Are They Really Your Friends? Are You Really Theirs?

Yesterday I had an opportunity to do what I love most doing on Mondays. I spent the afternoon with some amazing high school students from Birmingham’s Woodlawn High School during my Steps to Success Small Group through Church of the Highlands. During our short hour together each week I bring in professionals (mostly friends and family of mine who attend Highlands and/or love God and have something to say about life and careers.) Yesterday was no ordinary day, as three presenters joined my co-leader and me in sharing their testimonies of how they ended up in their careers in banking and media. The conversations wrapped a bit earlier than normal, but not before us all having the opportunity to spill some tea (as in tell our business of mistakes made in college and earlier in life) and drop some knowledge (as in tell our business of what it took to overcome mistakes made in college and earlier in life). My prayer is that the students left empowered. Not too oddly enough, I also left encouraged. One underlying and overriding theme of what each presenter said was the importance of having a good circle of friends. We each shared something about wisely choosing our friends for now and later. This principle applies to those younger and those of us not as young.

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Friend is a word which gets tossed around more often than the buffalo sauce on a pile of hot wings during football season in the south. To me it’s inappropriately overused. My parents would often say, and I believe today that “everyone isn’t your friend”. I’m no “Friendologist”, but I believe there are many different facets to platonic relationships which often go misdiagnosed because friend is the easy word to say. I often wonder if words like associate, colleague, confidant, classmate, co-worker, acquaintance, ally, mentor, supporter, and other words get jealous of the word friend for being used in places which rightfully belong to them.

So what is a good friend? I’m glad you asked. Do you have good friends for yourself? Are you one of them for others?

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  • A good friend exposes you to purpose, and ushers out your best.
  • A good friend covers you in prayer.
  • A good friend genuinely celebrates your blessings.
  • A good friend helps carry your burdens…and not to the ears of others who don’t need to hear.
  • A good friend loves you where you are, as you are and helps you get to where you’re going.
  • A good friend asks before assuming.
  • A good friend is someone you purposely seek to see the best in and believe the best about.
  • A good friend is someone you trust with your heart and don’t hold hostage for the mistakes of other no-good-friends from the past.
  • A good friend can make you cry from laughter and wipe tears from pain…and sometimes at the same time.
  • A good friend will pick up the phone before picking sides.
  • A good friend is worth an “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” as often as needed
  • A good friend doesn’t have to be just like you to like you.
  • A good friend can love you without liking the choices you make or things you do.
  • A good friend should have the liberty to correct and direct you in love, as often as needed.
  • A good friend is someone you can see your older/growner/wiser self continuing to grow older/growner/wiser with through thick and thin.
  • A good friend isn’t always the one you’ve known the longest, see more frequently, or talk to most often. Sometimes it’s one who’s there on an ANB…As Needed Basis.
  • A good friend is someone who doesn’t make your face squinch up (homemade word alert) like you ate a rotten Meyer lemon when you see them or read their name on your caller ID, IM, DM or email.

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@AngelaMMoore316

The Power of a Circle

Yesterday I almost cried. For seven months I’ve been spending either my Monday or Tuesday afternoon with students from Birmingham, Alabama’s Woodlawn High School through a Church of the Highlands Small Group called Steps to Success. Like clockwork these amazing 9th-12th graders would trek across the street from school to the Birmingham Dream Center, filing in one-by-one, some with smiles, some with giggles, and some with looks of sheer exhaustion, after spending a day learning within the four wall of the traditional academic atmosphere.

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Week-by-week they would come for another round of education through the small group I was blessed to be able to start just to spend another hour or so learning. Sure, there was Little Ceasar’s free pizza and the occasional Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Yes, there were my corny jokes, standard “Hey, y’all” when they walked through the door and required picture taking when they departed. Certainly there were amazing co-leaders leading and helping organize along side me like Mr. William, Ms. Jones and Ms. Helen from the Dream Center who made it all happen for us each week with welcome arms and a warm smile. Absolutely there were the speakers who showed up to give back each week sharing their professional advice, personal “oops, I made a mistake”, stories of struggle and triumph, wisdom, connections and God-given love. Don’t believe me? Just check and see who and how AWESOME they are. BTW…my friends and colleagues ROCK! #blessedtoknowthem

September 8: First and Lasting Impressions in Business and Life-Angela Moore

September 15: Law and/or Finance-William McKenzie

September 22: Mock Interviews and Networking –Angela Moore and Rikki Ross

September 29: Public Relations-Chanda Temple and Jeniese Hosey

October 6: US Air Force-Lacy Gunnoe

October 20: Media- Pamela Cook and Tasha Simone

October 27-Owning Your Own Business- Kim Colvin, Chandra Sparks Splond, Pastor Mike and Dee Edwards

