let a little fear get in the way of their ambitions. From fashion (Iklektikk, Sole Sisters, Spectacles) to art (The MOCAD, Detroit Artists Market), to politics, to business ventures (where else do kids come up with the idea to sell cold water on the streets? GENIUS!), Detroiters can do it all! The chance that they might fail doesn’t serve as a barrier. More like a shot of adrenaline in their veins. It propels them forward with an even greater intensity and drive to excel. Detroiters live out loud. Our style, our presence, our take no prisoners attitude, everyone can tell when their in the presence of a true Detroiter. We are unapologetic about it. That’s what I’ve learned, to be unapologetically who I am and live my life authentic to me. We cannot let fears of how we may be received stop us from getting out there, networking and working together to make it happen. For ourselves and ultimately Detroit as a whole!
Realistic Self Perception
Perhaps the biggest lesson Detroit has taught me is how to make an honest assessment of self and maintain a positive self-image in spite of what others may have to say. Does Detroit have her issues? AB-SO-FRICKIN’-LUTELY!!! But what city doesn’t? For every bad piece of press Detroit gets, there are bunches of people working diligently, behind the scenes, with no fan fair, to make Detroit the beautiful place that people (who care to look for it) know and love. The same is true with people. There is always gonna be someone to bring up that time you really stuck your foot in your mouth or the money you borrowed and didn’t pay back. Are those things true? Probably. Is that the total sum of who you are? Not even. What does one do when people constantly point out your negative traits, so much so to the extent that it would appear that you have no positive ones? The same thing Detroit does. Own your junk, figure out ways to clean it up, but don’t forget to celebrate the beauty, strength and tenacity that makes you, YOU!
Rhea J. Cooper is a proud graduate of Cass Technical High School and Eastern Michigan University. She currently works in northwest Detroit, with a diversion program for at-risk youth that is always looking for volunteers. If you’d like to make a difference in the life of a child, feel free to email her at email@example.com
Everyone who has been to college, and even some of those without the desire to go, know that in order to receive a degree you must elect a major and minor concentration. The same college graduates soon realize shortly thereafter graduation that just because classes are over doesn’t mean there isn’t much more to learn once walking across the stage and taking hold of their diploma. There is still a Lifelong University that you will have to enroll in without your own permission and it certainly isn’t a building of brick & mortar- but a college of the mind.
The chapters of our lives are determined by the decisions we make on a daily basis. Unfortunately we live in a society that sets ridiculous standards of living and they help influence these decisions. This is why it is important to make your happiness and well-being a priority and not keeping up with the “Joneses”, “Kardashians”, Carters and Benjamins. In order to be happy with your current state and ultimately attract more, contentment must be your major. Money is the byproduct of happiness so that is what we should spend our time investing our productivity into.
When you minor in not giving a rat’s hairy behind about what you lack, the decisions you make and expectations you place on yourself will be towards building your overall character and not tearing down your esteem due to your supposed societal shortcomings. You may not have long hair or a shapely figure. You may not be the head of your own business or drive a Mercedes Benz, but you are alive and have a means to take care of yourself and a way to get around. You have life, health and strength, so breathe and keep on studying yourself, your happiness and what your overall purpose is. We are all here to be the best “us” we can be to inspire others to do the same.
So go on…get to inspiring yourself and someone else!
When LiLi first asked me to write this post I got super excited and a million ideas started running through my head. From friendship, to dreams, to destiny, to love, I didn’t know where to begin. As I sifted through all my thoughts the one word that remained emblazoned in my mind was DISTINGUISHED (to set apart as different, to make prominent conspicuous or eminent, to single out or honor with special attention).
Everyday when we turn on the news we are inundated with stories of a city filled with poverty and crime. A city that has no hope for the future. If we allowed ourselves to feed in to these myths we would believe that Detroit was a dying city. But Distinguished Detroit knows better. We have access to the up and comers, the movers and shakers, the artists, entrepreneurs, educators, musicians, writers and dreamers that are dedicated to giving back to a city that has breathed life into them.
As our mission statement says, “We are eminent. We are noteworthy. We are distinguished. We are DETROIT.”
*Would you like the opportunity to inspire your fellow Detroiters? If you want to be a guest writer for our inspirational posts, please email written submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with “inspirational submission” in your subject line. Please accompany your post with a brief bio and optional photograph*