"I can't breathe" speaks from the grave and describes the circumstances faced by many who are being choked by a system that treats different races and classes of people unequally.
Although everyone could probably benefit from a smart-spending lesson or two, today, we're talking to you 20-somethings. While you haven't had all that much time as an adult to establish your shopping routines and habits, you've had enough time to start developing some.
You've heard a lot of information about retirement planning basics: contribute regularly to tax-advantaged accounts like your 401(k) or IRA, choose the right mix of assets for your age and risk tolerance, and rebalance regularly. But you still can't help but wonder if you're missing something crucial.
I honor the enthusiasm, the tenacity, vigilance of all who have marched, took rubber bulletts, made financial sacrifices, and found strength to go on anyhow. But as you assess where you are, and you find that this work is in your purpose, grab hold to your lane and stay in it with consistency and persistency.
On the surface, there is absolutely no reason to update the classic Broadway show Annie, which was already adapted for the screen in 1982. But this multicultural cast redux adds a hip swag to the classic kid's story. This Annie is urban, emotional and fun. But far from perfect.
The recent airing of Sorority Sisters on VH1 has many people really upset (a slight understatement). Social media lit up with emotional rants about crying and broken hearts, threats to snatch sorors up, calls for boycotts, tweets to brands... the list goes on. I get it. Kinda.
All were willing to step up to make a difference, to lead when it could be dangerous, and to let their lives be shining examples for others. We should remember them when we face stormy and cloudy weather in our national life and become bright rainbows of hope like them.
The news media--people in our society who could play a pivotal role in creating a "dialogue" about such injustices as police killings of young black men--have fallen short.
As an employee of a bank offering a national student loan refinance and consolidation program, I often speak with recent graduates looking for guidance on questions regarding their student loans. So, for those of you who still don't fully understand how student loan refinancing works, let me help you out.
We will not move forward as a society until we can bring ourselves to listen and respond to the cries of those whose spirits have been crushed by the chokehold of poverty and racism.
The only way to say the words and not fall to pieces under the crushing irony doled out by a double-talking justice system is to understand "Black lives matter" not as a slogan or a hashtag but as a meditation. A mantra. A prayer. Or...
We need to take a hard look at what is causing this income disparity. Is it prejudice? Is it lack of economic or educational opportunities? Is the system corrupt, and if so, where? And what questions need to be asked to change that?
Wondering what story to tell when you preach on race? Tell the story of how your congregation came to be predominantly white in the first place.
I am not interested in using the unfortunate deaths of my black and brown sisters and brothers as a platform to advance myself or my "brand," rather I am much more interested in how I can lead from behind.
Be the one. At your family dinner table. In the bar at happy hour. At your job. In the cafeteria. In the classroom or at rehearsal. In the courtroom, in a chat room. In your church, in the choir, in your synagogue or in your mosque.
I believe the revolution has begun and we are ready for change and soon no one will be able to mislead us and we will take advantage fully of the voice we have on a regular basis. Not just in extreme times, so if you want to be a part of this revolution, look on your phone or computer.
At the same time, events like the ones in Ferguson, Staten Island and Cleveland, and the responses to them dominate the news. All of these things remind us of the truth that anytime anyone is treated less than equal because of who they are, we are diminished as people.
BlackVoices.com: Let's talk just a little bit about your appearance on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show.' When you saw the episode air, what was your reaction?
Iyanla Vanzant: I was very happy about it because I believe that it was an opportunity to demonstrate to the world what is required to heal a breakdown in a relationship. Many people have relationship breakdowns and that's what we had because of miscommunication and misunderstanding.
BV: What was the reaction from some of your close family and friends when you told them you were making that step to reconcile with Oprah?
IV: Everyone was grateful because it was something that I had prayed about and really wanted to clear. I care a lot about Oprah, and she's my sister in the spirit. She's been very supportive of me and my work. She taught America how to say my name. There was a breakdown between us, so everybody was happy that we had the opportunity to clear that up.
BV: When you made the decision to do the show, did you think it would be such a major media event? You had two episodes...
IV: The first and only person in her farewell season. But, no, I didn't think about that. I didn't go on Oprah's show to go on Oprah's show. I went on Oprah's show to heal a breakdown in a relationship. It just so happens that she was courageous enough to do that in front of the public. So, I wasn't thinking about it in those terms at all. It just unfolded that way.
BV: Did you have any reservations about how the fallout would be revealed and that it might be slanted toward her side?
IV: When you talk about healing, you can't talk about what it's going to look like (laughs). You just have to be open to however it shows up, and I think that people are more caught up in "Oh, that's Oprah Winfrey. That's Oprah Winfrey," and miss the point that we are two women that needed to be reconciled. That, to me, is where we need to be looking and not at the fact that it was done on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Did people miss that?
BV: I think so. But you were so vulnerable and open?
IV: No. She was so vulnerable and open because she didn't know what I was going to say at all. If I had never spoken to her, I would have been okay because I have peace within myself. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to understand what she was thinking and feeling. We both had a very different experience of what happened and that happens all the time. I heard her one way and she heard me one way, and neither one of us got the full meaning of what the other person was saying. She thought I was giving her an ultimatum. I thought she was kicking me to the curb. She had a special regard for me, and I thought she just wanted me on the show because I was a good guest. There were things we just didn't meet on, and I can only take responsibility for my role in it. I can't take responsibility for her role in it, so I'm glad we got to clear it up.
BV: Watching the episodes after they aired, did you feel exploited in any way? They had you looking real crazy in some of those clips.
IV: I know television. I know what brought all those eyeballs to that screen that day was the fact that they thought it was going to be a juicy catfight (laughs). Had we said, "Watch this show and learn how to heal broken relationships in your life," how many people do you think would have come? It was a difficult conversation. I don't think it was a pretty conversation, but I think it was an authentic conversation. You got to remember we talked for 90 minutes, you saw 48.