November 3: Business and Public Safety- Annetta Nunn and Charlie Glover

November 10: Community Engagement-Bacarra Mauldin, Tanika Harrell, DeShunn Wilkerson, and Jennifer Hatchett

November 17: College 101-Kristalyn Lee

November 24: Science and Technology-Russell McClinton, Kaye Williams and Cynthia Byner

February 10: Soft Skills- Rikki Ross and Angela Moore

February 17: Design-Traci Ann Moore

March 3: Social Justice and Youth Leadership-Rebecca Harkless and Angela Moore

March 10: Social Work-Walter Robinson

March 17: Videography, Photography, Graphics-Patrick Johnson, Eric Jones and Terria Jones

March 24: Community Leadership- Taneisha Tucker and Charmel Taylor

April 7: Health- Michelle Bridges, RN

April 14: Life Enrichment-Dr. Mark Sullivan and Cassaundra Davis

April 21: Following Your Dreams-Joe Lockett, Melva Tate and Comedienne Joy of The Joe Lockett Show

April 28: The Truth About High School-Angela Moore

May 5: Law- William McKinley

May 12: Closing Ceremony with Returning Speakers

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Most importantly there were the students! These future veterinarians, computer program designers, cosmetologists, engineers, music producers, politicians, public speakers, medical experts, civic servants and sports analysts who also just so happen to be some of the brightest million dollar and nationally known scholarship winners, robotics team leaders, horticulture experts, basketball players, playwrights, student ambassadors and all-around good people filled the room and filled our hearts each week with their mere presence. Sometimes braving the cold, potential snow and heat while others were home, hanging out or being ordinary teens, these extraordinary human beings showed up each week and soared. The ease at which they trusted the help of strangers, pouring out their thoughts and questions had me in awe. Their spunk, inquisitiveness and support of each other inspired me. The things they learned and taught simultaneously in our often-lopsided circle will stick with me forever.

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Who knows where all these mighty agents of change will go in life. No one but God for sure. But I can speak on behalf of all those who spoke to them during the Steps to Success Small Group and safely say I’m glad I was in the circle along for a part of their journey, and can’t wait to see where it takes them.

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@AngelaMMoore316

I Spilled My Tea

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to a group of students from Birmingham’s Woodlawn High School through a mentoring program/small group I host called Steps to Success. The two speakers I’d arranged to come and talk about Money Matters couldn’t make it for very important reasons which left me faced with figuring out in the 11th hour what I was going to talk to them about during the one hour after school I had their full attention. I sat down in front of them and explained the absence of our speakers and asked what they wanted to hear about. One of my more quiet young men hollered out, “You, we want to know more about you.” So that set the stage for me spilling my tea about me…the Ramsay High School Version, that is.

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For a little over an hour, over the backdrop of pouring rain, whispers, giggles, and teens smacking on Little Ceasar’s pizza I told them about skipping school (and the subsequent interaction with a belt that followed), arguing with my parents about not letting me stay in a hotel for prom (and the subsequent interaction with a belt that followed), the battle with the curfew (and the subsequent interaction with a belt that followed), my high school boyfriend’s horrific murder, relying on the support of family, friends, medical professionals and the Lord to help me heal and deal, the importance of being involved in extra-curricular activities to meet new and exiting people and experiences, and so on and so on.

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The things I shared with them were for them, but as I rehearsed my own words, I realize that even now, at my age, or any age they still apply to me, and so many. Here’s what I shared with them:

• If you love someone tell them.

• Use your words carefully for fear they will come to pass.

• Use your words boldly with confidence they will come to pass.

• The heart can heal.

• Choose your friends very, very wisely, recognizing that some may have to one day get off the bus (or be kicked off) because they’re no longer headed in your direction.

• One day you will be someone’s husband, wife, mother, father, leader, Pastor, CEO, teacher, etc. and who you are today can greatly affect that role one way or the other.

• Different is a great way to be.

• It’s okay to start over, and over, and over. Just don’t settle in your mistakes.

• Stay connected to teachers, mentors, and associates who are where you want to be, or can help you get there.

• Don’t rush to get old. Stay and enjoy the beauty of right where you are as long as you can.

• Somebody loves you, believes in you and will do their part for you to become who you are created to be…if you let them.

• Our elders got to be old for a reason. Usually they know of what they speak.