BV: Why did you let them put you in that hat and that coat walking through the woods?
IV: Let me just say, that is a handmade Italian coat. It is a beautiful coat. Now, the hat just didn't go with the coat, but it was five degrees outside. I really didn't care what I looked like. My goal was to be warm. I had on a sweatshirt and two sweaters and I had to feed my birds. My birds were hungry.
BV: The good news is that your appearance likely helped with landing 'Peace From Broken Pieces' on the New York Times Best-Sellers List. How do you feel about that?
IV: I'm grateful I have always enjoyed tremendous support from the public. I think what being on the show did was let people know that the book was out there because you reach more millions of people being on that show one time than you do with all of the ads and the interviews you could do over the world. So, I'm just grateful that people still want to work and they recognize the value in my work.
BV: Would you do another television show similar to your previous talk show, 'Iyanla'?
IV: Well, no, I'm a different person and that is what the book is about. It's about, "How did I get to be different" and "What did I learn in that process?" so I would never do what I did before. Would I do television again? Absolutely. But, since I am a very different person, my goals would be different [and] my requirements would be different. What would be the most fulfilling for me would be to have an opportunity to share with the world, particularly our community of people, the knowledge that I have gained in 28 years of doing this work. People of color are dying of everything, and we don't have to die, we don't have to suffer. Whether it's on network or cable, it has to be about leading our community. My heart is with the African-American community to a place of healing. Foolishment, as Mama Odie says in 'The Princess and the Frog.'
BV: Have you run into Barbara Walters recently?
IV: Not at all.
BV: If you ran into her, what would you say?
IV: Hi. How are you? What do you mean what would I say? I don't have a significant relationship with Barbara Walters. I had a significant relationship with Oprah Winfrey.
BV: Why did you write the book?
IV: I wrote the book because Tavis Smiley told me I had to write it. I was resistant to writing it. He told me that he was going to make me a deal that I could not refuse, and he did make me a deal that I could refuse. He offered me an opportunity to share my story in a very large way. He offered me an opportunity to earn an income at a time when I wasn't working, and he reminded me of my commitment and responsibility to healing the community and he fed me. He gave me food. He took me to a very nice restaurant. I love food.
BV: You were at the top of your game with a television show, New York Times Best Sellers; people definitely want to know, how did you go broke?
IV: I had a daughter who suffered for 15 months of colon cancer in a country that does not think health care is a major issue. I didn't spend my money on jewels and furs. I spent my money taking care of my daughter for 15 months. She wasn't working. She had a daughter. She had a mortgage. She had a car. She went through a series of alternative health-care processes, which are not covered by health insurance. So, I used my money saving my daughter's life.
BV: In terms of you getting to a peaceful place with your daughter's death, did you have one moment when you realized you have to come out of the dark and get your life back together?
IV: I don't know if it was one moment. Grief is a very powerful emotion, and as part of the natural grief process, you get to a point where you realize she's not coming back and what am I going to do? I had friends and people who refused to let me stay in a place where I couldn't continue in my life's purpose. That, I think, is what did it. This portrayal that I was rich and went broke. No, I spent three quarters of a million dollars trying to save my daughter's life.
BV: Have you been in any situation recently where you come into contact with some crazy mess and you handle it with such grace that you shock yourself with where you are in your life?
IV: Yes. Last week, when I went through the airport and they decided they wanted to feel me up because I could have been hiding a bomb in my bra (laughs). And I resisted the urge to curse somebody out. I think that was a demonstration of how I've changed.
BV: You've always told it like it is, but that must come from your past, with being abused, losing your mother at 9; how often are you approached by people who share with you their personal stories and how you have helped them get through something?
IV: I don't count, but there are stories. I'm just grateful that people trust me enough to share their stories. Every e-mail, every call, every letter, every gift. I honor it, and I value it. There are people who would love to experience the level of regard and respect that I have in the public, and I don't take it lightly at all.
BV: At one point, you were overweight and you spoke about how black people are dying from all types of illnesses they don't have to die from. How do you physically stay in shape and proactive with your health?
IV: I don't know that I was ever overweight. I guess I was more substantial than most women, but as a black woman, you know we don't run a traditional size. I am a conscious eater. I don't eat red meat. Weight is a state of mind. It just shows up on your body. I think the more we heal the burdens of our pathology, the easier it is to stay in shape. I don't carry burdens. I don't carry shame. I don't carry fear. So my body just responds to that. Most of us are not overweight because of what we eat. We are overweight because of how we think.
BV: You are a fan of some of the reality television shows, like 'Project Runway,' 'Celebrity Apprentice' and 'Top Chef,' do you watch 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta'?
IV: I don't watch anything that denigrates women and, particularly, black women. I have seen some episodes, and I just felt that it was very disparaging to us. So, I don't watch that.
BV: Are there any shows on television right now about black people that you love or some that you want to see on television?
IV: We're kind of having a black-out. We don't see a lot of good positive stuff. There is some stuff on OWN that I watch and I appreciate, but it's kind of hard right now. I think that OWN is still developing. I think they are finding out their footing and they had to open up with something. I think the presence of celebrities is what they are using to bring viewers to the network, but I think eventually they are going to do fine. I really do.
BV: You've accomplished so much already. Just being back in the public light, what are you looking forward to doing the most that you haven't done yet in your career?
IV: What I haven't done is retire, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to be more present for my grandchildren. Hopefully be in a loving, nurturing relationship. I'm going to do my scrap booking and make my soap. I'm having real fun doing that and whatever else shows up.
Iyanla Vanzant's 'Peace From Broken Pieces' is in bookstores nationwide now.