• And lastly…never, ever skip school following the Annual College Fair at the Civic Center to go to Ensley Park with friends and a boy with a name you now can not even remember. In the end, after that interaction with a belt you won’t remember his name, only the embarrassment from having to wear a black and white striped, mini-skirt ensemble from Parisian in Eastdale Mall in Montgomery the next day which gave gentle, glimpses of the interaction with the belt. Years after this bit of teenage tomfoolery, you’ll only be privy to enough of the pain from that interaction and sketchy details from the eating pizza in the park story to tell and gain many a gasp and lots of “Oh my gooooddddnneessss, Ms. Moore, I know you didn’t do something like that”, from a group of amazing kids. (And to the non-believers in the power of discipline. No, my parents did not in any way abuse me. They loved me enough to do their part to save me from a path of “Self-Destruction” as the old hip-hop hit went.)

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@AngelaMMoore316

Wanna See Something New? Say Something Old.

Both of my schools are in the news for two different reasons. It’s certainly bittersweet and a contradiction of the two roads of life.

The University of Alabama has embarked on a great, historical landmark with the election of the first African-American Student Government Association President in 40 years. Way to go Elliot Spillers! I know Elliot personally and admire him for so many reasons. One of which is the fact that he is vested in the undeniable process of investing in the lives of others AND purposely surrounding himself with people who can help shape, mold, groom and grow him to the greatness that obviously is within. He gets it because he allows others to give it so he can give it.

On the other side of that proverbial coin, Birmingham’s Ramsay High School made unfortunate headlines after four students were arrested for a mid-day house break-in. For decades, Ramsay has been the pinnacle of academia in the Birmingham area. Known for bringing the best and brightest from neighborhoods far and near to the beautiful campus nestled near Red Mountain, like many Birmingham City Schools, the school I love and hold dear to this day has been a great launching pad for thousands of students and me.

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The initial outcry after the arrests mostly heard from the Ramsay graduates and supporters I follow was that of shock, anger, embarrassment and disbelief that our legacy could be threatened by the careless actions of some who do not understand the nature of who we have long-sense prided ourselves on being. The comments from some of the people who have time to spew racism, ignorance and hate on posts like al.com are nothing short of venom-come-to-life. I digress…Whether the actions of those four students who had bright futures ahead is what is expected of Ramsay (or any school’s) students or not, clearly something socially and morally is missing that these and many children need.

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In the midst of prepping for my Wednesday night Empire ritual I started thinking. I started reflecting back on my high school and college days and some of the tomfoolery my friends and I found ourselves in. I made a mistake or two or ten in high school and college that I’m not proud of, but thankfully lived through, with no other purpose than to make sure someone else doesn’t do the same. None of my friends or people I thought were friends broke into a home to my knowledge, but to be completely honest and transparent, many of us (yes, I said us as I am certainly included) did things that could have made the top of the headlines or blown up social media had it existed way back then. Gasp! I prefer sipping tea over spilling it, so I won’t tell the bees-wax of anyone other than me, but I wonder what tragic, unfortunate, “wrong place at the wrong time” things could have happened to me when my friends and I skipped school, or went to a neighborhood with purple and gold donning, high school fraternity boys we had no business knowing then a mini-tornado broke out. I wonder what would have happened that time we piled into a Ford Escort with the friend of our friend named Duchess and drove all the way to Tuskegee in the middle of the week to go to a party where the floor literally fell in and the driver fell asleep en route back to Tuscaloosa. I wonder. I wonder. I wonder. While I thankfully will never know what bad could have been back then, I do know what to do now. I believe we all have a little bit of what the youth of today need. It’s up to us to pull from our bag of testimonies (even those humbling ones), know what we have to offer, be bold enough to share it, share it (whether we feel it’s effective now or not) and not stop if we really care about those who need us to care about them.

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The moral of this story: I’m proud of Elliot Spillers and hope that many more stories of this kind become the norm rather than exception. I believe it will. And yes, I’m disappointed by the Ramsay students not knowing or caring to accept the reality of the consequences of their poor actions and accept personal accountability. But let’s be real, people. We’ve all done things without entertaining the aftermath. Now is a GOOD time to get up off of those life’s lessons, mentor these students, hang out with them, hear their points of view so we can know what to do and spill our beans so we can save some lives. No longer is our real, true story good enough to sit on the shelf like a dusty book no one wants to read. It’s time to pull it down, brush it off, open up those tattered pages, unfold those stories from the beginning to that messy middle and the “thank God I made it” end and be real enough to help someone avoid the paths we overcame only by the grace of God. Our impact can mean the difference in the headlines and their lives. #RollTide #IBleedBlue

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@AngelaMMoore316